How to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited October 2017
Starting with macOS Sierra and above, Apple implemented the ability to unlock your Mac when you are in proximity, and wearing your Apple Watch. Sounds simple enough -- but there are a few pre-requisites to fulfill before it works reliably. AppleInsider spells it all out.


Hardware

When we initially tried this out at launch, we weren't careful about the specs. The features requires an Apple Watch with watchOS 3 or later (which we had), and macOS Sierra (which we had) running on a mid-2013 or newer Mac (we had a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro).

Plus, there's a new requirement. If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch, your Mac must not only be mid-2013 or newer, but must also be running High Sierra.

All of this seems obvious -- but even advanced users sometimes get tripped up by the simple stuff.

Two-factor authentication

Two-step verification has been deprecated by Apple, and is no longer recommended. In fact, most Apple services require two-factor authentication now, so if you haven't switched over, now's the time.

Consider, though, that if you have older devices, like a second- or third-generation Apple TV or Mac stuck on an older system by accident or design, you'll have to append a six-digit code at the end of your iCloud password to authenticate the device in the future. You'll get prompts, but it's still a pain.

If this isn't an issue, or you don't care, then:

On your Mac:

  • In System Preferences, open up iCloud
  • Select "Account Details"
  • Click "Security"
  • Click "Turn on Two-Factor Authentication"

And/or on your iPhone:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap on your iCloud account
  • Tap on "Password and Security"
  • Tap "Turn on Two-Factor Authentication"

Setting pre-requisites

Make sure your Mac has Bluetooth and wi-fi on. Also, verify that your Mac and your Apple Watch are signed into iCloud with the same Apple ID. Your Mac must not be using internet sharing to other devices.

Obviously, auto log-in on your Mac must be disabled and a password must be set. If you haven't set one, best passcode practices suggest it not be the same as your connected iPhone's.

Your Apple Watch must also have a passcode -- otherwise the whole procedure fails.

One last step

In the Security & Privacy control panel, select Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.




Put on your Apple Watch and unlock it. Shut down, or reboot your Mac, and unlock it, and give it a try!

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    This was one of the features I was most looking forward to until I realized my MBP was one revision too old...

    Oh well. I'll replace it one of these days.
  • Reply 2 of 17
    softekysofteky Posts: 129member
    I'm running 10.12.6 (Sierra) but Security and Privacy says: "Unlock your Mac not supported with your Apple Watch." "Update your Mac's software to allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac".

    The watch is a non-LTE, series 3, running iOS 4.0 (also up to date).

    I don't see an update to Sierra for this feature on Series 3 and I am going to wait on High-Sierra until its issues are better solved. 
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 3 of 17
    I also noticed that it doesn't seem to work when you have multiple users on your Mac and one of those other uses is logged in.
    linoz001
  • Reply 4 of 17
    softeky said:
    I'm running 10.12.6 (Sierra) but Security and Privacy says: "Unlock your Mac not supported with your Apple Watch." "Update your Mac's software to allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac".

    The watch is a non-LTE, series 3, running iOS 4.0 (also up to date).

    I don't see an update to Sierra for this feature on Series 3 and I am going to wait on High-Sierra until its issues are better solved. 
    You need to upgrade to 10.13 High Sierra. If you open the "Featured" section of the App store you should see a big banner for it at the top.
    repressthis
  • Reply 5 of 17
    Worked a while back then stopped working for no reason. Unchecking and checking iCloud keychain brought it back for a couple weeks. Now its gone for good and nothing will make it work again.
    repressthis
  • Reply 6 of 17
    How are you able to do this using a "2012 Retina MacBook Pro" when it's not the required "mid-2013 or newer Mac"? I have an early-2013 model, which doesn't work and I didn't expect that it would.
  • Reply 7 of 17
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,302administrator
    fatkid98 said:
    How are you able to do this using a "2012 Retina MacBook Pro" when it's not the required "mid-2013 or newer Mac"? I have an early-2013 model, which doesn't work and I didn't expect that it would.
    You can't. That's the point. We couldn't get it to work on the 2012 like we said in the article because we didn't check specs before we tried. The article is a more concise checklist of things to line up for it to work as reliably as possible.
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 8 of 17
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,302administrator

    softeky said:
    I'm running 10.12.6 (Sierra) but Security and Privacy says: "Unlock your Mac not supported with your Apple Watch." "Update your Mac's software to allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac".

    The watch is a non-LTE, series 3, running iOS 4.0 (also up to date).

    I don't see an update to Sierra for this feature on Series 3 and I am going to wait on High-Sierra until its issues are better solved. 
    Article and Apple's technical documents say that High Sierra is required with the Series 3 for the feature -- but not the S0, 1, or 2.

    From the article: "Plus, there's a new requirement. If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch, your Mac must not only be mid-2013 or newer, but must also be running High Sierra."
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 9 of 17
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,302administrator

    skaduusch said:
    I also noticed that it doesn't seem to work when you have multiple users on your Mac and one of those other uses is logged in.
    It probably wouldn't, if the other user utilizes a different Apple ID.
  • Reply 10 of 17
    anomeanome Posts: 1,113member

    I didn't even turn it on, it just started happening after I got my watch. Which is kind of a concern. Especially as I'd rather use it to unlock the Mac mini, which doesn't have TouchID, although I think it's probably too old.

    Also, I'll have to remember to disable it before I next go overseas.

  • Reply 11 of 17
    fatkid98 said:
    How are you able to do this using a "2012 Retina MacBook Pro" when it's not the required "mid-2013 or newer Mac"? I have an early-2013 model, which doesn't work and I didn't expect that it would.
    You can't. That's the point. We couldn't get it to work on the 2012 like we said in the article because we didn't check specs before we tried. The article is a more concise checklist of things to line up for it to work as reliably as possible.
    Understood. Re-read the beginning of the article. I think I got a little too excited there for a minute!
  • Reply 12 of 17
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,387member
    Take a look at Near Lock, if you don't have the requisite Mac hardware for Apple's solution. There's a Mac app to accompany the iPhone,Watch app.
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 13 of 17
    It's faster to type password than unlock iMac with Series 0. Not sure if it's cuz Watch is logy. It is kind of handy if I have some futzing around to do before I start using computer.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,679member
    This was one of the features I was most looking forward to until I realized my MBP was one revision too old...

    Oh well. I'll replace it one of these days.
    Me too, but once I started using it I found that it's such a minor feature that I don't bother turning it on if it gets reset for some reason or other. Does good demo but in day to day use it's not such a big deal, for me at least. Apple Watch Unlock would be really great on something like a point-of-sale terminal, but on a workstation the process of logging in via keyboard is so ingrained in my workflow that even with the watch unlock turned on my hands are already on the keyboard blasting in my password by the time I feel the buzz on my wrist.

    Now what I'd vastly prefer would be an Apple keyboard (wired and/or wireless) that has TouchId built into it. Specifically, the screamingly fast flavor of TouchId that's used on the iPad Pro tablets is what I want. That would be sweet.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    This was one of the features I was most looking forward to until I realized my MBP was one revision too old...

    Oh well. I'll replace it one of these days.
    Maybe try popping a BLE4.1 dongle in the USB port and update to latest macOS. There are blog posts out there about doing this to support AirDrop on older Macs. Not sure if this will do it though, it might instead need a newer.. WiFi dongle. Either way, this feature depends on Apple engineers getting things right that they don't have a long history with (like "Differential Privacy") and if they don't you lose.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    In the article, at the end, you say to shut down or reboot and use your watch to unlock your Mac. But that’s not how it works right? It’s only if you put the Mac to sleep, then wake it, does the Apple Watch actually unlock it. If I’m in error, I would really like to know how you get it to unlock after a restart or a cold boot. 
  • Reply 17 of 17
    ac88ac88 Posts: 20member
    Oddly enough, after setting up my Mac this way with my Watch I now find that my Mac unlocks even when I'm not wearing the watch and when it's not anywhere near my Mac--not even in the same building.  That's not so great.
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