Auto Unlock on the Mac

Updated March 2017: As of the watchOS 3.2 update, you'll now hear a small click noise instead of a ding when you unlock your Mac.

With Auto Unlock, a feature available in macOS Sierra and watchOS 3, you can unlock your Mac just by sitting down in front of it. That is, if you are wearing your Apple Watch when you sit down, it will automagically unlock your Mac. Here's how.

Before you start

Make sure your Mac is compatible

Unfortunately, Auto Unlock only works with Macs from 2013 and later. So, even though your 2012 Mac works with practically everything, including features that require low-energy Bluetooth, you still won't be able to take advantage of Auto Unlock. Sorry, my friends.

Make sure you are running the right operating systems

Your Mac has to be running macOS Sierra and your Apple Watch (Series 0, 1, and 2 are all compatible) must be running watchOS 3. Make sure both devices are on the correct operating system.

In order to enable two-factor authentication, your iPhone will also need to be running iOS 9 or higher.

Make sure you have two-factor authentication enabled

This is a bit tricky. Apple has two different types of identification verification. One is two-step verification and the other is two-factor authentication. In order to use Auto Unlock, you will need two-factor authentication.

If you already use two-step verification, you'll have to disable it in order to start using two-factor authentication.

Make sure your Apple Watch and Mac are signed into the same iCloud account

Your Apple Watch and your Mac have to be using the same iCloud account. Make sure you are properly signed in on both devices with the same Apple ID.

Make sure your Mac and Apple Watch have a passcode

You may not have thought it was necessary to use a passcode with your Apple Watch when you first set it up, but you do now. If you don't already have a passcode on your Apple Watch:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Scroll down and tap Passcode.
  3. Tap Turn Passcode On.
  4. Enter a passcode to lock and unlock your Apple Watch.

    Adding a passcode to Apple Watch

Your Mac needs to actually lock as well. If you have never enabled a password lock for your Mac, or if you just want to change the password, you should do so before enabling Auto Unlock.

Put your Apple Watch on

If your Apple Watch isn't unlocked, your Mac won't find it. If it is on your wrist and unlocked, your Mac will register the device and allow you to enable it.

How to enable Auto Unlock on your Mac

Getting ready to enable Auto Unlock is the hardest part of the process. Enabling it is a breeze.

  1. Click on the Apple icon () in the upper left corner of your screen.
  2. Select System Preferences from the drop-down menu.

    Opening System Preferences on Mac

  3. Click on Security & Privacy.
  4. Click on General.
  5. Tick the box to Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.

    Auto Unlock will activate; this will take a few seconds.

    Enabling Auto Unlock on Mac

Note: If you don't see the box to allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac, something is wrong. Review what to do before you start or try troubleshooting the problem.

Troubleshooting Auto Unlock: Why can't I see Auto Unlock on my Mac?

There are a few additional steps you may have to take if you can't enable Auto Unlock. Here's a quick rundown of some of the obvious mistakes:

  • Your Mac is not compatible - Remember, your Mac must be from 2013 or newer.

  • You don't have two-factor authentication on - Make sure you aren't using two-step verification instead. There is a difference.

  • Your Apple Watch is on watchOS 2 still - You must be on watchOS 3 or higher to use Auto Unlock

  • Your Mac and Apple Watch are signed into different iCloud accounts - Make sure they are both signed in with the same Apple ID.

  • Your Apple Watch or Mac doesn't have a passcode - Make sure that you have enabled a passcode lock for both your Apple Watch and your Mac.

Additionally, there may be a couple of other reasons you can't see Auto Unlock in your Security and Privacy window.

Is Automatic Login enabled?

If so, you should disable it.

  1. Click on the Apple icon () in the upper left corner of your screen.
  2. Select System Preferences from the drop-down menu.

    Opening System Preferences on Mac

  3. Click on Users & Groups.
  4. Click the lock to make changes.
  5. Enter your system administrator password.
  6. Click on Login Options.
  7. Select Off from the Automatic login menu.

    Disabling Automatic login on Mac

Is your Apple Watch paired correctly?

This actually happened to me. I just got my new iPhone and had forgotten to pair it. It was still paired to my (still working, but not active) old iPhone.

Any questions?

If you have any troubles enabling Auto Lock on your Mac, let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do to help you out.