No one wants their gear stolen or to mysteriously disappear, but it's important to be prepared if it happens. After all, it's not just about your hardware — the data on your iPhone or Apple Watch is just as precious (if not more important) to protect.

Thankfully, Apple has built-in a number of tools to keep your iPhone and Apple Watch from falling into nefarious hands. Find My offers geolocation services for all of Apple's devices as well as remote wiping capabilities. The service also sports Activation Lock for Apple's iPhone and Apple Watch models, which prevents potential thieves from wiping your phone and trying to resell it.

Note: Beginning with iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS Catalina, Apple combined Find My iPhone and Find My Friends into one app called Find My.

What is Activation Lock?

As mentioned above, Activation Lock is a part of Apple's Find My service. It locks the device in question to your Apple ID; if someone tries to restore that device without first disconnecting it from your Apple ID, they'll be unable to do anything with it — it becomes a dead brick, essentially.

Does my Apple Watch have Activation Lock enabled?

If you're running watchOS 2 or later on your Apple Watch, Activation Lock automatically enables when you set up your device; you can check it by going to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone or via iCloud.com.

How to check if Activation Lock is enabled on your iPhone

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the My Watch tab.
  3. Tap on the icon for your Apple Watch.
  4. Select the info button to the right of your Apple Watch.

    Apple Watch info

  5. Tap the Find My Apple Watch button to open the Find My app.

    find Apple Watch

If you can view your Apple Watch in the Find My app, Activation Lock is enabled.

How do I check if Activation Lock is enabled if I don't have my iPhone?

Even if you don't have your watch's iPhone handy, you can check its status via iCloud.com.

  1. Go to icloud.com.
  2. Log in with your Apple ID.
  3. Click on the Find iPhone icon.

    Find My iCloud

  4. Select the All Devices dropdown from the top center of the screen.
  5. Find your Apple Watch.

If your Apple Watch is available in this list, Activation Lock is enabled.

How do I turn on Activation Lock if I don't have it enabled?

If your Apple Watch isn't present in the Find my iPhone app or shows as offline, there are a couple of potential reasons to check.

How to add your Apple ID to your Apple Watch

If you're not seeing your Apple Watch synced with your iCloud account, you may need to re-pair it. This will reassociate your Watch with your iCloud account and update your software, but it does require a bit of work on your part.

  1. Restart your Apple Watch and your iPhone.
  2. If this doesn't work, it's time to unpair your Apple Watch from your iPhone.
  3. Restore your Apple Watch from its backup.
  4. During the restore process, enter your iCloud account information to enable Activation Lock. You'll also be asked if you want to enable Find My Apple Watch.

How to update your Apple Watch software

If you're running an older version of watchOS, it's possible that Activation Lock hasn't been enabled on your Apple Watch. Follow the instructions below to update your software:

How to update your Apple Watch

How to disable Activation Lock

If you're planning on selling your Apple Watch or restoring it to give to a friend or family member, you'll want to disable Activation Lock before giving it away.

How to disable Activation Lock from your iPhone

To disable Activation Lock on your iPhone, you need only unpair your Apple Watch from the Watch app. Here's our guide for doing so:

How to unpair your Apple Watch

How to disable Activation Lock remotely

If you've already wiped or given away the iPhone your Apple Watch was paired with, you can still disable Activation Lock remotely by visiting iCloud.com.

  1. Navigate to iCloud.com from your computer's web browser to disable Activation Lock.
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID and password.
  3. Click on Settings.

    Signing into iCloud on Apple Watch

  4. Select your Apple Watch under My Devices.
  5. Click on the X next to your Apple Watch to remove it.
  6. Click Remove to confirm.

    Removing a device on Apple Watch

Try some new bands

Looking for a new Apple Watch band? Check out three of our favorites:

Other questions about Activation Lock?

You can check out this great support document from Apple, or let us know in the comments.

Updated August 2019: Updated to reflect watchOS 6, iOS 13, Find My app.

Serenity Caldwell worked on a previous version of this post.

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