Mac ID on Mac

When Apple announced that Auto Unlock was coming to macOS Sierra, I was excited to have an additional way to secure my Mac (and make it easier to unlock it without having to type in a 14-digit passcode). Unfortunately, I discovered that the feature only works with Macs from 2013 and newer, which meant I couldn't use it with my mid-2012 MacBook Pro. Darn.

Luckily, there is still a way for you to secure your older Macs using Touch ID, thanks to a fantastic third-party app called Mac ID. You can set it up with a Mac from as far back as 2011, and use it with an iPhone as old as the 4s model, as well the fourth-generation iPad or later.

Mac ID does more than allow you to unlock your Mac with your iPhone, though: You can use it to control your music, send copied text from your iOS device to your Mac's clipboard (great if your Mac doesn't support Universal Clipboard), and trigger your screen saver with one tap.

How to get Mac ID

To use Mac ID, you'll need it on your iPhone or iPad and your Mac. You can purchase the iOS version in the App Store for $3.99.

The Mac version is available for free directly from the developer's website. Make sure all of your devices are compatible before downloading the app.

  • MacBook 2015 and newer
  • MacBook Air 2011 and newer
  • MacBook Pro 2012 and newer
  • Mac Mini 2011 and newer
  • Mac Pro 2013 and newer
  • iMac 2012 and newer
  • iPhone 4s and newer
  • iPad 4th generation and newer
  • iPad mini
  • iPad Air
  • iPod Touch 5th generation and newer
  • Apple Watch

How to set up Mac ID on your iPhone and Mac

You'll have to set up Mac ID on both your iPhone (or iPad) and your Mac so the two devices can communicate with each other.

  1. Launch Mac ID on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Launch Mac ID on your Mac.

    Mac ID on Mac and iPhone

  3. Select your iOS device from the list in Mac ID on your Mac.

    • If no device appears, you can reset Bluetooth, which will restart your Mac. This will clear any miscommunications between your iOS device and your Mac.
  4. Enter your Mac's login password.

  5. Re-enter your Mac's login password to confirm.
  6. Click Continue.
  7. If applicable, make sure that Mac ID is set up to show on your Apple Watch.

    Enter your Mac's login password on Mac ID on Mac, then click Continue

When you look at Mac ID on your iPhone, you will see that your Mac is listed under Connected Devices.

How to unlock your Mac with your fingerprint using Mac ID

Once the two apps are set up and synced to talk to each other, you will be able to set up Mac ID to automatically lock when you leave the room, wake up when you walk back into the room, and unlock using Touch ID on your iPhone or secure contact using Apple Watch.

How to unlock your Mac with Touch ID or Apple Watch

  1. With the screen locked, wake your Mac.
  2. On your iPhone, hold your Touch ID registered finger on the Home button to unlock your Mac. On your Apple Watch, tap Unlock.

    Unlock Mac with biometrics

Your Mac will unlock and you can start working.

How to set up proximity auto-lock

You can set up your Mac to automatically lock when you walk away from it (and have your iPhone and Apple Watch on you). I should note that, even if you have Mac ID on your Apple Watch, you will need to move your iPhone away from your Mac to trigger proximity auto-lock.

  1. On your Mac, click on Mac ID in the Menu bar.
  2. Click on Auto-lock when away from Mac from the drop down menu.
  3. Click on the distance threshold to lock your Mac. You can choose from low, medium, high, or a customized distance.

    Click on Mac ID in the Menu bar, then click Auto lock, then select a distance

When you walk away from your Mac, it will automatically lock.

How to set up proximity wake

You can set up Mac ID so that it wakes your screen when you walk into the room. You can also enable it to automatically unlock your Mac, instead of having to follow the two-step process of waking, and then unlocking your Mac. This method is slightly less secure, so I only recommend using it with Macs that are stationary in your home and won't every leave your house.

I should note that, even if you have Mac ID on your Apple Watch, you will need to move your iPhone away from your Mac to trigger proximity wake.

  1. On your Mac, click on Mac ID in the Menu bar.
  2. Click on Proximity Wake from the drop down menu.

    Click on Mac ID in the Menu bar, then click proximity wake

  3. Click On.
  4. Click Custom to adjust how close you must be to wake your screen.
  5. Click on Unlock automatically to enable Mac ID to wake and unlock your Mac in one step.

    Click On then click custom, then select a distance, then click on unlock automatically

How to lock or unlock your Mac with a tap pattern using Mac ID

You don't have to use biometrics to unlock your Mac. If you have a trackpad or Magic Mouse, you can actually set up a tapping pattern instead.

  1. On your Mac, click on Mac ID in the Menu bar.
  2. Click on Tap to Unlock.
  3. Click on Set up.

    Click on Mac ID in the Menu bar, then click Tap to Unlock, then click set up

  4. Hover your mouse over the virtual trackpad on the screen and tap your physical trackpad or Magic Mouse in specific spots.

    • This takes a bit of practice to get used to, so you may have to re-setup your tap pattern a few times before you get it right.
  5. Click Save.

    Tap the virtual touchpad in a tap pattern, then click save

  6. Click on Mac ID in the Menu bar again.
  7. Click on Tap to Unlock.
  8. Click on Taps visible on Lock screen to see a visual notification that your taps are actually working when your Mac screen is locked.
  9. Click on Only enter password if primary device is connected so that you can't use the trackpad or Magic Mouse to unlock your Mac if your iPhone or iPad is not connected.
  10. Click on Tap pattern also locks Mac to enable the ability to lock your Mac using the same tapping pattern.

    Click Taps visible on Lock screen, then tap Only enter password if primary iOS device connected, then click Tap pattern also locks Mac

How to control audio playback on your Mac with your iPhone or iPad using Mac ID

If you are playing music from iTunes or Spotify, you can use Mac ID on your iPhone or Apple Watch to pause/play or skip ahead or back. On Apple Watch, you can also adjust the volume or mute the audio.

  1. Play music on your Mac.
  2. Launch Mac ID on your iPhone or Apple Watch.
  3. On your iPhone, tap pause/play, skip ahead, or skip back on the connected device. On your Apple Watch, tap the musical note, then tap pause/play, skip ahead, or skip back.

    Tap playback controls on iPhone or tap Music note on Apple Watch

  4. On your Apple Watch, tap volume up, volume down, or mute to adjust the audio.

    Tap playback controls on Apple Watch

How to turn on your Mac's screensaver using Mac ID

With Mac ID, you can quickly trigger the screensaver on your Mac without having to wait for it to turn on automatically.

  1. Launch Mac ID on your iPhone or Apple Watch.
  2. On your iPhone, swipe to the left on your connected device. On Apple Watch, tap the More button (...).

    Swipe to the left on iPhone or tap the More button on Apple Watch

  3. Tap Screensaver.

    Tap Screensaver

How to share clipboards between iOS and Mac using Mac ID

Mac ID makes it possible to copy text from your Mac and paste it on your iPhone or iPad. So, if your Mac doesn't support Universal Clipboard in macOS Sierra, you're in luck.

  1. Copy text from a document, app, or web page on your Mac.
  2. On your Mac, click on Mac ID in the Menu bar.
  3. Click on Send clipboard text to all iOS devices.

    Copy text on Mac, then click Mac ID in the Menu bar, then click copy text to clipboard

  4. On your iPhone, select a text field (like email, message, URL, etc.).
  5. Press and hold the screen until the options menu appears.
  6. Tap Paste.

    Paste text on iPhone

The text you copied from your Mac will paste into the text field on your iPhone or iPad.

Any questions?

Do you have any questions about how to use Mac ID to unlock your Mac with Touch ID or proximity? Let me know and I'll help you out.