How to use Apple Watch to unlock your Mac in macOS Sierra


cult of mac
Hey, presto! No more typing in passwords.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The devices in Apple’s ecosystem always work really well together, and macOS Sierra doesn’t buck that trend. In fact, the upcoming desktop operating system lets Apple Watch owners automatically unlock their Macs using the wearable device — no lengthy password needed.

It’s a small, but incredibly useful, new feature that rewards Mac owners who have taken the dive and invested in an Apple Watch. Here’s how to use it when running macOS Sierra, which is currently in public beta and will be released this fall.

Unlock Mac by Apple Watch

Set up two-factor authentication on your Mac

First off, ensure that Two-Factor Authentication is enabled. To do this, open up System Preferences on your Mac, then click on iCloud and go to Account Details. Next, select Security and Enable Two-Factor Authentication.

Setting up Two-Factor Authentication is your first step.
Photo: Luke Dormehl/Cult of Mac

Set up passcode on Apple Watch

Next, you’ll need to ensure you have a passcode set up on your Apple Watch if you don’t already. To do this, tap the Watch icon on your iPhone’s home screen. Go to the My Watch tab, tap Passcode and then tap Turn Passcode On. You’ll then be asked to enter a four-digit passcode. (Make this different than the passcode you use with your iPhone, for security reasons!)

Cult of Mac
You’ll need to set up extra security on your Apple Watch.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Disable automatic login on Mac

Now go back to System Preferences on your Mac and click Security & Privacy. Click the General tab. Once there, make sure that Disable Automatic Login is unchecked. You might have to enter the new password you created during two-factor authentication setup. If the option is grayed out, you might need to click the padlock icon at the bottom of the window to make the necessary changes.

apple watch
Almost there …
Photo: Luke Dormehl/Cult of Mac

Enable Apple Watch to unlock Mac

After that, make sure the Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac box is checked. A Turning On message will then appear, and might ask you to enter your password.

Apple watch
One more step and you’re finished!
Photo: Luke Dormehl/Cult of Mac

After these instructions are followed, whenever you wake your Mac up while wearing your Apple Watch it will automatically unlock. Hey presto: No more passwords!

  • I don’t have the disable login and Apple Watch options on the Security & Privacy preference panel. Running. MacOS Sierra Version 10.12 Beta (16A286a).

    • okamiokami

      Do you own an older Mac (2011 or earlier)???

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    • Anthony Ondre

      Same and on beta 6 on all devices with a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013)

  • Michael Scot Taylor

    Yeah the Unlock with apple watch option isn’t even on mine and I have the latest public beta? what gives?

    • JDS

      I don’t have that either, it ticks me off.

  • Denver Moodley

    The Apple Watch option isn’t available on mine – also have latest Public Beta installed

  • David Kaplan

    we know how to do it… it just doesn’t work.

  • okamiokami

    Conspicuously absent is the compatibility list. You need a Handoff/Continuity-capable Mac (circa 2012 or newer).
    Older Macs are not compatible.

    Incidentally, iOS 9 requires a 6-digit passcode for new iPhone installs. Only people upgrading from earlier versions get to keep their previous 4-digit passcode. Apple suggests switching to 6 digits anyway, for security reasons (999999 possible combinations instead of “only”9999)

    • Ashy Larry

      I have a 2013 retina macbook pro(Sierra beta 6), watch OS 3(beta six) and a 4 digit passcode set up and it still doesn’t work.

  • Michael Scot Taylor

    Yeah my iMac I’m running Sierra on is the newest iMac you can buy so I know its capable

  • “As the second step, you’ll need to ensure you have a passcode on your Apple Watch. To do this, tap the Watch icon on the home screen,” … ON YOUR IPHONE…
    Also, in addition to macOS Sierra (beta) you also need iOS 10 (beta) and watchOS 3 (beta); very important information the author neglected to mention.

    • HowmaNoid

      Yeah little details like how to ACTUALLY get it working. Thanks!

  • Steven Schier

    This was a poorly written and totally inaccurate article. Need watch beta 3 to be able to do this. Should be removed so no one else wastes their time trying to do this.

  • Anthony Ondre

    Also needs to be “Two Factor” authentication, not “Two Step”. If you have “Two Step” enabled, you need to turn that off on your Apple ID then enable the new “Two Factor”.