How to Fix Auto Unlock Not Working on Apple Watch and macOS

After upgrading to macOS Sierra, users will be able to unlock their Mac using their Apple Watch. The new shiny feature is called Auto Lock. This feature was originally announced during the WWDC keynote. Some people were able to give Auto Lock a test drive using their Apple Watch on watchOS 3 beta 2 and Macbook on macOS Sierra (beta).

The first thing that I noticed was the setting up process. If you’re not familiar with activating Auto Lock on your Mac, you will have a hard time unlocking the computer using your Apple Watch.

Even though Apple has made the process relatively easy, some users still have trouble getting Auto Lock to work on their Mac and Apple Watch. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to troubleshoot that problem.

apple-introduce-auto-unlock

The first thing we’re going to do is turn on Auto Lock on your Apple Watch. Be sure to follow the instructions below.

How to enable Auto Unlock on Apple Watch

  1. Make sure your Apple Watch is running watchOS 3 or higher. You can also find available firmware update by going to the Watch app (on your iPhone) > General > Software Update.
  2. Turn on Passcode for your watch. It’s in the Settings app under the Passcode page.
  3. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, and look for Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.
  4. Click on the checkbox right next to it. If prompted, enter your Mac’s password.

To see if Auto Lock is working or not, close your Mac or log out and lift the screen back up.

If you see a message that says, “Unlocking with Apple Watch” and the lock screen turns into a regular Mac screen, then everything is working as expected.

auto-unlock-mac-apple-watch

If Auto Lock is Not Working on your Mac

In case Auto Lock doesn’t work on your Apple Watch or macOS computer, here are a few things you need to know to fix that problem.

  1. Apple Watch needs to run watchOS 3 beta 2 or higher
  2. Your Mac needs to have macOS Sierra Developer Preview Seed 2 or later
  3. Enable Two-Factor Authentication or 2FC for your Apple ID (see this)
  4. Auto Unlock will not work if the Apple Watch is not on your wrist
  5. If your Mac is awake but on the lock screen, click Cancel to activate Auto Unlock

As long as you satisfy the software requirements and features, then Auto Lock should start working again or for the first time.

If you see the error message that says, “Your Mac was unable to communicate with your Apple Watch,” it means either your Keychain is off (you will need to turn it on), or you should disable and re-enable Handoff from Settings > General.

Is My Mac Compatible with Auto Lock?

We forgot to mention that not all Macs will contain the Auto Lock feature.

To check if your Mac supports Auto Lock on the Apple Watch, do the following:

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the top left-hand corner of the screen
  2. Choose About This Mac
  3. Under the Overview page, click System Report…
  4. From the sidebar, select Wi-Fi option and look for Auto Unlock
  5. If your Mac does support this functionality, it should say “Supported” as shown below.

Be sure to let us know what you think and if this article has helped you fix problems with Auto Unlock.

Unlocking your Mac with an Android Phone

A lot of people sent me this:

I love Auto Lock, but I don’t have an iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock the device securely.

Well, here is an interesting application I recently discovered on Product Hunt.

DroidID is an Android application that allows you to unlock your Mac computer “with your device’s fingerprint sensor.”

droidid-android-app

Why is this important?

It depends on the person, really. If you own a Macbook or iMac you obviously also own an iPhone or Apple Watch.

This is nothing new!

I also happen to know a few people who owns a Mac yet an Android phone at the same time. One thing they complain a lot about was the ability to unlock their Mac with their Android device. I hope they can shut up now.

DroidID unlocks your Mac when:

  • Your Mac is sleeping
  • Screensaver is running
  • Resume the power via a click or mouse movement

By default, the app will not unlock your Mac on the first boot-up.  If you want to change that, just add DroidID to one of the Login items (Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups)

How to Use DroidID on Android and Mac

Unlike the Auto Lock feature, DroidID isn’t a built-in feature. This means you will have to connect both apps from your Mac and Android phone.

  1. Click here to download the Mac client app
  2. On your Android phone, click here or go to the Play Store and install DroidID
  3. Go through the on-screen setup process

droidid-on-mac

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • For Android: the device has to be running Marshmallow (or above) / Lollipop (or above)
  • For Mac: running El Capitan or above

So far, I think DroidID is the easiest and safest way to unlock your Mac using your Android phone’s fingerprint sensor.

You can skip the process of entering your password each time, especially if it’s long and complicated.

P.S: Support for Windows is coming soon.

Leave a Comment

  1. When it works its fantastic, but I it only detects it correctly about 1/2 the time. Its a complete hit and miss.

    It still needs lots of work.

    Reply
  2. Not working for me.
    All activated and up to date etc.
    Still getting a password instead of unlocking with my watch 🙁

    Reply
  3. I have tried many times to set up this complete fail on Apple’s part, I have ALL APPLE products (not a single non-apple product in my electronics collection except my modem); yet the Apple Watch to MacBook Pro unlock feature has yet to function!

    1. I have the two-factor authentication feature setup properly, as the system asks me for this garbage information every time that I try to sign-in to a browser for iCloud, etc.

    2. I have a Developers Account (2 years of wasted money there), so all devices are currently running their latest software possible.

    3. I am wearing the Apple Watch, it is on my wrist from morning to night; although at this point I think a better place would be eBay as it is more trouble than it’s worth. The apps do not load any faster than on Apple Watch OS2, and I have lost features that I actually used to now have junk features that I care nothing about, etc.

    4. The MacBook Pro settings are selected for “allow your Apple Watch to unlock this Mac”, but not a damn thing actually happens. When waking the laptop, the same old log-in screen appears but I have to use the second passcode from the two-factor authentication so I know that at least this crap is enabled. Unfortunately, the Mac junk does not acknowledge the Apple Watch once so ever, once again another Apple fail. This was the primary reason for upgrading to macOS Sierra, as the only other real feature was Siri which is even a BIGGER fail than this auto-unlocking garbage. The Siri feature will pull up a document from five years ago when I ask for a contract that I created for such and such client yesterday, REAL ACCURATE JUNK THERE!!!!!!!

    5. To recap, all of the settings are correct, I have went over them many times, my iCloud account is syncing all four of my devices (well most of the time, once again, Apple really needs a lot more training and better ability with getting their equipment and software to work and stop obsessing so damn much about how friggin thin a device is, I would rather have a fatter device but have it actually WORK!!!!!!!)

    SICK OF APPLE AND ALMOST READY TO RETURN TO WINDOWS, THAT IS HOW BAD THINGS ARE THESE DAYS, APPLE IS TOO CONCERNED WITH LOOKS AND THEIR BANK ACCOUNT AND PRETTY MUCH ZERO ATTENTION GOES INTO WHETHER OR NOT THESE PRODUCTS WORK!

    Reply
  4. I went through all the trouble of setting this up (now that everything has been released), and it doesn’t work.

    The mac just sits there in daisy-spin saying “auto unlocking with watch” for a period of time at least double of what typing the password would take… and then presents me with a password prompt.

    Epic, epic fail.

    Reply
    • Same here, went to all the trouble to set it up, but it never comes further then “unlocking with watch” and then it wents back to the password solution. Takes forever now to lock up you mac. *disapointed*

      Reply
  5. apple customer here, had the same issue, for it to work, the mac “lock immediately” must be on, that did the job for me, works great, pretty convenient so far,
    any questions feel free to email me
    [email protected]

    be advise all the previous features and including the software on both devices and newer mac must be active
    Go APPLE!

    Reply
  6. Can you fake the build year of your mac? I got a 2012 late mac and its not supported funny enough. is there some kind of script or patch flying on the net?

    Reply
  7. I tried everything on this and every forum.
    WHAT FIXED it for me was to simply change my mac’s user account password. I had to change my Mac’s password to match my Apple ID password! “

    Reply
    • can’t do that anymore, they don’t allow you to have the same password anymore.. it’s quite annoying- and i’ve tried EVERYTHING in this forum but my watch still won’t unlock my computer.. maybe because there’s two usernames?

      Reply
  8. Hi Everyone.. I have a MacBook Pro late 13 I had the same issues as the original thread of this post.

    Now Solved! Please READ Whole Post Before Trying My Solution…

    Follow the setup of two-factor as per normal Apple Advice.

    Once setup on each device ie iphone, MB or iMac login to your iCloud (if you have seperate Apple / iCloud Login Account (like i do) ensure that your Devices are all on the same account that you are trying to setup the two-factor auth on, otherwise it will not work… obviously

    Also on Check your Watch Device is listed on your Apple / iCloud ID and two-factor is enabled.

    By logging in you will need to enter your code, I did this on each device this tells Apple that it is genuine, saves a secure cookie like file on your device. Obviously on the Watch simply check via your iPhone.

    Then reboot everything… All devices…

    After your watch has rebooted wait a few minutes, ensuring that your WIFI is enabled for all devices, as it use WIFI network route to unlock not bluetooth to unlock.

    I personally use my MacBook & iMAC for Business like many of us do and can be away from my desk at any given moment, ie someone calls me, which under normal terms I would have to lock my Mac’s. So I use an App that is called MacID. http://macid.co/. This App is better than Apples new function, as it also auto locks and wakes your device, which I find too be extremely useful. It works solely on BlueTooth and you can configure it to work in a range or distance and by gestures and more.

    Example: For me is someone calling me away from my desk top look at something, as I walk away from my desk with my watch on my wrist, the screen locks on my mac and the watch confirms it has done, I walk back after talking to my desk and the screen auto unlocks, you can adjust if you want to request password and key taps and…. check out the website for more details.

    The MacID solution is also good If you do not have a WIFI network that you can Trust (Do not do the Apple thingy or any other sensitive data related tasks on a public network like a coffee shop, library etc especially cloud, 02, BT or any other hot spot, open spot or public spot networks, unless you know exactly what you are doing) Another solution is if you work in a Corporate Environment whereby you can only access internet via access point, not the actual network, again not needing to actually connect to the WIFI gets round this.

    I can happily recommend looking at MacID an App I have been using for about a year that does the same job for a few ££, it might even be free, not sure.

    Mac ID has addition features to unlocking, as mentioned it will also auto lock, when you are out of range of your MB or IM, which is very good. Apple does not support auto lock on the new unlock thingy yet….. Come on Apple keep up with the jones….

    I hope this has come in useful for some one… Needless to say I am not using the Apple Watch Thingy..Cos it is not locking my machine yet…

    Reply
    • Nope – none of this works for me. Another anomaly here… the automatic unlock with my Apple Watch worked exactly one time. It has not worked the 500 other times I’ve tried. Something is screwy with Apple’s cloud services here, and I’m not going to waste any more of time troubleshooting this. I’ll wait for these obvious bugs to get fixed before I attempt to use this feature again. Shame.

      Reply
    • This was so helpful for me!! Thank you!

      The key for me was that my iMac was using an ethernet (wired) connection for internet and I had wifi turned off on it. I turned wifi on, unplugged the ethernet cord and voila! It works like a charm.

      🙂

      Reply
  9. There is no checkbox on the security pane. Disabling two-step and setting up two-factor was a painful process. Once you set up two-factor. Apple’s instruction do not tell you that you have to also re-authenticate on messages for messages to work. = The whole process is horribly flawed. Apple must be getting a ton of support calls. They pushed this out way too fast

    Reply
  10. I was having issues, but after completing all these steps be sure to restart your computer and also your watch. That is what fixed my issue.

    Reply
  11. I’ve been having all the problems described above. The fix for me was selecting “require password immediately after screen saver begins” in the security pref panes as someone here mentioned. No other selection would allow the apple watch to unlock the computer….

    Reply
  12. Had similar problems. I would open my Macbook Pro and would see “unlocking with apple watch”, then the regular password screen would show up. Reading other users entries I reset my Macbook (no joy) & then I reset my watch (still no joy). I was just about to give up and decided that I might as well reset my iPhone as well and then reset my watch, also. BINGO “ITS ALIVE!!!!!!!”. Works great now.

    Reply
    • I had same issue, went through all of the above and still didn’t work, then, two days ago my iPhone was having some problems so I power cycled it and now the unlock works!

      Reply
  13. Works well for me. Apple Watch and MBP are both running latest OS. It did stop working once but a reboot of both the Apple Watch and MBP fixed that. Apple Watch must be unlocked so just raising it does the trick.

    Reply
  14. Unlock works most times. When it ceases to function properly, I turn off bluetooth on Mac and Phone, wait 15 seconds, then turn them on. So far this has always worked.

    Reply
  15. Folks, I have been dealing with this crapware from Apple since last July. This gimmick is a work/don’t work proposition. I have gone weeks without an issue and then out of the blue the system setting for unlock feature returns to a disabled mode. I’ll fight to get it going again only to be stuck redoing it a few days or weeks later. Apple seems not to care that this feature they designed is completely flawed and frankly has become a real PITA. I have reached out to them numerous times and they have you go through the same routine of resetting everything, reseting the two point authentication, etc… They treat you like your an idiot when having you go through these steps over and over. Fact is that easily keep up with if not eclipse the “genius” on the phone with regards to computers and programming. This is a flawed design and requires more development Apple. Why is it so difficult to understand?

    Reply
  16. I’ve done everything listed here. Repaired and replaced the keychain was able to get it at least to recognise the Apple Watch and not give me the “Cannot connect” warning, but it still doesn’t unlock my watch. Tried restarting Watch, iPhoneX, and Mac Mini (with has auto lock wifi) but nada. I have reset the Bluetooth Module. Nothing. I have zapped the pram. Nope. It tries for a little and (sometimes with the message unlocking with Apple Watch, sometimes not) and other times it just hangs for a while and eventually gives me the text entry.

    I find it appalling that I can unlock my phone with my face and yet Apple can’t seem to sort out something I could do with my PowerBook and Ericson phone in 2003.

    Reply

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