Starting with macOS Sierra, Apple introduced an "Auto Unlock" feature that makes it easier for Apple Watch owners to unlock their Macs, with the Apple Watch being used for authentication purposes instead of a traditional password.

It's a feature that's limited to more recent Macs so it's not going to work on some older machines, but when it is available, Auto Unlock is a super useful option that genuinely saves a bit of time. It isn't always enabled by default, so there are a few steps to go through to turn Auto Unlock on. Here's how to use it.

  1. Navigate to the Apple logo on the upper left hand of the screen and select "System Preferences."
  2. Click on "Security & Privacy" from the first row of apps.
  3. Auto Unlock is an option under the "General" section. Click the check box to turn it on.

    autounlocksierra

  4. Enter your password.

    enteryourpassword

Once enabled, Auto Unlock works automatically whenever your authenticated Apple Watch is near your Mac (as in within a few feet). When waking a Mac from sleep and the password entry screen pops up, it will say "Unlocking with Apple Watch..." instead of bringing up the password text box.

loginscreenautounlock
A few seconds later, the Mac will unlock and you will receive a notification on your Apple Watch letting you know the unlocking was successful. If Auto Unlock fails to authenticate for some reason, the password entry option will pop up after approximately 10 seconds and you will be required to enter your password to log in.

applewatchautounlockmac
Auto Unlock is a Continuity feature, so it is limited to some of Apple's more recent machines. It is supported by all Mac models introduced in mid-2013 or later, and it requires an Apple Watch running watchOS 3 or later paired with an iPhone 5 or later. Handoff must be turned on in System Preferences (General --> Allow Handoff) and your iPhone, Apple Watch, and Mac must be signed into the same iCloud account.

sierraunlockallowhandoff
To enable Auto Unlock, you will also need to turn on Two-Factor Authentication if it isn't on already.

For those of you using the original Two-Step Verification instead of the Two-Factor Authentication feature introduced with iOS 10, you will need to disable Two-Step Verification on the Apple ID management site and then enable Two-Factor Authentication on an iOS device. A passcode also needs to be established on the Apple Watch.

autounlock2farequired
Apple doesn't offer troubleshooting tips if Auto Unlock isn't working, but signing out of iCloud and back in again and restarting your devices may help solve any issues.

There are still instances where you will need to log in with a password, like after rebooting your machine, but for the most part, Auto Unlock successfully replaces password entry on the Mac.

Top Rated Comments

konqerror Avatar
58 months ago
Same here. I can't think of any technical reason that this wouldn't work. I'd be shocked if it doesn't work on a 2012 rMBP. Oh wait, this is Apple. Wouldn't shock me in the slightest.
Because it uses time-of-flight WiFi, it requires a Mac with a 802.11ac card.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
3square Avatar
58 months ago
Why is this limited to only the watch? Real Question - is this a technical issue?
i think it has to do with which device has the most recent/constant authentication. For the iPhone, only once you unlock with touchID, only then it is considered authenticated. Since anyone can take your phone and place it near your mac to unlock it.

With the watch, from the moment you put it on AND authenticate it with your iPhone touchID, the watch will always be considered authenticated. Until you remove the watch.

Can anyone please verify my theory? remove the watch off your wrist and try to unlock your Mac.

i'm sure apple can set it up to work with your phone. but that would require you to use touchID on your phone every time. Apple being apple, I assume would rather take the most seamless path. I honestly wouldn't mind using the phone as a second method. Maybe with the next update?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WiseAJ Avatar
58 months ago
Probably limiting it so you buy a new computer.
Now they just need to release said new computers.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pat500000 Avatar
58 months ago
Same here. I can't think of any technical reason that this wouldn't work. I'd be shocked if it doesn't work on a 2012 rMBP. Oh wait, this is Apple. Wouldn't shock me in the slightest.
Probably limiting it so you buy a new computer.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DMVillain Avatar
58 months ago
I have Continuity and Handoff on my Late-2012 rMBP, so I'm anxious to see if this works for me.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
shareef777 Avatar
58 months ago
I have Continuity and Handoff on my Late-2012 rMBP, so I'm anxious to see if this works for me.
Same here. I can't think of any technical reason that this wouldn't work. I'd be shocked if it doesn't work on a 2012 rMBP. Oh wait, this is Apple. Wouldn't shock me in the slightest.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
steam apple logo

Valve Ordered to Give Apple Information on 436 Steam Games As Part of Epic Games Legal Case

Thursday February 25, 2021 1:50 am PST by
Valve, the makers behind popular game distribution platform Steam, will be forced to hand over aggregate historical sales, price, and other information on 436 games hosted on the store to Apple, as part of the Apple vs. Epic Games antitrust case. As reported in a paywalled report by Law360, during a virtual discovery hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson ordered that...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
apple store macarthur center

Apple Store at MacArthur Center in Virginia Permanently Closing Following Years of Safety Issues at Shopping Mall

Thursday February 25, 2021 4:45 pm PST by
Apple today indicated that its retail store at the MacArthur Center shopping mall in Norfolk, Virginia will be permanently closing after over 14 years of business, although an exact closure date has yet to be announced by the company. Apple has assured that it will be offering all employees at the store other positions within Apple, and said that it looks forward to continuing to serve...
qualcomm snapdragon x60 5g

iPhone 13 Lineup Expected to Use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 Modem With Several 5G Improvements

Wednesday February 24, 2021 8:10 am PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 13 lineup will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem, with Samsung to handle manufacturing of the chip, according to DigiTimes. Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to the 7nm-based Snapdragon X55 modem used in iPhone 12 models, which could contribute to longer battery life. With the X60 modem, iPhone...
anker magsafe powercore battery pack

Anker Releases MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack for iPhone 12 Lineup

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Following rumors that Apple is working on a MagSafe battery pack for iPhone 12 models, popular accessory maker Anker has beaten Apple to the punch with the release of its PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank. First previewed at CES 2021, the PowerCore battery pack magnetically attaches to the back of any iPhone 12 model and provides 5W of wireless charging. With a 5,000 mAh capacity,...