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Apr 12, 2001
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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-800x650.jpg
  4. Enter your password.

    enteryourpassword-800x650.jpg
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-800x321.jpg

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-800x696.jpg

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-800x752.jpg

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-800x650.jpg

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.

Article Link: How to Unlock Your Mac With Your Apple Watch
 
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Quu

macrumors 68040
Apr 2, 2007
3,104
5,693
That two-step to two-factor thing got me cause when I logged in online there was no option on the web page to activate two-factor after disabling two-step. I had to go into the iCloud settings pane on my Mac instead to setup two-factor (which was pain free, just confusing that it's not on the webpage online or instructions etc).

The unlocking thing works great, very fast :)
 
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DMVillain

macrumors 6502a
Jul 20, 2011
620
371
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.
Can confirm that the Late-2012 rMBP doesn't have it. I didn't want a new Mac until now.
 
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3square

macrumors regular
Jul 10, 2014
173
61
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?
 

Jeremy1026

macrumors 68020
Nov 3, 2007
2,212
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Why is this limited to only the watch? Real Question - is this a technical issue?

Ease of authentication. You're watch stays authenticated as long as it doesn't leave your wrist after being unlocked. So you can realistically assume that at any point it will be able to authenticate to you. Unlike with your phone which might be unlocked, on your desk, or maybe locked in your pocket.

Unlock via phone could work, but you lose a lot of the seamlessness of it, so I'm betting that is why Apple chose to not include it as an option.
[doublepost=1474403155][/doublepost]
Can it also lock the mac?

No, thats still on you. It'd have to be pinging and analyzing response times constantly, which wouldn't be very nice for the watch or (portable) mac's battery.
 
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myname70

macrumors 6502a
May 5, 2014
630
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Good option and good intention. But still is very bugos - it works 1 time out of 7-8. Very unreliable. I tested it for couple of weeks but no improvement at all.
 

macpeach55

macrumors 6502
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?

Ease of authentication. You're watch stays authenticated as long as it doesn't leave your wrist after being unlocked. So you can realistically assume that at any point it will be able to authenticate to you. Unlike with your phone which might be unlocked, on your desk, or maybe locked in your pocket.

Unlock via phone could work, but you lose a lot of the seamlessness of it, so I'm betting that is why Apple chose to not include it as an option.
[doublepost=1474403155][/doublepost]

No, thats still on you. It'd have to be pinging and analyzing response times constantly, which wouldn't be very nice for the watch or (portable) mac's battery.

Thank you Both. That makes total sense
 
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Jeremy1026

macrumors 68020
Nov 3, 2007
2,212
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Good option and good intention. But still is very bugos - it works 1 time out of 7-8. Very unreliable. I tested it for couple of weeks but no improvement at all.

Mine works about 95% of the time. The few times it doesn't, I shut the lid and reopen it and it does work.
 

konqerror

macrumors 68020
Dec 31, 2013
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Last edited:

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,196
Wondering how it works with multiple users. Can I assume that multiple users with Apple Watches in the same household would each auto-unlock their own separate Mac user account? That would be neat—avoid even having to specify who you are, maybe? It unlocks to whoever is physically closest?
 
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