Unlocking Mac with Apple Watch stopped working

Automatic unlocking with the watch no longer works since watchOS 7

Since the release of watchOS 7, it seems automatic unlocking of the Mac with the Apple Watch no longer working. While some people get an error message, when I woke up the Mac simply waited for my password to enter the login screen and pretended that the automatic unlocking feature was not activated at all.

Communication between your Mac and Apple Watch has failed. Make sure Apple Watch is unlocked, on your wrist, and iPhone is unlocked.

Apart from the fact that my iPhone is always locked when my watch unlocks the MacBook Pro, I'm pretty sure that my watch is always unlocked as soon as I put it on my wrist. The reference is therefore relatively meaningless.

Update 15.11.2020/XNUMX/XNUMX: Bug after macOS Big Sur update

If you have problems with the function after the update to Big Sur, then I have the following solution for you from another reader:

  • Sign out of iCloud completely and sign back in
  • then activate the function for unlocking with the watch in System Settings> Security

After that, Big Sur should work again.

The feature for automatically unlocking the Mac can be activated in System Preferences> Security.

The feature for automatically unlocking the Mac can be activated in System Preferences> Security.

My solution: switch settings off and on

There is another (long!) Way below how you can possibly fix the above error, but for a start you can test whether my solution works for you:

  1. open the system settings on the Mac
  2. then select "Security"
  3. there click on the “General” tab
  4. now deactivate the option "Unlock with your Apple Watch apps and your Mac" and activate it again

Now the Mac should ask you for your administrator password and you can close the system settings.

Communication with the Apple Watch failed ... the problem can be solved.

Communication with the Apple Watch failed ... the problem can be solved.

Communication disturbed?

Funnily enough, when I switched the automatic unlock function on and off several times for the article screenshots, what other users see happened: The error message with the disrupted communication between Mac and Apple Watch was displayed.

To fix the error, I just had to deactivate and activate the option again. I was fine again ...

In the keychain management look for "Auto Unlock:" and "AutoUnlock" and remove the corresponding entries from the list.

In the keychain management look for "Auto Unlock:" and "AutoUnlock" and remove the corresponding entries from the list.

Reader's tip: turn Bluetooth off and on

My reader Frank just wrote me in the comment that my approach was unsuccessful with him because he received this error message that a connection with the Apple Watch was not possible. He then selected the option "Deactivate Bluetooth" on the Mac via System Preferences> Bluetooth and then switched Bluetooth back on. Then he was able to tick the option "Unlock with your Apple Watch apps and your Mac" (under System Preferences> Security> General).

Nuclear solution: delete everything!

Have you restarted the Mac AND the Apple Watch and the automatic unlocking still refuses to work, then I have a last one Instructions from the Apple Support Forum for you who take the whole thing a little deeper.

The following instructions will completely reset the automatic login and the feature will then have to be set up again on your other Macs.

  1. opens the utility "keychain management" on the Mac
  2. in the menu "display" choose "show invisible objects"
  3. Now enter "Auto Unlock:" in the search field at the top right (attention: don't overlook spaces and colon!)
  4. Now you mark all objects and select the item "Delete" in the edit menu
  5. Now you enter “autounlock” in the search field (this time without spaces)
  6. there should now be four objects in the result list; the type says "tlk", "classC", "tlk-nonsync" and "classA"
  7. you should also mark the four objects and delete them using the edit menu
  8. Now you open the Finder and select in the menu "Go" the option "Go to folder"
  9. Copy this path into the input field: ~ / Library / Sharing / AutoUnlock
  10. in the folder you delete the files "ltk.plist" and "pairing-records.plist" (for me there were only the two files in the folder)
  11. now you go in System Preferences> Security> General and enable automatic login again (sometimes you have to enable it twice because the first attempt fails)
  12. If necessary, restart Apple Watch and Mac and then try again

Since such "gimmicks" in system folders are always associated with a certain risk of deleting something wrong, I would always make a backup before working in the system.

I hope that the automatic unlocking with the Apple Watch works again for you. If you've found another way that helps, please let me know.

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33 comments

  1. Wolfgang Porten says:

    Hello Lens,

    the path ~ LibrarySharing / AutoUnlock must be called ~ Library / Sharing / AutoUnlock, if it is available.
    With me was not available. The function must then be activated twice. The first time you get the error message and the second time you are asked for your Mac password.
    Then it worked.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Wolfgang! Thanks for the hint. Is corrected. The error is due to my markup editor, which interprets a slash as an italic start. I haven't managed to get him used to that yet.

  2. hpf says:

    Hello, Jens
    thanks for the guidance. Worked fine. The function really has to be selected twice for the automatic unlocking to work again.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Great! Yes, that's strange ... for me it was reset after the WatchOS update. But if you know where the right button is, it works wonderfully. : D

  3. Albert van der Willik says:

    Thanks for the detailed tip, it even took me three times to check the box without an error message. And now the Mac can be unlocked again without any problems. You get used to such little things very quickly. Kind regards Albert

  4. Frank says:

    Unfortunately, the procedure didn't work for me. Setting the "With the Apple Watch ..." tick is acknowledged with the message that a connection is not possible. After several more attempts, I switched off Bluetooth on the MacBook and switched it on again.
    Now the setting of the check mark was no longer blocked by the system. Maybe it will help with you too.

  5. Eva-Maria says:

    Hi Jens,
    Thank you for the instructions. I've worked through all the tips from above. I only had success with the chapter "Nuclear solution: delete everything!". I've done the first 7 points. However, the ~ Library / Sharing / AutoUnlock folder does not exist on my MacBook. I then performed the automatic login in the system settings (point 11) twice.
    Now the Apple Watch unlocks my MacBook again :-)
    Thank you!

  6. Christof says:

    Thank you for the "nuclear solution", it worked without any problems in the end. Point 10 was not necessary for me either, since there was no such folder and also twice the AppleWatch had to be registered in the security center. Now everything is going as it was before ...

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Excellent! But I wonder why the folder is there with me and apparently not with the rest of the world. : D But good if you don't need it ...

      • Chartie says:

        Quite simply: Because your path in the text above is incorrect. The slash after the tilde is missing: ~ / Library / Sharing / AutoUnlock and not: ~ Library / Sharing / AutoUnlock

        • Jens Kleinholz says:

          Hello Chartie! Thanks for the tip. I hadn't seen it ... but now the slash is there and the bug has been fixed. : D

  7. Krissy says:

    Hallo,
    after I have had this problem since switching from a Watch Series 3 to Watch SE (strangely not when updating the Series 3 from WatchOS6 to WatchOS7 ????) I was grateful for the tips. Unfortunately, no point has helped me so far.

    Neither switching the registration function on and off, nor deactivating and reactivating Bluetooth. The nuclear solution does not work either: If I delete the objects under point 6, they immediately reappear in the folder. Even repeating the action several times did not help.

    I still tried to continue with the other points and had similar problems. Then I gave up and contacted Apple Support. They advised me to reconfigure the watch and start the Mac in Safe Mode to see if the problem persists. It does. The advice then was to reinstall MacOS (version 10.15.7). ????
    But since the problem has existed since the watch was changed and not a change on the Mac, I still shy away from it.

    Maybe someone here still has some advice after all?

    Regards
    Krissy

  8. Lars says:

    I've been looking for solutions for a while now, thanks for the thread here. Despite all of the above attempts, the communication between the watch and the iMac still does not work for me. Everything looks normal and "should" go. But it doesn't. Any other ideas?

  9. Hajo says:

    Unfortunately, you can only log out and log in to iCloud. I failed with all other measures. However, I am doing this for the third time. Really annoying!

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Yes, that cannot be the permanent solution. It takes forever for me because he always wants to reload the photo library. I hope Apple better be here after ... is it happening to you with Big Sur too?

      • Chartie says:

        Hi,
        I had the problem again after updating to 11.1.
        The only remedy was once again only iCloud logging out / logging back in.
        For me, the photo library is also synchronizing again.
        That's kind of annoying ...
        Especially since Apple writes in the release notes for 11.1: "Higher reliability when automatically unlocking the Mac with the Apple Watch"

        • Jens Kleinholz says:

          Well, unfortunately it is the case that you can live with annoying workarounds every now and then. But to be honest, I prefer things like that to the failures that Catalina had to contend with. : D

  10. Peter J. Flathmann says:

    Thank you!
    After logging out / logging in from iCloud, it worked again for me.

  11. Jochen says:

    Perfect, thank you for the tip about logging out and logging back in to iCloud. Worked

  12. Oliver Fassler says:

    This problem has haunted me for a long time and I've taken another attempt to fix it. I should have all the requirements for unlocking the iMac with the watch. But the option "Unlock with your Apple Watch apps and your Mac" does not even appear under System Preferences / Security.

    I have already tried everything up to and including the "nuclear solution". I don't find any clues in the network as to what to do if the option is not displayed in the first place (or only things like WLAN on Bluetooth, same AppleID, same network, etc.)

    I'm really at a loss. Had the problem with Catalina and still with Big Sur. "Sometime" it used to work, but can no longer understand where the point was where it no longer worked.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Oliver! Phew, if you've already tried all of this, I'll end up with my Latin. You could create a new user again and try whether this works. If so, then it is somehow up to your user account. That would be my last idea.

  13. Oliver Fassler says:

    Thanks Jens, in fact the option appears and works after setting up a new user.

    Now I have to think about whether and how I can curb everything to the new user. I'm a little afraid of side effects because I have created both users with the same Apple ID / iCloud ID. The iCloud account initially did a bit of a tricky connection with the new user and only worked on the second attempt (after the initial setup).

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Oliver! The migration assistant is available under Programs> Utilities. So you can move data ... maybe it will work. Otherwise it shouldn't be a problem because of iCloud if you have two accounts with the same iCloud account. I just wouldn't log into both at the same time. This could lead to confusion. : D

  14. Chartie says:

    With the update to 11.3 again the same problem.
    The "nuclear solution" without iCloud-off helped.

  15. Tobias says:

    Also had the problem with my Apple Watch, nothing brought a solution.

    Then I read where to remove all connected USB devices, then restart and it worked.

  16. Color booster says:

    I have this problem again. What has worked most reliably so far is a password update of the iCloud account.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Thanks for the tip! I have to do it again ... my watch has not wanted to unlock my Mac for days. And not even my iPhone when I have a mask on ...

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