Unlock Mac With Apple Watch Not Working In Big Sur (Fixed!)

how to fix unlock Mac with Apple Watch

How to fix Unlock Mac with Apple Watch

Has the ‘Unlock Mac with Apple Watch’ feature stopped working since your updated to macOS Big Sur? You have all the iCloud Keychain setting configured properly but your Mac is still asking you for administrator Password when waking up from sleep mode? This seems to be a common macOS Big Sur issue that affects lots of Mac users.

Fortunately, we’ve managed to find a working fix and in this article I will go trough all steps required to make sure that the Unlock Mac with Apple Watch feature is properly set up on your machine. After that, we will check out the working troubleshooting sequence and make your Apple Watch able to unlock your Mac again.

Enable Unlock Mac With Apple Watch

First, we have to check that the feature is properly enabled:
unlock mac with apple watch setting

  • Open System Preferences, from the Dock.
  • Click on Security & Privacy.
  • Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac, has to be checked! If it is, it means that your Mac is properly configured. Else, you have to enable it!
  • Fact: If you signed out of iCloud, to free up storage space to be able to update to macOS Big Sur, for example, Unlock Mac with Apple Watch stopped working, because you need to be logged in with your Apple ID on both iPhone (Apple Watch) and Mac for the feature to work!

Finish Setting Up iCloud KeyChain

In some cases, you might be signed into iCloud on your Mac, but Keychain might be not allowed to connect to iCloud. If that’s the case you will be prompted with the ‘Finish setting up iCloud to allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac’ pop up, when you attempt to enable the unlock Mac with Apple Watch option.
how to enable iCloud Keychain in macOS Big Sur

  • Click Open Apple Account… and you will be redirected to the iCloud management screen.
  • Click on the checkbox available next to KeyChain, in the Apps on this Mac using iCloud.
  • Provide your Apple ID password, your Mac’s unlock password and finally the passcode that you use to unlock your iPhone.
  • iCloud Keychain should be enabled now and everything should be set up properly for Unlock Mac with Apple Watch to work.
  • Troubleshooting: It’s not uncommon for the iCloud Keychain not to be activated after following the steps provided above. It happened to me too and I had to restart my MacBook and redo the process until iCloud Keychain was finally enabled.

How To Fix Unlock Mac With Apple Watch Issue

With iCloud Keychain enabled MacBook might still fail to unlocking with Apple Watch!
Important: Be aware that after restarting or rebooting a Mac you are required to type your administrator password, no matter if unlock with Apple Watch works or not!
However, if Mac enters sleep mode and you’re still asked for the password when waking it up, there is a problem. Here is what you should do next:
Unlock Apple Watch prompt in macOS Big Sur

  • Make sure that the Apple Watch is on your wrist and unlocked!
  • Both Apple Watch and iPhone shouldn’t be in Airplane Mode!
  • Reboot all three devices involved in this feature: Mac, iPhone and Apple Watch.
    – Mac: Click on the Apple logo, available on the top-left corner of the screen and select Restart…
    – iPhone: Force restart your device using the trick described here.
    – Apple Watch: Simultaneously press & hold the Digital Crown and the Side Button until the Apple logo is displayed on the screen.

Unlock Mac With Apple Watch Troubleshooting Sequence

If you performed all the fixes described above, your Mac could still refuse to unlock with Apple Watch. Can you notice an improvement? Is the ‘Unlocking Mac with Apple Watch…’ message briefly flashing on the macOS Big Sur lock screen. This means that everything is set up correctly, but a glitch is causing a conflict that prevents the successful authentication.

Apply the following steps to finally fix the unlock Mac with Apple Watch issue:
deleting auto unlock passwords from keychain access

  • 1. Open Finder, from the Dock and search for ‘Keychain Access‘.
    Tip: Make sure that the search uses the ‘This Mac’ filter.
  • 2. Double-click Keychain Access to open it.
  • 3. Click View, available in the top menu bar and select Show Invisible Items.
  • 4. Next, Search Keychain Access for ‘auto unlock‘.
  • 5. A list of application passwords under the form ‘Auto Unlock: [device name] …’ should be available. Select all entries, right-click on the selection and delete them. Confirm the procedure by clicking Delete.
    Fact: This will clear all conflicting auto unlock settings, but will also disable unlock for other Macs, if you own multiple macOS machines.
  • fixing unlock Mac with Apple Watch issue

  • 6. Now, search in Keychain Access again, but this time for ‘AutoUnlock’, without a space.
  • 7. Some ‘tlk’, ‘tlk-piggy’, ‘tlk-nonsync’, ‘class A’ and ‘class C’ records should be listed. Select these records and delete them.
    Fact: Some of them will instantly re-appear, because they’re repaired by the system automatically. This is normal!
  • 8. Next, open the Finder tool and search for Library. Double-click it and open Sharing -> AutoUnlock.
  • 9. The AutoUnlock folder should contain the ‘ltk.plist’ and ‘pairing-records.plist’ files. Select them, right-click on the selection and choose Move to Trash to delete them.
  • deleting AutoUnlock from macOS Library

  • 10. Restart your Mac, to reflect the changes that you’ve just made.
  • 11. Finally, open System Preferences from the Dock, browse for Security & Privacy and re-enable the Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac feature. Does it work now?
  • Credits: Parts of this troubleshooting routine have been mentioned on Apple’s discussion forums.

Did the above tips help you fix the unlock Mac with Apple Watch problem? Use the comments section and let us know. Do you need additional help, or have found a better solution? Don’t hesitate to inform us!

Related: Other common macOS Big Sur issues:
– Unlock Mac with Password doesn’t work although you’re sure that you use the correct string? Use this fix!
– Is your iPhone not connecting to Mac? Or intermittently connecting and disconnecting? Apply this fix!
– Is the Universal Clipboard not working in macOS Big Sur? Use this fix.
– Do you have Bluetooth connectivity issues on M1 Mac? Here is how to troubleshoot them!