[Update: Fix released] Apple Watch issue preventing unlocking Macs on macOS Big Sur still present after watchOS 7.1 update

New updates are being added at the bottom of this story…….

Original story (published on November 26, 2020) follows:

Apple products are designed to work seamlessly with each other which is one of the main reasons most individuals choose to go the Apple route.

Take for example the feature that allows Apple Watch users to unlock their Macs without the need to enter a password since the computer can automatically sense when the watch is nearby.

macos-big-sur-apple-watch-unlock

While this might not sound like a big deal, those who use their computers every day know that it can save a lot of time in the long run.

Unfortunately, after installing the macOS Big Sur update, many Mac users have been complaining that they aren’t able to unlock their computers with the Apple Watch.

Have just updated to Big Sur on iMac but now cannot unlock with Apple watch (series 5). Advice please.
(Source)

I also have this issue since upgrading to Big Sur. My Apple Watch (series 4, latest iOS) has worked seamlessly with other operating systems but just refuses to connect to my watch.
(Source)

Back in old days, there was a quaint custom of *TESTING* software before rolling it out. But I guess that’s out of fashion now. Better to just use your customers as guinea pigs.
(Source)

My Apple Watch will not unlock my iMac after Big Sur as well.
(Source)

Further, Apple recently rolled out the watchOS 7.1 update which supposedly resolved the issue that prevented some users from unlocking their Macs with the Apple Watch.

We’ve shared the changelog for the watchOS 7.1 update below for reference:

– Adds the ability to be notified when your headphone audio level could impact your hearing
– Adds support for the ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 or later in the Republic of Korea and Russia
– Adds support for irregular heart rhythm notifications in the Republic of Korea and Russia
– Resolves an issue that prevented some users from unlocking Mac with Apple Watch
– Fixes an issue where the screen may be dark on wrist raise for some Apple Watch Series 6 users.
(Source)

Seeing the changelog, one would believe that the problem should no longer arise, but sadly, this does not seem to be the case since some users still aren’t able to unlock their Macs running macOS Big Sur after installing the watchOS 7.1 update.

Same Issue here, Mac OS Big Sur 11.0.1 (20B29) on a MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018).

The Apple Watch is a Series 4 with WatchOS 7.1 (18R590)
(Source)

Apple is yet to make any comment on the matter. Moreover, we do not expect to see an acknowledgment from the Cupertino tech giant. Although it may roll out another patch down the line.

apple-watch-series-6
The Apple Watch Series 6

In case you aren’t willing to wait for an official fix to go live, there are a few ways you can get your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac running Big Sur.

Workarounds for Apple Watch not unlocking Macs on macOS Big Sur

1) Possible fix for those on watchOS 7.1:

One user has claimed that those who have installed the watchOS 7.1 update simply need to sign out of iCloud, reboot, and sign in again.

For those who have updated: sign out of icloud, reboot and sign in again
This fix for me: unlock by watch, handoff, sidecar.
(Source)

2) Fix “AutoUnlock” errors on your Mac:

1. Open “Keychain Access”
2. In “View”, enable “Show Invisible Items”
3. Search for “Auto Unlock”
4. You should see a whole bunch of application passwords for “Auto Unlock: XXXX’s …”
5. Select all records and delete (this will reset/disable auto unlock on other Macs if you use multiple Macs)

6. Whilst still in “Keychain Access”, search for “AutoUnlock” (no space)
7. here should be 4 entries for “tlk” “tlk-nonsync” “classA” “classC”
8. Select 4 records and delete (don’t worry if they re-appear, the system repairs this automatically)
9. Open “Finder” and navigate to “~/Library/Sharing/AutoUnlock”
10. There should be two files “ltk.plist” and “pairing-records.plist”

11. Delete both files
(Some users have reported better success restarting macOS at this stage)
12. Open “System Preferences” and try enabling auto unlock. You may need to enable it twice, the first attempt will fail.

These steps were shared by an individual over on the Macrumors forums and has apparently fixed the problem for several users.

However, in case this does not work or if for some reason you do not wish to perform the multiple steps listed above, you could also reset your Apple Watch.

3) Reset the Apple Watch:

Resetting your Apple Watch is a fairly easy process and involves just a few taps and also a bit of patience. Now, to reset your Apple Watch, head to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.

apple-watch-reset-macos-big-sur-bug

Wait for the watch to reset and then pair it with your Mac and iPhone. Once done, you should be able to unlock your Mac running macOS Big Sur with your Apple Watch as usual.

Following either of these three or all three workarounds provided above should fix the issue. In case you’re still facing issues while trying to unlock your Mac running macOS Big Sur via the Apple Watch, let us know in the comments below.

That being said, this isn’t the only issue troubling Mac users after installing the macOS Big Sur update.

We’ve reported on several bugs and issues including the issue where users aren’t able to print documents, battery and overheating problems, and the single login screen background. So it seems Apple still has a lot to work upon.

Update 1 (December 16)

10:53 am (IST): Apple released the macOS Big Sur 11.1 update and it seems that the company has fixed the issue which prevented some users from unlocking their Macs with the Apple Watch at times, at least according to the changelog.

We’ve shared part of the changelog which mentions all the bugs and issues that were fixed via the new software update below:

– QuickTime Player might quit when opening a movie with a timecode track after upgrading from macOS Catalina
– Bluetooth connection status was not displayed in Control Center
– Reliability of unlocking your Mac automatically with your Apple Watch
– Trackpad scrolling speed may be faster than expected on MacBook Pro models
– LG UltraFine 5K Display may incorrectly display at 4K resolution on Macs with M1

NOTE: There are more such stories in our dedicated Apple section so be sure to go through it as well.

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Dwayne Cubbins

I've been interested in tech for as long as I can remember. And I used to be a Windows Phone enthusiast. When I am not writing about tech, I'm on the couch playing games with my squad. Oh, I also play the guitar and drums.