Many people buy used or refurbished Apple Watches only to find out they are still linked to the original owner’s iCloud account. This essentially makes the Watch unusable, as you cannot pair it with your iPhone or access any of its functions. Thankfully, there are a few methods you can use to get past the iCloud lock and unlock the full capabilities of your Apple Watch. This guide will walk you through the steps.
What Does “iCloud Locked” Mean on an Apple Watch?
When you buy an Apple Watch, it is linked to the original owner’s iCloud account for activation and pairing purposes. The Watch is “married” to that iCloud account until it is unlinked.
If the original owner does not unlink the Watch from their iCloud before selling or disposing of it, the device remains iCloud locked. This prevents the new owner from using it fully.
Specifically, an iCloud locked Apple Watch will exhibit the following characteristics:
- It will ask for the previous owner’s Apple ID and password during setup. You cannot bypass this to pair with your iPhone.
- Many functions like app downloads, Apple Pay, Messages, and more will not work.
- The Activation Lock feature will be turned on. This ties the Watch to the original owner’s iCloud account.
- You cannot reset or restore the Watch unless you enter the previous owner’s Apple ID credentials.
Essentially, an iCloud locked Apple Watch is a “brick” until unlocked properly. The good news is there are ways to circumvent iCloud activation, as we will discuss next.
Methods to Unlock an iCloud Locked Apple Watch
There are both official and unofficial methods to remove an iCloud lock from an Apple Watch. Here are some options to consider:
Contact the Original Owner
The simplest method is to contact the original owner and ask them to unlink the Watch properly from their iCloud account. This is the only official way to retain full Apple warranty and support coverage.
However, the original owner may not be willing or able to cooperate. If buying secondhand, the seller may no longer be reachable. So this method does not always work.
Use Apple’s Online Tools
If you bought an iCloud locked Watch on eBay or Craigslist, try contacting the seller first to get the original Apple ID and password. You can then use Apple’s tools to unlink the device.
This is the next best option to retain warranty support from Apple. However, the original owner can always re-lock the Watch later, so there is some risk.
Use a Third-Party Unlocking Service
Various third-party services claim they can generate special unlocks or bypass tools to get past the iCloud lock. This usually involves exploiting backdoors in Apple’s activation process.
I cannot recommend any specific service here, as the legality is questionable. But searching for “iCloud unlock service” will reveal many options. This should be seen as a last resort.
Perform a Hardware Reset
On an iCloud locked Apple Watch Sport or Series 1-4 models, it is possible to do a hardware reset by removing the screen and disconnecting the battery cable for 5+ minutes.
This forces the Watch into recovery mode, allowing you to pair with a new iPhone on first boot. Note this method only works on older non-SE and Series 5+ models.
There is a risk of damaging your Watch, so attempt at your own discretion. iFixit has guides for opening different Watch models safely.
Checking iCloud Activation Lock Status
Before attempting any unlock method, it helps to check the iCloud status of your Apple Watch first using its serial number. Here are two ways to do this:
1. Use Apple’s Activation Lock Status Tool
Apple provides an official Activation Lock status check page where you can enter your Apple Watch’s serial number.
To find the serial number:
- Turn on your Apple Watch and open the Settings app.
- Go to General > About.
- You should see the serial number listed there. It will be a mix of letters and numbers.
Enter the serial number at Apple’s page. It will tell you if the Watch has Activation Lock turned on.
2. Check with Third-Party Tools
There are many free third-party iCloud activation lock checkers online. These include:
Simply search for “iCloud status checker” and enter the serial number to verify the Activation Lock status.
This can help avoid wasting time on watches that cannot be unlocked.
Unlocking an iCloud Locked Apple Watch: Step-by-Step
Once you’ve determined your Apple Watch is indeed iCloud locked, here is a summary of the unlocking process:
Contact the Original Owner
- Contact the seller/original owner and politely ask them to remove the Watch from their iCloud account. Provide the serial number.
- Guide them to use Apple’s official removal process.
- If successful, you can now pair the watch normally with your iPhone during setup.
Hardware Reset (Older Models Only)
- Turn off the Watch and open it to disconnect the battery. Refer to iFixit for your model.
- Keep battery disconnected for 5+ minutes. This resets settings.
- Close the Watch, reconnect the battery, and turn back on.
- When prompted, pair with your iPhone as new Watch.
Third-Party Unlocking Service
- Contact a company advertising iCloud removal services for Apple Watch.
- Provide your Watch’s details and pay the quoted fee.
- Follow their instructions to install any unlock tools or apps provided.
- Pair your now-unlocked Watch with your iPhone.
Being stuck with an iCloud locked Apple Watch can be frustrating. Thankfully, there are a few options available to bypass activation lock and unlock full use of the Watch. The best approach is contacting the original owner or performing a hardware reset if possible. Seeking a third-party unlock service comes with more risks. With some patience and diligence, you can resolve the iCloud lock and finally enjoy using your “new” Apple Watch.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can Apple unlock an iCloud locked Watch?
Unfortunately, Apple cannot unlock or remove iCloud activation lock without consent from the original owner. This is to prevent theft and protect user privacy. Apple can only unlock with proof of purchase or the original owner’s details.
2. Does resetting network settings remove iCloud lock?
No, resetting network settings does not remove an Apple Watch from the original iCloud account. The Activation Lock system is separate and persists through network settings resets.
3. Can I unlock with jailbreaking or WatchOS exploits?
Currently, there are no public jailbreak tools for watchOS versions. Jailbreaking also does not circumvent Activation Lock in any way. Do not believe claims about jailbreak iCloud unlocking.
4. What if I bought a used Apple Watch as a gift?
If you bought an iCloud locked Apple Watch as a gift, try contacting the seller immediately to resolve it. Get proof of purchase and serial number details as well. If they cannot or will not unlock it, initiate a return/refund.
5. Is using a third-party unlocking service illegal?