The Apple Watch is, in its own right, a little tiny computer with data backup and security needs. Read on as we show you how to ensure your Apple Watch is backed up, wiped, and restored just like you’d do with your smartphone.
Whether you want to ensure your watch is backed up to the minute this moment, you want to wipe it clean before a sale or passing it onto a family member, or you want to know how to restore a backup after resetting your watch and updating the Watch OS, we’re here to help.
How to Backup Your Watch
The Apple Watch does, conveniently, automatically back itself up during your regular iPhone backup process (so every time your iPhone is backed up either by manual iTunes backup or via iCloud backup your paired Apple Watch is also backed up). You may, however, wish to force process to immediately backup things up so you know the backup on the Phone is as current as possible.
What Is and Isn’t Backed Up?
Before we force the backup, let’s take a look at what is and what is not backed up during the process (the following lists apply to both the routine backups and the forced backups).
According to Apple the following things are backed up when you backup your Apple Watch:
- General system settings, such as your watch face, known Wi-Fi networks, brightness, sound, and haptic settings
- Time Zone
- Settings for Mail, Calendar, Stocks, and Weather
- App-specific data and settings, such as Maps, distance, and units
- Health and Fitness data, such as history, achievements, and user-entered data (To back up Health and Fitness data, you need to use iCloud or an encrypted iTunes backup.)
Conversely, the following things are not backed up during the backup process:
- Workout and Activity calibration data from your Apple Watch
- Playlists synced to your Apple Watch
- Credit or debit cards used for Apple Pay on your Apple Watch
- Passcode for your Apple Watch
While some of the items not backed up make sense (like not backing up your credit card data) it’s worth noting that if you’ve done a lot of workouts that have significantly calibrated your activity data you may wish to skip a forced backup (which would wipe those settings).
Forcing a Backup
Remember, and we’re emphasizing this again for clarity and to save you from adjusting the settings that are outside the backup process, you do not need to force a backup for general backup purposes. Your Apple Watch automatically backs up every time you connect to iTunes and sync/backup the iPhone it is paired with. It is also backed up if you have iCloud-based automatic backup.
The only time you need to perform the following process is if you wish to force a backup right before performing some administrative task like wiping the watch and reinstalling/upgrading the Watch OS (and you want to be certain the backup is up-to-the-minute current). Just backing up your iPhone doesn’t actually accomplish this up-to-the-very-minute backup because the backup workflow for the Apple Watch goes Watch to Phone to iTunes/iCloud. If you backup your Phone you’re just backing up the last Apple Watch backup and not creating a new and immediate backup of the device.
In order to force a backup outside of the routine automatic backups that occur in the background during your iPhone backup/syncing process, you’ll need to unpair the watch from the phone. We’d really prefer there was simply a “Backup Now” type option in the Watch OS settings menu, but at this time the only way to force the backup to unpair the device.
To do so open up the Apple Watch app on your paired iPhone and navigate to menu entry for Apple Watch, then select “Unpair Apple Watch”. Confirm you wish to unpair the watch and sit back. It takes a few minutes for the as your iPhone backs up the watch and then unpairs it.
How to Wipe Your Apple Watch
The unpairing process wipes the watch after backing it up. There is a way to perform the wipe process (sans backup) on an Apple watch, however, if you 1) don’t currently have access to the original paired device or 2) never had access as you bought the watch used and the previous owner didn’t unpair it.
If you do have access to the host iPhone it’s much better to unpair from the phone as doing so will create a backup. If the backup is irrelevant (e.g. you’re wiping the watch before selling it on eBay) by all means proceed without concern for backing the data up.
Resetting the Apple Watch
If you’re resetting a watch without a passcode (or a watch for which you have the passcode and can unlock it) the process is as follows.
To unpair and reset the watch from the watch itself, press the watch crown to pull up the app menu and then select the Settings icon (the small gear). Within the settings menu select “General” and then “Reset”.
Within the “Reset” menu select “Erase All Content and Settings”. You’ll be prompted for your passcode (if you have one enabled) and then warned that all media, data, and settings will be erased. Select “Continue” to factory reset the watch.
Resetting the Apple Watch without the Passcode
If you cannot remember your passcode or the previous owner did not properly wipe the device before giving it to you, all is not lost. You can still perform a factory reset by hooking the Apple Watch as long as you have the charging cable handy. (Without the charging cable connected and applying a charge to the watch the following steps will not work.)
Hook your Apple Watch up to the charging cable and then press and hold the side button on the watch until the Power Off menu comes up. Press and hold the on screen “POWER OFF” button until the “Erase all contents and settings” screen pops up. Press the “Erase all contents and settings” button to complete the reset of the Apple Watch.
How to Restore Your Watch
Restoring the data to the watch after is a snap and nearly identical the initial pairing process when you first link the Apple Watch to your iPhone. To restore your data simply open up the the Apple Watch app on your iPhone with your Apple Watch on hand.
Select “Start Pairing” and then use the pairing tool (either via scanning your Apple Watch face with the iPhone camera or manually entering in the pairing data). When the pair is completed, you’ll be offered the option to “Set Up as New Apple Watch” or “Restore from Backup”.
Select “Restore from Backup” and then select the backup from the available list. Once you select the backup your iPhone will restore all the backed up data and settings (as outlined in the first section of this tutorial) and the pairing and restoration process is complete.
Questions about your Apple Watch? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to answer them.