Touch ID recognition replaces passwords on new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops but what if you don’t have a fingerprint reader on your Mac? The good news is that on a new computer you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars. When you wear an Apple Watch, you can replace your password with a Touch ID on macOS Catalina.
How it works
For secure the data on your Mac, strong and unique passwords are important. If your computer is lost or stolen, the only thing that keeps a stranger from accessing everything on your Mac, including photos, email, and personal files, is your password.
It’s also necessary to use a strong password on the Apple Watch— even though it’s just a four-digit passcode. Just stop passcodes such as 1234 and 0000 that are easy to guess.
If you’re a Mac user and wear the Apple Watch, things really get interesting. The Apple Watch knows that if it is unlocked and on your wrist, you’re wearing it. Your Mac may know you’re close by, based on the distance from your Apple Watch.
This information is used by macOS Catalina to assess that you are seated in front of your Mac. With your permission, when you log in or need to authenticate with your Mac password, you can avoid entering your Mac password.
Occasionally, as with Touch ID, you still need your password. That involves logging in or restarting when you first turn on your Mac. Just wearing your activated Apple Watch is as good as touch ID on any Mac after you type your Mac password once.
Bonus tip: if you use your iPhone passcode, touch ID, or face ID, you can unlock your Apple Watch automatically. This means that the Apple Watch can use your fingerprint or facial recognition to ultimately replace your Mac password.
Upon waking from sleep, Apple Watch isn’t just great to unlock your Mac. Starting with macOS Catalina, you can use the Apple Watch to replace your Mac password in even more areas without a Touch ID. Apple Watch will unlock the following:
- System Preferences to change Mac settings
- Locked notes in Apple Notes
- Saved passwords in Safari’s Preferences
You can also use the Apple Watch when installing new software to replace your Mac password without a Touch ID.
This new feature in macOS Catalina works differently than using the Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. Logging in with the Apple Watch is automatic, so the experience is instantaneous.
Replacing your Mac password with Apple Watch requires some user input to ensure that you want your password to be confirmed It’s fast. The Apple Watch will alert you with a tone or wrist tap, then you will be told by the watch screen to double-click the side button below the Digital Crown. That’s the side’s large oval-shaped button.
Even if your Mac has a Touch ID, it may be more convenient to use the Apple Watch to replace your Mac password than to reach and wait for the fingerprint reader to authenticate. If you are using an older MacBook or any desktop Mac such as iMac, Mac mini, or Mac Pro, there is no Touch ID option, but Apple Watch solves this problem.
What you need
- MacBook introduced in 2015 or later
- MacBook Pro introduced in late 2013 or later
- MacBook Air introduced in 2013 or later
- Mac mini introduced in 2014 or later
- iMac introduced in 2013 or later
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro introduced in 2013 or later
No fingerprint sensor needed for Touch ID! You’re using the same iCloud Apple ID on both the watch and Mac, your Apple ID uses two-factor authentication for extra security, and you’re using a passcode on your Apple Watch.
Would you like to use the new features to replace your Mac password with Apple Watch in more places? Each Apple Watch can run the watchOS 6 software version, which introduces this feature, except for the first generation model (Series 1 and later).
MacOS Catalina (version 10.15 or later) must be run by your Mac. Compatible with macOS Catalina, these Mac computers:
- MacBook (Early 2015 or newer)
- MacBook Air (Mid 2012 or newer)
- MacBook Pro (Mid 2012 or newer)
- Mac mini (Late 2012 or newer)
- iMac (Late 2012 or newer)
- iMac Pro (2017)
- Mac Pro (Late 2013 or newer)
Ready to begin? If you have the right software for Apple Watch and Mac, turning on the feature to replace your Mac password in macOS Catalina without Touch ID is a quick one-time process.
- Launch the System Preferences app by clicking the Apple logo in the top right corner of your screen
- Click the ‘System Preferences…’ option in the second line below ‘About This Mac’
- Click the ‘Security & Privacy’ section with the gray house and vault icon
- Click the lock 🔒 icon on the bottom left corner of the ‘General’ tab
- Type in your Mac password and click ‘Unlock’
- Check the box next to you
And this is it! Would you like to try it quickly? To lock the area, click the open lock icon at the bottom left of the window, then click again to get your Mac prompt for your password or to authenticate with your Apple Watch.
Mind your password on Mac. Thanks to the Apple Watch, you won’t have to type it in almost as often— even if your Mac doesn’t have a Touch ID.