How To Reset Your Apple Watch: A Guide

Like most tech products, it’s shocking how many problems on an Apple Watch can be solved by simply turning it off and on again. However, sometimes a quick power off is not enough to solve the issue at hand — err, at wrist — with your Apple Watch, so you need to fully reset your watch.

What Does It Mean To Reset an Apple Watch? 

You’ve definitely heard these terms before: reset, restart, factory reset, hard reset, soft reset — but what do they all mean? They sound very similar, so you may be wondering what the distinctions are between them. 


This is as simple as powering off and powering on again. Restart and soft reset are synonyms, though restart is the more accurate term. This is an old and remarkably effective means of correcting a glitchy device. This is also what your device does automatically when you download a new WatchOS. 

Hold down the power button, slide the power off slider, wait until your device has completely shut down, give it a minute, then power it back up (not a reset, just a restart). Just remember, you can’t manually restart an Apple Watch while it’s on its charger. For the longevity of your device, it’s wise to power down and leave it off when not in use. 

In the event that the issue is more severe, and you are unable to utilize the power button to restart your Apple Watch, you can do a forced restart, which has the same impact but a different series of commands. It’s the difference between closing an application and force quitting an application when it's not responding. To force restart, press and hold the side button and Digital Crown in unison for 10 seconds.

When you restart your Apple Watch, especially when there’s a particular glitch you’re trying to shoo away, you should take a moment to restart the paired iPhone as well. 

Factory Reset (Hard Reset)

Factory reset and hard reset are synonymous. A factory reset, or hard reset, will erase all data from the Apple Watch. However, if you do not unpair the watch from its paired iPhone first, the Apple ID will remain associated with the watch even in factory settings. If your goal is to fully reset the watch to like-new conditions, unpair it first. 

It’s critically important to unpair your Apple Watch from your iPhone before you return it to factory settings if you plan to sell it or give it to another user. Even after a factory reset, your Apple Watch will still be linked to your phone number and Apple ID. 

Doing a factory reset without unpairing first will trigger an Activation Lock. Activation Lock is a good security feature on your Apple Watch that will prevent theft by preventing someone else from pairing with your Apple Watch if you lose it. This feature locks your watch to your Apple ID.

Before you unpair, however, make sure you have your passcode for your Apple Watch. If you’ve forgotten your Apple Watch passcode, you’ll need to find it in the Watch App on the paired iPhone. 

Before you do a factory reset, you must create a backup of your Apple Watch. You can create this backup with your iCloud account or a Mac. If you back up your paired iPhone to either of those places, it will automatically create an Apple Watch backup as well. 

Apple also advises you to empty your Apple Wallet on your Apple Watch before returning the device to factory settings, particularly transit cards. 

Why Would I Want To Reset My Apple Watch?

You might want to do a soft reset of your Apple Watch because your device is experiencing minor glitches, like apps crashing unexpectedly. A soft reset is a gentle way to recalibrate your device.

You might want to do a hard reset of your Apple Watch because the device is experiencing problems that have not been solved by a soft reset, a software update, or other troubleshooting methods. In this case, a hard reset is the last resort for resolution. More likely, you’ll want to hard reset your Apple Watch because you’re selling it or giving it away to another user. 

How Do I Hard Reset My Apple Watch?

After you’ve unpaired your watch from your phone, you can return the watch to factory settings on the watch itself. 

  1. Navigate to the Settings App on your wearable
  2. Go to General, and scroll down on the menu until you can tap Reset
  3. Tap Erase All Content and Settings
  4. It will then prompt you to enter your Apple Watch passcode, so enter your passcode
  5. Finally, swipe down, and tap Erase All (or Erase All and Keep Plan if you have a cellular watch and wish to keep your cellular plan.)

That’s all there is to it. Now, you have a fully reset Apple Watch that’s ready for its next user.

What if I Don’t Remember My Watch Passcode?

If you don’t remember and cannot find your watch passcode, there’s another way to factory reset your Apple Watch. This is not the recommended method, but it does work. 

  1. Place your Apple Watch on its charger 
  2. Hold down the side button until the Power Off screen appears
  1. Then, hold down the Digital Crown until the Erase button appears
  2. Tap Erase all content and settings
  3. Tap Reset, then tap reset again 

You can’t do a soft reset on a charger, but you can do a hard reset. This process will erase Apple Watch content, so it will ask you twice to confirm you’re making this permanent action. 

How Do I Pair My Apple Watch?

Pairing an Apple Watch with an iPhone is extremely easy. First things first; make sure both devices are on, running the most recent iOS and WatchOS, and have Bluetooth switched on. It’s best to do this process while connected to wifi, but a cellular network is fine too. 

Next, hold down the side button on the watch until the pairing screen appears. As this screen will instruct you to do, hold the watch next to the iPhone you’re going to pair. Likewise, watch the screen of the iPhone for pairing instructions. A screen should appear on the iPhone prompting you to “use your iPhone to set up this Apple Watch.” 

When you see that message, tap continue. Then, assuming you’re pairing your Apple Watch to your iPhone, tap “set up for myself.” From here, you can either set up by scanning the image on your watch with your iPhone camera or tap “set up manually.”

All done! You’ll get a confirmation screen on your iPhone letting you know that you successfully paired your Apple Watch to your iPhone. Now have fun downloading cool watch apps!

How Do I Unpair My Apple Watch?

Upgraded to the latest apple watch series already? Time to prep your old Apple Watch to head to its next owner. 

To unpair your wearable from your paired iPhone, just place the watch next to the iPhone and open the Apple Watch app on the phone. At the top left corner of the screen, tap “All Watches.” A list of your watches (which may be a list of one) will appear. Navigate to the watch you’d like to unpair and tap the ‘i’ info icon next to it. On the next screen, tap “unpair Apple Watch.” It will ask you again for confirmation, tap “Unpair [Name] Apple Watch” again. Enter your Apple ID password, then tap “unpair” at the top right corner of the screen. 

While the iPhone unpairs from the watch, it will also make a backup of your watch’s data and settings. 

Is It Possible To Have an Apple Watch With No iPhone?

It is possible to have an Apple Watch that functions like a cell phone without an iPhone! 

It’s helpful, however, to have an iPhone to set up the Apple Watch, but after setup, the watch can function fully on its own. The most recent Apple Watch rollout (Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Ultra) are all able to connect to cellular networks independently. With an Apple Watch on its own cellular plan, you can text, call, and access the internet with just your wearable. 

These cellular watches are great for families since all Apple Watches can use Family Set up. So one family member with an iPhone can help the watch user set up their new smartwatch without actually pairing it to their own device. As long as it’s on the family’s cellular plan, the watch will even have its own phone number. 


If you’re considering upgrading to one of these new cellular watches, you should also consider upgrading your phone plan! Red Pocket offers super affordable prepaid monthly and annual wireless data plans that are compatible with your cellular smartwatch. 


Forgot your Apple Watch password? Here's how to reset it | iGeeksBlog

How to pair and unpair an Apple Watch | ZDNET

What is a Factory Reset? | Techopedia

Leave a Comment