The Apple Watch's Activation Lock feature prevents would-be thieves from running off with your watch (and your data).

No one wants their gear stolen or to mysteriously disappear, but it's important to be prepared if it happens. After all, it's not just about your hardware — the data on your iPhone or Apple Watch is just as precious (if not more important) to protect.

Thankfully, Apple has built in a number of tools to keep your iPhone and Apple Watch from falling into nefarious hands. Find My iPhone offers geolocation services for all of Apple's devices as well as remote wiping capabilities. The service also sports Activation Lock for Apple's iPhone and Apple Watch models, which prevents potential thieves from wiping your phone and trying to resell it.

What is Activation Lock?

As mentioned above, Activation Lock is a part of Apple's Find My iPhone service. It locks the device in question to your Apple ID; if someone tries to restore that device without first disconnecting it from your Apple ID, they'll be unable to do anything with it — it becomes a dead brick, essentially.

Apple brought Activation Lock to the Apple Watch with watchOS 2; it'll should be automatically enabled when you first set up your Apple Watch.

Does my Apple Watch have Activation Lock enabled?

If you're running watchOS 2 or later on your Apple Watch, you should have automatically had Activation Lock enabled when you set up the device, but you can check by going to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone or via iCloud.com.

How to check if Activation Lock is enabled on your iPhone

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the My Watch tab.
  3. Tap on the icon for your Apple Watch.

  4. Select the info button to the right of your Apple Watch.
  5. Tap the Find My Apple Watch button to open the Find My iPhone app. 
If you can view your Apple Watch in the Find My iPhone app, Activation Lock is enabled.

How do I check if Activation Lock is enabled if I don't have my iPhone?

Even if you don't have your watch's iPhone handy, you can check its status via iCloud.com.

  1. Go to icloud.com.
  2. Log in with your Apple ID.
  3. Click on the Find iPhone icon.

  4. Select the All Devices dropdown from the top center of the screen.
  5. Find your Apple Watch.

If your Apple Watch is available in this list, Activation Lock is enabled.

How do I turn on Activation Lock if I don't have it enabled?

If your Apple Watch isn't present in the Find my iPhone app, you're either not currently logged in to iCloud on your watch, or you're running watchOS 1.

How to add your Apple ID to your Apple Watch

  1. Go to the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the My Watch tab.
  3. Select General.

  4. Tap on Apple ID.
  5. Sign in with your Apple ID.

How to update your Apple Watch software

Follow the instructions below:

How to update your Apple Watch

How to disable Activation Lock

If you're planning on selling your Apple Watch or restoring it for a friend, you'll want to disable Activation Lock before giving it away.

How to disable Activation Lock from your iPhone

To disable Activation Lock on your iPhone, you need only unpair your Apple Watch from the Watch app. Here's our guide for doing so:

How to unpair your Apple Watch

How to disable Activation Lock remotely

  1. Navigate to iCloud.com from your computer's web browser to disable Activation Lock.
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID and password.
  3. Click on Settings.

    Signing into iCloud on Apple Watch

  4. Select your Apple Watch under My Devices.
  5. Click on the X next to your Apple Watch to remove it.
  6. Click Remove to confirm.

    Removing a device on Apple Watch

Other questions about Activation Lock?

You can check out this great support document from Apple, or let us know in the comments.

Updated September 2017: Completely rewritten for watchOS 4.