Apple Watch backup not working? Try these tips

Restore Apple Watch from backup

Consistently backing up your devices is crucial to do! It is the only surefire way to ensure your electronic’s data doesn’t get lost due to a technical error.

Let’s face it, technology acts up sometimes, and that’s why backing up your devices is so important. 

Apple users know all too well how important it is to back up their Macbook, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch. While backing up a computer, phone, or tablet is simple —backing up the Apple Watch is a little tricky. 

Unfortunately, the only way to manually back up your Apple Watch (if it’s connected to an iPhone and not a standalone device) is to unpair it from your iPhone–which takes a lot of time, especially for older watches with more limited storage.

If you can’t figure out how to back up your Apple Watch or the Apple Watch backup is not working, keep reading to learn more. 

Suggested reading:

How Apple Watch backup works

restore an apple watch from a backup

When Apple users back up their iPhone or iPad, the process is simple and easy to do — but for the Apple Watch, you can’t back it up whenever you want to.

Instead, your Apple Watch only backs itself up when the watch unpairs from your iPhone. An Apple Watch backup does not occur continuously. There is one exception: if you’ve set up an Apple Watch for a family member as a standalone device who doesn’t have an iPhone, the watch’s data is backed up to iCloud directly.

Whenever you unpair your Apple Watch from your iPhone, the watch is backed up completely to your iPhone. And when you back up your iPhone to iCloud or your computer, your iPhone backup includes your Apple Watch data

So if you have never unpaired your watch or haven’t recently unpaired your Apple Watch from your iPhone, you will not see an up-to-date backup. For some users, that last backup might have even been from the first time they set up their Apple Watch.

Let’s say you get a new Apple Watch, and you want to use a backup from your old watch, but you never unpaired it. That means that there would not be a backup available for your new watch.

What an Apple Watch backup includes

Not everything is included in an Apple Watch backup, but here is what is included: 

  • App-specific data and settings  
  • App layout on the Home screen
  • Watch faces 
  • Dock settings 
  • General system settings
  • Health and fitness data 
  • Notification settings
  • Apple Music data and settings
  • Siri Voice Feedback setting that controls when Siri speaks 
  • Synced photo albums  
  • Time Zone

Messages, Bluetooth pairings, passcode, and messages are not included in an Apple Watch backup.

Where to find your Apple Watch backups

Now that you understand how Apple Watch backups work, let’s check how many (if any) backups you have available.

  1. On your paired iPhone, go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage.
  2. Scroll down and tap the Watch app. Apple Watch backups in iPhone Storage
  3. Here you see a list of all your watch’s backups currently saved on your iPhone. Apple Watch backups list on iPhone

You’ll likely see a lot of older backups that include backups of watches you no longer own.

If you want to delete a backup, swipe from right to left over the name of the Apple Watch backup and tap the red Delete button. Delete an Apple Watch backup on your iPhone

To remove all of the backups (not recommended,) scroll down and tap the Remove All Backups button. Delete all Apple Watch backups from your iPhone

Don’t see any backups or no recent backups?

If you can’t find any watch backups or nothing is recent, unpair your Apple Watch to manually force your watch to back up to your iPhone.

How to unpair your Apple Watch from your iPhone

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Choose All Watches.
  3. Tap the “i” info button next to the watch that you want to unpair.
  4. Scroll down and tap Unpair Apple Watch. unpair apple watch iPhone
  5. Enter your Apple ID password to remove the activation lock, then follow the remaining steps on your phone’s screen. Apple Watch turn off iCloud Activation Lock
  6. Once unpaired, wait 20-30 minutes and then check your iPhone’s storage to see if your watch backup is now there. Look for today’s date.
  7. Then open the Watch app and re-pair your watch to your iPhone, and restore from that new backup! pair Apple watch with iPhone using Watch app

Apple Watch backup still not working? Try this

If your Apple Watch Backup is still not working, there is a workaround

  1. Open the Watch app and choose All Watches at the top. All Watches button in Watch app for iPhone
  2. Select your Apple Watch and tap the “i” information button. apple watch info i button
  3. Choose Unpair Apple Watch and confirm.unpair apple watch from iPhone
  4. Enter your Apple ID password to unpair the watch and remove it from Apple’s activation lock.
  5. Wait for the unpairing to complete.
  6. Once unpaired, follow the steps to re-pair it, but this time choose to set up your watch as a new one. Apple Watch Set Up Watch as New
    1. You will restore to your recent backup later.
  7. Follow the step to set up your watch and then update your watch to the latest watchOS by going to the Watch app > My Watch tab > General > Software Update. update Apple Watch via the iPhone Watch app
  8. Once your watch updates to the latest watchOS, unpair your Apple Watch again and re-pair it, but this time choose to Restore from Backup and choose the backup you made earlier Today with the first unpairing, and that should work! Apple Watch backups list
    1. Pay attention to your backup list. The one at the top is not the one you want to choose–select the one immediately below it. 

How to backup a standalone Apple Watch

An Apple Watch that’s managed for a family member backs up directly to the family member’s iCloud account when the watch is connected to power and a WiFi network.

To turn iCloud backups on or off for that watch, follow these steps:

  1. On the standalone Apple Watch, open the Settings app.
  2. Tap the Apple ID.
  3. Choose iCloud > iCloud Backups, then turn iCloud Backups on or off.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you now have some recent Apple Watch backups (or at least one.) Remember that Apple stores your watch backups inside your iPhone backups, so if you back up to iCloud automatically, your watch backups are also stored there.

And whenever you back up to your computer, your watch’s backups are also included in your iPhone backup. 

However, in both cases, you cannot locate your watch backups inside your iPhone backup individually. The only exception to this rule is for folks that use an Apple Watch without a paired iPhone–called standalone Apple Watches.

These standalone watches back up directly to iCloud from the watch itself when connected to WiFi and when on their watch chargers. Since there is no iPhone backup, you can easily find these watch backups in iCloud.

And yes, it is kinda confusing! 


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