How to pair your Apple watch to a new iPhone without losing health data or any other data

apple watch on a table

Got the latest model iPhone, a new iPhone, or a new-to-you iPhone? Learn how to pair your Apple Watch with that new iPhone so you don’t lose any of your important health data.

Your health data is some of your Apple Watch and iPhone’s most private and sensitive data. Given the importance of your health information, Apple allows you to decide if you want to transfer your health information to your new device–it’s optional.

And thanks to how great the Apple Watch has become, you don’t really need to go out and pick up the latest and greatest Apple Watch Series. Instead, you can keep rolling with your current Watch and update its watchOS while spending your cash on that new iPhone model.

So, if you decide to transfer this health data (including activity tracking) to a new device, you want to make sure you do it right!

Related reading

Your Health data on Apple Watch and iPhone

Apple takes the privacy of your health information seriously. Any information you provide, create, or gather about yourself is encrypted with your device’s passcode when you lock your iPhone. So, no one else, not even Apple, can access your private information.

Apple Watch content, including your health information, routinely backs up to your companion iPhone. This happens automatically, in the background, without you needing to do a thing!

Anytime your iPhone backups to iCloud, Finder, or iTunes, your iPhone backup includes this Apple Watch data in that iPhone backup.

There are currently three ways to migrate your health data to a new iPhone

When you sync your Health data using iCloud, you only need to turn on the Health app in your new phone’s iCloud settings to get all your health data on that new phone.

However, if you did not sync your Health data using iCloud, then restoring your phone from a recent backup (an iCloud backup or an encrypted Finder/iTunes backup) should also get your Health data on your new phone.

If you use iCloud and iOS 12+, Apple stores your health information in iCloud and automatically encrypts it as it syncs between iCloud and your devices and while it remains stored in iCloud.

That means iCloud protects your health records data by encrypting it both in storage and during transmission. health app and iCloud

If you don’t use iCloud on your devices, you can also back up your Health information using encrypted Finder or iTunes backups.

However, iTunes and Finder require you to choose to encrypt your backups manually–it is not an automatic feature. Encrypted backups include information that unencrypted backups don’t.

The encrypt local backup option in the Finder or iTunes locks and encodes your iPhone’s backup.

However, when you encrypt a backup, Apple requires you to create an access password that you need to use to access your backup. If you forget this password, you can’t access your backups.

Decide you don’t want health data stored in iCloud?

To stop storing your Health data in iCloud, go to Settings >Apple ID > iCloud and toggle off the Health app. iCloud settings turn on Health app sync in iCloud

Deleting the Health app does not remove its data!

While you can remove the Health app from your iPhone or iPad, when you delete the Health app, your Health data remains on your iPhone or iPad.

How to transfer health data from your Apple Watch to a new or different iPhone using iCloud

Today, we are going to take you through the steps needed to pair your Apple Watch with your “new” iPhone. You don’t need the latest iPhone or the latest Apple Watch.

This process also works with new-to-you products, meaning they are older models (used, refurbished, floor models, etc.) but are new to you.

For folks with cellular Apple Watches (LTE), your watch’s current plan automatically transfers over (as long as you continue with the same carrier and use the same phone number.)

Step 1: Backup your Apple Watch and your iPhone

Before pairing your current Apple Watch with your new or new-to-you iPhone, you need to create an Apple Watch backup. When you back up your Watch, it includes health data and syncs that information to your iPhone’s health app.

Unfortunately, for the Apple Watch, there isn’t a simple “Back Up Now” option like there is for iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

Instead, you must force unpair the Watch from its original iPhone counterpart.

The iCloud Backup works its magic when doing so, and all your apps and data are stored, including your health information!

Here are the steps you need to take to unpair your Apple Watch:

  1. Go to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud on your currently paired iPhone.
    1. Scroll to Device Backups and verify that you have iCloud Backups On. If not, turn it on for your iPhone and allow it to back up. Tapping iCloud Backup > Back Up Now ensures that iCloud has all your current data. iCloud Backup settings for iPhone and iPad in Apple ID iCloud Settings
    2. Under Apps using iCloud, confirm you toggled on the Health app. (You may need to tap Show All to see all your apps.)iCloud settings on iPhone toggle on Health app
  2. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  3. Tap the My Watch tab and tap your watch at the top of the screen.
  4. Select the “i” next to the watch you want to unpair.
  5. Select Unpair Apple Watch.APPLE WATCH UNPAIR IN WATCH APP

From here, your watch automatically backs up as it unpairs from your iPhone.

Step 2: Set up your new iPhone and pair your Apple Watch to your new iPhone

Now that your Watch is “free” from the grips of its old counterpart, it’s time to get started with your new phone.

Apple includes a few different ways to pair your Apple Watch and iPhone.

During Initial iPhone Setup

For the first option, ensure that your iPhone and Watch are connected to power or have at least 50% charged and linked to Wi-Fi.

It’s also essential that you keep both devices close to each other so they can communicate.

We recommend keeping them within inches or centimeters of each other rather than feet or meters apart.

During the setup process on your iPhone, Apple asks if you want to use your Apple Watch “with this iPhone.”

You can opt to Set Up Later, but you’ll want to tap the big Continue button.

Your iPhone then walks you through the necessary steps of setting up your Watch. These are straightforward, and the whole process is pretty seamless.

At one point during the process, Apple asks you to create or enter your passcode

Make sure you enter or create a device passcode!

Passcodes help ensure that your information stays private (for your eyes only) and allow for proper syncing between devices. create a passcode on your Apple Watch during set up

Once complete, you can head to the Apple Watch app to ensure everything is paired correctly.

What if you already set up your new iPhone and didn’t pair it to your Apple Watch?

If you already surrendered your old iPhone and set up your new iPhone but forgot about the Apple Watch, you might be able to restore the last backup made for your Apple Watch.

Restore your Apple Watch from an iCloud Apple Watch backup
  1. Connect your Apple Watch and iPhone to power and place them next to each other.
  2. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  3. Tap Start Pairing.
  4. Once the Watch pairs, tap Restore from Backup.restore an apple watch from a backup
  5. Choose the backup you want to restore–this process may take some time, so be patient!

As a reminder, it’s important to create a backup of your Apple Watch, which can be done by unpairing it from the old iPhone.

If, for whatever reason, you don’t have any listed backups for your Apple Watch and you don’t have the old iPhone, it’s best to erase the watch completely so that you can start fresh.

Here are the steps you need to take to pair your Watch

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Wait for the “Use your iPhone to set up this Apple Watch” message to appear.
  3. Press Continue.
  4. Hold your iPhone over the animation on your Apple Watch.
  5. Select set up as new.
  6. Sign in with your Apple ID.

Once you complete these steps, you can begin using your Apple Watch with your new iPhone.

How to transfer health data from your Apple Watch to a new or different iPhone using iTunes or Finder

As mentioned above, when you back up your iPhone using Finder (macOS Catalina+) or iTunes (Windows and macOS Mojave and below), you must encrypt that backup to include your health data.

Step 1: Create an encrypted backup

  1. Connect your iPhone to iTunes or Finder.
  2. For Finder (macOS Catalina+.)
    1. Open a new Finder app window.
    2. Select your old iPhone from Location in Finder’s Sidebar.
    3. Tick the box for Encrypt local backups. Finder or iTunes encrypt iPhone backup
    4. At the prompt, create an encryption password and choose to save the password in your keychain or write it down/save it somewhere.
    5. Once you confirm your password, your backup starts immediately and overwrites and encrypts your previous backups.
  3. For iTunes
    1. Open iTunes.
    2. Select your old iPhone.
    3. Choose the Summary tab.
    4. Tick the box for Encrypt local backup.Mac macOS encrypt local backups
    5. At the prompt, create an encryption password and choose to save the password in your keychain or write it down/save it somewhere.
    6. Once you confirm your password, your backup starts immediately and overwrites and encrypts your previous backups.

Step 2: Set up your new iPhone and pair your Apple Watch

  1. Turn on your new iPhone and wait for the Hello screen.
  2. Follow the steps on-screen to choose your language and region, connect to a Wi-Fi network, set up a passcode and Face ID/Touch ID, and so forth.
  3. When you get to the screen to choose how you want to transfer apps and data, select Restore from Mac or PC.Apple iPhone restore from Mac or PC using iTunes or Finder
  4. Connect your new iPhone to your computer.
  5. Select your device when it appears in Finder or iTunes.
  6. Choose Restore Backup.
  7. Review the listed backups and choose the most recent or relevant.
  8. Tap Restore and enter your encryption passcode or retrieve it via keychain.
  9. Keep your iPhone connected to your computer and wait for the restore to finish.
  10. Once your iPhone completes, turn on and connect your Apple Watch and iPhone to power and place them next to each other.
  11. Confirm that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are on.
  12. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  13. Tap Start Pairing.pairing message on apple watch
  14. Once the Watch pairs, tap Restore from Backup.
  15. Choose the backup you want to restore–this process may take some time, so be patient!

Apple Watch won’t pair? Let’s fix it!

Try manually pairing if you run into trouble and your Apple Watch won’t pair with your iPhone.

Manually pairing also works when your iPhone’s camera is in use or not working.

See a watch face when you’re trying to pair?

Your Apple Watch is already paired with an iPhone. Erase your Apple Watch content and reset settings.

  1. Go to the Settings app on your Apple Watch or go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and tap My Watch.
  2. Tap General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings erase all content and settings on apple watch
  3. You’re offered two options for Apple Watches with a cellular plan (LTE).
    1. Erase All–completely erases your Apple Watch, including your cellular plan.
    2. Erase All & Keep Plan–erases your watch’s data but restores it without changes to your cellular watch cellular plan erase options

How to pair your Apple Watch manually

  1. Press and hold the Side button on your Watch until the Apple logo displays on the screen.
  2. On your iPhone, tap the Watch app icon.
  3. Tap Start Pairing on the iPhone–wait for the pairing animation to appear on the watch.
  4. On your iPhone, scroll to the bottom and tap Pair Apple Watch Manually.pair your apple watch manually
  5. On the Watch, tap the Info icon to see the name of your watch and pair it manually.i icon on apple watch when pairing
    1. If you don’t see the “i” icon, it’s likely your Apple Watch is already paired to an iPhone–you need to unpair the watch from that iPhone before proceeding.
  6. On the iPhone, tap the Apple Watch that corresponds to the name displayed on your Apple Watch.
  7. On the iPhone, enter the 6-digit code that appears on the Apple Watch to complete the pairing.pairing codes for apple watch and iPhone

Pairing an Apple Watch includes downloading and installing the latest version of watchOS for your Apple Watch. Depending on your internet speed, this process may take several minutes to even hours to complete.

Is your Apple Watch still not pairing?

  • On your iPhone, check that airplane mode is off and that both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on.
  • Make sure your Apple Watch and paired iPhone are close together. We recommend inches/centimeters apart rather than feet/meters.
  • Close any apps on your iPhone that use your iPhone’s cameras.
  • Restart both your iPhone and your watch.
  • Force restart your Apple Watch. Press and hold both the side button and Digital Crown and release when you see the Apple logo.
  • Update your iPhone’s iOS via Settings > General > Software Update.
  • Reset the network settings on your iPhone via Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.
  • Check that the Apple Watch isn’t already paired with your iPhone or another iPhone–open the watch app on the iPhone and tap the My Watch tab to check.

Wrapping it up!

Pairing the Apple Watch with a new iPhone is pretty easy, thanks to the magic of iCloud or iTunes/Finder. Apple has created the best backup service for its ecosystem of products, which brings users back time and time again.

If you run into any issues during this process, feel free to let us know in the comments. We will be sure to answer any questions or walk you through any troubles that may arise.


  1. * Sorry I think the site auto corrected my Signal piece. Most of the woulds are wouldn’ts and this trials was meant to be these tails lol

  2. Hi,

    I want to set up a new iPhone without restoring it from cloud backup (I will just log into my icloud account to sync my email, health, and other icloud services).

    Is there any way to move my watch over to the new phone without losing the health and activity data?

    When I unpair and pair it with a new phone, it doesn’t seem to give me a restore from backup option since it’s a new iPhone (so in my activity, awards and everything seems to be reset).

    Is there any way I can go about this or must I use the icloud restore to set up the new iPhone?

    • Hi Omair,

      Interesting. You won’t see the Apple Watch backups on your new iPhone because those backups are stored on the old iPhone’s internal storage–find them in Settings > General > iPhone Storage > Watch app. And since you are starting your new iPhone fresh, it won’t have those backups.

      What might work is unpairing your watch from the old iPhone first so its information is backed up (make sure you are signed in to iCloud on your old iPhone and that you toggled on both the Health app and the Watch app in iCloud settings.) Once the watch unpairs from the old iPhone, go to the old iPhone’s settings, choose iCloud Backup, and select the option to Back Up Now–this forces iCloud to backup all your information.)

      After backing everything up, connect your new iPhone to WiFi and set up your new phone as you wish (not restoring from iCloud or a backup on your computer), and once set up, sign in to your Apple ID and iCloud account and make sure you toggle on both the Health app and the Watch app. Don’t yet pair your Apple Watch. Wait a day for the new phone to download all your iCloud info.

      After you think iCloud successfully synced all its information with your new iPhone, open the Health app and check if your old Health Data is there. If so, pair your watch. If not, you may need to wait more time for all your stored iCloud info to sync to your new iPhone.

      If your health data continues to be missing, then we suggest you erase your new iPhone and set it up again but this time restore it from your most recent old iPhone’s backup.

      I’ve never done the process you laid out to test if this works–on paper, it should. But you know how that goes. You might want to call Apple Support and have them walk you through the steps to retain your health app history, awards, etc. via iCLoud without needing to restore everything from iCloud via iCloud backup restore.

      Let us know what works (or doesn’t)! I’m sure quite a few others have this same question.

      Thanks! Amanda

      • Hi Amanda,

        You are awesome. I actually was going to give up and just restore from icloud (I didnt want that option because I dont want all the cookies and everything from years being restored). Anyway, what you said didnt work. Then I noticed in my old iphone that I didnt have iphone cloud backup on for last two years and last backup was two years old. So I turned that back on and let that complete. I did that for whatsapp as well to back that up in the cloud. I lost out on signal messages though (recently switched as I am keen on privacy) as I correctly gave permission to move from old phone to new when i set it up but then i rewiped it while doing all this trials without moving the account back to the old phone and since its not in the cloud, it would let me restore in any way and the current master phone with sim is the source of truth i guess, so it would let me authorize from my ipad or macbook. Anyway I lost that.

        So i reset the new iphone again and just signed into icloud. It brought back mail, contacts, health (i did that before pairing), activity app dosnt come on the phone until you pair it seems but everything came back as data may be stored with health. Watch came back nicely. Wallet worked too (minus credit cards). Voice memos also worked. And I downloaded the typical apps and it had the passwords, so faceid allowed it to help me sign in. I am glad it worked out, although it was a hassle and if someone without any tech background was trying it I wonder if they would just get lost and give up. Anyway, Amanda you are awesome, thank you so much. Also I am going to enable backup now going forward. I never noticed that it got turned off at some point.

  3. Since the new Apple Watch update September 2020) I haven’t been able to get a vo2max reading. I’ve unpaired and paired abs recalibrated etc but no look. Please can anyone help?

    • Hi Kristy, Have you tried working out your cardio routine for more than 20 – 25 minutes at a high intensity? The VO2 Max on Apple Watch requires users to workout in the high-intensity zone for more than 20 minutes.


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