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Similar to iPhones, iPads and iPods, settings and data on your Apple Watch can be backed up and restored should, Godforbid, anything go wrong or you’re just setting up a new Watch from a backup.

Restoring from a backup, if you have any, can save you the hassles of setting up the device anew, especially after having it repaired or erased because you’ve forgotten the passcode or have entered the wrong one six times in a row.

Unlike the existing backup options on iOS devices, the process is slightly different on Apple Watch. In this post, I’m going to explain how you can back up your Apple Watch safely and restore it from a backup point, especially after erasing the device or unpairing it from the connected iPhone.

A backup file contains your Apple Watch system and app settings, language, time zone, health and fitness data and more. Keep in mind that not everything gets stored in the backup file.

For instance, synced playlists, credit or debit cards associated with Apple Pay on your Apple Watch, along with a few other items, are excluded from backups.

How to back up Apple Watch

There’s no specific option to force a backup of the Watch, other than unpairing the device from the connected iPhone. Unpairing the devices through the Apple Watch companion app on your iPhone always performs a backup first, without you having to do a thing.

After it’s been successfully backed up, content and settings on your Apple Watch will be wiped clean and the device set back to factory default settings. This post details unpairing your Apple Watch and its connected iPhone.

Tip: If you select Settings > General > Reset > Erase all Content and Settings on the Apple Watch itself, and the connected iPhone isn’t nearby, the companion app won’t be able to create an up-to-date restore point.

You should also make sure to keep the Watch and your iPhone close together as you unpair them because the unpairing process is carried over via Bluetooth.

How to restore Apple Watch from backup

Restoring your Watch erases the content and settings on it while optionally using a backup to bring back your stored data and settings. When you’re ready, you can pair your existing or a brand new device, and then set it up from a stored backup.

You can pair one Apple Watch to your iPhone at a time.

Step 1: If your Watch is already paired to an iPhone, you must first unpair the Watch and the iPhone. Folks who have set up Apple Watch once before, or are setting up a brand new device from a previously saved restore point, should proceed straight to step two.

Apple Wathc unpair iPhone screenshot 001

Step 2: Turn on Apple Watch by pressing and holding the side button next to the Digital Crown until you see the Apple logo. When asked, choose a language on the device.

Step 3: Open the Watch app on the iPhone and tap Start Pairing. Also tap Start Pairing on your Apple Watch. I’m not going to detail the full process here, but Jeff has easy to follow instructions on pairing your Watch to an iPhone so check out his tutorial for more information on that.

Start Pairing Apple Watch

Tip: To successfully pair the devices, the iPhone’s Bluetooth must be enabled (flip the Bluetooth switch to ON in Settings > Bluetooth) and the phone must be connected to a Wi-Fi or cellular network. Furthermore, both Apple Watch and the iPhone must be charged and keep close together during the pairing and syncing process.

Step 5: Once the devices are paired, the companion app will offer to set up Apple Watch as a new device, meaning you’ll be starting from scratch, or restore it from a previously stored backup. Tap Restore from Backup in the Watch app on your iPhone and follow the onscreen steps to get to the Wrist Preference screen.

Step 6: Now you’ll pick a wrist (Left or Right), accept terms and conditions, sign in with your Apple ID password, review transferring the iPhone’s settings for Usage and Diagnostics, Location Services and Siri to your Watch and optionally create a Watch passcode.

Step 7: Be patient as your iPhone restores your Apple Watch from a backup, applies the settings and re-installs any previously installed third-party apps. The length of this process varies depending on the amount of data stored in the backup file.

Voilà, Apple Watch is now ready and you can pick up right where you left off just before the last backup.

More about Apple Watch

If you’re interested in getting the most out of your Apple Watch, check out the knowledge base of how-tos, tips and related articles from our rich archive:

If you have a tip you want to share, or are plagued with a problem in a need of a solution, let us know at help@iDownloadBlog.com and we’ll do our best to consider your submission for future tips and tutorials.

  • Chang in Charge

    Where is this data stored? Curious if this shows up on the iPhone in “other” storage category. Since pairing the watch to the phone my “other” storage category has ballooned to 10+ gb

    • matt

      you go to usage, manage storage like you do with apps and u see the backups

      • Chang in Charge

        This doesn’t answer my question at all.

      • matt

        your backups will show under ‘apple watch’ on storage.
        apple watch backups are only 30k each. your 10 gb of other aren’t watch backups..

        i have this problem too. 9 , 15, 30 , 50 gigs of other. lately its been corrupted SYNCED content.

        you turn on some setting and the iPhone is supposed to delete the content on the phone, and it borks and instead throws it in other.

        once this happened when i turned on iTunes match. it told me it would delete my music library on the iPhone. it did not. it went to other. i had to turn off iTunes match , the music library came back, i deleted the music manually, then turned on iTunes match again and it fixed it

        last week i got 9 gigs of other. i think its photos. because of the iphoto to photo change. i turned off photo syncing in iTunes, i told it to delete the pictures on the phone. guess what. my old photo library from iphoto was still on the phone….

        try uncsyncing each category, music, video, tv shows, photos , see if the content “comes back” because the iPhone moved it back from other..

        that is the problem I’m having

      • matt

        i did this to photos desynced “photos” , “iphoto” pics came back. i erased those and synced again. it got my other back to a manageable size. but it messed up again
        and it grew back to 9 gigs.

        it could be the watch. I’m just talking about the issue i have been having when it comes to large amounts of other

      • Chang in Charge

        Thanks for that … I’ll have to try this out.

  • Bruce Milyko

    You should note that one piece of information that is not restored to the watch(I’m not sure if it backed up or not) is the card information for Apple Pay. You have to reenter each card.

    • techfreak23

      Doesn’t seem like it is, just like when you restore the phone it doesn’t restore your apple pay

    • It is noted in paragraph 5

      • Bruce Milyko

        I missed that paragraph on my first read through. It is there.

  • techfreak23

    I’m sure a lot of people find these “How to” posts really helpful, but I don’t understand how people don’t find this out on their own. Does no one ever play with everything your new device has to offer? Every single thing for Watch IDB has posted, I have already discovered because I actually explore my device and try to figure out everything it can do. It boggles my mind how many people who claim to love tech and get everything the minute it comes out can’t figure out half this stuff on their own. If you’re such an early adopter, you should know how to get around your device by the end of the first week, IMO.

    • matt

      THEY WOIULD BE MORE HELPFUL IF THEY WERE CORRECT!

  • matt

    the apple watch DOES NOT CONTINUOUSLY backup to the iPhone. the only time it backs up is WHEN YOU REMOVE PAIRING or DURING INITIAL PAIRING.

    if you haven’t removed the watch for a week, then your watch HAS NOT backed up to your phone FOR A WEEK

    How to prove what i said
    pick up your iPhone
    go to settings
    go to usage
    go to storage under manage storage
    scroll down the list of apps on your phone
    find “apple watch”
    you will see the list of backups and the dates it made that backup

    please change your article, i download blog , it is incorrect

    • You are correct. Apple Watch user guide had a section that made it sound otherwise, but after checking what you said and other support documents from Apple, it appears you are right. Thanks for pointing it out. I have updated the post, which is now sowing correct information.

  • BottomGear

    Note: if you unpaired a watch that was running one version of watchOS, then you pair a new watch that’s running an older version, you won’t be offered the chance to restore from the backup. You must pair the new watch with minimal settings (don’t install any apps), then update watchOS, then unpair again, then pair again. Now you will have the opportunity to restore from the backup of your original watch. Check times on the backups carefully, so you restore the correct backup.

    Example: my watch was running watchOS 3.1. I unpaired it and sent it for repair; they sent me a new one. Th new one had watchOS 3. OK, so when I paired this new watch, I couldn’t restore my old watch. I had to pair the new watch, update it to watchOS 3.1, then unpair it, then pair again. Now I get to restore my original watch.

    Same thing happens with iPhone.