Apple Watch backups are made when the watch is unpaired from the phone.
You’ll experience this, for example, if you upgrade your phone but not your watch. You’ll un-pair your watch from your existing phone, before your upgrade, then re-pair it to your new phone. When you re-pair it, you will be asked if you want to restore from backup.
In any case, that’s the simple case, because it’s the same actual watch. It’ll work just fine.
I had a situation last week that was confusing & frustrating. It took two days, but I figured it out and the answer saved me hours.
I shattered my watch screen and got a replacement watch from Apple. When I went to restore from backup, my backup wasn’t there.
Your Apple Watch backups may not appear if there is a version mis-match between the watch you are restoring-to and the watch that was backed up.
In my case, my new watch was sent by Apple with WatchOS running v2.x, but I had backed up a version 3.x watch. I couldn’t see my latest backup, or any backup since last summer.
The real problem is that the backups didn’t show in the list, in some way that might tell me what was going on (maybe greyed out?). They just weren’t there. And since there aren’t any watch backup management tools I assumed the worst (that the backup was mysteriously gone and I had to reconfigure my new watch from scratch).
If you send your watch in for repair and get a replacement, your replacement might be running an old version of WatchOS.
Here’s what to do if you go to restore you watch and you don’t see the backup you want.
- Pair you replacement watch as a new watch
- Open the (ugly) Watch app on your phone, and update the watch software to the latest version by selecting General -> Software Update
- After the Phone says the update is successful, unlock your watch and let the update complete; even though your phone is saying the watch is on the new version, it’s not until you let the watch finish the upgrade by unlocking it
- Unpair the watch from the Watch app
- Pair your watch, this time as a restore configuration
- Your latest backup should be second in the list — the first will be the backup created when you unpaired your watch in step #4 above
- After restoring, go into the Watch app to re-add all of your credit cards, as the restore process only allows you to add one easily
Before un-pairing to send your watch in for repair, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you are on the latest software version.
I don’t know if this problem would exist between ‘dot releases.’ For non-technical people, that means… I was running WatchOS version 3.x but got a replacement running WatchOS 2.x; it’s possible if I had received a watch running 3.y, a different release version of the same main release, the backups would have worked fine. Better safe than sorry in my book.