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Ask an expert: missing Apple Watch backup?

No time to drop into the Apple Store and ask the Genius Bar for help with your iPhone or iPad? Maybe one of our resident experts can help!

As Apple nerds, we get asked a lot of tech support questions — and some of those questions crop up time and time again. Here’s a recent query that we think will be familiar to many of you.

“I bought a new Apple Watch, but the backup from the old one I unpaired isn’t there. Help!”

There’s a good chance this is down to weirdness on the part of Apple. But first, let’s unpack how Apple Watch backups occur in the first place.

If you’re backing up your iPhone to iCloud or your computer, your iPhone backup will include Apple Watch data. When you unpair an Apple Watch, your iPhone automatically creates a backup at that moment, and then erases the Apple Watch. This assumes your iPhone is in range at that time — and so please do make sure it is!

During the process of setting up a new Apple Watch, you’ll be asked if you want to set it up as new or restore it from a backup. If you can’t see the backup from your old Apple Watch, it might be because the new one you’ve bought is running an older version of watchOS. The workaround is irksome, but does the job: set the watch up as new, update it to the latest version of watchOS, unpair the watch, then pair it again with your iPhone.

When setting it up this time, you should see the backup from your old Apple Watch. Note that it will be the second most recently saved one, since the iPhone will have created another (separate) backup when your new watch was unpaired. Phew!