In this article I will describe how to recover an Apple Watch that’s stuck in a crash and reboot loop and why you really should always have the passcode functionality enabled. Let me start by explaining why this is an issue. The Apple watch has two buttons, just like an Apple iPhone, you can use these buttons to hard restart (reset) your Apple Watch. Unfortunately the Apple Watch does not come with a Recovery Mode (DFU) like the iPhone does, although some early jailbreakers might prove me wrong but I wasn’t able to find any public information and I would still need a cable for the maintenance port which I don’t have.
My problems started after fiddling around with the, now known to be serious, message notification bug in IOS 8.3. This does not only crash your IOS devices but also the Apple Watch. In my particular case I received a WhatsApp notification that crashed the watch, unfortunately it didn’t clear the notification flag so after a reboot it showed the notification again and instantly crashed the Apple Watch. This is where it got ugly because it all happened before the Watch got connected to the iPhone.
Apple support wasn’t able to help in any way except for having me go to an Apple Store to get a replacement Watch, great service but as I live in the Netherlands this means drive to Germany as Apple doesn’t officially sell the Watch in the Netherlands as of yet. They did however tried there best to help me out!
How to recover an Apple Watch stuck in a crash reboot loop
The recovery of an Apple Watch starts with the passcode functionality. After 10 wrong passcode attempts the Apple Watch will reset to factory default, which is a good thing for protecting access to private information but especially great when certain ish hits certain fans.
I found out that I was able to input a single passcode just before the Apple Watch crashed and restarted, the next step was to find out if it was still counting failed attempts, which it did.
After the first six attempts Apple starts delaying passcode input attempts. The sixth time, 1 minute and after that it goes from 5, 15, 30 to 60 minutes. It will take a while but after the 10th attempt the Apple Watch still crashed but at next boot it wiped it self.
Another option I’ve investigated is a “nicer” way of resetting the Apple Watch to factory settings. When the device is on hold down the bottom button which will show a “power off” “lock” menu.
In this menu use the force touch functionality to go to a “hidden” menu as shown in the screenshot below.
In my particular situation this process took to much time and the Watch already crashed before I could complete the sequence. It might however just work in other circumstances.