How To Fix Apple Watch Cannot Be Activated for Service Error

If you’ve recently purchased an Apple Watch from a third-party marketplace like eBay or OfferUp, you may have trouble pairing it to your iPhone.

Some users are seeing an error message that says, “Apple Watch cannot be activated for service” when attempting to pair the device.

This activation error may leave you feeling like you’ve been scammed, but let’s focus on the brighter side and explore some troubleshooting solutions.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can get your Apple Watch activated and paired with your iPhone in no time.

Fix #1: Remove iCloud Account

It may seem unconventional, but we have found that removing your iCloud account can be an effective solution.

  1. From your iPhone, go to Settings > iCloud > Sign out (at the bottom).
  2. Activate your Apple Watch with the new password.
  3. Once you’re signed out, log back in using your email address and new credential.

Surprisingly, this method has been known to resolve the activation issue for many Apple Watch owners.

Fix #2: Restart iPhone & Apple Watch


Out of all the solutions I’ve tried for various Apple Watch issues, this is by far my favorite.

Restart your iPhone and then your Apple Watch. This can fix the “Apple Watch cannot be activated” error and other problems you may be experiencing.

Fix #3: Factory Reset Your Apple Watch

It’s important to note that before proceeding with the following steps, you should create a backup for your Apple Watch.

  1. Go to Settings > General > Reset (on your watch).
  2. Choose “Erase All Content and Settings.”
  3. Enter the passcode of your device to continue.

This will reset your watch to its default settings.

File a Claim with Third-Party Marketplace

If you’ve purchased a stolen Apple Watch on eBay or another third-party marketplace and the seller is unresponsive or unable to provide the correct Apple ID and password, your best course of action may be to file a claim to try and get your money back.

The activation lock feature is in place to prevent thieves from setting up someone else’s Apple Watch.

Here’s an example of a situation that one of our readers, Steve, encountered:

I just purchased a used Apple Watch online (Craiglist). I met up with the guy, and he seems real friendly. I asked him if the watch is in good condition and he said yes. I took it home and find out that it has some kind of activation errors. What should I do?


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  1. Hey. I forgot my password of Apple ID. My id is in recovery mode since last one month. I got a confirmation email from Apple on 19th April that I confirmed. But still one month has been passed but I am unable to have an access to my Apple ID. Help needed.

  2. Is something wrong in apple’s server. I am trying to login in appstore with my apple id and password but it’s showing wrong password. But i am using right password. Help me guys

  3. I bought an Apple Watch series 2 a while back and I had it paired with my work phone. I no longer have my work phone. I walked out on my job and they locked the phone. I also had it paired at one point with my own iphone but now that I am trying to pair it back up it says I have a invalid Apple ID. I am logged into Apple ID account on my lap top and under devices it shows my Apple watch and my iphone. I removed my Apple Watch from the list hoping that would work but I didn’t .. I am hoping that somehow my old work phone and the Apple ID attached to it, is not what I need. I have no way of getting that info .. can anyone help?

      • I unpaired it several time and I don’t know how to reset the Apple Watch I can’t get past the choosing a language and United States, then it askes for my Apple ID which it won’t accept. How can I reset the watch? And if I reset my iPhone do I lose all my content? It’s an older 5s and I don’t want to lose anything. I just had to do the update through iTunes cause it’s older I guess.

  4. I just bought my Apple Watch off EBay. It is iCloud locked with the previous owners ID and passcode. How can I remove it? I have tried to contact the person but no response.

  5. I bought an Apple Watch series 2 from someone in OfferUp and was told everything works fine, no issues, once I got home and got it charged, Apple Watch pairs fine but stuck on activation lock with someone else’s iCloud, I have reached the previous owner and no responses for a couple days now. What can I do ?

  6. same What in the world? and why hasn’t apple created something to stop all this. or even a page where people have gotten dupped and the original owner can reach out to each other? How about we try to / or act “as if” to care about their customers?


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