The Apple Watch does a lot, which can be a blessing and a curse. Perhaps its most popular features are its various health-tracking technologies that have become common in most modern smartwatches. However, sometimes those features can run into problems.

If you’ve begun to notice your steps aren’t being counted properly, or are having trouble getting the step counter to work correctly in the first place, don’t worry about it too much. As irritating as the issue may be, there’s probably a simple cause behind it that’s easy to fix.

Of course you first have to narrow down the possibilities, and that requires a little bit of trial and error. If you suspect something in particular then by all means start there first. Otherwise, we recommend following the list below. It’s organized with the simplest and quickest potential solutions first, followed by the more involved, potentially data-wiping methods towards the end. Why spend several minutes restarting or recalibrating if it turns out the problem is just a loose wristband, right?

Adjust or clean

Sometimes your Apple Watch’s step counting troubles can be fixed without the need to restart anything or even delve into the Settings. So before you dig into any menus, try these steps first:

  1. It’s possible that your Apple Watch isn’t on “right.” Apple recommends positioning the watch just below your wrist (past the wrist bone, towards your elbow). The company also recommends you keep the band snug enough that the sensors on the back of the watch are in constant contact with your skin.
  2. If the Apple Watch is positioned around your wrist bone, slide it back towards your elbow. If you shake your arm and flip it upside down and the watch’s back sensors are no longer touching your skin, tighten the strap a little more. If you’re using one of the included bands and the fit has gotten loose, be aware Apple has changed its return policy for bands like the Solo Loop over the years.
  3. Your watch’s sensors may also be what’s causing step-counting mistakes, in which case you’ll need to clean them. Fortunately, it’s easy to clean your Apple Watch with a few easy steps.

If your Apple Watch is locked while on your wrist, that could also interrupt step counting. Open the Watch app on your paired iPhone and select the watch, then choose Passcode and toggle on the Unlock with iPhone switch.

Restart everything

If adjusting, cleaning, or unlocking the Apple Watch doesn’t clear up the problem, it’s time for the most common fix even the most advanced techies tend to use: Restarting.

  1. Restart your iPhone.

    For iPhones predating the iPhone X, press and hold the power button (this will be on top for the iPhone 5, first generation SE, or older and on the side for the iPhone 6, 7, 8, and second and third generation SE) until the Power Off slider appears. Tap and drag the Power Off slider to the side and wait for the phone to turn off, then press and hold the power button until you see the Apple logo.

    For an iPhone X and newer, press and hold both the side button and one of the volume buttons until the Power Off slider appears, then drag the slider to the side and wait for the phone to power down. After which, press and hold the side button until the Apple logo appears.

  2. After restarting the phone, restart the Apple Watch by pressing and holding the side button until the Power Off slider appears. Tap and drag the slider to turn off the watch, wait until it’s shut down, then press and hold the side button again until the Apple logo appears.

Be sure to restart the iPhone first, then restart the Apple Watch. Otherwise, the Watch app may have trouble connecting with the Watch, which could lead to even more problems.

Check your settings

There’s also a chance that your Apple Watch settings are getting in the way of the step counter. Here’s what to check:

  • Incorrect or out of date health info can also throw off health tracking (including steps). Open the Watch app on your iPhone and select My Watch > Health > Health Details. Look over your info, and if anything is incorrect tap Edit to make the necessary changes.
  • Apple Watches use Wrist Detection by default to lock the device once it’s taken off (for security purposes), but this could cause the watch to lock itself by mistake if it thinks you’re not wearing it. Open the Settings app on the Apple Watch > Passcode, then turn off the toggle for Wrist Detection to shut the feature off.
  • If Location Services have been accidentally turned off, that could also mess with the accuracy of the step counter. Open Settings on the paired iPhone > Privacy > Location Services and make sure the toggle is on.
  • While looking into Location Services on your iPhone, you may also want to look at your Motion Calibration settings. From the Location Services > System Services > Motion Calibration & Distance. If it’s turned off, tap the toggle next to it to turn it on.

More basic troubleshooting

If you’ve done everything above and still having trouble, then it’s time to move on to other troubleshooting mainstays.

  1. Try closing the apps on your Apple Watch. It’s possible these apps could be interfering with the step counter, particularly if the app wasn’t made by Apple.
  2. You can also recalibrate the Apple Watch by opening the Watch app on your iPhone > My Watch > Privacy > Reset Fitness Calibration Data.
  3. Another option is to factory reset your Apple Watch, which removes all the data but keeps it connected to your Apple account. Go to the Settings app on your Apple Watch, then General > Reset > Erase All Content And Settings > Enter your passcode. After it resets, wait for a prompt asking to set up an Apple Watch (if you don’t see one, restart the iPhone). Then set up your Apple Watch like normal.
  4. A last resort is to unpair the Apple Watch from your iPhone. You can do this in the Watch app by selecting My Watch > All Watches (at the top). Tap the Info (i) icon next to your watch and select Unpair Apple Watch, then confirm. After everything restarts, pair the Apple Watch to your iPhone as normal.

If none of these methods have resulted in a more accurate step count, it may be time to get in touch with Apple Support.

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