Apple Watch shows it’s charging but doesn’t charge or turn on

Icons at top of Apple Watch screen

Just yesterday, I put my Apple Watch Series 7 on its charger like I do every day when I shower, but when I went to strap it back on, I noticed that the watch hadn’t charged. In fact, it actually lost a few percentage points of its total charge.

I hadn’t changed the charging setup, so I wasn’t sure what was happening. My Apple Watch was on its charger, showing the lightning bolt icon, but it was not charging at all! Why is it suddenly not charging and, indeed, losing charge?

I ran through some basic troubleshooting, like making sure the charging cable was fully plugged in and cleaning the magnetic charger and the back of the watch. But after another few hours on the charger, the watch still wasn’t charging.

I finally figured it out, but it took a few rounds of additional troubleshooting to get it back to fully charged. So, if you’re facing a similar situation with your Apple Watch, here’s what I tried and what worked for me.

Related reading

Why isn’t my Apple Watch charging? The Apple Watch isn't charging

There are many reasons why your Apple Watch doesn’t charge, from simple things like the charging cable not being connected to a power source (or accidentally disconnected) to more complicated things like software bugs.

While you might think your watch’s battery is the problem, it often isn’t. And that’s good news.

Replacing the watch’s battery requires you to send it to Apple for service (so time-consuming), and it can be expensive (depending on whether your watch is covered under Apple Care+ or not.)

So the first thing to do, if you can, is open your watch’s Settings app > Battery > Battery Health. Look at your watch’s Maximum Capacity measurement. Maximum capacity on Apple Watch

If that is over 80 percent, your battery health is still good. If not, your watch can no longer hold a charge like it used to and needs a new battery.

For most people, that maximum capacity is over 80%, which means something else is going on and preventing their watches from properly charging.

How can I tell if my watch is charging? Apple Watch charging in low power mode

When you first place your watch on its charger, you should hear a chime letting you know that the watch has made contact with the charging pad. You won’t hear this chime if your watch is in silent mode.

You should also see a green, yellow, or red lightning bolt icon briefly appear on your watch’s screen.

  • Green indicates your watch is charging and is charged sufficiently for you to remove and use it.
  • Yellow indicates your watch is charging while in low-power mode.
  • Red indicates that your watch is very low on charge, and you should not remove the watch from its charger and allow it to continue to charge.

That screen is followed by nightstand mode, where only the date, time, and the charging icon are shown on your watch screen. 

Restart your watch power off Apple Watch

The first thing to try is always to restart or force restart your watch. Restarting removes any temporary files, clears the cache, and removes other software issues that might prevent your watch from charging.

We recommend you power off your watch first, and if that doesn’t work, force it to restart.

  • To restart, take your watch off the charger and press the side button. Tap the power button at the top and then slide to power off. Then, place your watch on the charger. It should automatically turn back on.
  • To force restart, keep your watch on its charger. Press and hold both the side button and the Digital Crown and keep holding until you see the Apple Logo, then release both buttons.

Check your connections

Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that your watch’s battery is dead and needs replacing!

In many cases, the reason your watch isn’t charging is due to problems with the connection between the watch, the magnetic charging cable, and the power source. This is especially true if your watch suddenly stopped charging–i.e., everything was fine yesterday, and now it’s not charging.

The first thing to do is look at all the connections between your watch and its power source and make sure things fit securely. That includes the back of the watch, the charging pad and cable, and the charging block (if connected to a wall outlet.)

Try removing the band Apple Watch remove band to charge

Sometimes, the watch bands interfere with charging, preventing good and consistent contact between the back of the watch and the charging pad.

Remove the watch band and place just the watch on the charger. It should make good contact and snap together via the magnets. When the charger’s magnets align with your Apple Watch, you see a green lightning bolt icon on your watch face.

Leave it there for at least 45 minutes to see if it starts charging your watch.

Clean the contact areas Clean back of Apple Watch

Wipe the back of the watch and the charging pad on the magnetic charger with a microfiber cloth to ensure nothing’s getting in the way of the charging magnets from making contact. 

Things like dirt, lint, sweat, lotion, and makeup can block and prevent the back of the watch from successfully connecting to the charging puck’s magnetic contacts.

If the cloth didn’t remove all the gunk, dap a little alcohol onto the cloth and rub the back of the watch gently. Always put the alcohol on the cloth and never on the watch itself.

Sometimes, people forget to remove the plastic film that covers the front and back of the magnetic charger’s pad–check for that film, and if it’s there, remove it.

Now place your Apple Watch back on its charger and let it charge for a few minutes to see if it’s working

Look for problems with the charging cable

Take a look at the charging cable. If you see anything frayed or damaged, especially at the connection to the charging pad and the end plug, it’s best to replace the cable. 

Frayed and damaged cables often can’t deliver consistent power and can cause even larger problems. So don’t chance it. Replace it with an Apple or an Apple-certified MFI third-party charging cable.

Try a different power source Apple Watch charging bricks

The issue may not even be your watch or its charger. It could be the wall outlet, the power brick, or the UBC port the charging cable connects to.

So move your charging cable to a different wall outlet, use another power brick, or try another UBC port. See if your watch charges up using a different power source.

Check that your charger is getting power Power strip getting power to devices

Another thing that could prevent your watch from charging is using smart plugs or power strips that turn the power to those plugs off. Try plugging something else into the power brick and see if that device starts charging.

Sometimes, people, kids, pets, or even things like robot vacuums unplug things or turn power strips off.

So check that your Apple Watch’s charger is plugged in and that the plugs are on and allow power to flow to your connected devices. 

If no power goes to your outlets, check your circuit or fuse box for a tripped circuit.

Use or borrow another charging cable or brick 

If this problem just started, it’s much more likely to be something with your charging cable or the brick than your watch’s battery suddenly not holding a charge.

If you have another Apple Watch charging cable (or can borrow one), try that. If your watch charges, the cable is the problem. So you’ll need to replace it.

Similarly, it could also be the charging brick that the cable connects to. Try changing that to another and again. If the watch charges, the charging brick is bad and needs to be replaced.

Force restart your watch on its charger Apple Watch force restart

If the connection between the watch and the charger seems solid, try force restarting your watch and then see if it charges. 

We recommend you force restart the watch when it’s on the charger.

To force restart, press both the side button and Digital Crown simultaneously and keep holding both buttons down until you see the Apple logo on the watch’s screen.

Charge your watch using a higher-wattage charger

If you or your household members (or co-workers) own multiple Apple products, you likely have a charging brick with a higher wattage. 

So, instead of plugging your watch into a USB port or the charging brick that came with your watch (or a previous watch,) plug the cable into the charging brick that came with your iPad or MacBook.

Look for an Apple-branded or Apple MFI charging brick with wattages above 18 W. If you’re unsure which Apple Power Adapter you have, check the wattage on the top or bottom of the charging brick.

And if you own an Apple Watch Series 7 and above or an Apple Watch Ultra model and use Apple’s USB-C charging cable, your watch offers fast charging that charges the watch’s battery to 80-85% in about 45 minutes.

Turn off optimized charging

Optimized charging allows your Apple Watch to learn from your daily charging habits to improve the lifespan of your battery and reduce the wear on your battery and the time it spends fully charged.

When optimized charging is on, your watch might only charge to about 80% and delay charging past that. Apple turns on Optimized Battery Charging by default in watchOS 7 and later. 

Unfortunately, it can interfere with your watch’s full charging, especially if you charge it at a different time than you normally do.

So, let’s try turning this feature off.

  1. Open the Settings app on your watch.
  2. Scroll down and tap Battery.
  3. Scroll down and tap Battery Health.
  4. Toggle off Optimized Battery Charging. Optimized Battery Charging off

Once optimized charging is off, we recommend restarting (powering off, then powering back on) your watch and then seeing if it charges normally.

Is your Apple Watch still not charging? 

Now, if you tried everything, including switching charging cables and outlets, restarting, turning off optimized charging, and so forth, but your watch continues not to charge, it’s time to reach out to Apple Watch Support. Get Apple to look at your Apple Watch via its support team

There might be a hardware, software, or battery issue that only Apple can fix.

If you live near an Apple Store, we recommend you make an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar. If you don’t have a store nearby or cannot make an appointment, contact Apple Support online.

Does your watch show a red lightning bolt when it’s charging? red lightning bolt on Apple Watch when charging

If a red lightning bolt appears at the top of your watch’s screen, your watch battery likely has a low charge level and may even be in power reserve mode

If your Apple Watch immediately shows a red lightning bolt when you connect the watch to a charger and continues to show a small red lightning bolt, it usually means it isn’t getting enough (or no power) to charge your watch, or the charger can’t charge it at all.  

When charging works normally, the red lightning bolt on your watch’s screen should change to green or yellow (yellow indicates your watch is in low power mode.) 

  • A red lightning bolt icon indicates that your Apple Watch is not charging.
  • A green or yellow lightning bolt icon indicates that your watch is charging.

Before troubleshooting, check that the charger is plugged in and getting power. Then, clean the contacts on the charging pad and the back of the watch and keep your watch charging undisturbed for at least 2-3 hours+, then check again. 

If the red lightning bolt persists after a few hours, restart your watch by pressing and holding the side button to turn it off. Once off, press the side button again until you see the Apple logo on its screen. 

You can also force restart your watch by pressing and holding the side button and the Digital Crown until the Apple logo appears on the screen.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, one of these tips works for your Apple Watch charging problems!

For me, it was the charging cable. After trying multiple power sources, including a Mac and several different wall outlets, I determined that it must be the charging cable. To confirm, I borrowed a friend’s Apple Watch charger, and the watch started charging immediately.

Since I use a Series 7 with fast charging (available on Series 7 and above and Ultra), I upgraded to Apple’s fast USB-C charging cable and plugged it into my 30-watt iPad Pro charger. Forty-five minutes later, my watch was almost fully charged!

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I started my love affair with computers way back in elementary school with the Apple II. Since then, I've worked with technology in my career as a media educator and videomaker. I have an MFA in media making from Temple University, where I also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member. Additionally, I was a writer, content producer, and editor on the popular tech blog AppleToolBox. So I know a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides! After a cancer diagnosis, I turned to mobile technology like my Apple Watch to help me monitor my health throughout my chemotherapy treatment and later, to regain my wellness once in remission. I love sharing how to understand and use mobile tech, like smartwatches and phones, as a tool for empowerment to live our best and healthiest lives! Connect with me on LinkedIn!

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