MacBook Trackpad Not Working? How to fix it

By | March 19, 2022

One of the most common complaints among MacBook users is the trackpad not working. Whether the mouse has stopped moving, clicking does nothing, or touch gestures are not acting as expected, there are many potential problems that can arise.

Today, we’re going to run through some troubleshooting tips and discuss some workarounds to make your Mac usable again.

Check for macOS Update

This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t run the latest versions of their operating systems, firmware, and drivers.

To see if there is an update for your trackpad, open the App Store and click the Updates tab at the top of the window.

Really, you have to install any pending updates. But for the purposes of fixing your trackpad, you’re interested in anything called Trackpad Firmware Update (or similar). If you find something, click the Update button and follow the onscreen instructions.

Check Relevant Settings

Assuming no update is available (or doesn’t solve your problem), the first port of call should always be your trackpad setting. You can fix many complaints just by changing a few options.

Double click Not working

If your trackpad appears to be fully functional with the exception of its ability to double-click, it is possible that the delay time for your system to recognize gestures is set too low.

If you’re new to trackpads (not a traditional mouse) or you don’t have fingers like some people, this is a likely culprit.

To access double-click settings, click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of your screen. Then follow System Preferences > Accessibility and scroll down the left sidebar until you come to Mouse & Trackpad.

You’ll see various options available, but what you need to adjust is the double-click speed. Lower it from its current position; somewhere around the middle is sufficient for most users, but feel free to go as low as necessary.

Pointer Hard to Control

If you find the mouse pointer too responsive, you can try adjusting the tracking speed.

Again, click on the Apple icon, but this time head to System Preferences > Trackpad. You’ll see a slider at the bottom of the window titled Tracking speed. As before, a setting somewhere around the middle should suit most users.

Completely Unresponsive Trackpad

If your trackpad is completely dead, don’t despair it could also be a simple setup issue.

A way to test this is to check for a physical mouse connected to your system, either via USB or Bluetooth. If so, try disconnecting it. Is your trackpad now working? In that case, your system is set to ignore trackpad input when it detects a mouse.

As long as you’re running OS X 10.7 Mountain Lion or later, you can change this setting by going to System Preferences > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad and unchecking the box next to Ignore built-in trackpad when a wireless mouse or trackpad is present.

Macs may also think of another peripheral accessory as a mouse. Try disconnecting everything (keyboards, printers, game controllers and so on) from all the ports of your machine and see if that makes any difference.

Check Your Mac Hardware

More often than not, non-setting trackpad issues are caused by various hardware issues. They can come from the Mac itself, or from user error.
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Restless and restless pointer

If your pointer jumps around the screen, there could be a variety of non-serious causes — many of which are simple human error.

First, check your battery level. If it’s low, plug in your machine and try again — it can be as simple as that! Next, make sure that jewelry such as wedding rings and bracelets don’t drag the bearings while you’re working; they can cause the notebook to read several signals at once and get confused.

Finally, make sure your fingertips are not damp or sweaty. The trackpad and water don’t mix well, and can cause erratic behavior.

Sometimes your trackpad works correctly; sometimes it happens. Something that lets you move the pointer, while other times it doesn’t. If this is the case for you, more often than not, the problem is your MacBook battery.

Swelling and exploding MacBook batteries have been a problem for years. Apple claims it’s expected behavior — which is highly dubious — but either way, it can affect your trackpad.

Your first step should be to contact Apple support, if your device is still under warranty or covered by AppleCare. If not, and you think you have a swollen battery issue, try removing the battery and starting the machine from mains power (you can also pay someone to do this for you). You will almost certainly see a significant improvement.

Delete File “Properties List”

If all else fails, the last trick you can try before admitting defeat is to delete the Property List (PLIST) file.

macOS uses PLIST files to store user settings and information about bundles and applications installed on the machine. Deleting it will force your Mac to recreate a new one.

Note: Before continuing, make sure you back up your computer using Time Machine.

To delete files linked to your mouse and trackpad, open Finder and then click Go > Go to Folder. Next, type /Library/Preferences and hit Go.

Look for the following plist files and delete them:

  • (Magic Trackpad)
  • (Magic Mouse)
  • (wired USB mouse)

Reboot your Mac, and see if this fixes the problem.

MacBook Touchpad Troubleshooting

If nothing else works, you may have to take your machine in for repair. There are many repair options available, but the exact route you should take depends on whether or not you have AppleCare.

Even if you do need a fix, there are still some workarounds you can take right now.

Disable Trackpad

The most obvious temporary solution is to disable your trackpad altogether and use a standard mouse. The process is simply the reverse of the troubleshooting tips mentioned earlier.

Just go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad and check the box next to Ignore built-in trackpad when a wireless mouse or trackpad is present.

Use External Trackpad

The Apple Magic Trackpad 2 performs exactly the same as your computer’s trackpad, except it’s an external device sitting on your desk.

This is perfect if you’re used to using a trackpad and find changing a handheld mouse too much of a hassle, and it’s also completely wireless. Unfortunately, it’s not cheap, but it’s your only option for a Mac-friendly external touchpad.

If you’re having other issues like Mac Keyboard Not working check out our guide How to Fix Mac Keyboard Not Working.

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