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erratic cursor movementHave you noticed sometimes that your Mac cursor jumps around all over the place? One minute you’re typing away and the next minute it’s highlighting random text or typing from somewhere completely unexpected. If you have this problem, you’ll know it’s a huge pain, because you find you spend more time fixing the errors it causes than actually getting on with the typing task at hand.

For some of us, help is easy to find. Others, not quite so easy. This seems to be something that occurs due to a number of different causes. We’ll go through several causes and fixes for this and hopefully one of them will work for you.

This really is an annoying problem for Mac OS X users, as it makes typing practically impossible. Even when you’re very careful not to touch the trackpad, it seems to unexpectedly jump a few lines, highlight text, type over that highlighted text and randomly ruin your whole efforts to type. Sometimes it can seem as if you’re typing CMD-Z as often as you’re typing text. But don’t worry – you’re not alone and it can be fixed.

1. Ignore Accidental Trackpad Input

The simplest fix is ensuring you’re not accidentally bumping your trackpad while you type. Go into Apple Menu > System Preferences and check your trackpad settings. For Snow Leopard, there’s a “Trackpad” section, while for earlier Mac OS X systems it will be under “Mouse & Keyboard“. Open this and ensure that “Ignore accidental trackpad input” is selected. For many users, this will sort the problem out for you in no time.

erratic cursor movement

2. Ignore Trackpad When Mouse Is Present

Connect a USB mouse and go into Apple Menu > System Preferences > Mouse preferences (or “Mouse & Keyboard“). Set your system to “Ignore trackpad when mouse is present“. Now hopefully whenever you’ve connected a mouse you should have no problems with erratic cursor movement.

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erratic cursor movement

3. Check Your Laptop Is Still Flat

Some older Macbooks can develop erratic trackpad behaviour when the laptop casing gets slightly twisted. This might be because of something habitual you do, such as carrying the laptop in the same position each day or resting it on your lap. Rest it on a flat surface and press on one end to see if your laptop is still perfectly flat. If it’s not, take it in to an Apple shop and see if they will twist it back to flat for you. Don’t do this yourself if your laptop is still under warranty!

4. Your Battery Might Be Failing

Some users have reported that this erratic cursor movement is linked to battery failure on their laptop. To test if you’re in this boat, try removing the battery and running the laptop on power only. If your cursor behaves nicely while the battery is out, you might want to consider replacing the battery on your laptop.

5. Upgrade To Lion

If all else fails, it’s possible that an upgrade to Lion An Extensive Guide On Upgrading To OSX Lion & Making Installation Disks [Mac] An Extensive Guide On Upgrading To OSX Lion & Making Installation Disks [Mac] With OSX Lion in the App Store awaiting you, I’m sure some of you have some concerns about the upgrade process, so today I’m going to walk you through some of those concerns, give a... Read More will fix this problem. A few users have reported that although nothing else worked, using Lion finally fixed the problems they’d been having with their cursor.

More Mac Fixes

While you’re fixing things, here’s a few more Mac OS X tricks and hacks you might find useful.

Let us know which of these options solved your cursor problem. Was it just accidental trackpad input? Or was your laptop bent? What worked for you?

Image Credit: ShutterStock

  1. Eric
    November 28, 2016 at 10:13 am

    it only happens to me when I type Swedish characters Ä, Å and Ö. SOOOOOOOO annoying

  2. Vic
    September 23, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Guys.....I've read all the comments and I can't understand why when I'm typing I'll look up at the text or whatever and it's typing away somewhere else in the message. Obviously my giant thumbs or side of my hand has brushed the track pad. I have a MacBook Pro Safari El Captain I went to preferences and DO not have " ignore mouse, ignore anything". In preference my keyboard, mouse and trackpad are all separate icons. I checked for anything in all 3 to help with this jumping around random typing but I don't see anything that might help.

    If anyone has any suggestions I would greatly apperciate it.

    Thanks Vic

    • Rob Getreu
      September 25, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      HI Vic

      I have the same problem with a Mac Air 13". Problem started when I upgraded to El Capitain.

      SOOOOOO frustrating. Desperate for a fix that does not involve the potential of going back to the previous version of the OSX operating system

      Cheers.. Rob

    • Rob Getreu
      September 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      I think I may have found a work around. Basically, uptick all the options in TRACKPAD in Systems Preference. It seems to still maintain the ability to use the trackpad in click mode ( and not simply touch or tap) and you can only scroll down. But, at least it seems that the errant curser curse does not happen

  3. Maya
    July 1, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Had no problem on my Macbook Air until an upgrade to El Capitan. Now the cursor is all over the place, drives me CRAZY. WTF?!

  4. Ed Sorensen
    April 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Purchased new Mac Book Pro in Dec 2015. Unusable problem with the jumping cursor. After many complaints and trips to the store they gave me another new one a month and a half ago. Same problem. The solutions of using a wired or remote mouse or trackpad is NOT a solution. I purchased a laptop for a purpose and to hang outside mice or trackpads are NOT any solution. This $2500 laptop is totally unusable for what it was intended. PS: I have a 2 year old MacAir 13" with same general keyboard/trackpad layout and never have this problem. From the various sites about this problem, it appears that isn't a minor or infrequent problem...it is a design problem and it appears that Apple is not going to step up and help a significant number of people that have purchased a product that is not able to be used as intended...or advertised.

    ED S. 25 April 2016

    • doubleujayh
      June 10, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      I thought that I'd share my latest experience in the hope that I have found a permanent solution to this problem. What I did was to connect a bluetooth magic mouse to my MacBook 12 inch and used it to do some word-processing for short. I managed to complete a whole page without encountering the accidental input problem. I disconnected the mouse completely (deleted it from my bluetooth devices option in System Preferences), opened another document and tried out the some more word-processing. Two pages of text without a single skip! The accidental input problem seems to have miraculously disappeared! I restarted the computer just to be sure and can confirm that I am still typing away happily without the irritation of the mouse cursor moving all over the place. Please post your findings if you find this work-a-round useful.

  5. Sharon A Buttry
    February 21, 2016 at 7:50 am

    I removed the battery. I have been getting a 'service battery message' for a while, so this made sense. I probably will get a new MACbook before I service the battery. Thanks for the fix!!!

  6. Linda
    January 7, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    My Mac is the latest Macbook Pro and when I click on the apple and try to do what you say, I can't find the items you say to look for. I get into preferences and then trackpad, and then there is nothing to click on under"ignore accidental trackpad input." My husband too k it to the dealer and he couldn't make it do the erratic behavior, when it happens to me ALL the time. Can it be the size of my hands when typing? When we got our first new Mac we called for server help. She watched me type from afar and said it was reporting I hit the trackpad overtime it jumped. I traded that one in for another just like it, but it does the same thing.My old one (which I am typing on) Is much bigger and heavier and doesn't do the skipping cursor thing. I cannot type on my new one and it is making an old shoulder injury reoccur and it is getting bad. So I have a new computer which I can't use!!

    • dobes
      April 13, 2016 at 5:58 pm

      I would bet that your new, jumpy trackpad is a ForceTouch one, and that your old one isn't. I have been having the exact same trouble with my new 2015 macbook, and lots of other people are, too. The ForceTouch trackpads are simply too sensitive to accidental brushing with thumbs or palms. Yes, I know that's why my cursor is jumping - but the trackpad on this thing is just HUGE, and exactly where am I SUPPOSED to put my thumbs while I type? They really have to be able to make the trackpad insensitive to touch while the keyboard is being used - and until then I'm afraid we have to learn to hold our giant thumbs in the air!

  7. Bill
    April 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I have no trackpad on my iMac and it's doing it whenever (and only when) I type in Outlook for Mac 2011. I think it started up again with an update, because for a while it was not an issue. Why can't this get fixed?

  8. Araya
    January 4, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    On my older Macbook Pro, I just took out the battery, and that solved the problem. Only now I am tethered to an electric source. Thanks.

  9. Myrrh Maid
    December 21, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Though I tried some of your suggestions, none of them worked for me. I checked the Apple website and found this: "Moisture collecting on the trackpad can also cause this issue. Wiping off the trackpad with a cloth or tissue usually fixes this. If the issue goes away when a piece of paper is put between the finger and trackpad you may want to consider purchasing a Teflon applique to fit over the pad to prevent the moisture from having direct contact with the trackpad. Before installing the Teflon applique, confirm the trackpad is clean and dry. You can use a mild glass cleaner sprayed onto the cloth (not onto the trackpad itself) to clean the trackpad. Note that oil or lotion can also cause the same issue." That last line was the key to my problem -- lotion!

  10. nil
    December 10, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I'm using Yosemite (brand spanking new) on a brand new i7 mac....

    Same issue within 2 months of owning it.

  11. akonan
    October 10, 2011 at 8:31 am

    None of the fixes applies to me. I'm on iMac, have upgraded to Lion already and does not use trackpad. The problem still occurs. Rebooting the computer will fix it for a while but eventually it will resume. Frustrating!!!

    • Angela Alcorn
      October 10, 2011 at 9:09 am

      So, you're using a mouse and it does this? Have you set it to “Ignore trackpad when mouse is present“?

      Maybe take it to get looked at - maybe it's not flat or something.

  12. Janis
    September 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    This article is already outdated. My new MacBook Pro with Lion installed does not have a "Ignore Accidental Trackpad Input. "

    • Angela Alcorn
      September 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      That's because on some models ignoring accidental input is automatically enabled already:
      http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3009

      If you're still having troubles, try the second option in the article. If you ignore the trackpad when a mouse is present and then plug in a mouse then you should have no problems. Good luck!

      • affsydney
        October 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

        What is the second option in the apple article? It just says it is automatically on, but since updating to Lion, the cursor jumps around all over the place. I cannot see how upgrading to Lion resolves the issue.

        Of course, I have a multitouch trackpad. So, what is the second option? I can't see it.

         

      • affsydney
        October 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm

        Oh, the second option is with a mouse? I do not use a mouse. I just do not want the cursor to move around. What is the resolution of that? Is there a terminal command to turn it on?

        • Angela Alcorn
          October 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

          That's the one: "2. Ignore Trackpad When Mouse Is Present"
          I don't know of a terminal command to fix it, sorry. Have you looked at the other options? That is, checking that your laptop is completely flat and testing the battery? Sometimes they make the cursor do crazy things.

  13. Anonymous
    August 5, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    This is a great article.  I hate it when this happened to me.  I got so sick of it that I ended up taking my MacBook to get it repaired by the guys at Keane Mac Repair in San Francisco.  I thought I was going to end up having to get parts replaced and have a huge labor bill, but the used the same fix in the article above and I no longer have the problem.

    • Bruce
      May 11, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      My keyboard entries on Mail, Pages and Text Edit jumped all over the place. After reading this forum I found the answer.
      System Preferences
      Accessibility
      Mouse & Trackpad
      Options (in upper RH corner)
      Check box for Ignore built-in trackpad when Mouse Keys is on
      Check OK
      Problem should be gone
      Bruce

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