MacBook Trackpad Not Working? 4 Troubleshooting Tips to Try
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It doesn’t matter how much money you might have spent on a tech device—something can and will go wrong.

One of the most common complaints among MacBook users is a malfunctioning trackpad. Whether the mouse has stopped moving, clicking does nothing, or the touch gestures don’t behaving as expected, there are lots of potential issues that can arise.

Today, we’ll run through some troubleshooting tips and discuss a few workarounds to make your Mac usable again.

1. Check for macOS Updates

mac app store updates screen

This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people aren’t running the latest version of the operating system, firmware, and drivers.

To see if any updates are available for your trackpad, open the App Store and click on the Updates tab at the top of the window.

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

2. Check Relevant Settings

Assuming there were no updates available (or they didn’t solve your issue), the first port of call should always be your trackpad’s settings. You can fix lots of complaints by simply tweaking a couple of options.

Double-Click Not Working

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

If you’re new to using trackpads (rather than a traditional mouse) or you aren’t as fleet-fingered as some people, this is a likely cause.

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

mac double click speed settings

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

Pointer Is Hard to Control

If you find the mouse’s pointer is overly responsive, you could try adjusting the tracking speed.

Once 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 be suitable for most users.

mac tracking speed settings

Trackpad Is Completely Unresponsive

If your trackpad is entirely dead, don’t despair—it could also be a simple settings issue.

The way to test this is to check for a physical mouse connected to your system, either via USB or Bluetooth. If you do, try disconnecting it. Does your trackpad now work? In that case, your system has been set up 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 unticking the checkbox next to Ignore built-in trackpad when mouse or wireless trackpad is present.

mac turn off trackpad settings

It’s also possible that your Mac thinks another peripheral accessory is a mouse. Trying disconnecting everything (keyboards, printers, gaming controllers, and so on) from all your machine’s ports and see if it makes a difference.

3. Check Your Mac’s Hardware

More often than not, trackpad issues that aren’t due to settings are caused by various hardware problems. They can originate either from the Mac itself, or from user error.

The Pointer Is Jumpy and Jittery

If your pointer is jumping around the screen, there could be a range of non-serious causes—many of them down to simple human error.

First, check your battery level. If it’s low, plug in your machine and try again—it really could be that simple! Next make sure that jewelry such as wedding rings and bracelets are not catching the pad as you work; they could cause the pad to read multiple signals at once and get confused.

Finally, make sure your fingertips aren’t damp or sweaty. Trackpads and water don’t mix well, and can cause erratic behavior.

Everything About the Trackpad Is Temperamental

Sometimes your trackpad works correctly; sometimes it acts up. Something it 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’s battery MacBook Not Charging? Troubleshooting Laptop Power Problems MacBook Not Charging? Troubleshooting Laptop Power Problems You're almost certainly going to have to troubleshoot your MacBook power supply at some point. Here's how to do it. Read More .

Swelling and exploding MacBook batteries have been an issue for years. Apple claims it’s expected behavior—which is highly dubious—but either way, its occurrence can impact your trackpad.

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

4. Delete “Property List” Files

If all else has failed, the last trick you can try before conceding defeat is deleting the Property List (PLIST) files.

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

Note: Before proceeding, make sure you back up your computer using Time Machine How to Use Time Machine to Back Up Your Mac How to Use Time Machine to Back Up Your Mac Time Machine is your Mac's built-in utility for backing up your computer. We'll show you how to set up Time Machine, make backups, and more. Read More .

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

mac plist file finder

Look for the following plist files and delete them:

  • com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.trackpad.plist (Magic Trackpad)
  • com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.mouse.plist (Magic Mouse)
  • com.apple.driver.AppleHIDMouse.plist (wired USB mouse)
  • com.apple.AppleMultitouchTrackpad.plist
  • com.apple.preference.trackpad.plist

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

MacBook Touchpad Workarounds

If none of the above worked, you probably need to take your machine in for repair. There are lots of repair options available, but the exact route you should take depends on whether or not you have AppleCare.

Even if you do need a repair, there are still some workarounds that you can take in the meantime.

Disable the 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 previously mentioned troubleshooting tip.

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

Use an External Trackpad

The Apple Magic Trackpad 2 performs exactly the same way as your computer’s trackpad, except it’s an external peripheral that sits on your desk.

Apple Magic Trackpad 2 (Wireless, Rechargable) - Silver Apple Magic Trackpad 2 (Wireless, Rechargable) - Silver Buy Now At Amazon $124.99

It’s perfect if you’re used to using the trackpad Why OS X Works Better with a Trackpad Why OS X Works Better with a Trackpad While Microsoft has focused on bringing touchscreen technology to the desktop, Apple has continued to optimize for the more traditional pointer-based approach. Read More and find changing a handheld mouse too inconvenient, and it’s completely wireless too. Unfortunately, they’re not cheap, but it’s your only option for a Mac-friendly external touchpad.

Fixing the MacBook Trackpad

We’ve covered Apple’s support options Need Mac Tech Support? Here Are Your Options Need Mac Tech Support? Here Are Your Options "Tech support" — two words that strike fear into the hearts of all but the most competent computer users out there. Where do you begin to look when things start to go wrong? Read More in great detail before. You can either use the Genius Bar in an Apple Store, take it to an Authorized Service Provider, or use a non-Apple affiliated independent shop.

You only other option: try to fix your Mac yourself Fix Your Own Mac: A Troubleshooting Guide Fix Your Own Mac: A Troubleshooting Guide Apple is known for having great customer service and repair technicians, but if you're no longer under warranty that expertise doesn't come cheap. Why not try troubleshooting your own Mac first next time? Read More . There are lots of tutorials on YouTube, but this is one of the best:

Warning: DO NOT try this unless you’re very confident in your skills. Doing so will void your warranty. If your machine is still under warranty, you should let Apple do the work.

Fix Other Issues With Your Mac

What issues have you stumbled across with your MacBook’s trackpad? Did you find any of these simple solutions helped solve your problems, or was it something more serious?

We’ve written lots of other troubleshooting guides as well. For example, if you have a problem with your MacBook keyboard Why MacBook Keyboards Break So Easily (And How to Fix Jammed Keys) Why MacBook Keyboards Break So Easily (And How to Fix Jammed Keys) Macbook keyboard not working? Here's how to remove dust from your keyboard and other settings to check that can fix your issue. Read More , we can help you fix that, too.

Explore more about: Computer Mouse Tips, Hardware Tips, MacBook, MacBook Air, Touchpad, Troubleshooting.

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  1. Mary gross
    June 28, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Helpful content... But.... My mouse is literally not working whatsoever, thus how am I supposed to click through the settings..

  2. David Zhu
    April 30, 2018 at 8:55 am

    My curser keeps jumping around to random places and keep clicking random things when it's not supposed to. Other times it will just lag (My curser had jumped around 6 times and clicked 4 random things while I'm typing this). What should I do?

  3. Neil Clark
    March 14, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Thank you for the tip!! My Trackpad seemed to have 'frozen' and wouldn't respond to two finger scroll, thus I couldn't scroll my email list or indeed the highlighted email itself, or any document for that matter, so I could only read to the bottom of the screen!!
    Your very first tip to troubleshoot was to check updates and look for trackpad related updates not yet uploaded. There weren't any but there were some old various ones not uploaded. I clicked 'update all', the Mac shut down to install these and some old ones that apparently hadn't successfully uploaded, ten minutes later it came back on and Hey Presto, Trackpad working again!! Thank you!

  4. Michelle
    January 28, 2018 at 12:32 am

    I found this article even more frustrating because if I could just click here and click there I wouldn’t need to look for an article about my mouse not working

  5. Wendi Cuttill
    December 5, 2017 at 11:58 am

    I bought my 2017 MacBook Air a few months ago, I'm running MacOS Sierra 10.12.6 on it and the problem with my trackpad is that it works when I'm browsing the internet but not when try to move up and down in Mail, either up and down the inboxes or in an actual email. Why would this be?

  6. Ronan
    September 9, 2017 at 11:06 am

    My trackpad and keyboard have become completely unresponsive. Brought it to apple store twice now; first time they reseated cables and told me it was fixed but it wasn't. 2nd time they replaced the topcase: this seemed to work initially but the following day the same issue has recurred.
    I can plug in my mouse and use the cursor but can't use keyboard (Only power button works). As such I can't past password screen to try any of the recommendations in the article.
    This has been going on for 2 weeks now and apple store doesn't have any technicians at weekend. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks

  7. Liz Phelps
    June 11, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Of course none of your simple options fixed my trackpad. I guess I must admit my machine is probably past it's useful life span. 7+ years is way over the hill for computer equipment, but since I just put a new battery in in January I was hoping that a small tweak would fix my problem. Trackpad works on the top, but not in the middle or bottom - sort of like me.

  8. Derek
    June 6, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    I don't understand how I'm able to fix a completely unresponsive trackpad when the directions say to CLICK ON THINGS TO FIX IT. All of the tips can't be used because the problem I have PREVENTS ME FROM FIXING IT.

    • jdstillwater
      September 27, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      Plug in a USB mouse or keyboard. Even old pc ones will work, as long as they are USB.

  9. cheryl
    May 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    nothing is working, I'm unable to use my Mac because of the track pad

  10. Kwaku
    March 22, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge, which has been very useful. I had issue with tap to click since I installed OS Sierra and your solution above just worked for me. Thank you.

  11. denrhooker
    March 17, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Come on guys!!! Who are we kidding??? The over-riding problem with Macbook trackpads is in their design. They accumulate all sorts of gunk around them and need to be thoroughly cleaned about once a year. This is a a really annoying problem and one that Apple seem to be in denial about. Solving the problem requires the tricky operation of removing the trackpad, cleaning it and replacing it. This process is EXTREMELY tricky (see Youtube tutorials) . Well done Apple... Please get your heads out of the sand and fix this design fault. P.S. Spraying WD40 electronic contact cleaner (non-conductive) onto the sides of the trackpad may help temporarily.

  12. Dana Crowell
    March 12, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    These seem like great suggestions, but none of them will work because my track pad is completely dead in the water! I can't click anything and it's not responding to the actual mouse that's connected either. It was working great yesterday and now, nothing. :-(

    • Josefine
      June 3, 2017 at 10:19 pm

      I'm in the same situation as you. A USB connected mouse worked for me a couple of hours ago but now that one won't work either. It's like my Macbook has decided navigating should no longer be an option...

  13. Bill Magnus
    February 10, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    trying to hold the right clicker down and highlight something or move it around does not work. Basically the 'right click' doesn't function. Just happened as I flew from Montreal to Chicago. Maybe the battery did the swelling thing or maybe being to rough with it over the years has taken its toll. Not fun to use without this funtion

  14. Alicja Muir
    February 4, 2017 at 2:49 am

    My trackpad keeps trying to select things on my screen. It is as if I have clicked and dragged but i haven't and I can't "release" the click therefore can't click on anything else. Restarting my computer fixes it for a time but it seems to be getting worse. I fear this is a hardware problem but the closest Apple store is 8 hours away! Help!

  15. jonny
    December 11, 2016 at 8:32 am

    my track pad was minimal responsive at best on my MacBook pro. i removed the magnetic charging cable and it then worked fine so try that because it worked for me. apple is strange.

  16. Cris
    December 10, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Great. Except can not do it If mouse does not work.

  17. Janice Byer
    August 20, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    My 2012 MacBook Air trackpad has twice stopped clicking, becoming then responsive to touch only when my Mac was hand held or rested on an edge of a desk or counter such that the trackpad portion was suspended over the edge. The first time, after a few days of working only when aloft, my trackpad to my relief resumed clicking and again worked normally anywhere for a year...until now.

  18. Geo Zapata
    August 18, 2016 at 3:17 am

    I have a Macbook Air (early 2015) and the trackpad and keyboard refuse to work under mac os. Tried running ubuntu live from a usb pendrive and everything works like normal. Tried Safe Boot Nothing. Made a super duper backup of my system and wiped everything and reinstalled Yosemite. Nothing!

  19. Alex Tapper
    August 16, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    I have a MBPr 13" late-2012. Battery was replaced within the last 6 months, so I don't think it's that... though it still could be. Right not it feels like there is a grain of sand under the front left corner (away from the keyboard, right where you would "left-click"). So it doesn't press down fully when "clicking." But the it will go away for a few hours/days then come back. Any thoughts? It doesn't seem to be affected by moving the computer around at all. (And I haven't been to the beach either.)

  20. Leo
    July 23, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Trackpad of my Macbook, stopped working properly. everything is fine except I can't select..It's clicking, moving fast, zoom in, zoom out but I can't select. Any help???

  21. GC
    July 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    My trackpad click function isn't working properly so it is difficult to highlight anything or to cut/paste or drag items anywhere. Basically, the trackpad doesn't seem to click at all now when I attempt to click, or it is very difficult to push down on the trackpad to obtain a click response. Any ideas?

  22. Fiona
    July 15, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Same as Lynda, these suggestions look great but all rely on being able to navigate somewhere anywhere to check and change settings but with no click function I can move my mouse but can't select ANYTHING. Starting with how to access keyboard controls would be super helpful

    • Chris
      July 17, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      Plug in a wired mouse.

      • Steve
        December 19, 2017 at 7:05 pm

        i have the same issues as others. pointer/cursor moves but cannot click on anything. Plugging in a mouse makes NO difference. cursor moves but cannot click on anything, there for all the remedies on here are pointless.

  23. genavi Mairembam
    July 13, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    my macbook air memory was full, so my son deleted evrything by sending them to the trash and after that he restarted it and my trackpad stopped working

  24. Anonymous
    July 11, 2016 at 2:55 am

    I have a Mcbook with Windows 10. Well, the problem occurred after I made the system upgrade. I used OSToto Driver Talent to update the touchpad driver. It works after reboot.

  25. lynda
    June 24, 2016 at 1:05 am

    awesome - except when nothing responds to clicks on the trackpad, and a usb mouse still no response to clicks, so therefore can't navigate through the computer at all........................mutliple reboots and forced quits because can't turn off normally....aaaagh

    • Robert Friedman
      September 26, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      I have the same problem. As above, mouse worked for a while then it stopped - so now what? Additionally, I did take it to independant store and they said I probably needed a new motherboard. Forget that. I am stuck at this point. Fun.