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How to Fix MacBook Trackpad Not Working: 13 Best Ways

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Struggling with a disobedient MacBook trackpad that simply won’t respond to your commands? When your laptop’s trackpad starts behaving like an unruly pet, it’s not just annoying—it’s downright productivity-sabotaging.

To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of simple, step-by-step methods you can use to fix your MacBook trackpad not working. So, let’s dive right in.

Before We Begin

Malicious software can infiltrate your MacBook, causing trackpad malfunctions. That’s where MacKeeper comes in. Its Antivirus feature acts as a shield, protecting your device from digital threats. Take a moment to scan your Mac with MacKeeper to address any potential malware issues.

Symptoms of a Non-Functional MacBook Trackpad

A malfunctioning trackpad can manifest in various ways. Some symptoms of a malfunctioning MacBook trackpad are as follows:

  • 🐭 Erratic movement: The cursor moves unpredictably or doesn’t follow your finger movement.
  • 🚫 Unresponsiveness: The trackpad doesn’t respond to touch or click.
  • 🧩 Physical damage: Visible cracks or discoloration on the trackpad surface.
  • 🔊 Unusual clicking sounds: The trackpad emits strange noises when pressed or clicked, indicating internal issues.
  • 📜 Jumpy scrolling: When attempting to scroll, the trackpad jumps or skips, making it difficult to navigate smoothly.
  • 🙅‍♂️ Inconsistent gestures: Gestures such as pinch-to-zoom or two-finger scrolling may not work consistently or at all.
  • 🧲 Sticky or stuck trackpad: The trackpad feels sticky or gets stuck, impeding its movement and responsiveness.
  • ❄️ Cursor freezing: The cursor freezes in one place and doesn’t move, even when you try to use the trackpad.
  • ⚠️ Unintended clicks or selections: The trackpad registers unintended clicks or selections, causing accidental actions or opening unwanted applications.
  • 🔀 Intermittent functionality: The trackpad works intermittently, functioning properly at times and then becoming non-responsive at other times.
  • Trackpad not recognized: The MacBook fails to recognize the trackpad altogether, preventing any input from being registered.
  • 💪 Increased pressure required: The trackpad becomes harder to press or requires more force to register clicks or gestures.
  • 🤏 Unusual sensitivity: The trackpad becomes overly sensitive, causing the cursor to move erratically with the slightest touch.
  • Lag or delay: There is a noticeable delay between using the trackpad and the corresponding action occurring on the screen.
  • 🐌 Overall sluggishness: The trackpad’s overall performance is slow and sluggish, affecting the MacBook’s usability and efficiency.

Why Is My MacBook Trackpad Not Working?

There can be several reasons why your MacBook trackpad is not working. Here are some common causes:

  1. 💥 Physical damage: The trackpad may have suffered physical damage if you dropped or spilled water on your MacBook. Cracks, dents, or misalignment of internal components can lead to trackpad malfunction.
  2. 🖥️ Software issues: Outdated software or corrupt drivers can cause trackpad problems. Updating the operating system or applications may introduce compatibility issues or bugs affecting the trackpad’s functionality.
  3. ⚙️ Settings and preferences: Incorrect settings or accidental changes in the System Settings can cause the trackpad to stop working. Adjustments to gestures, sensitivity, or accessibility settings might be needed to restore proper functionality.
  4. 🔋 Battery issues: If your MacBook’s battery is low or not functioning correctly, it can impact the trackpad’s performance. In such cases, charging or replacing the battery may resolve the problem.
  5. 🖱️ Connectivity issues: If you’re using an external mouse or other input devices, they may interfere with the trackpad. Disconnecting these devices and checking if the trackpad starts working again is recommended.
  6. 🔌 Hardware connection problems: Loose or disconnected cables inside the MacBook can cause the trackpad to stop functioning. This can happen due to physical damage or other hardware-related issues.

Scan Your Mac for Virus With MacKeeper

Before diving into the troubleshooting steps, it’s always a good idea to scan your Mac for potential viruses or malware. Because sometimes malware interferes with your MacBook components, making them behave abnormally.

You can use MacKeeper, a reliable Mac optimization software, that offers an Antivirus feature. It can perform a thorough scan of your system and ensure it’s free from any malicious programs.

Here’s how to run a malware scan using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper.
  2. Launch MacKeeper and click the Antivirus tab in the left sidebar.
click antivirus under the security section 6
  1. Run an instant virus scan by clicking the Start Scan button.
click start scan in mackeeper antivirus 6
  1. If the scan finds any viruses, click the Fix Items button.
  2. Enable real-time antivirus protection to keep your Mac safe from viruses.
click enable to allow real time protection
  1. Once you have configured your security settings, MacKeeper will continue to protect your Mac in the background, scanning for threats and blocking malicious activity.

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides scanning your Mac for malware, MacKeeper can remove login items, stop annoying ads, and free up your Mac RAM. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn about its amazing features.

How to Fix a MacBook Trackpad Not Working

When your trackpad stops working, it can disrupt your productivity and hinder your overall user experience. Below, I have shared troubleshooting steps you can take to fix a non-working MacBook trackpad.

1. Clean Your Trackpad

Cleaning your trackpad can sometimes fix non-working trackpad issues if the problem is caused by dirt, dust, or debris interfering with its functionality. Here’s how to clean your Mac’s trackpad:

  1. Shut down your Mac by clicking the Apple icon in the top-left corner of your screen and selecting Shut Down. This will prevent any accidental actions while cleaning.
click apple icon and select shut down
  1. Gather the necessary cleaning supplies. You will need a soft, lint-free cloth and a mild cleaning solution. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the trackpad.
  2. Dampen the cloth with the cleaning solution. Make sure the cloth is not soaking wet, as the excess liquid can seep into the trackpad and cause damage.
  3. Gently wipe the trackpad in a circular motion. Start from the center and work your way outwards.
cleaning mac with a lint free cloth 1
  1. After wiping the entire trackpad, use a dry, lint-free cloth to remove the remaining moisture. Ensure the trackpad is completely dry before turning on your computer or using the trackpad again.
  2. Turn on your Mac to see if the trackpad starts working.

2. Restart Your MacBook

Restarting your MacBook resets various software components, including the operating system and background processes. This can resolve temporary software conflicts or glitches affecting the trackpad’s functionality.

Here’s how to restart your Mac to fix the trackpad issue:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Select Restart from the drop-down menu and wait for your MacBook to reboot.
click apple icon and select restart

3. Check Your Trackpad Settings

Checking your trackpad settings can fix non-working trackpad issues by ensuring the trackpad is configured correctly and adjusting any potential settings or preferences causing the problem.

Here’s how to check the trackpad settings on your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click Trackpad in the left sidebar.
click trackpad in the left sidebar
  1. Ensure that the settings are correctly configured according to your preferences. You can adjust options like tracking speed, scrolling, and gestures.
check trackpad settings

4. Disable Force Click and Haptic Feedback

Disabling Force Click and Haptic Feedback on your trackpad can potentially fix the MacBook trackpad not working issue, especially if the problem is related to their sensitivity or functionality.

Here’s how to disable Force Click and Haptic Feedback on Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. In the System Settings window, locate and click the Trackpad tab.
click trackpad in the left sidebar
  1. Here, locate the Force Click and haptic feedback option. Uncheck the box next to Force Click and haptic feedback to disable this feature.
toggle off force click and haptic feedback
  1. After disabling Force Click and Haptic Feedback, test the trackpad to see if the non-working issue is resolved. Check if the trackpad responds properly to regular clicks, taps, and gestures.
  2. If the issue persists, try restarting your Mac to refresh the system settings and configurations.

Disabling Force Click and Haptic Feedback may affect other aspects of the trackpad experience, as these features provide additional functionality and tactile feedback. If disabling these features doesn’t resolve the trackpad issue, re-enable them in the Trackpad settings panel.

5. Update Firmware

Updating the firmware on your Mac can potentially fix non-working trackpad issues by resolving software bugs or compatibility issues, affecting its functionality. By updating the firmware on your Mac, you can ensure the trackpad’s software and drivers are up to date, potentially resolving any non-working trackpad issues.

Here’s how to update firmware on your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select App Store.
click apple icon and select app store
  1. Click the Updates button in the left sidebar.
click updates in the left sidebar
  1. Check if a Trackpad firmware update is available.
  2. If an update is available, click the Update button next to it.
  3. This will update the firmware, potentially resolving the trackpad not working issue on your Mac.

6. Update macOS on Mac

Software updates often introduce bug fixes, new drivers or firmware, performance improvements, and compatibility enhancements that can address trackpad-related problems. By keeping your macOS up to date, you ensure your trackpad is compatible with the latest software and drivers, preventing trackpad issues.

Here’s how to update macOS on your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Select General and select Software Update to check for available updates for your Mac.
click general and select software update
  1. If macOS updates are available, click the Update Now button to install them. These updates can include important bug fixes and improvements that can address trackpad-related issues.
click the update now button
  1. After installing the macOS updates, restart your Mac to ensure the updates are properly applied, and necessary configurations are loaded.

7. Reset the System Management Controller (SMC)

The SMC controls various hardware functions on your Mac, including the trackpad. Resetting the SMC clears certain system settings and recalibrates power management functions, potentially resolving non-working trackpad problems.

Here’s how to reset the SMC on your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen and select Shut Down from the dropdown menu.
click apple icon and select shut down
  1. Allow your Mac to power off completely.
  2. If your Mac is connected to a power adapter, unplug it from the power source.

Depending on your Mac model, follow the appropriate steps to reset the SMC:

If you’re unsure whether your Mac has an Intel processor or an Apple Silicon chip, consult the Apple Support page.

MacBook With a Non-Removable Battery

  1. Tap the Apple icon and select Shut Down from the drop-down menu.
click apple icon and select shut down 2
  1. Press and hold the Shift ⇧ + Control ^ + Option ⌥ keys with the Power button for 10 seconds.
macbook air power shift control option keys
    1. Release all the keys and the Power button at the same time.
    2. Then, press the Power button to turn on your Mac.

    MacBook With a Removable Battery

    1. Shut down your Mac. 
    click apple icon and select shut down
    1. Remove your MacBook’s battery.
    remove mac s battery
    1. Press and hold the Power button for 5 seconds while the battery is removed.
    press and hold the power button on your mac
    1. Release the Power button and reinstall the battery.
    reinstall macs battery 1
    1. Turn on your Mac by pressing the Power button.
    press and hold the power button on your mac

    MacBook With Apple Silicon

    Apple Silicon Macs don’t possess a System Management Controller (SMC) like their Intel processor counterparts. As a result, performing an SMC reset is not possible on Macs powered by Apple Silicon processors.

    After resetting the SMC, turn on your Mac and test the trackpad to see if the non-working issue is resolved.

    8. Reset NVRAM or PRAM

    Resetting the NVRAM (non-volatile random-access memory) or PRAM (parameter random-access memory) on your Mac can resolve trackpad issues caused by incorrect or corrupted settings stored in the memory. Resetting the NVRAM/PRAM can restore default settings and clear potential glitches.

    Here’s how to reset NVRAM or PRAM on Mac with an Intel-based processor:

    1. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen and select Shut Down from the dropdown menu.
    click apple icon and select shut down 2
    1. Press the Power button to turn on your Mac, and immediately press and hold the following keys simultaneously: Command ⌘ + Option ⌥ + P + R
    macbook air option command p r keys 4
    1. Continue holding the keys until you hear the startup sound.
    2. Release the keys.
    3. After resetting the NVRAM/PRAM, allow your Mac to start up normally, and test the trackpad to see if the non-working issue is resolved.

    M1 and M2 Macs have NVRAM, but they don’t require a manual reset. If a reset is needed, your M1 or M2 Mac will make it happen automatically during a restart.

    9. Reset the Trackpad

    Resetting the trackpad settings can potentially fix non-working trackpad issues if the issue is caused by misconfigured preferences or customized settings interfering with the trackpad’s functionality. It restores the default configuration and resolves any software-related glitches.

    Here’s how to reset the trackpad on Mac:

    1. If your MacBook has a removable battery, power it off and disconnect the power adapter.
    2. Remove the battery.
    3. Press and hold the Power button for 5 seconds. This will discharge any remaining power and help reset the trackpad.
    macbook pro touch id
    1. After resetting the trackpad settings, test the trackpad to see if the MacBook trackpad not working issue is resolved.

    10. Delete .plist Files

    Deleting .plist files removes any corrupted or misconfigured settings associated with the trackpad settings. When your Mac restarts, it will generate new .plist files with default settings, which can resolve non-working trackpad issues caused by settings conflicts or corruption.

    Here’s how to delete the .plist files on Mac:

    1. Before deleting .plist files, close applications that use or control the trackpad, such as System Settings.
    2. Click the Finder icon in your dock to bring up the Finder menu.
    click finder in your dock
    1. In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click Go and select Go to Folder from the dropdown menu.
    click go in the menu bar and select go to folder
    1. Type the following path and press Enter:
    ~/Library
    type library in the box 1
    1. In the Library folder, navigate to the Preferences subfolder.
    open the preferences folder
    1. Look for any .plist files related to the trackpad. They may have names containing trackpad, input, or the name of the trackpad manufacturer. Some common examples are com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.trackpad.plist or com.apple.AppleMultitouchTrackpad.plist.
    2. Select the relevant .plist files and drag them to the Bin. Alternatively, right-click the files and choose Move to Bin from the contextual menu.
    select move to bin
    1. Right-click the Bin icon in your dock and select Empty Bin from the menu. Confirm that you want to delete the files permanently.
    right click the bin and select empty bin
    1. After deleting the .plist files, restart your Mac to allow the system to recreate the necessary preferences and configurations for the trackpad.

    11. Run Apple Diagnostics

    Running Apple Diagnostics helps identify any underlying hardware issues causing the non-working trackpad problem. It provides valuable information that can guide you in resolving the issue, whether it requires hardware repairs or other troubleshooting steps.

    Here’s how to run Apple Diagnostics on Mac:

    1. Remove any external devices or peripherals connected to your Mac, except for the power adapter.
    2. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen and select Shut Down from the dropdown menu.
    Shut down your Mac from the Apple menu
    1. Press the Power button and immediately press and hold the D key on your keyboard until a list of languages appears.
    Press the power button and D
    1. Select a language, and Apple Diagnostics will start automatically.
    Select a language touse apple diagnostics
    1. Apple Diagnostics will run a series of tests on your Mac’s hardware, including the trackpad. The process may take several minutes. Read the on-screen instructions carefully and follow them to complete the diagnostics.
    2. If Apple Diagnostics detects any hardware problems, it will display an error code or description. Take note of any errors or issues identified during the diagnostics process.
    3. If you receive an error message or if Apple Diagnostics identifies a hardware problem with the trackpad, contact Apple Support or visit an Apple Authorized Service Provider for further assistance. They can provide guidance on repairing or replacing the trackpad if necessary.

    The specific process and options may vary depending on your Mac model and the macOS version you’re using. It’s always advisable to consult Apple’s official documentation or support resources for accurate instructions for your Mac model.

    12. Reinstall macOS

    As a last resort, you can reinstall macOS to ensure a clean and fresh installation. Before proceeding, make sure to back up your Mac files to prevent data loss in case of an error during reinstallation.

    For step-by-step instructions, check out my guide on how to reinstall macOS on your MacBook.

    13. Seek Professional Help

    If the problem persists, it may be time to consult a professional. Consider the following options:

    • 👨‍🔧 Trustworthy MacBook repair service: Look for authorized Apple service providers or reputable third-party services in your area. They can offer professional assistance and diagnose any hardware-related issues accurately.
    • 🛠️ Professional MacBook trackpad repair: Depending on the diagnosis, the repair service might recommend repair or replacement of the trackpad. Follow their guidance to ensure a proper resolution.

    Keep Your MacBook Trackpad Working Properly

    Now that you know how to fix the MacBook trackpad not working, you may want to avoid a similar situation in the future. To minimize the chance of future trackpad issues, consider the following tips:

    • Declutter your MacBook regularly and keep it free of dust and spills. Use a soft cloth to wipe the trackpad and the surrounding area gently.
    • Consider using waterproof MacBook cases, and keyboard covers to safeguard your trackpad from accidental damage.
    • Regularly update your macOS to benefit from bug fixes, security patches, and enhancements.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What’s the lifespan of a MacBook trackpad?

      The lifespan of a MacBook trackpad typically aligns with the lifespan of the MacBook itself, which is about 7-8 years on average. However, factors like wear and tear, accidental damage, and exposure to moisture or debris can influence trackpad performance.

    2. Can I use my MacBook without a trackpad?

      Yes, you can use your MacBook without a trackpad. While the trackpad is the primary built-in pointing device on a MacBook, you can still navigate and interact with your Mac using alternative input methods, such as an external mouse, Mac keyboard shortcuts, accessibility options, and touchscreen alternatives.

    3. Can I switch between my MacBook’s built-in trackpad and an external mouse?

      Yes, you can easily switch between your MacBook’s built-in trackpad and an external mouse. macOS supports seamless switching between different input devices, allowing you to use either the trackpad or an external mouse based on your preference or convenience.

    4. How can I troubleshoot an unstable or unresponsive Mac trackpad?

      To troubleshoot an unstable or unresponsive Mac trackpad, clean the trackpad with a lint-free cloth. Then, restart your Mac. If the issue persists, check for macOS updates, adjust trackpad settings, reset the SMC, NVRAM, or PRAM, or run an Apple Diagnostics test to check for hardware issues.

    5. How can I fix my trackpad that works fine in most apps but becomes unresponsive in others?

      You can fix your trackpad that works fine in most apps but becomes unresponsive in others by updating the problematic app, checking for conflicting software, resetting preferences, or reinstalling the app. This increases the chances of resolving the trackpad’s unresponsiveness in that specific app.

    Hashir Ibrahim

    Author

    I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

    Ojash

    Reviewer

    Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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