MacBook Pro Touch Bar Not Working? Here’s How to Troubleshoot

Mte Feat Macbook Pro Touch Bar

By bringing some of the most essential and intuitive controls from the iPhone to the Mac, the Touch Bar remains an indispensable tool for several creative professionals and casual Mac users alike. However, the Touch Bar is not without its occasional issues.

You may find that your Touch Bar freezes, crashes, or disappears entirely. Maybe you are in the middle of crafting the perfect tweet or text message, and your Touch Bar emojis become entirely inaccessible. We have a variety of effective solutions for such common Touch Bar problems.

How to Fix a Frozen or Unresponsive Touch Bar

It can be incredibly frustrating when the Touch Bar on your Mac fails to respond to your input. The most common bug that users seem to encounter is a frozen emoji strip in the Messages app. Luckily, we have a few effective solutions that will get you back to “work” (and chatting with your friends) in just a few clicks.

Force Quit the Current App

If your Touch Bar feels stuck, the app that you were using when it froze is likely the culprit. Additionally, your Touch Bar may instantly freeze if the app you are using crashes or consumes too much memory.

To fix a frozen Touch Bar:

  1. Navigate to the Apple menu and select the “Force Quit … ” option from the drop-down list.
Finder Force Quit Menu
  1. From the “Force Quit Applications” window, select the last app that you used, then click the blue “Force Quit” button in the bottom-right corner. In this example, we are force quitting the built-in Notes app.
Touch Bar Force Quit Button
  1. Relaunch the last app you used to reactivate the Touch Bar controls native to that app.

Relaunch the Touch Bar Using the Terminal App

If you are in the middle of an important task, and your Touch Bar goes black or becomes unresponsive, you may want to quit and relaunch your Touch Bar from the Terminal app to not lose your progress or any unsaved changes.

  1. Launch the Terminal app from the “Other” folder in Launchpad.
Touch Bar Lauchpad Other Terminal
  1. Type in the following command, then hit the return key.
sudo pkill “Touch Bar agent”
Touch Bar Terminal Sudo Pkill
  1. You will be prompted to enter the administrator password. Type in the requested credentials and hit the return key once again to complete the Touch Bar reboot. The Touch Bar may take a few seconds to relaunch.
Touch Bar Terminal Password

Reboot the Touch Bar Using the Activity Monitor App

If you are looking for a more straightforward solution that does not involve Terminal commands to refresh the Touch Bar, take advantage of the more user-friendly Activity Monitor app to troubleshoot any issues you may be experiencing.

  1. In Launchpad, navigate to the “Other” folder and click on “Activity Monitor.”
Touch Bar Activity Monitor
  1. Under the CPU tab, select the process labeled “Touch Bar agent.” (You can use the search bar in the upper-right corner to search for the background process.)
Touch Bar Search
  1. Click on the “Stop” icon highlighted below.
Touch Bar Stop

How to Fix Your Touch Bar if the Control Strip Disappears

The portion of your Touch Bar on your right, formally called the Control Strip, may at times disappear, freeze, or fail to expand/collapse properly. These common nuisances may impact your ability to access essential controls from the Touch Bar, including volume, brightness, and Siri. Fortunately, a quick Terminal command can remedy these problems.

Touch Bar Control Strip Apple 1
Image source: Apple
  1. Launch the “Terminal” app from the folder labeled “Other” in the Launchpad.
Touch Bar Launchpad Other Terminal
  1. Type in the following command, then hit the return key.
sudo killall ControlStrip
Touch Bar Terminal Killall
  1. Enter the administrator password when prompted, and hit the return key once again to complete the Control Strip reboot. It may take a moment to refresh.
Terminal Password 1

Update macOS to Fix a Faulty Touch Bar

Apple frequently issues software updates of macOS to patch bugs. Touch Bar bugs, including app compatibility issues, performance glitches, and outdated controls, are also addressed in these updates. You can strengthen the reliability of your Touch Bar by keeping the operating system on your Mac up to date. To update macOS:

  1. Open the System Preferences app. On newer versions of macOS, the app is labeled “System Settings.”
Touch Bar System Preferences
  1. In the System Preferences window, select the menu item labeled “Software Update.” On later versions of macOS, the software update screen is buried under the sidebar item labeled “General.”
Touch Bar Software Update
  1. If a macOS software update is available, click the button labeled “Update Now” or “Upgrade Now.” If your Mac has trouble updating, discover how to fix a frozen Mac during an update.
Touch Bar Update Now

Use Finder to Fix a Slow Touch Bar

If your Touch Bar feels slow to register feedback to your touch input, or its animations are noticeably dropping frames, you may need to reset your Touch Bar’s cache files using the Finder.

  1. While using Finder, press command + shift + G, type in the path ~Library/Preferences/, and press return.
Touch Bar Library Preferences
  1. Locate the file titled “apple.touchbar.agent.plist” and drag it into the Trash. 
  2. Press command + shift + G again, type in the path ~Library/Caches/, then press return. Delete the folder contents, but be sure not to delete the folder itself. 
Touch Bar Library Caches
  1. Select “Restart … ” from the Apple menu.
Touch Bar Restart
  1. Select the “Restart” button from the subsequent dialog to immediately initiate a system restart.
Touch Bar Apple Menu Restart

Frequently Asked Questions

macOS becomes unresponsive while trying to troubleshoot the Touch Bar. What can I do to get my computer up and running again?

Oftentimes the Touch Bar is not the only control screen that can be impacted by a system crash, too much memory usage, or corrupt files. Learn how to fix unresponsive apps and system freezes to troubleshoot your Touch Bar without interruption.

My Touch Bar crashes or fails to display proper controls only while I am charging my MacBook Pro. How can I fix this problem?

One of the most widespread Touch Bar inhibitors is a faulty or damaged charger. To avoid abnormal electrical interference that may render your Touch Bar unusable, you should use the charger and charging cord that came with your MacBook Pro.

If you must use a different charger, ensure its authenticity before using it to charge your Mac. Also, check your charger and charging cord for damage, including fraying, high levels of heat output, unexpected sounds while plugged in, and debris on the power port.

I contacted Apple Support regarding Touch Bar issues, and they asked me to submit a support ticket with a screenshot of my Touch Bar. How do I take a screenshot of the Touch Bar?

If Apple Support asks you to submit a screenshot of your Touch Bar, take it by holding down Shift + Command + 6 at the same time.

Image credit: Hello I’m Nik via Unsplash. All screenshots taken by Brahm Shank.

Brahm Shank
Brahm Shank

Self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur and tech enthusiast Brahm Shank is captivated by the impact of consumer tech: “It’s profoundly moving when people discover that the phone in their pocket or the tiny computer on their wrist has the power to enrich their lives in ways they never imagined.” Apple, Inc. and its unique position at the intersection of technology and the creative arts, resonates deeply with Brahm and his passion for helping people unleash their potential using technology. Over the years, Brahm has held various podcasts - including famed technologist David Pogue of The New York Times on topics such as Big Tech and digital wellness.

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