Is Your MacBook Trackpad Not Working? Here Are the Fixes!

A broken car surrounded by people.

A big reason for buying an Apple product is that they “just work.” Though, when they don’t, it’s a painful and frustrating time. While almost any part of a MacBook can fail, the trackpad is prone to errors. A broken trackpad makes it feel as though you can barely use your computer, and at times, you can’t.

In this post, we offer a few fixes for a MacBook trackpad that isn’t working. Our first solution should be yours, too.

Note: if you are wondering why the trackpad is not working, we have some explanations here.

1. Remove Any Connected Peripherals

Consider this first step an equivalent to the “turn it off and on” step. Being honest, it shouldn’t cause an issue, although it is one of the easiest elements to rule out.

Of course, a wired mouse is easy to spot, though a Bluetooth or other wireless dongle could potentially cause trouble with your MacBook’s trackpad.

This step is simple. If an external mouse is connected, disconnect it. Next, reboot your computer and see if your problem persists. If so, take a look at our next few steps for a resolution.

2. Check for Software Updates

The second element to check is just as simple as removing a mouse from your system. Software updates could resolve any trackpad issue within seconds.

To do this, run your “System Preferences,” then open the “Software Update” panel.

The System Preferences screen.

This should automatically check for any available updates, and if any are found, you can click the “Update Now” button to initialize them.

The Software Update screen.

Along with your software, this can also pull in firmware updates, which may fix your trackpad problem.

3. Reset the System Management Controller (SMC)

The SMC is responsible for many of the low-level functions on your MacBook. Because of this, it could be causing your trackpad issue, even without having a direct relation to it.

To begin, shut down your Mac from the Apple menu in the Toolbar.

The Shut Down option.

If your Mac has a removable battery, remove it, as well as the power source. Next, press and hold the Power button for five seconds, then reinstall the battery and power up the Mac.

For a Mac with a non-removable battery, hold down Ctrl + Option + Shift on the keyboard, then press and hold down the Power button for ten seconds. When you’re ready, release them and power the MacBook up again. This should reset the SMC and get your trackpad working again.

4. Reset the Parameter RAM (PRAM) or Non-Volatile RAM (NVRAM)

Depending on your model and age of MacBook, it will use either PRAM or NVRAM. They both hold dedicated configuration settings for your system. Either can be at fault for your Trackpad issues, and resetting them follows the same approach.

First, shut down your Mac as outlined in a previous step. Next, press and hold Option + Command + P + R for about 20 seconds. Most MacBooks will play the startup sound, at which point you can release the keys.

For newer MacBooks with the T2 security chip, release the keys after the Apple logo appears for the second time.

This should reset the PRAM/NVRAM, so check whether your trackpad works and move on if you don’t have success.

5. Delete the Trackpad Property List Files

You may find that a corrupted property list (plist) file could be at fault. Given that we’re looking at a MacBook trackpad issue, there are only two files to find.

To locate them, first open the Finder, then the “Go -> Go to Folder” menu. The keyboard shortcut to get here from the Finder is Command + Shift + G.

The Go To Folder option.

In the dialog that pops up, type the “/Library/Preferences/” path, then click Go. In the Finder window that displays, look for the following files:

If either are present, you can delete them. Once you’re done, restart your MacBook and check for any further trackpad issues. If there are, you need to carry out some further diagnosis.

Wrapping Up

Apple products are often well-built and maintained. Still, when a MacBook trackpad goes haywire, it can bring down your entire experience. As such, there are a few basic things you can look at to help fix the issue. Of course, disconnecting peripherals is a good idea, but you may have to reset the PRAM and SMC, too.

Any laptop can have trackpad issues, not just MacBooks. In fact, we’ve looked at Linux Trackpad and Windows Trackpad problems in the past. Are you having a MacBook Trackpad problem, and if so, how have you fixed it? Let us know in the comments section below!

Tom Rankin Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

5 comments

  1. Thank you very much Tom. I went step by step and step 3 – reset the SMC worked like a charm. Thanks a ton.

  2. Hi, I found that my trackpad is not working once I connect my external display with USB C.
    Any idea how to solve this? THX

    1. Hello Stephan,

      That sounds odd, and it’s not something I’ve come across before. My thought is that there’s a driver issue or some sort. If I were to guess, the MacBook thinks your display is a mouse, so is disabling the Trackpad.

      My solution here is to take it to a licensed Apple repair professional to look over. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

  3. Control + Option + Shift + Power for 10 sec did the trick. Trackpad was back to depressing in seconds. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.