Fix Crazy/Jumping Cursor on a MacBook (Pro)

A couple of days ago, my baby managed to take a jab at my laptop (several actually), and hit the both keyboard and the trackpad. I don’t know how, but this managed to get the cursor to jump all over the screen, some clicks triggered, some virtual screens swapped… Wonderful!

TL;DR: Plug in a mouse, disable the trackpad when a mouse is plugged in, play with the mouse for awhile, remove the mouse and uncheck the option. Voila!

I thought it’s just a fluke and restarting would fix the problem. Well… it didn’t, so I went through the whole iteration of getting mad:

  • Forums – forums say everything from throw away your laptop and get a new one (good excuse to update my 2009 MBP by the way!), to reset PRAM to scavenge ebay for a replacement
  • Google – One solution was to unscrew a magic screw – So I went and dismantled my MBP, cleaned it up and unscrewed the screw. No change.
  • Reset the trackpad somehow — Woo-hoo!

My Solution

  1. Go to System Preferences > Accesibility > Mouse & Trackpad
  2. Check “Ignore built-in trackpad […]”
  3. Play around for a bit with your mouse, say 15 seconds
  4. Come back to the preferences tab and uncheck that box.

The dialog should look something like this:

preferences-access-mouse

So… the computer got confused/decalibrated for a while and the only way to reset is to disable/re-enable the trackpad. The only way to do it is to use an external device :)


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64 thoughts on “Fix Crazy/Jumping Cursor on a MacBook (Pro)”

  1. OMG, I have to say, this is the best solution out there of fixing the “dancing” cursor! I’ve been stressed out with it, almost gave up. So, yea, totally recommending your site to anyone I know, if they have any problems on their MBP. Thank you very much =)

  2. Thank you very much. I use the “ignore trackpad when mouse is present” setting. When using my computer without the mouse the trackpad started acting cray-cray. I rebooted, but still crazy. Found this page. I unselected “ignore trackpad when mouse is present” and then reselected it. This fixed the problem for a couple minutes, but it doesn’t stick. What does seem to work is just unselecting “ignore trackpad when mouse is present”.

  3. Why mess with the hardware when you can fix it with the software? Your solution worked perfectly – simple, fast,, no tools, no problems. When I need help with something like this I look for this kind of approach first before I start in with a screwdriver.
    Thanks for posting your helpful advice.

  4. THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! I have been so frustrated all weekend long! Tried this today and it worked!!! Finally, I an get back to work!!!

  5. Thank you very much for this simple and perfect fix.
    It helped me restore my workweek, sanity, and religion all at the same time.

  6. Pingback: Jumping cursor - Mac-Forums Discussions for Apple Products & Services

  7. I have had this a few times with huge amounts of stress and annoyance, and it seems to co-incide with the mac being in a cold and sometimes humid/damp environment. The British weather is notoriously damp and cold at the best of times, especially in winter and I have discovered this issue is often bad if I am working in my shed/studio which is in the garden and thus prone to slight damp. It also occurs if I have just washed my hands and they aren’t absolutely perfectly dry, or if I have some foreign substance such as moisturiser residue on them. Besides scrupulous cleansing of the offending digits, I use with much success my daughter’s compact hair dryer to blow around and under the track pad to dry up and tiny moisture droplets. Just in case nothing else works, I thought I would add my remedy!

    1. I’ve a brand new 2017 MacBook Pro 15″ It’s been doing this since I first turned it on–so it’s not the British weather. I’m in California. I have a small app called SMC FanControl that shows the temperature inside the computer. It’s usually about 40-45 degrees C. That’s warm enough to drive away any moisture short of a soaking. I type for a couple of hours a day–so this has been driving me nuts.
      I tried this Accessibility>>etc tip and so far it’s working. (12 hours) I only just found out about it on the Apple Customer Support Network–aka The Blind Leading the Blind . It was at the end of a list of near random suggestions reset PRAM, reset this, reset that, hit the trackpad really hard,,,, For two weeks I’d been searching for “Overly sensitive Trackpad” . I got a completely different discussion, tip thread, none of which had this tip. Same problem, different search terms– completely different results. Apple by failing to have its own engineers monitoring customer concerns and then posting the information in its Support is not helping, they’re basically encouraging superstition, I’m not jibbing you for the hairdryer–I just spent two weeks pressing on the diagonal corners of the trackpad and thinking, well, it’s kind of, sort of….

      1. Update: (to I’ve a brand New 2017 MacBook Pro 15″) The tip offered here Accessibility etc… Did not work. After extensive testing, I found that covering the trackpad is the only think that allows me to type with the cursor chronically jumping to a different position. It is a hardware issue, I’ve yet to see an Apple fix for it. What I am using now is a piece of teflon sheet PTFE .005″ thick. It’s held down with just magic tape along the edges. What also worked is teflon coated heat-release sheets, (for use with iron on patches). This material is very cheap, works well, but has a tendency to absorb stains. Pure teflon works as well without retaining stains and grease spots. Both desensitize the track pad while allowing it to still operate with your fingers, and because they’re teflon fingers slide on them.

  8. Thank you so much for this! I was tearing my hair out trying to solve this issue. Well Done! You saved me a trip to the dreaded Apple Mothership of Hopelessness.

  9. the other option that worked for me was to deselect some of the trackpad functions in the system preferences, there was obviously some problem after the update which caused that function to wobble… all ok now….

  10. Wow, thank you! It’s only been 5 minutes since I tried your fix; but, it’s working! Fingers crossed that it stays working. It was a three day nightmare that was getting worse by the minute.

    Anselette

  11. SUCH A LIFESAVER!!! I was dreading the possible news that I needed a new trackpad or worse! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  12. I ended up booking a genius bar to hear the guy saying the same thing.
    Why don’t you get a job there? ;)

  13. It worked! I tried a lot of suggestions to no avail. I don’t know how long it took for my trackpad to work without my cursor jumping all over the place. I followed your instructions , but the trackpad didn’t work after 15 seconds of using the mouse, so I kept the mouse on throughout today and after I disconnected the mouse and I moved my finger on the trackpad, out of habit, and my trackpad worked! No more erratic cursor behavior.

  14. Autobahnpolizei

    This seems to have worked for me…for now. I have no doubt the issue will return, but for now i’m very happy to have found your post. Thanks!

  15. disabled the trackpad. works for now. been driving me crazy for the last few weeks. thanks for the fix.. hope it stays

  16. My 2011 MBP developed this problem in 2013. I leaned this procedure then. On my computer, this procedure works sometimes and is not permanent. The problem al;ways disappears when the “ignore trackpad when mouse is present” checkbox is checked, and usually the problem comes back the moment it is unchecked, regardless of the time between checking and unchecking. Sometimes it has been a few seconds, sometimes 30 seconds and other times, I’ll run the mouse for months without unchecking the ignore trackpad box.

    I don’t know which bothers me more, degrading my computer from wonderful (when it works) trackpad, or Apple’s silence on what they know about the problem. It must that culture of secrecy they have.

  17. It was really a useful tip, many thanks… just a question: if whenever i enable the trackpad it gets crazy is there anything that i could do to repair, other than take my macbook to the repair center? best wishes.

    1. I’m afraid not. I know there’s a tiny screw which can adjust things for the trackpad, but you’d need to take your macbook apart… My macbook just got back to normal “by itself”(tm) after a couple of bangs :)

  18. This didn’t work for me. The pointer kept jumping even when the external USB mouse was connected and the option to disable the trackpad was checked.

    This could mean that is not a physical problem on the trackpad device but something software related… I’m trying to update the system (with the cursor jumping and clicking everywhere is not an easy task). Any other suggestion to solve this bothering problem?

  19. I had the same problem

    Trackpad showed a dead zone in the middle of the pad

    And at some point, the mouse started going everywhere without me touching it, created folders on the desktop and all that

    I did everything I could, reset pram, smc, and all that

    What worked for me was plugging a USB 3.0 and booting the Mac with the option key

    I really have no idea why it worked

    But everything seems fine now….

  20. Wow! This worked out so well! Thank you for posting this solution with a detailed screenshot.

  21. I thought my track pad was haunted…or that my computer was tapped into. Thank goodness for this advice. I was going on for way too long.

  22. First I thought it is a malware , because of its behaviour. This worked for me , :) additionally i had to restart the mac with unchecked check box. Thank you very much.

  23. I probably spent half day trying to figure this out and browsing various websites for a solution. Much appreciated.

  24. Would this fix work for 2011 MBPs? I don’t seem to see this options on trackpad or even mouse preference windows. Please advice

      1. Mac Os siera, with the latest update.. Is the Os version in any way related to the trackpad issue?

          1. Ok, thanks Laur.
            I think i have another strage obeservation about this issue.
            The erratic cursor movements does not start automattically after booting up or when it wake up from sleep, it typically starts sometime later while it is been used and most times , it happens afetr scrolling with two fingers for a while .. But then whenever i experience the issue and sleep the system, the issue goes away until i begin t scroll with two fingers again.. This is so strange .. A am a Mac newbie, can you relate with this experience and advise?

          2. It’s odd because I haven’t had 2-finger issues. mine “just started” once to drift and jump around, like the hardware went bad (I had some similar issues with old mice a few times). You should try to see if the issue is reproducible (e.g. try to develop a pattern where this issue happens).

            Does the issue goes away (at least temporarily) when you try my solution?

  25. It does fix it with external Mouse but trackpad without mouse is still unresponsive, any suggestion please

  26. Fourth of July fix – THANKS!

    At the beach in North Carolina. Hot and humid. During our vacation I sit outside in the mornings and evenings, writing. Two days into our stay my MacBook began acting like it was possessed by technology demons. Restarted it a few times, No help. Began to think it had been hacked and taken over by the Russians. Found this page. Did as suggested. No more jumping mouse.

    Trackpad still disabled, so can’t swear it’s all fixed, but it’s fixed enough to go back to enjoying my vacation. THANKS!

  27. Wow! You’re the best! I was thinking of throwing my Macbook out of the window; it irritated me for months.

    Thanks a lot!

  28. Hi thanks for this it helped me out I just wish I had found this before I melted 25 of my keys with a hairdryer tryinh to dry it oit i had cleaned my rmbp hours before and I was selling a superdrive model and was trying to show the buyer stuff and my mac started going nuts ffs now got to replace the keyboard or keys 5 quid a key thinks il buy a keyboard

  29. I fixed my darting cursor by re-starting the computer.
    I’d like to know how that happens in the first place–why
    does the cursor seem to have a will of its own?

  30. Wow! I was going to return my new Macbook Pro because the cursor was jumping around when I typed,… I think your solution fixed my problem,… so far so good. Thanks

  31. Thank you really worked! I was about to wipe my cookies/cache, and it was strange because guest login worked fine…. You are the best! Peace

  32. Amazing. I wish I had seen this before I spent hours cleaning out all apps that I thought might be affecting it, disconnecting from cloud, and everything else I tried. it was awful–I almost took a mental health day off from work because I couldn’t create a presentation I needed to give. I ran a backup and was ready to take it in to the shop. Then found your post. I have to say, though, it’s counterintuitive, but works. Thank you!!!

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