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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > MBP trackpad suddenly flakes out

MBP trackpad suddenly flakes out
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Thorzdad
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May 25, 2021, 03:36 PM
 
While she was working today, my wife’s MacbookPro (15” 2013 model) trackpad started flaking out. It wouldn’t respond to any of her inputs, but the cursor itself would occasionally jump around on its own. Like, it would be on one side of the screen, then be on the other side, hugging the edge of the screen. Mostly, though, the cursor just stood still. The keyboard is fine.

She wasn’t having any problems with the trackpad until this problem hit. No indications that anything was going bad.

Soooo...what to try? Clear the PRAM? Reset the SMC? Both? That’s all I can think of to try. Unfortunately, I don’t have a wired mouse to plug into the thing, so she’s kind of dead in the water right now.
     
andi*pandi
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May 25, 2021, 05:27 PM
 
Is there work nanny software on there?
     
Thorzdad  (op)
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May 25, 2021, 05:58 PM
 
No. No nanny apps. It’s the MBP I nuked clean and reinstalled the OS on last fall. It’s been here at home all this time, working perfectly. She’s taking in to a Mac repair shop tomorrow.
     
reader50
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May 25, 2021, 10:08 PM
 
It does sound like a hardware fault. You could test by booting into another OS from an external.

btw, I keep 2-3 spare mice, and a spare keyboard around. Just in case something craps out.
     
Thorzdad  (op)
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May 26, 2021, 11:49 AM
 
Weirdness...

So, yesterday, I cleared the PRAM and reset the SMC at least a couple of times (powering-off and then restarting the MBP after each attempt), and none of that worked to solve the problem, So, I shut it down and made plans to take it in to a local Mac repair shop today.

This morning, though, my wife powered it up and it's working perfectly again.
     
ghporter
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May 26, 2021, 04:53 PM
 
Gremlins are crafty little buggers…

It would probably do you well to (later) have the trackpad checked out. Intermittent issues are the hardest to solve because they usually play nice when the technician looks for them. But the trackpad is so “out there” and exposed, it’s a good candidate for a failure.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Thorzdad  (op)
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May 26, 2021, 04:58 PM
 
How do they check a trackpad?
     
ghporter
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May 27, 2021, 03:55 PM
 
The "genius" folks have diagnostic tools beyond the "Apple Diagnostics" (formerly known as "Apple Hardware Test) suite. If you haven't tried these diagnostics, it's not a bad idea to run them, just to see what they say. From what I gather, the genius tools are finer grained than what consumers get built into the machines, both by system and by what the tools tell the technician about each system.

There are a couple of failure mode possibilities going on here. The first (and easiest) is that the guts of the OS goobered themselves up, and kinda forgot to properly look at the trackpad, but after a nice long power off, the OS regained its senses. This sounds likely, given your experience.

Or, the hardware itself could be failing. Typicaly, trackpads fail with "dead spots", or dead directions or both. Or they stop noting clicks - whether hard clicks or "taps" (which are different hardware things). With these failures, they show up gradually, going from having to touch/press harder to move the cursor in some areas to eventually realizing that a part of the pad just doesn't recognize inputs correctly. Clicks can be similar; maybe it takes more effort to actually click, or some areas don't register clicks, or both. But restarts don't really change this behavior, so it doesn't look like this is your issue.

The other hardware related problem could be that the trackpad connector is loose or failing. If it's loose, it's much easier to repair than if it's failing, because a failing connector would require replacing the whole trackpad. Not fun.

On the 13" Early 2015 MBP, while it's a PITA, you can get at the trackpad after disassembling the lower part of the machine. Your 2013 model should be pretty much similar in construction, even though iFixIt doesn't have a specific teardown/replacement process for it. Spoiler: the battery is glued over the trackpad, so it has to be de-glued and removed to get at the trackpad.

With the way this machine suddenly gave weird symptoms out of the blue, and a really, really cold start seems to have corrected it, I think it was software/OS related, and you shouldn't see any more problems with it that a cold restart won't fix.

But I really endorse reader's point: get a cheap keyboard and mouse to keep on hand "just in case". I have an inexpensive Logictech keyboard and mouse set on my Linux box. The kit cost about $20, but Amazon has it for $14.99 (with Prime).

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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May 27, 2021, 04:59 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Spoiler: the battery is glued over the trackpad, so it has to be de-glued and removed to get at the trackpad.
A long time back (when batteries were removable packs), we used to see trackpad problems when the battery packs swelled. Pressure from under the trackpad made clicking harder. I didn't know the batteries were glued right under the pad today.

So ... has there been a significant decline in battery capacity lately? I also endorse Glenn's idea - take it in anyway. Let a service guy look it over.
     
   
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