How to Fix MacBook Pro Trackpad Erratic Cursor Dance Issue

macbook pro trackpad issue

I was super frustrated with this MacBook Pro trackpad cursor dancing problem all day long. Fortunately, I resolved it with an “imperfect” solution (will explain why later).

So, I figured it might worth putting together this article like this — sharing my experience and hopefully, it would save you a trip to Apple Genius Bar.

What Happened to My MacBook Trackpad?

I am on a MacBook Pro, and as I can recall now, it all started with a temporary freeze on my Mac (unlike the classic Mac freezes issue though)…about five seconds or so; I couldn’t do anything.

Then, I noticed my MacBook Pro started to act up — the cursor kept jumping around, web pages automatically opened and closed, screen resolution adjusted itself, etc. This really scared me as my Mac was literally out of control.

Things I Tried But Didn’t Work

Although the erratic trackpad/cursor issue persisted at that time, I still could perform some basic operations though not that smooth.

At first, I thought my Mac was infected because the situation reminded me of viruses and malware issues back in the PC days.

So I immediately opened BitDefender Antivirus for Mac and ran a full scan. Around 20 minutes later, no threats found (to my surprise).

I then suspected my Mac internal hard drive was malfunctioning, so I went ahead and pulled out Disk Utility and several other apps to check Mac hard drive health. It turned out the main drive is working fine without any problems.

I also reset SMC and NVRAM on my MacBook Pro, thinking that would fix the issue as the symptoms I was facing were quite similar to what the Apple support articles describe. In case you don’t know, resetting NVRAM and SMC is pretty straightforward. Check out this and this article from Apple.

And guess what? Nope, the Mac cursor still kept jumping and clicking and moving on its own after that.

I also disconnected my Magic Mouse, USB flash drive, and unplugged the charger. The last thing I tried but didn’t work either was performing software updates via App Store.

All these took me a few precious hours…until I finally fixed it with a simple trick.

The Solution? It’s Oddly Simple!

Check an option called “Ignore built-in trackpad when mouse or wireless trackpad is present” via the System Preferences setting.

Here’s how to do it in just a few steps:

Step 1: On your Mac desktop, click the Apple logo, and select System Preferences.

Step 2: In the preferences pane, click Accessibility.

Step 3: On the left pane, scroll down to locate the Mouse & Trackpad tab, see that “Ignore built-in trackpad…” option? Check it.

Now the erratic cursor jumping issue should disappear and you should be able to use your external mouse to navigate smoothly on your Mac.

Why This Solution Isn’t Perfect

I tried to uncheck that option above, and guess what…the trackpad problem appears AGAIN on my MacBook Pro.

That means I can ONLY rely on the Apple Magic Mouse to navigate, which I’m okay with. But for those of you who don’t have a mouse or you are used to relying on the trackpad for navigation, it can be troublesome.

Frankly, I don’t know the cause (or reason) of this trackpad issue, I guess it has something to do with the hardware. For example, it might be a sign that my trackpad could be failing soon and it’s best to have a holistic diagnosis.

Update Note: really appreciate one of our readers “Avery Ryder” for sending over this tip. Since it’s challenging to navigate to System Preferences without a mouse, he wrote an AppleScript that can help cure the macOS jumpy cursor and can toggle on and off the trackpad. Note: we recommend this tip to Mac power users only.​

Final Words

Once you’ve fixed the trackpad erratic cursor dance issue, and brought your Mac to life, make sure to do some maintenance to prevent such annoying issues in the future. For most Mac users, you’ll love this app called CleanMyMac — it will keep your Mac in great shape for years. Apart from cleaning junk files, it also offers you a handful of utilities to quickly optimize your Mac’s performance to avoid potential issues.​

Anyway, I hope the simple guide has helped you resolve the erratic trackpad issue. I tried the solution on my MacBook Pro, and it worked. Though I can’t guarantee that it will work with an iMac or MacBook Air.

Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know how it works for you? Or if you have come up with another better resolution, share it with me, and I’ll consider updating this post to make it more useful.

68 thoughts on “How to Fix MacBook Pro Trackpad Erratic Cursor Dance Issue”

  1. I have a 2013 Macbook pro where the cursor position jumps randomly. I tried an external trackpad (where I check to ignore the built in trackpad)- same problem. I purchased an external mouse. Same problem I purchased a new Macbook Pro at the end of 2016, and used Time Machine to transfer over the apps/files to the new computer. And, much to my surprise/angst, the cursor is jumping on my new computer! So it seems like the problem somehow was ‘transferred’ over to the new computer in the TimeMachine installation/transfer. I can’t believe it.

    Reply
      • Thank you! The erratic cursor jumping began almost immediately after purchasing my 2016 Mac! As you know, it’s insanely frustrating, especially while attempting to type long documents! I’m a mouse user, so hopefully this will solve the issue!

        Reply
    • It happened to me a month ago on a business trip, at home it was normal again. And now on another business trip it is crazy again. I can’t even write a mail. It jumps around and deletes things. So I just went to a shop and bought a very cheap old fashioned mouse with a USB-cable. Now I can work at least. Apple should do better.

      Reply
    • Look up articles about the MacBook Pro keyboard and track pad problems. There is currently a not so known huge civil case against Mac regarding this problem. Blame Apple. They aren’t what they used to be.

      Reply
  2. This seems to be a problem Apple doesn’t want to deal with. The Senior Advisor was just a bully and hung up on me. I’d called Apple Care and the call center person disappeared for about ten minutes and returned with your trick. But this disables my track pad which as soon as I do anything else, it’s a problem. I didn’t pay all that money to get a MacBook with no track pad. I figured out the solution below for one application, but it might provide a more universal solution–disable the keyboard navigation key-combinations

    OK. I think this is a general hardware issue..but I don’t know enough.
    However, specifically to my word processor: Nisus Writer Pro I discovered that
    1. The cursor was jumping backward in the text to the last insertion point.
    2. There is a key-combination for this: Command [ , and to go forward to the next insertion point Command ],
    3. I’m definitely not hitting those keys in combination.
    4. I can duplicate the issue if I touch the TrackPad, then hit either [ or ] the cursor will jump back to the last insertion point. (It’s sequential, not a combination TrackPad touch, (release) then [ or ])
    5. The NisusWriter commands are very specific, the trackpad sequence is either bracket.
    6. In NisusWriter Preferences >>Menu Keys>>Selection I deleted the key commands for ‘last insertion point’ and ‘next insertion point.’ Seems to have resolved the issue in my word processor.
    * The first thing I noticed was menus popping, up webpages switching, along with the jumping or crazy cursor. It’s taken me three weeks to figure out it’s a misfiring cursor navigation keyboard shortcut. I suspect that it might be happening anywhere there are similar key-combination shortcuts. I hope this helps.

    OK. sent this to NisusWriter Pro, Apple Discussion and MacRumors Forum.
    Hope this helps some people. The Apple woman was really snarky and not helpful. She didn’t have a solution, she was just being controlling and condescending. I expressed frustration, she was just looking for an excuse to hang up on me.

    Reply
  3. My God thank you. I was 5 seconds away from hurling my laptop out the window. You saved me a couple of grand there.

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  4. I often kept my iPhone right near my Macbook Air. Read somewhere that sometimes Bluetooth devices can interfere with each other. Turned off the Bluetooth on my iPhone as a trial, and the jumpy, erratic cursor immediately stopped.

    Reply
    • I was able to use my external mouse based on the article, so thanks. Also, turning off bluetooth seems to restore my trackpad to normal behavior. Thanks Jay!

      Reply
    • AH! This is the answer to my issue. I’ve tried the external mouse/trackpad solution–sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t Lately I’ve despaired of ever finding a solution. I just turned off bluetooth on my phone and voila! Problem solved!

      Reply
    • Nope! Didn’t work for me.
      What does work for me is by touching the metal frame with one hand while manipulating the trackpad with the other. The cursor seems to be stable for me when I do this.
      Bottom line… this is unacceptable. I’m thinking of PC next time. Apple doesn’t seem to care and we have all been so faithful.

      Reply
  5. Thanks for the tip.
    My macbook pro probably needs a new trackpad. It happened once before.
    I was concerned that the problem was something bigger since cursor & screen were erratic even with an external mouse. But it is working perfectly now.
    Since I am in the process of moving, this temporary fix is a lifesaver.

    Reply
    • My cursor jumps up a couple of lines in Word which drives me crazy. When I observed very carefully my hands while typing, I found out that I generally have my hands quite low over the keyboard and my thumb almost touching the trackpad makes the cursor jump up. Raising my thumbs while typing stopped the cursor from jumping. Can it really be so simple? Knock wood.

      Reply
  6. Thank you so much! I tried for hours to fix my erratic scrolling. Persistence paid off when I found your post. Worked like a charm, thanks again!

    Reply
  7. Thanks for the relief from the trackpad cursor dance!! Happened once before and wore itself out after 5 days (not sure why). Started again yesterday, and after hours of searching other solutions came upon yours, and so far so good! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. This is such an annoying problem that no one seems to know how to solve. I have a brand new mac book pro, late 2016, and it’s happening on this machine! Emails are a pain in the “neck.” I have read everything I can online after searching seriously for a resolution. It’s strange, as I write this it has not happened at all. I originally thought my palms or hands were inadvertently touching the trackpad as I would type. I have raised my hands to make sure that doesn’t happen. It still does; then I thought I was somehow hitting two keys at once (like space bar at same time I would type a comma, etc.) Or would accidnelty hit the shift key when reaching for an “a” or “z.” Like er there is a certain key combination that moves the cursor back a certain number of spaces or words??? Still no answer.

    I just couldn;’t figure it out. And I still can’t…I am retired and don’t have to use a computer for business or work each day so I just have to live with it. I might just make an appt down at my local Apple store genius bar and see what they have to say. I have heard of customers getting their computer “replaced” and the problem continues. so, it must be an internal IOS software problem…I sure hope it gets resolved SOON!

    Reply
  9. Thanks! Awesome! =)

    I did a lot of things like resenting the NVRAM, but those things didn’t work.

    Now, the issue is fixed due to the “Ignore built-in trackpad…” option =)

    Reply
  10. My Macbook Pro is from 2015, and I´ve the same problem. I´ve discovered, that the letter “t” is the course to the cursors randomly tour de free. Very seldom is it another letter, that starts it.
    I can write very much, if I don´t use a t.
    But who on earth can write in that way?
    Where is Apple in this matter?

    Reply
  11. THANK YOU!!!! I have an older 2012 Macbook Pro. Can’t run out and buy a new one so I was dreading that this was the end. SO grateful to you.

    Reply
  12. I suspect that – at least in my case – this is caused by the batteries swelling up. This causes pressure on the trackpad. Your workaround is just disabling part of the system, not really a fix. Swelling batteries are dangerous so better pick up the warning signals.

    Reply
  13. I found that cleaning my trackpad with IPA also helped. I think there was a little trace of something on my track pad causing it to behave erratically.

    Although the other suggestions in this article proved extremely helpful.

    Reply
  14. I had the same issue on my Macbook Pro but with the keyboard partially malfunctioning. I created another user and the problem was gone… temporarily. After 6 months it all started again.

    Reply
  15. Thank you so much for writing this article. Glad to know I’m not the only one having problems with my Magic trackpad. I’ve tried your solution (and turned off the bluetooth on my phone) and we’ll see!

    Reply
  16. I had this issue for a while but while I was fiddling with the IOS system, little did I know a third party power adapter could cause the issue.

    As soon as I removed the third party power adaptor lead off of my laptop MacBook pro, the cursor behaved as its supposed to.

    Remove your power adaptor and see if this is your problem too.

    Reply
  17. Apple support suggest checking your poer supply as a third party one cna be the causse of erratic behaviour. Run off battery or stick to an Apple charger.

    Reply
  18. I disabled Bluetooth, nothing changed.
    But when I disabled the wireless function, the problem stopped immediately !! Re-enabled it and the problem hasn’t appeared yet !!

    So it might be, as Apple’s support article is saying, about the wireless and bluetooth.

    Reply
  19. update on my comment :

    issue came up again after a while, but now it seems ok, after I cleaned the trackpad area from the inside of the mac. Unscrewed the bottom, took the battery off and then took off the trackpad at my hands and just cleaned the whole thing with a cloth (no water, no liquid, no foam, nothing at all). Screwed everything back and after a needed adjustment of an important screw at the bottom of the trackpad, everything is ok! No jumpy cursor and the left-right click works like a charm.
    That’s my experience so far, maybe it works out for someone else too!

    Reply
  20. Just sitting in Standsted at an airport hotel, having to prepare lots of documents and the trackpad makes me crazy – I can’t do anything. Embarrassing for Apple.

    Reply
  21. Big Thanks! 🙂 You really made my morning. I thought my Mac just got possessed by demons and I was losing hope but this fixed it.

    Reply
  22. I found the problem occur when I cleaned my laptop and used a handwipe, not sure if this was the problem but I can only assume in ‘technical terms’ the configuration from lefts to rights got all weird, it was just when I was re-installing so, not sure.

    Reply
  23. I did a first aid check through the disk utility, unchecked all the boxes also in the trackpad section. It’s working fine now. So its one of them

    Reply
  24. I had this problem on a 2017 MacBook Air. Maybe it would work on a pro. I had a third party adapter that started to fail and unplugging it and going on battery, until I got a new adapter, fixed it.

    Reply
  25. I had a similar problem with MacBook 2016 and had tried many approaches. One that worked today is cleaning the magic trackpad with a damp cloth thoroughly and then with a dry cloth. It has worked for now.

    Reply
  26. Thank you. Saved me a bundle of grief.
    This disabled the trackpad on my MBP. But… when I unchecked the option trackpad and USB mouse works a treat.

    Reply
  27. I always have this problem every time I put a new set of batteries in the track pad. I was told by Apple Care it had to do with the type of batteries. I put the same brand of old batteries back in and it solved the problem.

    Reply
  28. This has been a recurrent problem for several years. It seems to start when I’ve been using iPhoto, sometimes almost immediately, sometimes after more than an hour, especially if I’ve been editing photos and/or moving them to a folder on the desktop. Restarting the computer will “cure” the problem. Things will work smoothly for weeks once I’ve rebooted, until I go back to iPhoto. So I’m not tech person but it seems that perhaps memory can’t handle iPhoto too well.

    Reply
  29. Alls well and good but it would be even better if you knew your pointer from your cursor . . . Your title says cursor but your article is about the pointer; two totally different things with different functions. From people’s comments, it appears you have confused a few who know what the cursor is but didn’t realize that your article isn’t about the cursor. Your article could still be of some help in regards to the pointer . . . especially if you would correct your title and article to say pointer (and not cursor). There is a legitimate problem with the cursor as well, but what you are talking about here, is not that.

    Reply
  30. Well! Happy New Year to YOU! Thank you so much! After about 3 hours of troubleshooting, YOUR solution worked like a charm! Thank you again!
    Lori

    Reply
  31. My Cursor on My Macbook 15 (2015model) starts jumping, dancing erratically sometimes. I tried different troubleshooting, nothing works. One day I was sitting in the living room, as my kitchen exhaust fan turned on then right away my lap started giving me the problem. As the fan got turned off problem gone. Then I tried this three times and found out that this is the problem created by the frequency of my kitchen fan.

    Reply
  32. Got a new 2019 16″ Macbook Pro for Christmas and this problem has been ongoing. Sometimes it would take 3 to 4 minutes waiting for my cursor to work just so I could sign in! Frustrating as hell. Your solution worked for me today and I pray the cursor has learned its lesson. Thanks so much! I could hug you a thousand times!

    Deb

    Reply
  33. In my case, the same thing happened. After many troubleshooting exercises, finally it was found to be batteries being expanded. Since I was out of Applecare ( my laptop was almost 6years old), Apple charged me around $500 to replace the complete trackpad and battery underneath it.

    If this is happening, it could be due to swollen batteries underneath the trackpad too. Please replace such batteries, before it shows up as an ugly dangerous battery explosion situation.

    Reply
  34. I really appreciate this article. I tried two tips found here. The first was to add a checkmark to the “ignore built-in track pad….” option as described in the article. The second was a tip from the comments list to turn off bluetooth on my IPhone which was located very close to my Mac Pro. I use a bluetooth external trackpad and love it. The combination of these tips seems to have resolve the issue so I can now use my external trackpad as expected.

    Reply
  35. I was just noticing how difficult it was to use my inbuilt trackpad and tried most of the above to fix it, but then I thought, could it be related to the 3rd party power brick i’m using?! I unplugged it and the trackpad is smooth as butter, plug it in again and it’s erractic!

    Reply
  36. I have been living with the erratic cursor problem for a year now and the only work-around I found that works is this;
    operate the track pad with one hand, while touching the metal frame with the other. Works for me. Just pisses me off to think of the amount of $$$ I spend extra to buy an Apple product….not as if they’re lacking $$$$$

    Reply
  37. Thank you! After weeks (months?) of occasionally trying to find a solution to any and all of my bluetooth mouse cursors jumping all over the place and reading a ton of advice (none of which worked) this worked!

    Reply

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