2010-09-30

Fix a bad MacBook trackpad

The Problem: A Poorly-Behaving Trackpad Button

MacBook trackpads buttons are going bad. Happily, there is a quick and technically-simple fix that may work for many MacBook owners with a misbehaving trackpad.

A few months ago I started to notice that my trackpad was operating in a funky manner. The trackpad button had lost its solid click and turned mushy. As I typed the trackpad button would mistakenly register clicks, and the cursor would jump all over the place; The cursor would jump around and my words would end up jumbled. Or a button press wouldn't register at all, and I'd end up trying to smash down of the button with no response. It was the worst experience I’ve ever had with a keyboard and mouse.

I tried every technique I could find on the web to try to fix my bad trackpad button – from sliding paper through the gap around button, to MacBook disassembly and vacuuming everything. Nothing made it better. My MacBook was fairly unusable, and getting worse.

After endless frustration, I prematurely started shopping for a replacement trackpad. If you need a new trackpad (or keyboard, for that matter), you need a new “MacBook top case” which includes both the trackpad and the keyboard. Happily, a top case can be purchased through Amazon for less than $100. But replacing the trackpad wasn't actually necessary! Read on...

Given that my Macbook was a bit useless, I decided to get an early start in disassembly. One of the first steps of disassembling a MacBook is to remove the battery. And almost immediately I discovered the real fix for the mushy MacBook trackpad button. Because immediately after I removed the battery, I noticed that the button’s action was much more normal.

I put the battery on a very flat surface and noticed that there was a slight but definite bulge in the top and bottom surfaces of the battery. The battery would slightly rock on a flat surface - proof of a bulge.
The Culprit: a very-slightly swollen battery pack

I decided to fire up the MacBook without the battery (careful with that MagSafe!)– and what do you know, all my mouse button issues were gone. The “solid click” returned and the bizarre mushy mouse behavior disappeared. In fact, I wrote most of this posting on my batteryless MacBook. And I didn’t have ONE weird trackpad-related behavior.

Then I compared my battery to a friend's MacBook battery. Her battery was as flat as could be. I stuck it in my MacBook. My trackpad button was resolved.

My permanent solution was to simply buy a replacement MacBook battery. And since then my trackpad has been perfect.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

excelent post!!! was about to do the same mistake... look for topcase and stuff. thanks!

G said...

Thank you just assumed mine had faulty wiring or something took the battery out to find about 4 screws fall out. Tightened them back up, tried without battery, works like a dream. Put battery back in, still works like a dream. Probably would have gone to the repair shop and got charged. So thank you very much it was deleting everything I type which was proving very irritating while writing a thesis.
x

Rodrigo J said...

Thanks for your comment! I was about to buy new battery and new top case to my macbook (and disappointed ├žause I'd have to do that). I've just tried to remove the battery and tack pad is perfect!

MirianJ said...

You solved my mac problem: same happened to my battery and trackpad buttons.
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Same here... thank you

Anonymous said...

Super post - your observation proved to be right in my case as well. I was just starting to look for a replacement trackpad. After removing the battery it works as expected.
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I was about to order a new trackball, but removing the battery seems to have cured the problems!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post! saved me some money for a new top-case, now have to find a new battery, apple stuff is never cheap!

Anonymous said...

Fixed my problem too on 2008 MacBook I bought on eBay, they had a third party battery in it that had rubber on the bottom. Swapped it out with the original Apple battery and trackpad click was fixed.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thank you very much. I had just replaced the battery when the trackpad problems started. I never thought the two were interrelated until I read your post. I really appreciate this.

Anonymous said...

My original battery was bulging, so I had to replace it, but I'm still having problems with the trackpad - when I do more than ever-so-lightly touch the pad, it thinks I have used two fingers to bring up options.
I'll take out the new battery to see if this makes a difference. Maybe there is something loose (screws)? I did notice that there is a lot of junk around the trackpad when I looked at the underside. I bought this used, so maybe I should try to clean that stuff out first? The trackpad problems started with the old battery and continue with the new.
But, at least your post gives me some direction to possibly solving this problem.
Thanks

Nik Gibson said...

I can't tell you how grateful I am - I had the same issue with the trackpad on my venerable, but much loved black Macbook. I tried a magic trackpad but still had the same issues. Tonight I googled 'faulty Macbook trackpad' and your article popped up. Luckily I have recently purchased a new battery so a quick swap and totally fixed. I was preparing for a strip down to investigate but without much hope of a solution. Although this is a Core 2 Duo I installed a 250GB SSD a year ago and it transformed it. Not sure now what to do with the 15" Retina Macbook Pro I purchased to replace it :)

Vin said...

Wow. You just saved me hours and money. Many thanks!

Kevin M Franco said...

Your post is greatly appreciated! I have an early 2008 black MacBook which was experiencing erratic trackpad behavior. Plugging in a mouse proved it wasn't software-related, so I began to research the issue from a hardware angle. That's when I came across your article.

I uninstalled my battery and examined it--sure enough it was bulging ever so slightly. Sans battery, the trackpad works great! As such, I ordered a replacement from Amazon. Nice thing about running an old laptop was that it was dirt cheap: $19.00 shipped! Thanks again for the informative post...


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