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.

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