help computer
March 10, 2010 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Why is my MacBook doing this, and how can I make it stop?

Something is going on with the mouse button on my 3-year-old MacBook. Specifically, the wrist rests on either side of the trackpad are acting like they are giant mouse buttons. If I put my wrist down on them while I'm typing, the text gets selected. I keep accidentally deleting paragraphs. This is driving me crazy.

I'm reasonably familiar with how to take apart a MacBook. Is there a way I can make it stop without going to the Apple store? The one nearby takes forever to fix stuff, and I need my laptop for work.
posted by oinopaponton to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
I've seen this happen when liquid is spilled on the trackpad area and seeps into the space between the trackpad assembly and the board. The fix was to replace the trackpad assembly which means a fix to the Apple Store.

In the meantime, can you use an external mouse and keyboard to avoid touching the trackpad and palmrests?
posted by at 8:51 AM on March 10, 2010

This happens. It's a fairly involved job to fix (the two times its happened to me they had to replace the entire top plate including the keyboard and trackpad), so either suck it up and take it to the Apple store or use an external mouse/keyboard.
posted by Oktober at 8:53 AM on March 10, 2010

Very timely, this just started happening to my MacBook from September 2007 too. It's extremely annoying. I haven't spilled anything on mine. Does AppleCare cover this?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:04 AM on March 10, 2010

Applecare does cover this, provided your Applecare has been extended this long. Standard Applecare warranty is one year, and unless you extended it, you are, unfortunately, out of luck.

Well, not out of luck, but you have to pay for it to be fixed.
posted by orville sash at 9:09 AM on March 10, 2010

I've had no trouble getting Applecare to fix this on both of my machines.
posted by Oktober at 9:09 AM on March 10, 2010

Right, not saying that liquid spillage is the only reason this can happen, just that it's what my experience has been. It's completely conceivable that it's also caused by oil and dirt buildup from your hands, or by standard component failure. If there's no obvious signs of liquid spillage, Apple should repair this under warranty (and to any qualified technician, it's almost always obvious when a user has spilled liquid on their keyboard/trackpad).
posted by at 9:45 AM on March 10, 2010

I hope it's appropriate to ask a related question here (feel free to flag, if not)... When I first got my MacBook in '07, my friend spilled a mug of hot tea on the table it was sitting on. The tea didn't enter the keyboard but did get into the computer from the underside. I immediately removed the battery and dried it out best as I could, letting it air out overnight. I've never had any trouble with it related to that since then -- I'm assuming that the trackpad issue, which just started, has nothing to do with it.

However, I did upgrade the RAM at one point and there was a white residue obvious on the old RAM, from the tea. I'm not sure what other evidence of the spill might still be inside the machine now but I guess it might be pretty visible to a technician. I do still have AppleCare coverage for the computer but I've never used it. Would signs of the two-year-old spill disqualify me for a repair?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2010

IIRC, the moisture sensors were first included in the 2008 model, so if you can clean up whatever residue you can see, you'll probably be fine.
posted by Oktober at 10:34 AM on March 10, 2010

Update which may be relevant to the OP:

A helpful soul without a Mefi account saw this thread and contacted me via Facebook. The problem, he told me, probably has nothing to do with the laptop at all -- it's the battery! I checked mine and sure enough, he was right. My battery has swelled a little over time and has a very slight convex curve on the side that goes into the MacBook.

I plugged in the laptop and removed the battery to test. Sure enough, the problem is gone! I feel better about replacing the battery than sending in the computer for repair. Though I'm not sure if AppleCare covers that.

I recommend that anybody experiencing this issue with an Apple laptop check their battery before taking more drastic action.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:33 AM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

A swollen battery is something that Apple will likely replace, even out of warranty. L-ion batteries swell when they're over-charged or overheated, which is usually caused by a manufacturing defect.
Mention something about it being a dangerous fire hazard. There have been instances where an overcharged laptop battery burst or caught something on fire.
posted by tmt at 11:49 AM on March 10, 2010

Sadly Apple is not intimidated by or concerned with swollen batteries. If your battery is swollen and out of warranty then an Apple Authorized Service Provider will not be able to replace it for you for free. This is because Apple doesn't have a Swollen Battery REP (Repair Extension Program) that would allow us to order a battery from them for free. They charge us for the battery so we must charge you.

However I've heard some unconfirmed reports that if you make an appointment at at the genius bar their techs might replace your out of warranty batteries for free.
posted by J-Garr at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: I do still have AppleCare.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:04 PM on March 10, 2010

If you have AppleCare check your battery status: in Snow Leopard you might be getting a notification that it is due for repair or replacement; in Leopard open System Profiler and check the battery status there. Apple replaced mine (close to 3 years old) at no cost, because I have AppleCare and the battery indicator said it was due for replacement.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:53 PM on March 10, 2010

Response by poster: Weirdly, the battery status is still "good." I'll inspect it physically once I get home, and if it's visibly bulging, I'll try to get a Genius bar appointment tomorrow. I'm saving up to buy a new laptop sometime over the summer, so if they're not going to replace it for free, I'll just deal with never putting my wrists down for a couple of months. Thanks for your help, everyone.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2010

Just so you know, the bulge in mine wasn't really "visibly" bulging. I did detect a tiny curvature when I set it on a flat table and looked at it squarely. I certainly wouldn't have noticed anything if I wasn't looking for it. The real test for me was pressing on the top of the laptop with the battery removed, and it didn't cause the mouse to click. Thus was the culprit revealed. :-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2010

Yeah, my 2.5 year old (and still under AppleCare) department MacBook was experiencing the same issue. Drove me nuts, until I tried taking the battery out one day. With the battery out, there was no trouble with the trackpad. The battery was visibly curved, and it was a bit difficult to put it back in. A call to Apple, and they sent me a new battery in exchange for then sending the old one back.
posted by JiBB at 2:43 PM on March 10, 2010

I should amend my previous statement, in that I was able to get my long out of warranty MacBook battery replaced at an Apple Store and not a reseller. Resellers just don't have the same flexibility of discretion that an Apple store can exercise.
posted by tmt at 6:24 PM on March 10, 2010

An update on my battery issue, for anybody browsing this thread in the future: I took my machine to the local Apple Store. I hadn't made an appointment in advance, and an employee notified me that all slots were full for the day, so I could either schedule a time for later in the week, or hang out in the store on "standby" in case something opened up. I chose the latter, and somebody was able to help me in less than 15 minutes.

It was a quick process. He diagnosed the problem (it was apparent this wasn't his first time dealing with this issue), took out my old battery, retrieved a new one, and installed it. I'm assuming a lookup of the computer's serial number revealed that it was still covered under AppleCare, because I never had to show him any paperwork but there was no charge for the job. He told me to fully cycle the battery (charge it to 100% then let it run down until the computer shuts itself off, then recharge) and sent me on my way.

The whole thing was quick and painless, one of the best customer service experiences I've had in a long time. The problem is completely solved and my trackpad is back to normal behavior. Happy stories like this remind me why I bought a Mac in the first place.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:20 AM on April 2, 2010

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