Suddenly erratic touchpad on MacBook Pro
September 6, 2012 12:00 PM   Subscribe

My MacBook's touchpad went wrong this morning. Everything I do is suddenly like fighting with a ghost. Mac forums are useless.

No problems (of this nature) with the machine before, had it since January of 2012. Running Lion. As of this morning, the touchpad acts extraordinarily erratic. moving my cursor, the pad seemingly cannot tell whether I am using one, two or three fingers, leading to unintentional swiping and pulling up the dashboard, etc. But it does this when nothing is touching it or nearby as well.

This problem comes and goes, so for a few minutes at a time things seem fine, and then become completely unusable. I have cleaned the touchpad, reset the PRAN, done everything the forums say to do, and while some of it might seem to solve the problem for, like, literally one minute, it keeps coming back.

Time and finances are tight, so unless I absolutely have to take it to the store I'm not going to. FWIW, I'm in DC, and it's pretty damn hot and humid here, but this has never happened before.

posted by Navelgazer to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
I wouldn't hurt to take it to the Apple Store, there has been more than one occasion when I've taken something in to have them do an on-the-spot trouble shoot/repair and not charge me. They will let you know if the repair is going to cost you something.
posted by HuronBob at 12:08 PM on September 6, 2012

posted by HuronBob at 12:09 PM on September 6, 2012

If you bought your Macbook in January, then it's still under warranty and the repair may very well be free. And having someone a the genius bar take a look at it is always free, regardless of what the problem is.

Take it in. See what they say. At best, it's a known issue and they'll fix it quickly with no charge to you. At worst, they'll give you a quote for repairs and you can go home and figure out what you want to do.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:09 PM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Apple also has support number.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:12 PM on September 6, 2012

What NP said. Taking it to the Genius Bar will cost you time but not money. Your machine is still under warranty.
posted by alms at 12:13 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, take it in. My older MacBook had a similar problem that required a fairly substantial repair (thankfully, under AppleCare) which I think was related to the battery. From what I can tell, "ghost trackpad" problems tend to be heat-related, which definitely comes under the warranty.
posted by holgate at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2012

Nthing Genius Bar. The trackpad jumping issue happened to me and it was (yikes!) water damage. But, they were awesome and I was incredibly lucky and it was fixed for free. (I was under warranty, but still, water damage isn't normally covered.)
posted by lesli212 at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2012

Holgate's battery explanation was why my trackpad was doing the exact same thing. However, my battery was a few years old and had been through lots of cycles. Maybe the humidity is affecting battery performance?
posted by peacrow at 12:34 PM on September 6, 2012

Response by poster: I appreciate the battery suggestions, but my battery is fine and I believe unrelated to this. My old macbook had this problem come up and it was, indeed, because of the battery, but that's because of the battery placement in old macbooks, which would exert pressure on the touchpad from beneath as they aged and expanded. That's not the issue here.

I suppose I should just take it in, and hope it's not water damage from somewhere.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:39 PM on September 6, 2012

I had the battery issue as well. Take it in and they will most likely fix it for free.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2012

Best of luck! Let us know how it works out!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:47 PM on September 6, 2012

This doesn't solve your problem, but when my wife's trackpad went bonkers (wine+MacBook=!!!!!) she plugged in a cheapo USB mouse and was able to keep using the computer. Obvious, but there you go.
posted by The Deej at 1:35 PM on September 6, 2012

Happened to me due a very small amount of water getting into the case. It wasn't even enough to trip the indicator inside the case. It resolved itself a day or two later later.

A Genius at the Apple store indicated it could even be caused by condensation due to extreme temperature changes.
posted by samhyland at 2:05 PM on September 6, 2012

The one time that I have seen this it was at my landlady's house. They run on solar and the voltage that she was getting on the outlets did not seem to be regular enough which made her trackpad go really weird. Make sure this happens when you are plugged in to some other power source and when you're running on batteries (hers would behave when running on batteries) just to double check. Also there are utilities that can tell you how hot your laptop is running that can maybe give you some sense of whether heat is a problem. Also, yes, USB mouse will help in the meantime.
posted by jessamyn at 2:07 PM on September 6, 2012

This is a bit of a long shot, but... whenever something like this happens to me it turns out to be my brother messing with me controlling the computer from his iPhone.
posted by peppermintfreddo at 6:02 PM on September 6, 2012

If it’s under warranty definitely take it in to the Apple Store and get it fixed while it still is. Even if you get it working again it may not be a permanent fix.
posted by bongo_x at 8:19 PM on September 6, 2012

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