I was very frustrated with this MacBook Pro trackpad cursor dancing issue all day. Fortunately, I solved it with an “imperfect” solution (I’ll explain why later).
So I thought maybe it was worth writing this article like this – share my experience and hopefully save you from going to the Apple Genius Bar.
What happened to my MacBook trackpad?
I’m on a MacBook Pro, and as I remember now, it all started with a temporary freeze on my Mac (unlike the classic Mac freezing problem)… about five seconds or so; I could not do anything.
Then I noticed my MacBook Pro started to act – the cursor kept jumping, web pages opened and closed automatically, the screen resolution adjusted on its own, etc.
Things I tried but didn’t work
Although the erratic trackpad / cursor issue persisted at this point, I was still able to do some basic operations, but not so easily.
At first I thought my Mac was infected because the situation reminded me of virus and malware issues in PC days.
So I immediately opened BitDefender Antivirus for Mac and ran a full scan. About 20 minutes later, no threat was found (much to my surprise).
I then suspected that my Mac internal hard drive was malfunctioning so I went ahead and took out Disk Utility and several other apps to check the status of the Mac hard drive. It turned out that the main drive works 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 experiencing were quite similar to what Apple support articles describe. In case you didn’t know, resetting NVRAM and SMC is pretty straightforward. Check out this and this Apple article.
And guess what? No, the Mac cursor kept jumping and clicking and moving on its own after that.
I also disconnected my Magic Mouse, my USB stick and unplugged the charger. The last thing I tried that didn’t work either was to perform software updates through the App Store.
It all took me a few precious hours … until I finally fixed the problem with a simple trick.
The solution? It’s strangely simple!
Check an option called “Skip built-in trackpad when mouse or wireless trackpad is present” through the System Preferences setting.
Here’s how to do it in just a few steps:
Step 1: On your Mac desktop, click on the Apple logo and select System Preferences.
Step 2: In the preferences pane, click Accessibility.
Step 3: In the left pane, scroll down to locate the Mouse and trackpad tab, see the option “Skip built-in trackpad …”? Check this out.
Now the erratic cursor hopping issue should go away and you should be able to use your external mouse to navigate your Mac smoothly.
Why this solution is not perfect
I tried unchecking this option above, and guess what… the trackpad issue STILL shows up on my MacBook Pro.
This means I can only rely on the Apple Magic Mouse to navigate which is fine for me. But for those of you who don’t have a mouse or are used to relying on the trackpad for navigation, it can be inconvenient.
Frankly, I don’t know the cause (or reason) for this trackpad issue, I’m guessing it has anything to do with the hardware. For example, it could be a sign that my trackpad might fail soon and it’s best to have a holistic diagnosis.
Update Note: Really appreciate one of our “Avery Ryder” readers for submitting this tip. Since it’s difficult to navigate System Preferences without a mouse, he wrote an AppleScript that can help heal macOS nervous cursor and can turn the trackpad on and off. Note: We recommend this tip only for advanced Mac users.
Once you’ve fixed the trackpad erratic cursor dancing issue and brought your Mac to life, be sure to do a little maintenance to avoid such annoying issues in the future. For most Mac users, you will love this app called CleanMyMac – it will keep your Mac in great shape for years to come. Apart from cleaning junk files, it also gives you a handful of utilities to quickly optimize your Mac’s performance to avoid potential problems.
Anyway, hope the simple guide helped you to fix the erratic trackpad issue. I tried the solution on my MacBook Pro and it worked. Although I cannot guarantee that it will work with an iMac or MacBook Air.
Please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know how it works for you? Or if you’ve found another better resolution, please share it with me and I’ll consider updating this post to make it more useful.