Troublesome trackpad blues

by Giles Turnbull

It's been a long evening.

A few days ago, the trackpad on my PowerBook started going crazy. When I touched it to move the pointer around, nothing happened. When I took my fingers off and left it alone, the pointer jumped around the screen like an over-excited flea.

It turns out I'm not the first to see this behavior. A quick trawl around Macintouch reveals a lengthy page of similar experiences, with several possible explanations for the cause.

One is a build-up of static electricity, which has got me wondering. Just this week we completed a major building project in our home, which included a lot of electrical work. The house is now better earthed than it has been for years, and we have a fresh layer of statically-charged laminate flooring too. Consequently I've been getting little static shocks from all sorts of surfaces, including the kitchen sink.

Aside from suggesting that perhaps I should consult my electrician, it's also got me wondering about the dodgy trackpad. Did it get over-staticked, and go into crazy mode? Hard to say. My long evening was spent cloning the PowerBook to my Mac mini test machine, wiping and re-installing OS X on the PowerBook, then restoring all my data from the Mac mini again. So far, things seem to be slightly improved - the jumping pointer has only made one brief appearance since the reinstall. I'm now downloading the 10.4.5 update and I shall have to wait and see if that makes any difference, good or bad.


2006-03-13 16:36:20
If you get little shocks all over the house from "all sorts of surfaces", what on Earth makes you believe that reinstalling your PowerBook or updating to the newest version of OS X would make any difference to this *obvious* hardware problem?! ;) ... I'm sorry, but this sounds really, really off. I've had the erroneous TrackPad behaviour in places where there's static, and usually it helps to reboot the machine to get the power off and on. Sometimes putting it to sleep and waking it up has helped, too. But a software update won't really change that...
2006-03-13 17:00:34
yeah dude, you're a retard, obviously this is a hardware issue... or you couldve tested it with the Mouse Keys!!!! hmmm wow
2006-03-13 17:00:55
or a MOUSE!!!!!!!
2006-03-13 17:17:52
I've seen this problem a few times, when I get the trackpad wet. Even if I dry it completely, the problem persists until the next sleep/wake cycle.

The solution? Dry the trackpad thoroughly, put the PowerBook to sleep, and then reawaken it. Problem solved.

2006-03-13 20:28:32
The trackpad on my iBook is very sensitive to humidity - it works fine in a relatively humid environment, but gets extremely erratic when the humidity is low. As far as the "close the lid" suggestions, I think that the 'book recalibrates the trackpad on waking up.
2006-03-13 22:05:43
If the trackpad becomes "confused" you can reset it by holding whole palm on it for about 5 seconds. I have to do this a couple times a day at my work but have never needed it any other context. I'm not sure if this method is particular to certain versions of the trackpad.
2006-03-14 00:11:59
The weirdest (or from g0rdo's perspective, perhaps the most retarded) thing about all this is that so far, re-installing the OS seems to have done the trick...

Thanks for the tips about humidity and resetting the trackpad. I already knew about the "cover the pad with your entire palm" trick, but it got to the point where I was using it every 10 minutes, hence the desperate attempt to get the machine back to normal. I hope I've fixed it. I *think* I've fixed it. Fingers crossed.

Paul Mison
2006-03-14 01:49:13
When I've had trouble with my trackpad, sometimes I've been able to fix it by pushing down hard around the pad, which seems to help reset it.