Fixing the Magic Trackpad

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You can look at the signal strength of your magic trackpad by holding down the option key while the device is selected. It will show a bar graph while the option key is held down. Keep in mind, these are negative numbers, so -50 is a stronger signal than -80.

Fix Apple Magic Trackpad hold down option key to show signal strength

The “Monitor Connection RSSI” (received signal strength indication) option provides the best indicator of signal strength. If you are having trouble with your trackpad, you can turn this on and verify the signal integrity between the trackpad and your Mac. It is a good idea to get a baseline of the signal while it works, and then compare it to the signal when it doesn’t work well. You can also use this to compare signal strength before and after replacing the batteries. It is a good diagnostic tool that can help you rule out issues like weak batteries and interference.

Fix Apple Magic Trackpad monitor connection RSSI

Another possibility is that your trackpad may just be dirty. Oils from your finger can build up on the surface, making it more difficult to track. If it is moderately soiled, I would recommend wiping it with a dry, clean, soft cloth. A handkerchief is perfect. I recommend shutting down your Mac before you clean your trackpad. The power button on the trackpad is a toggle, so you’ll need to remove the batteries to turn it off. If you un-pair Bluetooth, you’ll need to be handy with keyboard controls to re-pair it. You could also accidentally wake your computer while cleaning the trackpad. Thank goodness Macs boot up so fast!

If it is very greasy, I recommend using a prepackaged eyeglass wipe, such as Flents Wipe ‘N Clear. These are available at Costco in a large 200 pack, and have many uses. Highly recommended! You should never use a harsh cleaner, such as window cleaner or pure alcohol. Don’t use steel wool either…

There is post after post on the web detailing problems with the Magic Trackpad, and no definitive solution. There isn’t just one problem. Some even claim they needed to replace their CPU for this to work properly. Yikes! In fact, while writing this how-to guide, my trackpad started acting up. I had 18% battery left, but I replaced the battery. It worked fine after that. Try replacing the battery before you resort to replacing your CPU! This is a very annoying problem, but I still use the Magic Trackpad. It works most of the time and the gestures save time and make the computer a pleasure to use.

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3 comments

  1. My trackpad batteries are at 86%, I have cleaned it off with recommended cleaner, and it still has frozen twice today. My computer is not quite two years old now. I removed other Bluetooth devices other than the keyboard and keep the trackpad 2-3 inches away from the keyboard. When it freezes it never comes back up – I must reboot each time. Come on, Apple!!

    1. Mine still acts up, but only on humid days. Apple is moving to the new Bluetooth standard for these devices. It should make them better. I feel your pain and I also expect better from Apple. I think it may be form over function. They want everything to be so small and thin, and sometimes I think they compromise functionality to do this.

      What you are experiencing is pretty severe. Have you tried pressing the power button on the side of the track pad?

      The Bluetooth receiver on your Mac must be OK, because your keyboard works.

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