4 Replies Latest reply: Dec 14, 2013 8:59 PM by Ben Leibert
delventhalz Level 1 (0 points)

Okay, this is an infuriating problem that I have been furiously googling to try and solve. Haven't come up with anything, but I wonder if someone here has some idea?


Basically, the problem is this: I have an 11" MacBook Air (late 2011), so it is one of those where the whole trackpad is a physically clickable button (which I love, normally). In the past few months though, it has started to register clicks when the button is not physically depressed. Now, the first thing I checked was Tap To Click, and that is still turned off. The happens is usually something like this: I physically click the trackpad (which registers), and then begin to move my finger without lifting it up from the trackpad. For whatever reason the trackpad will then (sometimes) detect another click while I'm moving my finger around. Occasionally the mouse movement itself seems a bit sluggish, or phantom clicks will occur in other situations, but it mostly seems to happen after I've actually physically clicked the trackpad, and before I lift my finger back up again. When it really gets bad, the trackpad is practically unusable, clicking and dragging all over the screen and making even simple tasks very frustrating.


I'm really not sure what is going on. It seems that even if one of the mechanisms were wearing out, it wouldn't register phantom clicks like this, but it doesn't seem to be a software issue either. The trackpad seemed a bit oily, so I thought maybe cleaning it would help, and I tried to clean it a couple of times with screen wipes. It did seem to help, reducing the frequency of the phantom clicks, but it didn't get rid of them entirely.


Any ideas? Has anybody encountered this behavior before?

MacBook Air, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.4)
  • dwb Level 7 (22,625 points)

    I took my wife's 2011 MBA to the shop a couple weeks ago with the same symptom expecting to be told the trackpad needed replacing. Instead Ken adjusted the screws holding the trackpad in place and she's had no complaints since.

  • delventhalz Level 1 (0 points)

    Yay! Thanks for the insight dwb. I cracked open the MBA and found the adujstable screw. It turns out you can adjust it with the battery in, so I fiddled with it while it was running and tried to find the sweet spot. Adjusting the screw definitely affected the frequency of the phantom clicks, and I'm pretty sure it's fixed now. Thanks a bunch!


    For those of you who have this problem and don't mind opening up your laptop yourself:

    - On an MBA 2011, you'll need a #5 pentalobe screwdriver to get the bottom case off, and a T5 (six-sided) to adjust the trackpad screw. I have a nice set of electronics screwdrivers with both from ifixit.com.

    - Once you get the bottom case off you'll see the screw in question just to the south of the battery array, centered at the bottom of the trackpad.

    - As you tighten or loosen the screw, you should be able to feel how it affects the "clickiness" of the trackpad. Too tight, and the trackpad will lock up, too loose and it will just depress without a click.

    - I found that in order to get rid of phantom clicks, I wanted to get that screw as loose as possible without making it so it couldn't click at all.

    - Although I'd be careful with this, you can run the MBA with the bottom case off, so you can play with the trackpad tightness live, and try to find the sweet spot.

    - Also, this hopefully goes without saying if you are feeling up to opening up your computer, but make sure you have a static bracelet and are using properly. The last thing you want is to open it up and fry something important with a static discharge. You can get those from ifixit.com too, but also pretty much any computer store.

  • JackOfTrades Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks! I also have a set from iFixit and I'll try this now!

  • Ben Leibert Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks dwb and delventhalz – your guidance really helped! The only thing I'd add is a warning not to over-tighten the screw. It's easy to do so because there isn't much tactile sense that its been tightened to its intended limit. Because the screw's head is no larger than its threaded part, there's nothing to prevent it from being tightened all the way through and beyond the female threads in the chasis. In that case, it'll get stuck and you'll have to partially remove the trackpad to retrieve the screw.


    Anyway, just follow dwb and delventhalz's lead, be careful not to overtighten, and you should be good to go!