The Fix: MacBook Pro Trackpad Scrolling Issue

If you’ve followed my last two posts, then you know my beloved MacBook Pro had to go in for repairs to the graphics card, which means they replaced my logic board (for free). Everything seemed to go well, but when I got it back, I noticed the trackpad wouldn’t scroll. I could grab the scroll bar and scroll the old-fashioned way, but when I moved my finger across the trackpad, the window wouldn’t scroll. It didn’t matter what program I was in either.

Since he asked whether there were any issues, I checked in with Sean, the AppleCare technician who had been helping me set up the repair. I asked if there was a simple fix or if I should take it back in to be looked at. I was a little concerned that they might not have hooked everything up right, though that seemed unlikely. Instead, Sean asked if he could call me, and we went through several steps to rule out a hardware issue and try to find the problem. All my trackpad settings were good. We tried replacing the com.apple.systempreferences.plist file (hold down the Option key and select Library from the Go menu to get here—in Library, go to the Preferences folder). I had already removed the trackpad plist files in case they were corrupt. But none of this solved the problem, so we logged me into my admin user account and checked scrolling there. No problems, so that ruled out a hardware issue — something was messed up with my main user account, but we couldn’t find where it was.

I will say, that I was impressed that Apple would spend this much time working with me when the repair had been done by a local authorized service location. Unfortunately Sean admitted defeat, saying he needed to research it and would call me back the next afternoon when he was back at work.

Naturally, I didn’t want to wait that long, so I kept researching and looking into it. I knew the tech guy who replaced my logic board had zapped the NV-Ram on my MacBook when he was testing it, so I figured some setting got set back to default, but I couldn’t find it. I thought maybe a keyboard shortcut could toggle the setting, so I searched for that and found  a really great site by Dan Rodney that lists them all (or most). This jogged my memory that there are settings in the Accessibility control panel in addition to the ones in the Trackpad control panel or General control panel, where we had already looked. Lo and behold, there was the problem setting. Under “Mouse and Trackpad” there was a button for “Trackpad Options” where “Scrolling” wasn’t selected. I clicked on that and the trackpad returned to normal!

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 9.53.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-16 at 9.53.47 PM

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

44 thoughts on “The Fix: MacBook Pro Trackpad Scrolling Issue

  1. thank you thank you thank you thank you!!! this has been driving me nuts for months – ever since I had the same repair – you’ve just saved me wiping my profile and creating a new one (which was suggested by an apple tech) – funny thing is, it was fine in every other profile on my mac, except mine (up until now!).

    Many many many thanks!

  2. Thank you for posting this, and for figuring out the solution!! It fixed mine too, also had had new logic board installed–after having spent several hours on the phone with Apple support, who tried to do everything possible.They had me create a test identity where touchpad scrolling worked fine. Was about to bring my Mac into Apple store for a few more lost days. So thanks again!

  3. I can’t thank you enough! I also came up with the idea of looking in the Accessibility panel, and didn’t see the “Mouse & Trackpad” at first – because I couldn’t scroll! 🙂 When I saw your blog, I did a face-palm and went back in. Thanks SO MUCH! This is a brand new 2016 MacBook Pro and a software update seems to be what broke it.

  4. I had added an old Wacom Bamboo Fun pad to my system. I opened the Wacom icon in preferences and saw the scrolling was enabled. I disabled it and the problem was solved.

  5. Hi, I’m having the exact same issue but I reinstalled my Mac OS using the disks I got with my 2011 Macbook after a logic board replacement from Apple. I can’t find the ‘Accessibility’ control panel, only a ‘Universal Access’ which doesn’t provide me with any useful options. Am I looking in the wrong place or do I need to update my Mac OS??

    HELP!!

    1. I’m not sure which version of OS you’re using, but I checked for 10.6. The icon for Universal Access looks the same as the current icon for Accessibility, so I would guess they might be about the same. However, I would definitely upgrade the OS as far as you can. Try looking in the settings for Universal Access first, and see if you can fix the trackpad issue as described. In any case, update to a more current OS. It looks like you ought to be able to run 10.11, judging from the info I found on the MacBook Pro from 2011 at everyman.com.

  6. hi, I have the problem, scroll stopped working all of a sudden last week, and would not work despite doing all the things mentioned above. PDF files cannot be downloaded on google chrome as well. these two problems started at the same time. I would appreciate some help. it really drives me crazy as I have had my MacBook pro only for a year.

    1. Did you make any changes at that time? For instance, did you install any new software or any update that could have caused these issues? Does it happen only in Chrome or in all programs? If you’re still under warranty or AppleCare, taking it to an Apple Store might be your best bet (or if you don’t live close, you can find service in your area through Apple Support).

    1. I tried this setting ” defaults write -g com.apple.trackpad.scrollBehavior 2 ” which was suggested by someone in the Apple Discussions but didn’t work for me.

      Macbook Pro 13″ Mid 2012 MD101

  7. Thank you! Have been wondering why I couldn’t scroll. I checked my Trackpad settings but did not know about the Accessibility settings.

  8. It’s amazing that the solution in the Apple forum for this problem sends you to Terminal. I don’t mind using Terminal but this solution required fewer steps and no restart.

    Just got a new MBP and have been scrolling using the trackpad whereas on my trusty 17-incher I didn’t particularly care. Now I can scroll on both machines and that makes me happy.

    Good on you for knowing your computer and how it works! It’s amazing how many neat tricks it can do if you take the time to suss them out.

  9. I had this problem suddenly today . . . I checked all the Accessibility settings and nothing worked. In fact, all two-finger gestures were non-functional. Restarting twice did nothing. And then it hit me — I had put a Band-Aid on one of my fingers . . . Removing the Band-Aid “fixed” the scrolling problem! 🙂

  10. My MacBook 15 (Mid-2012) just got back from a logic board replacement with Apple, and I had this same problem. Thanks for the quick fix!

  11. I was actually told by Apple that there was no solution to my inability to use two finger scroll and that it was a migration issue. The only solution, they said, was for me to reformat my computer and NOT reinstall all my files from a Time Machine backup, but instead to reinstall all files manually, which would take weeks in my case. So, I just gave up and went without two finger scroll, just making do the old school way (dragging the right-hand scroll bar down). BUT, this solution WORKED (changing the accessibility functions)!!! It only took 3.5 years for me to have stumbled upon this page, but better late than never. THANKS!

  12. THANK YOU for taking the time to post this, I read thru several very technical posts on trackpad problems on Macbooks but none of them fixed the problem on my Macbook Air mid-2011 vintage, but this did! I would NEVER have figured it out without your pointer to the Accessibility preferences and as it was the Trackpad Options were set correctly but when I de-selected then selected them again it worked! (My problem was that scrolling was not working at all, everything else was working correctly.) I’m not a technical neophyte either, I’ve been in IT for 35 years and a Mac user since my first Nextstation died in the 1990s and I figured what the hell, Steve Jobs had taken his Next technology back to Apple so OS X couldn’t be all that bad…

  13. OMG. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I’ve replaced my Trackpad hardware, posted on Apple Support Forums… nothing has helped… until I came across his webpage. I have been without scroll functionality on my trackpad for the better part of 2 years now. Thank you thank you thank you.

  14. My macbook just started scrolling continuously when I hit the scroll down button. The up button helps stop it moving in the up position but then it starts scrolling down again. This happens also when I use the side bar – once the scrolling starts it just continues on it’s own. So going to Accessibility under System Preferences the menu is different. I don’t have the ability. I don’t have the “Mouse and Track Pad”. Am I in the wrong menu?

    1. Steve,
      Your issue does seem different, but might be related. This post was written some time ago, so the operating system you’re using might look a little different. I’m still in High Sierra 10.13 because of some software I don’t want to lose and can’t upgrade. In High Sierra if you go to the System Preferences pane, Accessibility is in the third row from the top. Clock on that. then you’ll see a list of options on the left (General, VoiceOver, etc.). Scroll down to Mouse & Trackpad. (If scrolling won’t work, then click on an item in that panel and use your down arrow key to go down to Mouse & Trackpad.) There, you will see a “Trackpad Options” button on the bottom, and by clicking that, you can change the Accessibility Trackpad options. In your case, it’s probably linked to Scrolling, which I have turned off (but scrolling works fine on my Macbook Pro). Yours might be set to Scrolling with Inertia or something, so changing those settings could help.

      If this just started, it’s possible that a recent update or software installation caused the issue, so you might troubleshoot the issue by uninstalling or looking at that program’s options. I’m also not entirely sure what you mean by ‘hit the scroll down button’ — in High Sierra I don’t have a button in the scroll bar area of a window. There’s not a button on my Macbook Pro trackpad either. If you’re talking about the arrow key on the keyboard, then it could be an different issue and the trackpad .settings may not help you out.

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