An Easy Fix for a Magic Mouse Tracking Problem

Keep the jitters away from your Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad

Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2
Courtesy of Apple

The Magic Mouse is by far the best Apple mouse to date. But even though Apple is known for spending a great deal of time on design, ergonomics, and quality assurance, the Magic Mouse has a few quirks that some people (including me) have noticed.

I've already provided details about how to fix the Magic Mouse disconnects that have been plaguing some users. After the disconnect issue, the next most common complaint is a Magic Mouse that suddenly stops tracking or becomes jerky.

Fixing the Magic Mouse Tracking Problem

There are two common reasons for the Magic Mouse to exhibit hesitant tracking behavior. I addressed the first reason – batteries losing contact with the battery terminals, a somewhat common problem for the original Magic Mouse – in the article mentioned above. That problem seems to be related to a weak battery terminal design. The battery momentarily loses its connection, causing the Magic Mouse and the Mac to momentarily lose Bluetooth connectivity.

You can check to see if this is the issue in your case by quickly lifting the Magic Mouse off the surface you're using it on. If the green power LED is blinking, it's a good indication that the batteries are a bit loose. Follow the instructions in the Magic Mouse disconnects article to fix the issue.

The Magic Mouse 2 doesn't have the battery terminal problem. When Apple updated the Magic Mouse, it removed the standard AA batteries and instead made use of a custom rechargeable battery pack that isn't user accessible.

Since the redesign went into effect, there have been very few, if any, complaints attributable to the battery pack losing connections.

Gunk and Other Stuff

The second reason your Magic Mouse may be skipping or hesitating is that debris, dirt, dust, and gunk have become lodged in the mouse's optical sensor.

There's a simple fix for this, one that just requires giving the sensor a good cleaning. No disassembly is necessary. Simply turn the offending rodent over and use compressed air to blow out the gunk. If you don't have any compressed air on hand, just pucker up and blow into the sensor opening.

When you're done, take a moment to clean your mouse pad or the desktop area where you use your Magic Mouse. Even though the Magic Mouse uses optical tracking, it can still pick up debris that can prevent its tracking mechanism from working correctly.

Erratic Tracking Continues After Cleaning

While it's possible that your Magic Mouse has a hardware problem, there still remains a more common reason for strange tracking behavior of your mouse, and that's a corrupt preference file that your Mac uses to configure the Magic Mouse when it's first powered on.

There are a number of preference files related to the mouse that could be causing the problem. As a result, you can either try removing one at a time and then seeing if the mouse starts behaving, or you can remove all of them at once, sort of the nuclear option; get rid of all of them, and let your Mac rebuild the preferences.

It actually doesn’t matter too much which method you use, so I'll list the file names and let you decide which ones get the heave-ho:

Pointing Device Preference Files

Preference File

Used By

com.apple.AppleMultitouchMouse.plist

Magic Mouse

com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.mouse.plist

Magic Mouse

com.apple.driver.AppleHIDMouse.plist

Wired Apple mouse

com.apple.AppleMultitouchTrackpad.plist

Trackpad

com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.trackpad.plist

Magic Trackpad

All of the above preference files are located in the users Library folder, specifically, ~/Library/Preferences/. The users Library folder and all of its contents are hidden by default in the versions of OS X and macOS since OS X Lion. To access the hidden folder, you'll first need to make the Library folder visible.

There are a couple of ways to do this, which I outline in the guide: OS X Is Hiding Your Library Folder.

The next steps involve removing various preference panes from your Mac. Normally, removing preference panes won't cause a problem, other than resetting the preferences to their default state. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to make sure you have a current backup of your Mac before proceeding.

Go ahead and make the user library visible, then open the folder named Preferences within the Library folder. Within the Preferences folder, you'll find the preference files listed in the table above.

If you're having tracking problems with your Magic Mouse, try dragging the two Magic Mouse files to the trash. Likewise, if it's your trackpad causing issues, grab the two files used by the trackpad or Magic Trackpad and drag them to the trash.

Finally, if your old-fashioned wired mouse is misbehaving, you can drag its file to the trash.

Once you've put the appropriate preference files in the trash, you'll need to restart your Mac. When your Mac starts back up, it will detect the mouse or trackpad that is connected to the Mac, look for the preference file to load, and discover that the needed files are missing. Your Mac will then recreate the original default preference files for the pointing device.

With new preference files in place, your mouse or trackpad tracking error should be fixed. You will, however, have to head back to the System Preferences, and reconfigure either the Mouse or Trackpad preference pane to meet your needs, since they will have been reset to the default state.