How to Fix a Magic Mouse Tracking Problem

Keep the jitters away from your Apple Magic Mouse

Apple's Magic Mouse 2 is the most recent mouse from Apple, but despite being new it can exhibit a few quirks, including Magic Mouse disconnect problems. After the disconnection issue, the next common complaint is a Magic Mouse that suddenly stops tracking or a cursor that becomes jerky. Here's what to do if your Apple mouse isn't working because of a tracking problem, dirty optical sensor, or a bad preference file.

Instructions in this article apply to Magic Mouse 2 on a Mac computer with macOS Catalina (10.15.x). Many of the instructions also apply to Magic Mouse or Magic Mouse 2 on Bluetooth-enabled computers with Mac OS X El Capitan (10.11.x) or later. For a list of computer models with which Magic Mouse 2 is compatible, see Magic Mouse 2 Compatibility.

Fix a Magic Mouse Tracking Problem

If you use a first-generation Magic Mouse and experience hesitant tracking behavior, the most likely reason is that the batteries in the mouse are losing contact with the battery terminals. The result is that the Magic Mouse and Mac momentarily lose Bluetooth connectivity.

To see if the mouse has a battery connectivity problem, lift the Magic Mouse off of the surface you're using it on. If the green power LED blinks, the batteries are probably loose. There are a few ways to fix these kinds of disconnect issues.

Underside of Magic Mouse 2 with green LED

Magic Mouse 2 doesn't have the battery terminal problem because it doesn't use standard AA batteries. Instead, Apple created a custom rechargeable battery pack for the second-generation mouse that you can't access. Since the redesigned Magic Mouse came out, there have been few complaints attributable to the battery pack losing connection.

Fix a Dirty Optical Sensor

If you have a Magic Mouse 2 or can rule out a battery problem in your first-generation Magic Mouse, the mouse may be skipping or hesitating because debris or dirt is lodged in the mouse's optical sensor. To fix this issue, turn the mouse over, then use compressed air to blow out the dirt. If you don't have compressed air on hand, blow into the sensor opening. Before putting the mouse on your work surface, clean the mouse pad or desktop area where you use the Magic Mouse.

Fix a Bad Preference File

If you ruled out a battery problem or dirty optical sensor, your Magic Mouse may have a hardware problem. Before contacting Apple Support, however, there's one last potential cause of tracking errors you can check out. The preference file that your Mac uses to configure Magic Mouse when you first turn on the mouse may be corrupt.

Either of the two preference files related to Magic Mouse could cause the problem. So, you have two options:

  • Delete one file at a time, then see if the mouse behaves properly.
  • Delete both of the preference files at once, then let your Mac rebuild the files (the nuclear option).

To fix a bad preference file by deleting both preference files, complete the following steps:

Before changing or deleting files in the Library folder, use Time Machine to back up the data on your computer.

  1. The preference files for Magic Mouse reside in ~/Library/Preferences. By default, however, the Library folder and its contents are hidden. To view the Library folder, complete the following steps:

    1. Open Finder.
    2. From the Go menu, select Go to Folder.
    3. In the Go to the folder box, type ~/Library, then select Go.
  2. In Finder, expand the Preferences folder.

  3. In the Preferences folder, drag the following .plist files to Trash:

  4. Restart your Mac. When your computer is running again, it detects the Magic Mouse and looks for the proper .plist file to load. When macOS discovers that the .plist files are missing, it re-creates the default preference files for the Magic Mouse.

    When macOS re-creates the preference files, the Magic Mouse settings reset to the factory defaults.

  5. Test the mouse to see if the tracking error is fixed. If the Magic Mouse works properly, open System Preferences and reconfigure the mouse to meet your needs.