How to Fix It When a MacBook Pro Keyboard Isn't Working

Keys sticking or don’t work at all? Try these fixes

When a MacBook Pro keyboard stops working, you may find none of the keys work at all, or some keys work. If the Touch Bar doesn’t work, it's almost certainly a software issue.

To get your keyboard working again, you’ll need to attempt fixes like cleaning it, checking for updates, and removing potential problem apps. Most of these fixes will work for MacBook Air keyboards as well.

Some of these fixes will require a working keyboard. Consider getting a spare keyboard. If you connect a keyboard, and it doesn't work either, your Mac may require professional repairs.

What Causes a MacBook Pro Keyboard to Stop Working?

The most common causes for a MacBook keyboard to stop working are dust and other contaminants. If you have a newer MacBook with keys using Apple’s signature butterfly keyboard mechanism, even the smallest amount of dust contamination can cause problems. Other contaminants, like food and various liquids, can also keep a Mac keyboard from working.

Apple's butterfly keyboards were such a problem; Apple had to issue a Keyboard Service Program the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.

Here are the most common reasons for a MacBook keyboard to stop working:

  • Dust and other contaminants
  • Incorrect software settings
  • Problematic apps
  • Bugs and glitches
  • Broken hardware

How to Fix a MacBook Pro Keyboard That Stopped Working

If your keyboard has stopped working, the first step is to try cleaning it. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to connect a spare keyboard and try a handful of other fixes. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll need to contact Apple for professional assistance. Don’t attempt any advanced repairs or disassembly yourself, as Apple fixes some of these problems for free.

Here’s how to fix a MacBook Pro keyboard that has stopped working:

  1. Clean your keyboard. Dust and other debris represent the most common cause of malfunctioning MacBook keyboards, so start by cleaning it to the best of your ability. Here’s Apple’s recommended procedure:

    1. Hold your MacBook so the base is at a 75-degree angle with the floor or table.
    2. Using compressed air with a straw to guide the pressurized air, blow between the keys in a left-to-right and top-to-bottom pattern.
    3. Rotate your MacBook so the right side is facing down, and it’s still at about a 75-degree angle.
    4. Repeat the same left-to-right and top-to-bottom blowing pattern you used before.
    5. Rotate the MacBook again, so the left side is facing down, and it’s still at a 75-degree angle.
    6. Repeat the same blowing pattern you used before.

    If you can see any visible debris on the keyboard at this point, use a vacuum with a soft-bristled attachment to finish cleaning.

  2. Plug in your MacBook. If your battery is low, the keyboard may not work, and you may not see a low battery alert. Try plugging the MacBook in, let it charge, then check to see if the keyboard works.

  3. Check for updates. Connect a USB or wireless keyboard, and perform the standard procedure of checking for updates. If your MacBook needs any driver or operating system updates, update them and then see if the keyboard works.

  4. Remove recent apps. If you installed one or more apps right before this problem started, it might be causing a conflict. Uninstall any apps you recently installed, restart your MacBook, and then check to see if your keyboard works.

  5. Restart the Touch Bar. If the Touch Bar is the part of your MacBook Pro keyboard that isn’t working, you can usually use the Terminal to get it working again. Here’s how that works:

    1. Type terminal into Spotlight, or open it via Finder > Applications > Utilities.
    2. With the Terminal open, type sudo pkill TouchBarServer; and press enter.
    3. Type sudo killall “ControlStrip”; and press enter.
    4. Enter your password, and press enter.
    5. The Touch Bar will shut down and restart.
  6. Turn off Slow Keys. If this function is on, you’ll have to hold down each key longer than usual before it registers. That can make it seem like the keyboard doesn’t work at all if you’re only pressing each key for a short amount of time. Here’s how to turn it off:

    1. Open the Apple menu.
    2. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Hardware.
    3. Make sure Slow Keys isn’t on.
  7. Turn off Mouse Keys. This setting can cause problems if it’s accidentally turned on. To turn it off:

    1. Open the Apple menu.
    2. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Alternate Control Methods.
    3. Make sure Mouse Keys isn’t on.
  8. Check your keyboard layout setting. If you have the wrong keyboard layout set, your keys won’t function as expected. Here’s how to check:

    1. Open the Apple menu.
    2. Navigate to System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources.
    3. Select Show Input menu in menu bar.
    4. Open the Input menu, and select the correct keyboard layout for your region and language.
  9. Reset your System Management Controller. If there’s a problem with your MacBook’s System Management Controller (SMC), it may manifest in the keyboard not working correctly. Resetting the SMC will usually take care of the problem.

What If Your MacBook Keyboard Still Doesn’t Work?

If your keyboard still doesn’t work after attempting all of these fixes, or it’s just specific keys that don’t work, you’ll need to seek professional help from Apple. Apple can fix some keyboard issues for free due to defects in the butterfly switch mechanisms, but customer support will be able to tell you whether or not your MacBook is covered.

Before you take your MacBook in for service, make sure to back up the data on your Mac.

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