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How to Diagnose the “Phantom Cursor” Issue on Your Mac

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How to Diagnose the “Phantom Cursor” Issue on Your Mac

I converted to the cult of Mac about 3 years ago. I’d used Macs a bit in elementary school, and then again during college in our school’s computer lab, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I bought my first MacBook. 3+ years later and it’s still going strong; I’ve never had a single issue with it.

Well, okay, just the one issue. For a while a few months back, my Mac was possessed.

Okay, not like “possessed by a ghost” possessed, but something strange was definitely going on. I’d just be typing, and all of a sudden, the cursor would jump to a random location on the page and all my text would move to that portion of the document. Sections of my text documents would get highlighted, and then get completely erased the next time I made a keystroke. It was AWFUL. My productivity plummeted because I couldn’t write even half a blog post without it all going to pieces.

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My ensuing struggle with my Mac to solve the mystery of the phantom cursor took about a week of searching Mac user forums, inventive troubleshooting, and asking my friends who used Macs if they had ever encountered something similar.

If you’ve got the dreaded “phantom cursor” haunting your Mac (and you’re running a version of OSX 10), here’s a rundown of the major causes of this issue to help you diagnose what is causing your cursor malfunction.

Common Cause #1: You Need to Adjust Your Trackpad Settings

For some Mac laptops, the problem is related to your trackpad settings. To figure out if your cursor issues are caused by your settings, go into System Preferences. Select Trackpad, and then de-select the box for Trackpad Gestures and check “Ignore accidental trackpad input”. By effectively making your trackpad less sensitive to your input, you may eliminate the cause of your cursor issues.

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Another possible way to resolve the phantom cursor issue on a Mac laptop is to attach a USB mouse and use that in lieu of your trackpad. If a faulty trackpad is the cause of your cursor bouncing around the screen, using a mouse instead can circumvent the fault. Just make sure to go into System Preferences after plugging in the mouse and select “Ignore Trackpad When Mouse is Present” under Trackpad Settings.

Common Cause #2: You Need to Reset Your PRAM

The parameter RAM (PRAM) is where a Mac stores basic information (such as the time) so that you do not need to re-enter it every time you start up the computer. Resetting the PRAM is sort of like a smarter way of trying to fix a tech problem by turning the machine off and on again. Not particularly elegant, but it can often get the job done.

First, shut down your computer. Then, unplug it, remove the battery, and then hold down the power button for a count of ten. Replace the battery re-attach the power cord. Turn the computer back on and immediately hold down the following keys: Option, Command, P, R.

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Keeping holding these keys down, and you will hear a soft chime. Keep holding those four keys down until your computer chimes for the second time, then release them. The reset is then complete, and you are ready to try writing again and see if the phantom cursor program still persists.

    Common Cause #3: You’ve Got Malware

    If you have malware, viruses, or spyware infecting your computer, they can sometimes cause cursor malfunction. As we all know, Macs are generally less likely to get these sorts of problems than PCs, but it can still happen. Use a free trial of a program like MacScan to check your hard drive for anything nasty. If the program finds anything, it can isolate and delete it safely.

    Common Cause #4: Trackpad Damage/Misalignment

    In my case, this was the source of all my phantom cursor woes. Over time, (and partially due to playing too many video games that caused me to do vigorous clicking) my trackpad had gotten slightly depressed, sending it out of alignment and causing my computer to read it as constantly being clicked on.

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    In the case of my MacBook, my Mac-savvy roommate saved the day. He removed the battery from my laptop’s case, and used gentle pressure with his fingers to nudge the battery housing very slightly just underneath the trackpad. This slight pressure was just enough to pop the trackpad up a few millimeters into its correct position.

    What about you guys? Have you ever had a “phantom cursor” problem? And if so, how did you solve it? Tell us in the comments section below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on December 18, 2020

    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?

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    Can Technology have Biases Like Humans?

    Technology has taken a vantage leap in providing solutions for man. Before now, technology used to appear complex and would require a great deal of expertise to handle solutions available. Today, we have technology applicable in the simplest human activities as smart products with intelligent algorithms powering them as they make error-free judgments and provide intelligent and analytic solutions.

    Does technology have all the answers?

    This article from Credit Suisse, tells us that technology does not have all the answers because it has been found to exhibit “similar biases,” as humans. No one can discredit the impact of technology, but it is not totally free of human input and this is the reason we experience these biases in many areas we have technology holding foot.

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    Creating technological solutions transparently

    This article suggests that the process of creating technological solutions be made transparent and subject to contribution from many people who would end up as users of the product – male, female, young, old, learned, unlearned and all other preferences as we have them. It also underscores the importance of having women on product development teams. This approach is not sure to eliminate all forms of bias, but it is a good way to start in order to appraise the full benefits of technology.

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    Technology as the connecting tool

    Technology so far has been a major connecting tool amongst us humans. It is used and appreciated by all regardless of race, language and sex. In order to keep it less subjective to these arguments about human biases. I believe we should gather opinions on products and solutions before making them available to the public. This could be done by gathering input from intended target users and receiving feedback across the stages of production.

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    “Recognizing the problem is a start…success will depend on inclusive technologies that meet this vast untapped market.” This cannot be more apt especially at a time when we look up to technology for solutions. We should not muzzle our progress with technology by battling algorithm bias. The first way to avoid this battle is by reading this article here.

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