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

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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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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