MacBook Pro Keyboard not Working?

Your MacBook Pro keyboard usually does not work due to dirt or debris over it. It can also stop working due to an outdated macOS. In almost all cases, the problem doesn’t seem to be with the software and are usually temporary.

Macbook Pro Keyboard

In this article, we will target the scenario of the in-built keyboard not working. If you are having problems connecting with an external keyboard, you can refer to troubleshooting that connection.

How to Fix MacBook Pro Keyboard Issues?

Before trying any solutions

  1. Check if “speak selected text when the key is pressed” is not enabled in Speech under Accessibility Setting.
  2. Make sure you are not using your Mac in too much cold, hot or humid environment.
  3. Check if Input Sources under Language & Text in System Preferences matches your language i.e. it should be US Input Source if you are using US English language.
  4. Make sure that mouse keys are off under Universal Access in System Preference.
  5. Turn off file vault under Security and Privacy in System Preference.

Power Cycling your Macbook

Before we try any other solutions, we will first power cycle your Macbook completely and see if the problem goes away. Power cycling is an act of completely restarting your computer by powering it off completely. This will reset any temporary configurations which may have gone bad and are conflicting with the internal mechanisms of the computer.

Turning off Macbook Pro

Power off your Mac and remove devices such as external drives, iPod/iPads, printer, etc. Nothing should be attached to your Mac. Then power on your Mac normally and then check if the keyboard is working as expected.

Also, make sure there is no external magnetic interference around your Mac. We came across one case where Bose Revolve portable speaker’s magnetic interference was causing issues with the Macbook’s keyboard (if placed too close with it). It will also be a good idea to move your Mac outside the range of the Wi-Fi that it is connected to.

Checking Available Space and RAM

Another thing which may cause problems with your keyboard is the amount of available space on your computer. Even though there is no direct relation between space and your keyboard, we came across instances where because of low space, the Macbook was not able to connect with the keyboard properly and hence was causing problems. There should be enough free space equal to almost 1/4th of your total hard-disk size.

Available Space – Macbook

Also, make sure that you have enough free RAM on your computer. If there are numerous applications running in the background which may be hogging your computer, close them one by one and then check if the issue is resolved for good.

Clean Macbook and its Keyboard

The first step in troubleshooting this issue should be to clean your keyboard. Your trackpad & keyboard can easily be broken by a bit of dust that got inside it. You can use compressed air to remove any crumbs or bits of debris from the Mac.

  1. Make sure there is nothing like paper etc. is not sticking out of the vent. You may use a vacuum to clear the vent.
  2. You can use a hairdryer (set to cold setting) and blast it all around the keyboard and trackpad.

Turn off Bluetooth of Your Mac

If the Bluetooth of your MacBook is switched on, then due to a software glitch your MacBook starts to “think” that Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad (or iMac) is nearby and thus stops the operation of the built-in keyboard. Even if you open keyboard/trackpad preference, you will see Bluetooth window, not onboard keyboard/trackpad settings. In that case, turning off Bluetooth for your system may solve the problem.

  1. Open System Preferences of your MacBook.
  2. Then click on Bluetooth.
  3. Now click on Turn Bluetooth off.
    Turn Off Bluetooth
  4. Now check if the keyboard issue is resolved.

Reset SMC (System Management Controller) of Your MacBook

Resetting SMC should be one of the primary steps in troubleshooting your Mac as it can solve a lot of bugs and performance issues.

  1. Power off the MacBook.
  2. Plugin your MagSafe adapter to the Mac and power source.
  3. Now press and hold Shift, Control and Option buttons simultaneously for 7 seconds.
  4. Then keep holding these three buttons, press the Power button.
    Press Shift-Control-Option & Power Buttons
  5. Wait for another 7 seconds and then release all 4 buttons at once.
  6. Now wait for 5 seconds and then press the power button to power on your Mac.
  7. After the system has powered on, check if you can use the keyboard normally.
  8. If you are using a Mac with a removable battery, then unplug the battery and then try to reset SMC.

Reset PRAM/NVRAM of Your MacBook

NVRAM and PRAM memories are used by macOS to store settings and temporary data. macOS switches between the two types of memories while operating. However, if these memories could not perform their operations properly, then your Mac’s keyboard/trackpad may stop working. In that case, resetting NVRAM and PRAM may solve the problem. But keep in mind that in some cases, your preference will be erased.

  1. Power off your MacBook (not sleep or logout).
  2. Now power on your MacBook while holding the following keys simultaneously.
    option + command + P + R
  3. When you will press these keys, the MacBook will start booting.
  4. You may release the keys if
    • If you hear the startup (chime) sound second time (the first one will be when the MacBook is powered on).
    • If you are using a MacBook with Apple T2 Security Chip, then release the keys when Apple Logo appears
    • In both cases, it usually takes nearly 20-30 seconds before you can release the keys.
  5. After the MacBook has started, check if the keyboard is working fine.

Restore macOS to A Previous Date

If the keyboard problem has started to happen recently after a system change or installation of a new software/utility/driver, then restoring the MacBook through Time Machine may solve the problem.

To restore your Mac to an earlier date, follow out the article on How to: Restore Mac to the Previous Date. You can also use the recovery mode of Mac to restore it.

After completion of the restore process, check if the keyboard is working fine.

Upgrade/Update macOS to the Latest Build

Outdated MacOS can leave your system exposed to many vulnerabilities. Moreover, known bugs are patched in newer releases of the OS. Maybe the bug causing the keyboard issue has already been patched in the newer release of the OS. In that case, updating macOS to the latest version may solve the problem.

  1. Back-up all the essential data to an external location/device.
  2. Open System Preferences on Your MacBook.
  3. Now click on Software Update to check if there are any updates available.
    Open Software Update in System Preferences
  4. If updates are available then click on Update Now.
    Click Update Now in Software Update
  5. After completion of the update process, check if the keyboard is working fine.

Boot MacBook in Safe Mode

If the keyboard issue is occurring due to any of third-party applications/drivers, then booting the system in safe mode (in which your system loads without any third-party applications/drivers) will be a good idea to rule out the possibility. Also, if a firmware update by Apple is released to troubleshoot the keyboard issue but sometimes the same could not be loaded until the system is booted in safe mode.

  1. Power off your system.
  2. Turn on the system and immediately press & hold the Shift key.
  3. When the login window appears, release the key. You should see Safe Mode in the top right corner of the window.
    Boot MacBook in Safe Mode
  4. Now login to your system and check if your keyboard is working fine.
  5. If so, then restart your system normally and check if the keyboard is working fine. If not, then your Mac’s startup items may be the root cause.
  6. To manage your startup items, open your Mac’s System Preferences.
  7. Now open Users and Groups and then, at the bottom left, click on the lock button (enter your password if prompted).
    Open Users & Groups in System Preferences
  8. Now move to the Login Items tab.
  9. Select the item that you suspect to be the reason for the issue and then near the bottom-left of the menu, click on the minus (-) button. One such application is MacKeeper.
    Remove Startup Items in MacBook
  10. Now restart your Mac and check if the keyboard is working fine.

Repair the Disk of Your MacBook

A corrupted disk can also be the reason for the keyboard in your Mac not working. In that case, repairing the disk may solve the problem. Disks usually get bad sectors or get issues with data allocation during operation. The repair functionality automatically scans all your drives and searches for abnormalities.

  1. Backup your essential data.
  2. Power off your MacBook.
  3. Power on your MacBook and immediately press and hold Command+R.
  4. Now in the macOS Utilities menu, select Disk Utility.
    Open Disk Utility
  5. Then in the Disk Utility, select the disk that you want to repair (usually your system partition is labelled as Macintosh HD) and then select Repair Disk.
  6. After completion of the disk repair process, exit MacOS Utilities Menu.
  7. Then restart your MacBook normally and check if the keyboard is working fine.

Use Another User Account to Log in the MacBook

The keyboard issue you are facing could be the result of a corrupted user account. In that case, either use a guest log-in or create another user account with administrative privileges. After logging in the account, check if the problem is solved.

  1. Open System Preference of your Mac.
  2. Now click on User & Groups and then click on the Lock button to unlock it (enter your password if prompted).
  3. You can either enable Allow guests to log into the computer.
    Allow Guests to Log in to This Computer
  4. Or you can click the plus (+) button (below the list of users) to add a new user. In the type of user, choose Administrator.
    Create a New Administrator User in MacBook
  5. Now logout of the current user and login through the other account (either guest or administrator) and check if the keyboard is working fine.
  6. If so, then log back into the old account and check if it is working fine, if not, then transfer your data to the newly created administrator account and use Mac through that account.

Delete the Property List (.plist) Files

The malfunction of your keyboard could be the result of misconfiguration of a setting. In that case, resetting them to factory defaults may solve the problem. To reset settings, you have to either delete the Property List (.plist) files or move them to another location.

  1. Backup your essential data.
  2. On your Mac, launch Finder.
  3. Now press Command+Shift+G.
  4. Then enter ~/Library/Preferences/ and click Go.
  5. Move these files out of the folder.
    apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.trackpad.plist - Magic Trackpad
    
    com.apple.driver.AppleBluetoothMultitouch.mouse.plist - Magic Mouse
    
    com.apple.driver.AppleHIDMouse.plist - wired USB mouse
    
    com.apple.AppleMultitouchTrackpad.plist
    
    com.apple.preference.trackpad.plist
  6. Now restart your Mac and check if the problem is solved.

Some Flukes Reported by Users

Now before moving to more intense solutions, let us try some flukes reported by users.

  1. Completely drain the battery of your MacBook and leave it overnight without charge. Next day plug the power supply to MacBook. Then power on the MacBook and check if the keyboard is working fine.
  2. Simply boot your system into recovery mode and check if the problem is solved.
  3. Restart your MacBook and hold Caps lock during the boot process till you see the login screen. Then check if the problem is solved.
  4. Open your MacBook’s system preference. Then click on Startup Disk. Now click on the lock icon to unlock the setting. Then select your internal Macintosh HD and restart your system.
    Select Mactonish HD as Startup Disk

Reinstall macOS Through Recovery Menu

If nothing has helped you, then it is time to Reinstall macOS through the recovery menu. Do note that this will erase all your user data so make sure that you back everything up before proceeding.

  1. Backup your essential data.
  2. Power off your MacBook.
  3. Power on your MacBook while holding the Command and R keys.
  4. In the Utility Menu, choose Reinstall and then click on Continue.
    Reinstall macOS
  5. Now follow the instructions on the screen to complete the re-installation process and then check if the keyboard is working fine.

If nothing has helped you, then your only option left in software troubleshooting is to erase all data and install macOS.

If Issue is Hardware Related

If nothing has helped you so far, the issue you have encountered has may be occuring due to hardware failure. The first step in troubleshooting the hardware issue is to run a diagnostics on your Mac.

  1. Power off your MacBook.
  2. Then power on your MacBook while holding the D key.
  3. If any error/error code is reported by your MacBook, then try to find the solution for that particular error/error code (although many hardware issues are not reported).

The Faulty Flex Cable/Ribbon

This error is known to arise from the faulty cable that connects the keyboard to the logic board. In some cases, the following steps helped users:

  1. Power off your MacBook.
  2. Turn it over and massage the bottom of the MacBook “gently” with the palm of your hand. You may hear one or two squeaky sounds.
  3. Power on your MacBook and check if the problem is solved.

Insulate the Faulty Cable

In some cases, users have reported that adding a spacer/ cord insulation (E tape can also be used) between the body of the MacBook, its battery and the faulty cable has solved the issue.

Flex Cable of Your MacBook

Hardware Repair of Your MacBook

Although you can order the flex cable online, but, if you do not have technical expertise, then you will have to find someone who can replace the flex cable for you.

If not, then it is time to visit Apple or any of its authorized repair center for maintenance.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

MacBook Pro Keyboard not Working?

If the issue is with your Computer or a Laptop you should try using Restoro which can scan the repositories and replace corrupt and missing files. This works in most cases, where the issue is originated due to a system corruption. You can download Restoro by clicking the Download button below.

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