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Lately I've noticed the trackpad on my MacBook Pro has been getting stuck from time to time and generally isn't as clicky as it used to be. It feels to me like there's something stuck behind the trackpad there that's stopping it from moving freely, but I have no idea how to get behind there and clean it, let alone how anything could have gotten in there in the first place. The trackpad will press all the way down on the bottom left and right corners, but towards the bottom centre it does not press down nearly as easily.

Has anyone had any luck cleaning behind the MacBook trackpad? If so how did you do it?

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Whatever it was that was jamming up the trackpad seems to have come loose, it's working fine now. But if anyone does have a method for cleaning behind the trackpad I'm sure someone will find it of use. –  FrogBot Jan 23 '12 at 7:05
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3 Answers

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The tolerances in the unibody macs are very, very tight and the area is located behind the battery, so Apple does not recommend users without training on servicing the delicate back sides of the battery clean it other than spraying air lightly from the outside. I've found setting it up vertically and open helps with gravity bringing the grit towards the most open side of the trackpad. (The part closest to you that swings free and presses on the physical spring.)

It's not hard to find the tools or the steps - iFixit.com has both, but I prefer to take it in to the genius bar for cleaning as long as it's a convenient trip. If you're careful, you should be able to get inside the mac and see how much debris is inside and whether it's worth a trip to the shop or to learn how to clean it better yourself. Getting the back off is all you need following the memory replacement instructions to have a peek.

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Out of curiosity; how much does the genius bar charge for that? I assume it doesn't matter if it is under warranty? –  user142485 Aug 21 '12 at 18:58
    
In the US, I believe the labor charge for any repair is $39 if you are out of warran or apple care coverage. Best to call them for a quote if you travel a long way. If they only remove the back and adjust the set screw, I'm not sure if that counts as a paid repair or a free service. All mine have been coverd since the new glass trackpads have been out. –  bmike Aug 21 '12 at 22:58
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Compressed air is probably the best cleaning tool for assembled electronic equipment, and can be found in aerosol-style cans from most electronic component suppliers.

if you can disassemble the equipment and remove any plastic, then you can use switch cleaner or iso-propyl alcohol, but I wouldn't recommend either for fully assembled electronic equipment - they have a tendency to melt plastic spacers and the like.

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Some other basic ideas:

  • Power off the Mac, wipe the area down furiously with cotton balls and isopropyl alcohol. This can't hurt unless you get so much alcohol in the trackpad and onto the battery that it doesn't evaporate before you power things on again. Capillary action can "wick" liquid extremely well, so be frugal if you are not familiar with cleaning computers with alcohol.

  • Use compressed air to blast around the borders of the trackpad to dislodge any hand salsa (etc) that's stuck there. This is best done before cleaning with alcohol or after it has dried.

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