Why is my laptop’s touchpad not working?

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Has your laptop touchpad stopped working? Fortunately, this frustrating problem is usually easy to fix. Here are the most common causes and solutions for laptop touchpad issues.

The touch panel was disabled with the function key

Most, if not all, Windows laptops have dedicated one of the function keys to disable and enable the laptop’s touchpad. The key icon often represents an old-style touchpad with a line through it.

Hold down the Function key (usually labeled “fn”) and press the touchpad on/off key in the row of function keys. Its location and appearance will differ depending on your laptop make and model, but the key will likely look like a trackpad with a line through it.

You should see a message on the screen telling you that the touchpad is enabled or disabled. If the message says enabled, check the touchpad to see if it is now working.

Find the trackpad lever on your keyboard.
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Touchpad has been disabled in settings

Both Windows and macOS allow you to disable the touchpad in settings. If someone else uses the laptop, the touchpad might have been disabled this way.

In Windows, open Settings > Bluetooth and devices > Touchpad. Check that the touchpad has not been disabled here.

Touchpad settings in Windows 11

On a MacBook, click the Apple menu and go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Mouse & Trackpad. There is no simple on/off switch for the touchpad here, but there is an option to “Disable touchpad if external mouse is connected”. Check that this option is not selected.

RELATED: How to disable your Mac’s trackpad when another mouse is connected

Enable another device has disabled the touchpad

As detailed above, your MacBook can be set to automatically disable the trackpad when an external mouse is connected. Windows has a similar setting to disable the laptop’s touchpad when a mouse is connected.

In Windows, open Settings > Bluetooth and devices > Touchpad. Click the Touchpad section to expand it, and then check the box next to “Leave touchpad on when a mouse is connected.”

Switching to tablet mode has disabled the touchpad

Switching to tablet mode on a Windows touchscreen laptop can disable the touchpad. This helps prevent unwanted input from the touch panel when using the touch screen.

In Windows 11, tablet mode is automatically enabled when you fold a 2-in-1 laptop into a tablet. It will also be enabled if you remove a removable keyboard. Obviously, if you’ve removed the keyboard, it won’t try to use the touchpad.

Windows 10 does not have this automatic feature. Instead, touchscreen laptops can be switched to tablet mode from the “Quick Settings” panel in Action Center. Open Action Center by clicking the icon (a chat bubble) in the taskbar, or by pressing Windows + A, and make sure tablet mode is off.

Your laptop needs to be restarted

It’s a tired question, but it still needs to be asked: have you tried turning it off and on again? If your laptop is always left on or in sleep mode, restarting it might fix the problem. Turn off the laptop and wait 30 seconds to allow any residual power to discharge. Boot the laptop and check if the touchpad works.

If this fixes the problem, it could still be a sign that there is some kind of software problem. Please take a few minutes to check for and install any available system updates, as explained below.

Updating device drivers has caused a conflict

Of course, it is recommended to update drivers regularly to keep your laptop working well. Unfortunately, because PC configurations are not standardized, it is almost impossible to avoid some driver conflicts.

A driver conflict means that the installed software update unexpectedly affects the operation of another piece of software. If your touchpad stopped working shortly after updating the drivers, the problem could be a driver conflict.

In Windows, you can roll back driver updates in Device Manager. Open Device Manager and find the device that had its driver updated. Right click and select “Properties.” Open the “Drivers” tab in the properties panel and click the “Roll Back Driver” button.

Driver Rollback Option in Device Manager

If you’re using macOS, you can’t roll back driver updates like you can in Windows. But if you have a recent Time Machine backup, you can restore it before the driver is updated.

The touchpad has been disabled in the BIOS

The touchpad on a laptop can be disabled in the BIOS settings. Very occasionally, flashing or upgrading the BIOS can cause the touchpad settings to be changed. You can check by booting into BIOS setup.

Turn on your laptop and tap on the key used to boot BIOS. The key you need to press varies by device manufacturer, but is usually F2, F10, or F12. In the “Advanced” settings of the BIOS, look for “Touchpad” or “Internal Pointing Device” and make sure it is not disabled. Be sure to save your changes before exiting BIOS setup.

RELATED: How to enter the BIOS on your Windows 11 PC

Your touch panel or your hands are dirty

Unless you have a very old laptop, the touchpad is likely to be capacitive. That means it works by detecting tiny electrical charges on your fingertips when you touch it. Dirt, especially grease, on the touch panel surface or on your fingers can prevent the capacitive surface from detecting input.

Gently clean a dirty touchpad with laptop cleaning wipes or isopropyl alcohol on a soft cloth. This is best done with the laptop turned off and unplugged. Isopropyl alcohol will not damage electrical components, but other types of cleaning fluids might. Let the touchpad dry before turning on the laptop.

A person's hand cleaning a laptop's touchpad with a cloth.
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System updates need to be installed

Both Microsoft and Apple release regular system software updates. System updates improve security, fix known issues, and generally help keep your computer running smoothly. They can resolve any number of problems, including the kind of software conflicts that might prevent a touchpad from working.

In Windows, open Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. Click the “Check for Updates” button, and then download and install any that are available.

On a MacBook, click Apple menu > System Preferences > Software Update. Check for all available updates and click the “Update Now” button to install them.

If all else fails, use a mouse

If all of the above steps don’t fix the issue with the touchpad, it could be a hardware issue. Check with your laptop manufacturer to see if it’s still under warranty. It may also be possible to repair or replace your touchpad yourself, although you should note that we do not recommend technical DIY repairs in all cases.

You can of course use a mouse instead of a trackpad. There are many good Bluetooth mice available, but a wired USB mouse will also work fine if the cable doesn’t bother you.