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On my MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.6.8, if I move the mouse, the cursor moves around the screen. However, the computer doesn’t respond to clicking or keyboard strokes.

How do I recover from this situation? In the past when this has happened, I just hard rebooted the machine. Is that the right solution?

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Do you have any additional drivers installed? Does the problem persist on another user account? – slhck Jun 6 '12 at 20:58
How do I recover is the wrong question. The right question is "what is causing my system to fail in this fashion?" Having the keyboard on a laptop suddenly stop working is completely bonkers. If you've got third party software installed, particularly apps that install kernel modules, you should try disabling them one at a time and see if the problem stops happening. – Kyle Jones Jun 6 '12 at 21:41
I ended up hard rebooting my machine. The phenomenon was a one-time event. It's not reproducible AFAICT. – qazwsx Jun 7 '12 at 2:36
@KyleJones "How do I recover is the wrong question." That's nit-picky. The general concept & concern is clear. The use of "recover" could just be a language difference more than anything. – JakeGould Oct 7 '14 at 10:36

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

While you say you are using a MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.6.8, it’s unclear what model you are using. Please update your answer with the exact model number so we have more info to work off of.

That said, have you tried hooking up an external keyboard & mouse to the USB port on the machine to see what is happening? If an external keyboard and mouse work, but the built in keyboard & trackpad choke it could mean there is an underlying hardware issue.

But don’t panic!

If it cleared up with rebooting it might simply be an issue with your PRAM or NVRAM depending on the make/model of your MacBook Pro.

Instructions for dealing with the PRAM are here on Apple’s site; ignore the title that refers to Mavericks since those instructions should work with all version of Mac OS X:

  1. Shutdown your Mac.
  2. Start your Mac.
  3. Immediately hold down the command + option + p + r keys.
  4. You will hear the Mac OS star up chime once, and then once more as it restarts form the PRAM being reset. After the second “BONG” sound let go of the keys & boot up as normal.

Instructions on how to reset the NVRAM are here. It seems a tad more daunting but not really that hard to do:

  1. Shutdown your Mac.
  2. Start your Mac.
  3. During starup hold down the command + option + o + f keys.
  4. When you get into open firmware—which should look like a terminal prompt—type in the following two commands:

reset-nvram return

reset-all return

Your MacBook Pro will now restart with cleared NVRAM settings.

Now if none of that worked—or the key combos above were ignored—it points to a hardware issue with the keyboard itself. Could be something as simple as the ribbon cable being loose or just a damaged keyboard. Next steps all depend on what was successful—or not successful—after following these basic steps.

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I ended up hard rebooting. Since then, I had a few instances of such happening to me. IIRC, usually when the computer is very busy. – qazwsx Oct 7 '14 at 20:44
@qazwsx Happy things cleared up! But I would recommend my PRAM & NVRAM ideas to clear things up. Doing that stuff can definitely not hurt. – JakeGould Oct 8 '14 at 2:02

Do you have any wireless keyboards/mice in the room connected to a different mac? If so turn them off. I had this happen. Working on iMac OSX with wireless keyboard & mouse, I could move mouse pointer, but the click would not work and the keyboard would not work. I had a MacBook pro in the cupboard with a wireless mouse that was still switched on. This was the problem. As soon as I turned this other wireless mouse off, my keyboard and mouse responded perfectly.

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If you can connect with vnc from another computer (or iPad using e.g. Jump Desktop) then you can restart it normally. It seems like it must be input services in some fashion as I have had the same thing and the error persists even through a sleep / wake cycle. No idea how to relaunch that process though and since its likely either kernel or kext relaunching it will be tricky.

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