(Catalina issue) Macbook Pro built-in keyboard and trackpad are unresponsive

Half Baked

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 13, 2020
6
0
I am writing this post about an issue I've been having with my 2019 Macbook Pro running Catalina 10.15.5.

Often, when I open my laptop, the built-in keyboard and trackpad are unresponsive. If I don't close the laptop, a window will pop up after 15-30 seconds that says "Bluetooth keyboard setup. There isn't a keyboard connected."

This problem was frequently happening every single day. I tried the following things to no avail:
1. Resetting the SMC
2. Resetting the NVRAM
3. Rebooting in safe
4. Deleting potential problematic plist files as suggested in this article.

So I factory reset my Mac, reinstalled MacOS, then restored a backup from Time Machine.

Factory resetting has been the only thing that has had any positive impact on this issue. I encounter the problem much less often, but it isn’t gone completely. The keyboard and mouse are still occasionally unresponsive when I open my laptop, particularly if it is plugged in (though it happens when not plugged in too).

One thing to note is that the fingerprint reader/power button still works even if the rest of the keys on the keyboard don't—I can triple-click the power button to open the accessibility options, though I can’t select anything because this doesn’t cause the keyboard and trackpad to start working.

I'm certain this is a software issue. This problem started when I updated to one of the supplemental Catalina updates around 10.15.13/14 (I’ve learned my lesson about updating—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). My Mac has had no spills, drops, or other physical damage.

Additionally, waiting usually solves the problem. Meaning, when I open the lid and the keyboard and trackpad are unresponsive, if I wait a few seconds (or sometimes it takes up to a minute or two), then everything works and is responsive. Also, I am not the only one with this problem! I’ve come across several posts of people with the exact same problem (on the 16 inch Macbook Pro).

A solution would be much appreciated!
 

ApfelKuchen

macrumors 68040
Aug 28, 2012
3,574
2,218
Between the coasts
Have you asked Apple for a solution?

When you "factory reset" did you restore Catalina, or did you roll back to an earlier OS?

Does this happen when the Mac wakes from sleep, or only when starting up?

You may be convinced that this is a software-only issue, but I expect it's a combination of hardware and software.

My hypothetical scenario is: Something in the keyboard controller/hardware is intermittent. When the software periodically polls for the presence of hardware components, or the keyboard issues an interrupt (requests attention from the system), sometimes the keyboard and trackpad are detected, sometimes not. Software can magnify this - a change to timing (duration/frequency of polling) can affect the likelihood that the system detects or fails to detect the keyboard.

Under this scenario, it's logical to see the Bluetooth setup appear - having failed to find an internal keyboard, it looks for a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. Having failed to find a USB or Bluetooth keyboard, it invokes Bluetooth keyboard setup as if it was a new desktop Mac. Failing to find any keyboard, the process loops around and again looks for a hardware keyboard. And so on. That would explain why the internal keyboard is eventually recognized.

Basically, the new software/firmware (since keyboards are searched for prior to the OS boot as well as once the OS has booted) is doing things differently than before, and that difference has made the system more sensitive to an intermittent hardware failure.

Here's a test for you - does the Mac have any trouble detecting an external USB keyboard/mouse during startup?

Here's another test - can you successfully Option-boot or boot to Recovery, or is the keyboard equally intermittent?

The long and the short of it is, changes to software can sometimes magnify the impact of a pre-existing hardware fault.
 
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Half Baked

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 13, 2020
6
0
I restored Catalina when I factory reset.

This happens when the Mac wakes from sleep, not just when starting up.

Interesting hypothesis, I hadn't thought of that before. I will try your tests.
 

ryan1uk

macrumors newbie
Jun 27, 2020
2
1
I'm having the exact same issue on my 16 inch MacBook Pro. Only got it yesterday and am seriously considering returning it.
 
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chudester

macrumors newbie
May 21, 2020
3
2
San Francisco, CA
So, I have about 10 MacBook Pro's in a fleet at our company that this happened to when we rolled out 10.15.3.
Keyboard/Trackpad work in UEFI/Pre-File Vault Login. As soon as the OS loads, the cursor is stuck in the left top corner of the screen. It's important to note that plugging in an external mouse or keyboard once at the desktop will unlock the trackpad/keyboard built internally. I have noticed that WiFi icon in the status bar is completely gone when the trackpad/keyboard is locked. If I let the machines go to sleep on their own and wake up, the peripherals work and all seems well and good. This is definitely a software issue. All hardware works in macOS Recovery and in pre-login phase. And to the other member's point, the TouchID button works as well. Apple Forums is littered with this issue. I also thought this was related to Legacy Kext since we have several programs running for security and monitoring and this is not the case. Backing up the machines and restoring in full BRINGS THE ISSUE BACK.So now I restore just the user accounts and no system settings. The machine is much faster and I'm able to reboot several times without seeing the issue return all while having the data restored. Also - logging into another account still has the issue, so it's not the profile itself. SMC, PRAM, and even an in-place upgrade will not solve your issue. This has to be something directly addressed within Catalina to resolve. I've submitted feedback to Apple, but it'll be a long shot before I hear anything back. Until then, I just have to lead a parade of backups and restorations luckily for a small org. I wouldn't want to be any IT Manager or Helpdesk Specialist for mid to full size org as this is a pain. I already know I'll be extensively testing Big Sur before implementing in our environment as Catalina was a fu**ing nightmare.
 

ryan1uk

macrumors newbie
Jun 27, 2020
2
1
Not sure if it helps but I think my issue was caused by the NordVPN app. I've noticed that the issue only occurred when NordVPN was having issues reconnecting.
 

chudester

macrumors newbie
May 21, 2020
3
2
San Francisco, CA
Got one of my MacBook Pros back from Apple Repair and the top case was replaced. I logged into the account and issue was still there. So - it’s definitely software.

Not sure if it helps but I think my issue was caused by the NordVPN app. I've noticed that the issue only occurred when NordVPN was having issues reconnecting.
No VPN clients on any of our assets. Only similar item is JAMF Client for enterprise. Which is also how we distributed Catalina. But I doubt that will cause it. The saga continues.
 
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