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kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3
Super first things first, so I do get your attention: I believe this is not a faulty butterfly keyboard problem: please read on!

Hello everyone! A brief introduction for context: I’m a long-time Mac power user, so I know how to move around the system. Last fall my ancient MBP died on me, and knowing the Apple Silicon Macs were around the corner but also that I didn’t want to hop on the first-gen train, I bought a used 2018 MBP (13-inch, 4 ports) in mint conditions for about 1000 bucks (questionable choice I’m sure, but I stand by my reasoning, and I especially cared for backwards compatibility) as a stopgap for a a couple years at most.

I don’t regret my choice, but i had one big fear: The-Butterfly-Keyboard. I read all about it in the recent years and it was the only thing I was doubtful about regarding my purchase. The thing is, I BELIEVE MINE IS A SOFTWARE PROBLEM, not a hardware one, so I’m hesitant to send my mac to swap the keyboard (free repair program) since that would leave me without a work machine for up to two weeks.

THE PROBLEM.
I’ve had this machine for more than a couple of months now, and everything ran smoothly up until now. Two times in the last month, weeks apart, the mac acted like the shift key was constantly pressed: upper case text, keyboard shortcuts “adding” the shift key in, etc. The problem was fixed with a reboot, so I brushed it off. Since yesterday, it started happening constantly, making my work nigh-impossible (I’m a designer so I don’t type a lot, but having the shift key constantly pressed messes up with almost every keyboard shortcut and pointer interaction on the machine).

WHY I BELIEVE IT’S A SOFTWARE PROBLEM.
First of all, a reboot always fixes the problem (temporarily). I believe if a physical key was faulty, the problem would stick (heh) even after rebooting the machine (edit: logging out and back in also fixes it). Secondly, my setup is as follows: I work on an external monitor with bluetooth Apple keyboard and trackpad (and the MBP to the side as my “second” monitor), so I basically never type on the MBP keyboard; ofc that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be faulty, but I’m literally never typing on it when the SHIFT key gets stuck. (conversely, the problem persists if I disable bluetooth so I don’t think it’s the BT keyboard either.)

WHAT I DID SO FAR.
I tried installing Karabiner (née KeyRemap4MacBook) to disable first the shift key(s), then the internal keyboard entirely, but this doesn’t stop the problem (further convincing me it’s not a hardware issue). I tried another shot at disabling the internal keyboard with this method, but it doesn’t seem to be working on Big Sur, or at least it didn’t for me (the keyboard keeps typing just fine after using the command.) If you guys know of any other method to reliably disable the MBP keyboard on Big Sur, I'll gladly try that!

Basically I’m stuck just like the shift key, and convinced it’s some software on my mac causing the problem. I work remotely from home, controlling the Mac in my office with TeamViewer and/or Anydesk (I keep both running concurrently, it may seem an odd setup but both have their strengths and I’ve done this for a year now without any major problem so far). So the apps I have running constantly on my local machine are:
- Anydesk
- Teamviewer
- Microsoft Teams (…)
- Dropbox
- Bettertouchtool
- bunch of other small utilities, but none that has been updated recently or that would make me think it could possibly cause this problem

This has been my setup for months and nothing major changed, nor any of these apps were updated to my knowledge. Whenever the problem happens, even if I quit all running apps, it doesn't stop, only a reboot does it. Do you guys have any idea of what could be happening, and how I can try to troubleshoot it? I know this was a long post, thank you SO MUCH for your attention!
 
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kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
24,672
9,912
I didn't read your opening post.
I'll still say "it's a butterfly keyboard problem".
Your solution:
Take it to a brick-n-mortar Apple Store and show it to the genius bar,
or
Call Apple Support, have them ship you a prepaid box, and send it in for repair.

THAT will "fix it".
(and like you hear on the old police car radio, "that is all...")
 

Crazy Badger

macrumors 65816
Apr 1, 2008
1,281
681
Scotland
I had a problem with sticky keys on a 2016 MacBook with the terrible butterfly keyboard, which I always managed to fix at home by blasting it with some compressed air. Fortunately, as a SCUBA diver, I had compressed air cylinders on hand and simply connected a small nozzle adapter to one of my inflator hoses. I believe you can buy cans, although I suspect they are not at the same pressure :)
 

kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3
I didn't read your opening post.
I'll still say "it's a butterfly keyboard problem".
Your solution:
Take it to a brick-n-mortar Apple Store and show it to the genius bar,
or
Call Apple Support, have them ship you a prepaid box, and send it in for repair.

THAT will "fix it".
(and like you hear on the old police car radio, "that is all...")
Thanks for your opinion, the problem is that this is my main work machine and it'll be hard for me to go two weeks without it. It would be especially dumb on my part to go through the hassle of repairing the keyboard with Apple IF the problem is indeed software. I explained in great length why I believe this is not a hardware issue.
 

kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3
I had a problem with sticky keys on a 2016 MacBook with the terrible butterfly keyboard, which I always managed to fix at home by blasting it with some compressed air. Fortunately, as a SCUBA diver, I had compressed air cylinders on hand and simply connected a small nozzle adapter to one of my inflator hoses. I believe you can buy cans, although I suspect they are not at the same pressure :)
Hey and thanks. The thing is I doubt it's the butterfly keyboard because I don't use it at all; as I explained I use a bluetooth keyboard, so how can the MBP keys get stuck if I don't press them? That said I have an air compressor, and I tried to blast it on the keyboard already to no avail.
 

Galoper

macrumors newbie
May 22, 2013
3
0
Have you tried safe mode or a guest account? I’d say enter safe mode and see if the problem happens. If it does then it is unlikely it is software and may need a hardware repair
 

kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3
Have you tried safe mode or a guest account? I’d say enter safe mode and see if the problem happens. If it does then it is unlikely it is software and may need a hardware repair
I'll have to check if software like TeamViewer works decently in safe mode, otherwise I'll try with a fresh test account!
 

MBAir2010

macrumors 601
May 30, 2018
4,634
4,368
sunny florida
If you could use a bluetooth keyboard.....i needed one so i purchased a anker $20 one for my macbook air in 2018. They are handy and can be a lifesaver down the road
 

kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3
If you could use a bluetooth keyboard.....i needed one so i purchased a anker $20 one for my macbook air in 2018. They are handy and can be a lifesaver down the road
I know it's a wall of text, but as I mentioned in the post I DO use a BT keyboard, I actually never type on the integrated one. Which is why I believe it's not a hardware issue...
 

MBAir2010

macrumors 601
May 30, 2018
4,634
4,368
sunny florida
Im....just like everyone else trying to help with suggestions.
there is a another post of someone wanting a 2017 macbook instead of the new M1.
i probably typed something there were they should be happy the macbook works
My macbook air would not type ”q-p” for 18 months until i really really inserted that ribbon perfectly to the trackpad, and was content until the new M1 arrived. Now i want one, i dont need one, and feel kinda gulty when people are freezing and not working. But we are so focused on our desires that we go back to wanting a 2017 and let everyone know or have a problem That an be fixed easly.

which is why im typing is we will never be fully happy with our things even when we “surprisingly” repair them and content that week. Sure enough another week goes by and we expand our demands and curiosities were we get new things.
oh well.......
 

artfossil

macrumors 68000
Oct 5, 2015
1,760
2,018
Florida
I know it's a wall of text, but as I mentioned in the post I DO use a BT keyboard, I actually never type on the integrated one. Which is why I believe it's not a hardware issue...
Oh, you'd be surprised what can happen, no matter how much or how little you type on that keyboard. :cool:

You did ask for advice. :) To me, it seems like you're spending a lot of time and energy hoping that what you would like to think is the problem is in fact the problem.

But isolating the problem is an essential part of troubleshooting.

So again, for me, I would send the laptop off for what I understand is an Apple authorized keyboard repair, which is the obvious first step. And I'd direct my time and energy into finding a replacement computer (your work? a friend? something else?) if it's important that you have a machine during the repair period.
 
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chrfr

macrumors G4
Jul 11, 2009
11,826
5,363
I know it's a wall of text, but as I mentioned in the post I DO use a BT keyboard, I actually never type on the integrated one. Which is why I believe it's not a hardware issue...
I think you're underestimating just how bad the keyboards are. You're using a computer that has a known faulty design; there's no known software issue that causes one specific key to be pressed on Mac keyboards. The only logical answer here is that your keyboard has failed.
 
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Aggedor

macrumors 6502a
Dec 10, 2020
526
473
I think you're underestimating just how bad the keyboards are. You're using a computer that has a known faulty design; there's no known software issue that causes one specific key to be pressed on Mac keyboards. The only logical answer here is that your keyboard has failed.
Agreed. Plus, the MBP keyboard can be faulty and result in a stuck shift key even if you are not using it. You would never know... except when you use your BT keyboard. The MBP keyboard input is not "deactivated" when you use an external keyboard. It's like someone is holding down shift on the MBP even as you're typing on the BT keyboard.
 
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velocityg4

macrumors 604
Dec 19, 2004
6,895
4,053
Georgia
Hey and thanks. The thing is I doubt it's the butterfly keyboard because I don't use it at all; as I explained I use a bluetooth keyboard, so how can the MBP keys get stuck if I don't press them? That said I have an air compressor, and I tried to blast it on the keyboard already to no avail.

Then settle if it is hardware or not. Create an Ubuntu live USB. Boot off that and use it for general web browsing and other tasks for a while. If the problem occurs at all. Then it is most definitely hardware.

Other alternatives. Do a clean install of macOS to another drive or partition and boot off that. If the problem occurs. It is hardware.

An external keyboard will provide no answer without disabling the internal keyboard. If the built in keyboard is acting like shift is pressed. It'll still do so whether an external is connected or not.
 
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kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3
Then settle if it is hardware or not. Create an Ubuntu live USB. Boot off that and use it for general web browsing and other tasks for a while. If the problem occurs at all. Then it is most definitely hardware.

Other alternatives. Do a clean install of macOS to another drive or partition and boot off that. If the problem occurs. It is hardware.

An external keyboard will provide no answer without disabling the internal keyboard. If the built in keyboard is acting like shift is pressed. It'll still do so whether an external is connected or not.
Hey, that's exactly what I've been trying to do: understanding if there's a slim chance that the problem might in fact be software :)

All your suggestions are great (I've also tried using the Mac in safe mode; actually, since I posted this thread, the SHIFT problem hasn't YET happened again)... but there's something I was wondering that would be much simpler: as I covered in my original post, there's a known way to disable an integrated MacBook keyboard, but it doesn't seem to work on Big Sur. Google hasn't been my friend; does anyone know of a way to do that on the latest OS? or maybe I did something wrong while disabling the kext? Thanks!


I'd like to also address all the comments encouraging me to service my laptop with Apple. I understand that there is a known flaw with the butterfly keyboards, and I stated it extensively in the original post. As I also said, it would be a real pain for me to send the MacBook off to Apple, so if there's even a slim chance that this is indeed a software problem, I'd like to explore this route. That said I appreciate everyone taking the time to comment and answer me!

Edit: I would like to add that Karabiner Elements setting to disable the internal keyboard when the BT one is connected DOES in fact seem to work, making key presses from the integrated keyboard not respond... wouldn't that in theory prevent the SHIFT key to stay pressed IF it were a hardware problem?
 
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kiwidesign

macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 17, 2008
37
3
As the old saying goes:
You can lead the horse to the water...
You have made your point very clear, if you have nothing else to add to the discussion do you really have to reply to every message I post with your infinite wisdom? :)

Edit: since your knowledge is apparently infinite, wouldn't disabling the integrated keyboard via Karabiner (that I have verified does actually work) prevent my problem to manifest, if it were indeed a hardware issue?
 

Aggedor

macrumors 6502a
Dec 10, 2020
526
473
It occurs to me that the original machine would have been to Apple and back by now, with a working keyboard.

You've said twice now that Karabiner Elements works, but you haven't said what the result of the experiment is.
 

abeagler

macrumors newbie
Nov 4, 2018
11
8
Oddly, the one time my Macbook Air had this symptom, it was caused by Karabiner, and removing Karabiner fixed the problem.
 

beckpeck

macrumors newbie
May 3, 2021
1
0
Don't let them gas light you. I'm experiencing this sticky shift-key problem as well. I thought it was a hardware issue because I spilled water on my keyboard. I bought a new replacement and I'm still experiencing the shift-key issue so I'm convinced its a software problem. I found your post looking for a solution. Haven't found one yet. :(
 

pragmaticdev

macrumors newbie
Oct 15, 2021
1
0
Hi, I found this thread because I’m experiencing the same problem on my M1 MacBook Pro. I’m a junior developer and I use this computer for remote work. This issue started a few days ago. I’d worked through the night and the next morning when I tried to pick up where I left, my computer acted like the shift key was stuck, selected a large portion of code in my editor, a lot of chaos really. I decided to restart it but then it logged me out as I could not enter my password in the correct case. I spoke to Apple support and they had me reset the SMC but to no avail. After several restarts and using an external keyboard to gain access, it temporarily stopped. Then it got started again barely 24hrs later. I’ve turned on the accessibility keyboard and relocated the shift key using Karabiner to the fn button but now that frequently brings up the emojis and makes the delete button act up. I thought I might find a solution here. What’s frustrating is this computer is barely 8 months old.
 

ader42

macrumors 6502
Jun 30, 2012
358
263
Just suddenly had this wonkiness on a 2019 iMac running Big Sur. It seemed like the Mac thought the shift key and/or command was pressed when it wasn't. It was causing scroll directions to be wrong horizontal became vertical, and I couldn't open folders or choose menu bar items e.g. to turn wifi or bluetooth off.

I looked in system preferences to the accessibility > sticky keys and that was turned off. But turning it on and then off again and enabling and disabling the "press 5 times" option fixed the problem! So even if things look turned off they might be turned on...
 
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