Repair.IT – Apple MacBook Pro A1278

Early last month, 3rd November, actually – an old friend of mine who used to have a computer shop up in Gosford contacted me about an Apple MacBook. At the time I recall that it was about someone spilling something onto the keyboard and asked if I would have a look at it. I said that he should bring the power adapter with it when he comes.

Nothing more happened about this until two days ago – 3rd December, when he called again and said that he has gotten his hands on the MacBook and would bring it to me in the afternoon.

When it came in, I could see that it was a MacBook Pro model A1278. I placed it on charge and would happy to see that it was charging, so left it to fully charge. When finally charging was completed, I opened the screen and it resumed from sleep and was faced with a logon requiring a password. The keyboard seemed to be working, so I tried the trackpad – the mouse cursor jumped all over the screen – this must be the problem.

I did a quick search on Google and found numerous posts about trackpad problems with this model of MacBook Pro and also found suppliers for replacement trackpads. Most people were replacing the trackpad to fix the problem. I opened the bottom of the case – which required removing ten screws, three of them being longer than the others. I usually place the screws in an order representing the physical location of the holes where they came out of.

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Put screws in some sort of order

I used my smallest Phillips-head screwdriver to remove these screws. Once the bottom cover was off, I could see that it was a bit dusty inside.

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Dusty insides of MacBook Pro

I also saw what appeared to be a grain of rice next to where the trackpad cable connector was located.

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Rice, anyone?

I removed the grain of rice, then unplugged the trackpad connector and plugged it back in. Then put the cover back on and turned on the MacBook.

The trackpad problem was still there, so I decided to clean the trackpad. I use a soft cloth that I wet first, then wrung dry – so that it is damp. I wiped the trackpad with left and right motions until I covered all of it, then wiped along the edges. After doing this, I turned on again, and the trackpad was responding again – ok, not perfect, left and right motions seemed to be sort of working, but up and down was not. Tried drawing a circle – the result was nothing like it.

I decided to clean the trackpad again, this time with up and down motions, then finally with circle motions along the entire trackpad surface – I used a slightly damper cloth this time. This time, I could now move the mouse cursor all over the screen and make little and bigger circles – I made a little video of it, just to give you an idea.

After this, I opened the case again, and gave the insides a good going over with the vacuum cleaner, then closing up again – turned it on for a final check. To my surprise, the trackpad problem was back again! The trackpad itself can’t be dirty now, so it must be the connector. Using a vacuum cleaner can cause connectors to shift slightly especially those that are pressed down.

I opened up the case again, then removed the trackpad connector – used a fine bristle brush and brushed both the connector and the mating piece, connected back on again – then closed up the case. After turning on, the trackpad was working, and I was able to move the mouse cursor in circles again.

Over the next day or two, I will continue to turn it on and check that the trackpad is working. If it fails again, then it is likely that the trackpad will need replacement – cost would be something like $40 from a number of ebay sellers, as it could be a bad contact on the trackpad connector. I did examine the connector and mating piece through a 10x jewellers loupe and all the contacts looked intact.

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