Mouse Acceleration on a Mac – What it is and How to Adjust or Disable it

Aug 25, 2010 - 13 Comments

mac mouse acceleration What is mouse acceleration?
Mouse acceleration is something most Mac users don’t think twice about, many aren’t aware it even exists. By default the mouse drivers count the movement of your mouse and depending on your sensitivity settings, the cursor will then move across the screen by a similar and consistent distance. Mouse acceleration is basically a threshold setting on top of this, so when the mouse is moved past a certain point or at a certain speed, the cursor itself moves more quickly and goes further, thus accelerating the movement speed and rate of the mouse cursor.

How to disable or adjust mouse acceleration

There are several ways to disable or adjust the mouse acceleration curve in Mac OS X, here are 3 easy ways to turn it off or tweak the curve:

Disable mouse acceleration with defaults – the following defaults write command will disable the mouse acceleration curve in Mac OS X. This is entered into the Terminal once and can be reversed or adjusted by changing the -1 at the end. You generally must log out for the change to take effect:
defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1

Disable Mac OS X mouse acceleration via the command line – this easy to use script will completely disable mouse acceleration in Mac OS X. Settings are reversible by rebooting the machine. This is a favorite for Windows gamers.

Mouse Acceleration preference pane – you can manually adjust or disable the mouse acceleration via this preference pane in Mac OS X, this is handy if you want to manually adjust the curve rather than just disable it.
adjust mouse acceleration mac

If you are looking for just instant changes and turning it off, I would recommend the command line methods, if you want precise control over the acceleration curve the preference pane is very useful.

Why do people dislike mouse acceleration?
Many new Mac users aren’t used to mouse acceleration, or the higher curve that Mac OS X’s acceleration provides compared to Windows. Mouse acceleration can cause a loss of cursor precision, particularly when trying to draw with the cursor in certain applications, or more commonly in gaming. The most common mouse acceleration complaints come from the gaming world, where the acceleration curve can lead to unanticipated mouse movements in games like Team Fortress 2 and Starcraft 2.

Personally I don’t mind mouse acceleration at all, but I have used Macs for a long time so the curve does not feel foreign to me. Many Mac switchers from the Windows world come to Mac OS X and find the cursor feels funny and more responsive, these are generally the people who would want to tweak the curve or disable the feature. For the record, mouse acceleration does exist in Windows it’s just at a different threshold and sensitivity.

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Posted by: Manish Patel in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

13 Comments

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  1. hpux735 says:

    A GREAT hint would be: “What are the windows acceleration settings needed to match MacOS?” When I use BootCamp to boot windows the mouse feels slow and irritating.

  2. inket says:

    Mouse acceleration in the OS is fine/bearable and we can get used to it.
    BUT, in games it’s really weird and unpractical. (None of the methods you mentioned gives a Windows-like mouse acceleration).

  3. [...] can read more about mouse acceleration including some other ways to adjust [...]

  4. louis says:

    Hi,
    I just tried the command “defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1″; but since then my mouse speed is very slow … and chaging the tracking/slider in the mouse menu doesn’t respond anymore :(
    Ho do I cancel this “defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1″ Command ?

    thanks
    Louis

    • Paul says:

      You can set it to something else, like:

      defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling 3

      the number on the end can be adjusted up or down, the higher the number the faster the movement and vice versa

      • vaal says:

        I’m not convinced that the value the author talks about under .GlobalPreferences has to do with the acceleration at all. If you change the tracking speed this value changes proportional. Maybe OS X just links them somehow but even if so this is still a problem as the link goes both ways and setting this to -1 leads to an intolerably slow tracking speed.

  5. Henrik says:

    My personal opinion is that mouse acceleration decreased my presicion. My first tought when I plugged a mice into my MacBook was that it was unresponsive, while it felt way more natural when using the trackpad.

    Regardless, thanks for this great article!

  6. Diane says:

    I wish there were a program somewhere that would mimic the Windows acceleration curve exactly. I have tried MouseFix and a bunch of other stuff, and none of it works. It’s very annoying because I have to shift back and forth between a Mac and a PC and you can’t just “get used to” the different curve if you have to do that. It also makes graphics programs very difficult to use. If anyone finds a program that exactly mimics the Windows curve, please email me! Thank you!

  7. Kevin says:

    “find the cursor feels funny and more responsive”… Yeah right. It’s like a reflex game trying to get the pointer to where you want it. If you don’t scroll quickly, the cursor almost doesn’t move at all, but cross an invisible quickness threshold and the cursor vanishes into the distance. As I move the mouse right now, it moves with little fits and jumps even though I’m trying my hardest to keep it steady.

  8. Marco says:

    How, exactly, does one go about changing the defaults in Terminal? I mean, I see that you have supplied the code. But is it simply a matter of opening Terminal, inserting your cursor in the little gray box area, pasting the code and hitting return? Or is there something more to it?

  9. [...] but the acceleration curve is a whole other beast. In you’re unfamiliar, we’ve discussed mouse acceleration in the past, explaining it as follows: By default the mouse drivers count the movement of your [...]

  10. Ciaran says:

    I switched to mac about 5 years ago and still can’t get used to the way the mouse works. It’s not the acceleration or sensitivity, it’s the stupid curve that apple uses and I’ve never found an effective way to change it.

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