Resolving the Mystery of a Disappearing Mouse Cursor in Mac OS X

Jul 19, 2013 - 23 Comments

Mac OS X Mouse cursor In an unusual and fairly rare situation, the Mac cursor can randomly disappear from OS X. More accurately, the cursor itself becomes invisible, because you can still click around on the screen but without being able to see what the mouse or trackpad is focused on.

This seems to happen out of the blue, and although it is difficult to reproduce reliably, it does seem to happen more often when a Mac is running low on available memory and is using multiple monitors. Thus, you may be more likely to lose the cursor when using apps like Photoshop, or Chrome and Safari with tons of browser tabs open, especially with an external display connected. After running into this bug repeatedly I discovered a few ways to resolve the problem and make the cursor visible again.

If your mouse cursor has mysteriously disappeared in OS X, try the following tricks in descending order to bring it back:

  1. Hit Command+Tab to switch back to the Finder or to another app, then switch back to the active app
  2. Summon the Force Quit menu by hitting Command+Option+Escape, there is often no need to actually force quit anything as just summoning the menu is often enough to make the cursor return
  3. Quit and relaunch the app, or quit all apps if the cursor is gone everywhere
  4. Adjust the size of the cursor, found in System Preferences > Accessibility > Display to make it reappear
  5. Reboot

The force quit window in OS X

Typically using the Command+Tab app switcher or Force Quit trick are enough to bring the cursor back for most apps, but if it’s consistently missing in a single app you may need to relaunch that app itself. Very rarely the cursor will be missing everywhere, which requires either every single application be quit or the computer to reboot.

This is obviously a bug, which means it’s probably an easy fix for Apple. In fact, it may already be resolved in OS X Mavericks as I have yet to run into it using the developer preview builds of 10.9.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

23 Comments

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  1. Les Bannister says:

    Hi Paul I have downloaded Mavericks and since doing so my mouse regular disappears ,often it does not appear when starting.I have to keep on rebooting computer until its visible on boot up.Other times it just disappears if allowed to sleep.

    • Sami Jarvinen says:

      Hi Paul,

      I have exactly the same problem on my Macbook Air, both on Safari 6 and 7 – with both OSX Mavericks and my previous operating system! It’s a rather frequently recurring problem, several times a day at least, and though there are fairly easy workarounds, I find it funny that Apple hasn’t managed to fix it altogether yet.

      The cursor disappears regardless of the number of applications open (i.e. there shouldn’t be a low memory problem) and reappears when I CMD+TAB onto finder or any other application than Safari. Sometimes it finally reappears in Safari after a few switches back and forth.

  2. Les Bannister says:

    I take it all back had my pen stood on tablet DOH!

  3. Bill says:

    I just experienced the problem and I’m using Maverick. I doubled-clicked a book in iBooks, and when it launched in Preview (it’s a PDF), the mouse disappeared. Quitting Preview brought it back. I couldn’t duplicate the problem, though.

  4. Russell says:

    No, it’s not fixed. I never experienced the problem until I installed Mavericks. Now it happens routinely. Most often in Lightroom 5, with which I use dual monitors. But it has also occurred in Safari with multiple windows open.

    I have not found a solution. So far I have navigated blind (usually saving work) and shortly the pointer returns. No consistent reason observed yet as to what brings it back.

  5. Brent says:

    This has not been solved in Mavericks. It happens just as often as before the Mavericks upgrade.

    Why doesn’t Apple fix this?

    In the mean-time, an app called Moom helps significantly. Although its main purpose is to move the pointer using the keyboard, it also has the ability to map a keyboard shortcut to show the pointer. In so-doing, it also makes the invisible Pointer visible again!

    I’ve mapped it to Ctrl-Enter. Whenever I find myself jerking the mouse around trying to get it to appear, a simple Ctrl-Enter displays it.

    • Chas says:

      Just bought Moom but can’t see how to dedicate a shortcut to show the mouse pointer as you suggest. Sorry for being thick! How do you do that, please?

  6. Jim says:

    Thanks for the tip. My mouse disappears quite frequently even in Mavericks and your tips work to get it visible again. Also with Mavericks I am unable to scroll in mail with the magic mouse. Hope Apple fixes this soon. It’s frustrating.

  7. Jarik says:

    I have found that flipping to a hot corner (a feature of ‘mission control’ previously ‘exposé’ ) tends to restore visibility to your cursor when it disappears. Would be nice if it where fixed. In terms of cause, It seems to happen the most to me in relation to video playing in web browsers. (mousing across the video when focused in another application vanishes the mouse?)

    • Reedly says:

      This is exactly what I’ve noticed too. Just a few moments ago the cursor disappeared, I tried the top left hot corner which didn’t work, then the bottom left, and the cursor came back.

      It still seems hit or miss as to which one will work.

  8. Jane Watson says:

    I never had this problem before I bought a new computer with Mavericks installed. It’s a bug in the new system as far as I am concerned. Been using a Mac for 25 years plus, never encountered it before. Thanks Apple! You know about this – how about fixing it!!! This is not what I expect from Apple. Steve must be turning in his grave….

  9. Nancy says:

    We recently replaced a worn out wireless Magic Mouse with a wired one and started having this problem. We’re using Mountain Lion. Called the Apple repair shop who sold us the new mouse and he suggested we replace our colorful mousepad with a solid color one. Problem gone.

  10. Bruce says:

    My Macbook Pro is running 10.8.5 and the disappearing pointer problem has been increasing in frequency. A couple of months ago it happened once every couple of weeks – now it is daily or several times a day. Mostly happens to me when using Firefox.

    Frustrating!!

  11. Amin Ghadesi says:

    how change color Mouse Cursor?

  12. Grant says:

    This problem is at its worst in PDFs and WORD in text that is in italics – it appears and disappears as you enter/leave such text. This has been going on for over a year, well before Mavericks.

    Incredibly annoying when you need to select a phrase of a few sentences.

  13. raeven says:

    Happens to me constantly- more frequently when I am streaming something or there is a form of Flash running- it seems to be an error that occurs while running 3rd party apps or plugins. The Mac OS has just fallen apart due to whatever background processes run now. Don’t be so naive as to think you can expose them all, either. Please don’t insult my intelligence with any ‘YU so paranoid’ responses. I have things complete fail to respond and then take me back to login- a lovely way to gain access and implement changes. I wish they would at least provide a sense of false confidence!

  14. Chris says:

    TIP #1,162 – Works every time for me.

    When the mouse cursor goes invisible, scroll blindly to/past your dock (at the bottom of the screen), then then back up again. It will appear.

    This works every time for me. As soon as you begin to scroll up again, it should appear. I was hoping things would change in Mavericks, but I believe it goes invisible more. I just came to the forum to see if anyone had the full proof solution, but what I’ve been doing seems to be the easier of all I just read.

    Good luck.

  15. Suze says:

    I am having the same problems. This is really frustrating! my old 2009 MBP was not troubles at all, now buying a new macbook air with maverick the mouse is disappearing all time time!
    come on apple – fix it!!

  16. Josie says:

    Thank you that worked (the first one)… love the internet with all the friendly helpful people…. you all rock

  17. Tobia says:

    Thanks Jarik,
    even with no hot corners configured, opening Mission Control (even if you close it right away) seems to restore the missing cursor.

  18. Ed says:

    Still a problem with Mavericks 10.9.4

    It’s pathetic that Apple continues to leave this bug unfixed through many OS releases.

  19. Daniel Felipe says:

    When this happen to me, I just press F9 or F10and then the mouse reappears.

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