How to Manually Refresh Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

Jan 11, 2017 - 9 Comments

Refresh the Touch Bar on Mac

The Touch Bar on MacBook Pro changes dynamically depending on what application is open and what action is going on within Mac OS. Or at least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. Rarely, the Touch Bar stops working, will get stuck and become unresponsive, maybe even display an erroneous button, or show a blank button that doesn’t do anything. Typically the Touch Bar gets itself back in working order once the troubled application in question becomes responsive, exited, or the app is force quit, but sometimes you may need to manually force the Touch Bar to refresh and reload.

We’ll show you how to relaunch Touch Bar on a Mac, as well as how to target just the Control Strip portion of Touch Bar to force that to refresh.


Remember, the Touch Bar is the entire touchable strip across the top of new model MacBook Pro keyboards, whereas Control Strip is just the far right portion of the Touch Bar display. You can target both, or either to manually force them to refresh.

Force Relaunching Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

You can force the Touch Bar to refresh and reload by killing the “Touch Bar agent” process. You can do this either though the Activity Monitor application or by the command line, whichever works best for your skill level:

Refreshing Touch Bar from Activity Monitor:

  1. Open the Activity Monitor application, found within /Applications/Utilities/
  2. Find and locate “Touch Bar agent” process and kill it

Kill touch bar process to refresh Touch Bar

Refreshing Touch Bar from the command line:

  1. Open the Terminal application, found in /Applications/Utilities/ directory
  2. Type the following command syntax:
  3. pkill "Touch Bar agent"

  4. Hit return key to kill and refresh Touch Bar

How to Refresh the Control Strip in Touch Bar

To manually force just the Control Strip portion of Touch Bar on Mac OS to reload, you will turn to the command line.

  1. Open the Terminal application, found in /Applications/Utilities/ folder
  2. Type the following syntax precisely:
  3. killall ControlStrip

  4. Hit return key to kill and relaunch the Control Strip (Touch Bar)

Targeting just the Control Strip will usually resolve the mystery blank button issue.

Touch bar blank button on Mac

Forcing Touch Bar to refresh and reload may fix issues with either the Touch Bar or the Control Strip, or both, though sometimes you might need to reboot the entire Mac to resolve more stubborn issues if the Touch Bar is totally unresponsive.

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

9 Comments

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  1. Rob 58 says:

    There is also “TouchBarUserDevice” along with “Touch Bar agent” and you can kill both of them.

    I recommend rebooting though. Maybe Apple will fix Sierra one day, but probably not since it’s in maintenance mode for Mac OS 10.13!

  2. Peter says:

    Hi,

    I tried the above and although both executed fine. The touch bar didn’t refresh.

    How do you restart the touch bar without rebooting the computer?

  3. Anuj says:

    I went through all this and wasn’t able to resolve. Turned out to be a setting in Control Panel > Keyboard. It needs to be set to App Controls with Control Strip. User had accidentally changed it to Extended Control Strip without realising.

    Even Apple Support weren’t aware of this setting and we were going all kinds of other resets before I stumbled across it.

  4. I purchased my MacBook Pro with TouchBar on April 2017, and now the touch bar is not working properly. When I touch the emotion symbol the touch bar goes blank and non-responsive.

  5. Alison Is Happy says:

    If you’re confused by where exactly to type the commands open the program Terminal which is located in the applications section in the utilities folder.
    Also, make SURE you write the command EXACTLY as it appears. It wasn’t working for me either, but then I capitalized the same letters you did and then it worked!
    My touch bar was frozen on the right side and would not function at all over there. I simply typed in the command killall ControlStrip (WITH THE capital C and S), hit the enter key, and it just unfroze and is working perfectly now!

    P.S. Thank you sooooo much for creating this, seriously. lol I had been trying to figure out what was wrong for hours. I was about to come to the conclusion that the lil bit of water I got on it just broke it or something. lol.
    THANK YOU AGAIN!!!

  6. Mike says:

    Touch bar agent isn’t showing in the activity monitor so i cant terminate it.

  7. Swaps says:

    Hey,

    Thanks. I used the part to restart the Control Strip. My volume button was not changing the volume on sliding on the control strip. After issuing the command you specified, it restarted and is working fine now :)

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