How to Manually Refresh Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

Jan 11, 2017 - 32 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. In MacOS Mojave:
    sudo pkill TouchBarServer

    In MacOS High Sierra, Sierra:

    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

32 Comments

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  1. MARIA says:

    macOS Mojave Version 10.14.1 MacBook Pro 13-inch 2018 bought January this year.

    My Touch Bar issue: There is actually light, currently, but very low, I am not able to see the Touch Bar unless if I turn off my room lights and reduce the brightness of the screen. At first, before reaching this darkness, it had turned to a burgundy shade. The Touch Bar keeps getting darker and it will probably become totally black soon. However, it is still working and touchable- the buttons respond when I touch them-(but how can I use it if I cannot see it?). By the way Touch ID is still working. I do not know what to do. I tried some things but they did not work, such as refreshing the Touch Bar through Activity Monitor and reseting NVRAM, restarting the computer. The nearest Apple Store is a 4-hour flight away from me.

    • pablo says:

      Make sure the Touch Bar brightness is turned up all the way.

      If there is a hardware problem, call Apple Support on the phone and have them ship you a box to repair the computer. Your Mac is under warranty if you bought it less than a year ago.

  2. Nick b says:

    Press the Fn button and release it. It should unfreeze the light bar.

  3. Sundaram says:

    Thanks so much for the step!
    Really helped me.

  4. John Sade says:

    my macbook pro touch bar was unresponsive. also the command line tips did not work at all.

    restart over apple menue did also not work. only a hard turn off with pressing the power button did the trick for me. saved all open data before.

  5. Szymon says:

    Same issue on my macbook. Let me know if somebody had fixed this on Mojave.

  6. anil jnanoji says:

    My MacBook pro Touch bar is became totally black, Only touch ID is working, nothing is showing in touch bar.
    I observer one thing is there is no customize touch bar option in the keyboard. there is no light nothing in the Touch Bar.
    Could you please help me in this.

    • MARIA says:

      I’ve got the same issue. There is actually light, currently, but very low, I am not able to see the Touch Bar unless if I turn off my room lights and reduce the brightness of the screen. At first, before reaching this darkness, it had turned to a burgundy shade. The Touch Bar keeps getting darker and it will probably become totally black soon. However, it is still working and touchable- the buttons respond when I touch them-(but how can I use it if I cannot see it?). By the way Touch ID is still working. Did you find a resolution? I do not know what to do. I tried some things but they did not work and the nearest Apple Store is a 4-hour flight away from me.

      • Anthony says:

        The touch ID piece is completely separate, it just happens to be next to the touch bar and touchable but is connected on the other side of the motherboard, also it does not have the LCD screen under the touch response part and is made of a different material to make the fingerprint readable.

    • Deepak Sharma says:

      Did it work again? I’m facing the same issues

  7. James says:

    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.

    • Brandon says:

      Yeah I’ve had my MacBook Pro for a little over a year now and the last few months my Touch Bar will go completely blank. still works though, if a randomly tap on the bar I will hit the volume and brightness buttons. It went out for like 3 months (after an update), then started working for a couple months. my Mac just had another update and it stopped working again! This is so frustrating. Ive tried the above steps and didn’t work, but since typing this reply it just came back on. I’m super confused??

  8. Kabir Sarin says:

    MacOS Mojave:

    sudo pkill TouchBarServer

  9. Greger says:

    I tried all of the above, but nothing works. With the commands, terminal tells me that ´´there is no matching processes´´.

  10. Pradip says:

    I purchased MacBook Pro with TouchBar and now the touch bar is not working properly. so help me…

  11. Kevin Gravel says:

    If you can’t scroll sound and/or brightness with your touchbar anymore, perhaps you have made recent changes to your settings. Go to settings>accessibility>minimize/>deactivate the ”activate zoom with the touchbar”. That solved the problem for me!!!

  12. 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 :)

  13. Mike says:

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

  14. 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!!!

    • Jasmine says:

      Yes! The same thing happened to me a few drops of water spilled on the control strip and it completely froze for a day and I thought I broke it. This article was a life saver!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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?

  18. 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!

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