How to Disable Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

Aug 30, 2018 - 9 Comments

How to disable Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

The Touch Bar on MacBook Pro is arguably the most controversial component of the current generation MacBook Pro (aside from the keyboard itself anyway), and if you’re a MacBook Pro user who does not like the Touch Bar experience for any reason, whether it’s poking around to find and use the touch ESC key, or the constantly changing nature of the little touch screen in lieu of a simple function key row, you can effectively disable the Touch Bar on MacBook Pro models that come equipped with the thin touch screen strip.

By disabling the Touch Bar with the method we will demonstrate here, you will effectively have a static row of keys like a regular Mac keyboard does, no matter what app you’re using or what you’re doing on the Mac. With this setting, the digital Touch Bar keys will always remain consistent with touch buttons for ESC, brightness down, brightness up, Mission Control, Launchpad, keyboard brightness down, keyboard brightness up, skip audio back, pause / play audio, skip audio forward, mute, volume down, volume up, Siri – or if you customize the Control Strip of the Touch Bar those customizations will appear instead. Regardless, you won’t have the Touch Bar frequently changing to other digital buttons and flashing colors, sliders, thumbnails, and other options on the small touch screen above the keyboard.

How to Disable Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

  1. Go to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
  2. Choose the “Keyboard” preference panel and then select the “Keyboard” tab of the control panel
  3. Look for “Touch Bar shows:” and pull down the dropdown menu alongside that, choosing “Expanded Control Strip”
  4. Disabling Touch Bar on MacBook Pro keyboard settings

  5. Confirm the Touch Bar screen is now showing the touch buttons for escape key, brightness, Mission Control, sound, etc, then exit out of System Preferences as usual

Effectively you’re stopping the little Touch Bar screen from changing appearance and functionality constantly with each app and depending on what’s going on on screen, so the Touch Bar remains consistent and behaves slightly more like a regular keyboard function row, except it’s still a tiny touch screen of course.

The Touch Bar when disabled simply shows the ESC key along with brightness audio and other helpful buttons

If you don’t like the Touch Bar, then disabling Touch Bar functionality this way is about as close to a normal keyboard experience you can get on the current MacBook Pro lineup, aside from using an external keyboard anyway (if the external keyboard idea appeals to you, then the Apple Magic Keyboard remains fantastic, with a crisp feel, nice key travel, a hardware escape key, and the entire hardware function row of f1 through f12, and no Touch Bar).

Of course, disabling the Touch Bar is not going to magically give you back a physical Escape key or the other physical buttons that are missing, but it may help you to use the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar keyboard if you’ve found yourself frustrated with it’s behavior, and thus some MacBook Pro with Touch Bar users may appreciate this option.

Like most settings, this can be reversed, so if you decide that you prefer to have the ever-changing dynamic nature of the Touch Bar back again simply return to the Keyboard settings and adjust the Touch Bar options to suit your needs.

If you find yourself wanting to disable the Touch Bar because you don’t like it, you’re annoyed with it, or you don’t find it to be useful, then you might also want to consider customizing the Touch Bar; for example if you accidentally hit the Siri button constantly then removing Siri from Touch Bar is quite effective at preventing that, and putting a screen lock button on the Touch Bar is another really nice customization trick. There are a bunch of other goofy uses for Touch Bar too, so it can be worthwhile exploring some of the Touch Bar tips to get a better feel for if the hardware component is compatible with your particular workflow.

And if you have any particularly helpful or interesting insight into Touch Bar for MacBook Pro, or perhaps another way to disable the Touch Bar, then share with us in the comments below!

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

9 Comments

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  1. Sandbox says:

    So I don’t like the Touch Bar mostly because it takes over the esc/function row, if it was ABOVE that I would be OK with it. I hope Apple moves it above the keyboard the next time around, or makes it optional.

    There are some cool tools for Touch Bar though like this one that puts a clock in the tow bar

    https://github.com/nihalsharma/Clock-Bar

    • RM says:

      Yes, what Sandbox said.

      Though I still prefer a physical ESC key- USB keyboard to the rescue :)

      • Frank says:

        I do not want a Touch Bar at all. I hate it.

        I am actively looking on Craigslist for a 2015 rMBP in good condition that I will use for a while despite being old so that I can have a good keyboard without Touch Bar.

        If Apple never fixes the self-created MBP problem I don’t know what I will do, I don’t want to change platforms but I already have coworkers who are shifting away from the Mac platform due to their self-inflicted neglect and floundering. Many developers are not loyal to Apple, the MacBook Pro gained huge popularity because for a long time it was the undeniably best possible laptop you could get (until 2016 when the current dud arrived), that market is leaving…. Apple has a limited window to change course or they will lose pro users for good.

  2. comp says:

    Good techniques to disable touch bar on macbook pro users. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Alex says:

    OMG thank you so much for this tip! I’ve had my MBP with Touch Bar for over a year and I’ve been annoyed with it everyday day since. To me this touch bar was a necessary evil to get the best CPU and more ports…

  4. Tonx IV says:

    Here’s how you really disable the Touch Bar: cover it up with enough tape that it no longer recognizes touch input!

    Really! The founder of 1password put a bunch of tape over The Touch Bar so that it no longer responds to touch and accidental touches. That’s how you disable Touch Bar.

    https://twitter.com/dteare/status/1031953591202766848

    Sure you lose an entire keyboard row and escape key and brightness volume controls but at least you don’t accidentally hit some microscopic touch screen chaning to inexplicable buttons and widgets. No thanks.

    If Apple even slightly listens to pro consumers they will get rid of the Touch Bar ASAP… cute idea but it should not have left the design lab.

  5. 2cents says:

    Don’t buy the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Simple.

    The keyboard. The Touch Bar. The ports. It looks nice but it’s not a good piece of kit. Vote with your wallet. Do not buy these computers.

    https://theoutline.com/post/4277/dont-buy-the-new-macbook-pros-even-on-sale-in-my-opinion

  6. Andy says:

    Having just bought new MBP I could not work out for a long time why music kept starting up when I had not commanded it to and looked for solutions online. The reason, not seen online, was that when I hit the backspace key my thumb occasionally touched the play button from the touch bar. This would open iTunes and play the first track in my library. The slight touch of that key would not have been enough to trigger a mechanical key.

    Whilst it was easy to customise what was the far right touchbar key they all had some adverse effect. I eventually settled for the custom option in system settings which triggers only the keys for the active software being input to at the time. (3rd setting down). Then a status bar app to silence any music playing if you were inputting to a different software at the time as it no longer appeared on the touchbar.

  7. Pinky says:

    Another negative post about MacBook Pro and the awful keyboard touch bar whole experience

    https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/01/an-ode-to-apples-awful-mac-keyboard/

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