MacBook Pro touch bar not working? Here’s what to do (2023)

Macbook Pro touch bar not working

While you may not use your MacBook’s touch bar every single day, it can be incredibly efficient to use when working in certain apps, gaming, or studying. That is… when it works.

If your MacBook touch bar is not working, it could be due to a few different reasons. These reasons garner solutions ranging from a quick restart to a trip to the Apple store. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you get to the bottom of the problem and make sure it gets solved. 

Let’s get started.

Why is my MacBook Pro touch bar not working?

As we touched on earlier, there could be a number of reasons as to why your Mac’s touch bar stopped working, keeps freezing, or won’t respond to your touch. 

Some of the most common culprits are: 

  • Temporary software bugs
  • Malfunctioning or extremely resource intensive apps
  • An outdated version of macOS
  • Settings that only make it seem broken
  • Hardware issues

Note: Some users have also reported trouble with their Mac’s touch bar when operating it in high-temperature conditions for long periods of time. If this sounds like it applies to you, check out how to fix an overheating Mac.

We’ll run through specific solutions to solve the issue of your touch bar not working. But first, let’s take a look at a trick that might save you some time.

How to refresh touch bar on MacBook Pro

Here’s how to give your MacBook’s touch bar a quick refresh via the Terminal. This catchall solution could be all you need to get your Mac back in working order.

  1. Open the Terminal in Applications → Utilities, or use Spotlight Search. 
  2. Type in the following command: sudo pkill TouchBarServer
How to refresh touch bar on MacBook Pro

Note: If prompted for your password, type it into the Terminal and press Enter. You won’t see the characters of your password appear on-screen as you type; this is normal.

That’s all there is to it. If you watch closely, you should see your touch bar flicker off and on as it restarts. 

If resetting your touch bar didn’t work, it’s time to move on to the tailored solutions.

5 Ways to fix MacBook Pro touch bar not working

  1. Restart your MacBook
  2. Reset the touch bar and control strip
  3. Check your settings
  4. Update macOS to the latest version
  5. Reset your Mac’s SMC and NVRAM/PRAM

1. Restart your MacBook

Ah, the tried and true solution we all know and love is back again. Give your MacBook a fresh restart by clicking the Apple logo in the top left, then choosing Restart… and confirming with Restart.

Check your touch bar—much of the time, a quick restart is all it needs. If it’s working as intended, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you may have luck fixing the touch bar by starting your Mac in Recovery Mode.

2. Reset the touch bar and control strip

As an alternative to the Terminal, you can restart your touch bar in Activity Monitor.

Search for and Stop the TouchBarServer. Choose Quit to confirm. It may take a minute or two for TouchBarServer to show up under the list of CPU processes, but it’ll be there.

Reset the touch bar and control strip

Then, reset the Control Strip with the same process: search and Stop. This can also fix your MacBook Pro’s Touch ID if it’s not working right either.

Enter your password if prompted and test out the refreshed touch bar. If it’s still not working, don’t fret; there are still a few solutions left to try.

3. Check your settings

If your touch bar still isn’t working, you’re looking at a more niche issue since we’ve already ruled out software bugs and problematic applications. Let’s make sure your settings are in order.

Head to System Preferences → Keyboard. Under the Touch Bar shows dropdown list, make sure App Controls is selected. Also, check that Show Control Strip is enabled.

Check your settings on Mac

If your settings are as they should be, it’s time to check your macOS version.

4. Update macOS to the latest version

macOS updates regularly squash bugs and improve support for internal features such as the touch bar. Making sure you have the latest and greatest from Apple is a surefire way to remove old software as a possible cause of your touch bar not working.

Navigate to System Preferences → Software Update. If there’s one available, install it. 

Update macOS to the latest version

Otherwise, move on to resetting your SMC and NVRAM/PRAM.

5. Reset your Mac’s SMC and NVRAM/PRAM

How to reset your Mac’s SMC

Your Mac’s SMC, or System Management Controller, is responsible for running a host of different processes. If restarting your MacBook didn’t help, resetting your Mac’s SMC may.

Note: This piece of advice is not applicable to M1 chip Macs, as they don’t have SMCs.

How to reset your Mac’s NVRAM/PRAM

Similar to restarting the SMC, resetting your Mac’s NVRAM and PRAM is a more in-depth version of restarting your MacBook. If nothing else has worked so far, this stands a good chance. 

If your touch bar is working, well done; your problems are solved!

Contact Apple Support

If you’ve tried everything there is to try, you may need to bite the bullet and schedule a time to meet with Apple Support. Chances are, you’re looking at a hardware issue or a rare problem that an Apple technician can better help you diagnose.

Did any of our solutions work for you? If your MacBook’s touch bar is still not working, let us know more about your situation in the comments. We’ll do our best to help you out.

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Author Profile

Marcus is a freelance tech writer/editor with a focus on succinctly explaining consumer devices and their software. His previous work has been published on MakeUseOf where he covered everything from iOS to Git and UI design.

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