My Pointer/Cursor Keeps Disappearing: what can I do?

This is a common problem. You’re in the middle of something, and the pointer (or cursor) goes into hiding. If you’ve got a large Retina display, you can sit there for ages trying to spot it. Even trying to move it around doesn’t seem to help.

There are several issues and bugs which come together to make this a problem:

  • Some forms of the pointer, such as the I-beam which looks like a capital I, are very hard to see on high-resolution displays. Unfortunately Apple has steadfastly refused to give users the ability to set the size of the pointer.
  • The pointer may change form when it is over certain types of content, so may suddenly switch to an I-beam.
  • There has been a bug in El Capitan and Sierra which can make the pointer move suddenly, when used from a trackpad; this seems to have gone from Sierra 10.12.4, but flying pointers were quite frequent in previous versions.
  • There is a long-standing bug which may result in the pointer taking the wrong form at times. It is easy for us to see what the pointer is hovering over, but sometimes macOS seems to find it much harder to work that out, and may turn it into an I-beam incorrectly.
  • Unlike with mice, it is easy to make the pointer move very quickly when using a trackpad. That can lead to the pointer moving suddenly to the edge of the display, where it can be very hard to spot.

You can get third-party utilities which modify the pointer to try to make it more visible, but it is usually simplest to use your Mac’s controls to address this. Simply open the Accessibility pane, and select the Display item at the left.


You will then see a checkbox labelled Shake mouse pointer to locate. Tick that.

Now if you wiggle your finger on the trackpad, or wiggle your mouse, you will see the pointer change to an arrow and grow rapidly in size, so long as you keep wiggling. Have a practice until you can consistently make it much bigger. Then whenever your pointer disappears, all you have to do is wiggle your finger on the trackpad, or wiggle your mouse, and you will be able to see it again.

There are, though, a few circumstances where this does not solve the problem. Some apps do make the cursor become invisible at times, and you should report this as a bug to the developer. Pointers normally freeze when your Mac has a serious problem, rather than disappearing, but rarely they can vanish. You should then follow the advice for dealing with crashes and freezes in the Mac Probs section above.