Adding a Right Mouse Button to a Macbook

Intro: Adding a Right Mouse Button to a Macbook

This shows you how to add a right mouse button to a Macbook's trackpad -- click the left side of the existing button, that's left click, click the right and that's right click. Works in Windows, Linux and Leopard.

Step 1: Find the Electronics

While you don't have to take the top panel out (especially on a Macbook Pro) since you can reach through the battery hole, I find it's easier to do so. If you don't, make sure to disconnect power!
Make sure you have plenty of light to work. This modification requires only a few soldering joints (as few as two) but one of them can be pretty difficult to do, so be sure you can see what you're doing.

Remove the transparent plastic that protects the circuitry; it can go back on later.

Step 2: Find the Test Point

The large chip there is the microcontroller that interprets signals from your keyboard and touchpad and converts them into mouse position data; it also reads the button. Note that the keyboard has to "talk" to this to work -- unlike desktop Macs in which the mouse connects to the keyboard, here it's the opposite.

Now, look at all those gold-colored dots on the circuit board. Those are test points that can be used by technicians to access various functions of the hardware to test it. Note the small wire going to the touchpad button -- that also leads to a test point and eventually to the microcontroller. The button shorts to ground when pressed.

If you have a voltmeter you can verify this by setting it to continuity check and touching the trackpad's chassis and any of the 4 small contacts on the button; two of the wires will "beep" always, the other two only when the button is pushed.

Near the main chip, look for 4 test points placed like the arrow keys on a keyboard. You want the "right arrow" in my picture. Pulling that to ground marks a secondary click (aka right click) event to the microcontroller, which dutifully reports it to the rest of the laptop.

Step 3: Find the Test Point for the Primary Button (optional)

You can probably look around for more functions.... A possible variant of this mod is, instead of leaving the main button alone, move it to the opposite corner of the button. This means you have to basically do what I describe twice. In that case, you want to disconnect the existing button and use another test point.

Step 4: Get the Right Sort of Wire

Now the interesting part. You want to get a very thin wire, as thin as possible -- if you know how to remove insulation enamel from a coil wire, use that. If not, use one of the wires from a phone cable, those are plenty thin but still stranded rather than solid so they can take a bit of repetitive movement.

With a soldering iron, let the wire end "soak" some solder in, then cut the tinned (soaked) part until only a bit is visible from the insulation; this should help prevent shorts. About six inches of wire is more than enough.

Step 5: Solder the Wire on the PCB

Okay, now here's the hard part. You need to solder that end of your wire to the test point you found earlier. The best way of doing so with a normal iron is this:

put a little bit of solder on the iron.

"poke" the test point so that some solder remains on it.

hold your wire end against the test point.

poke them again with the iron so that the solder melts together. Keep it there for about half a second.

This is critical and it's also the only time where you can break something, so be sure to have plenty of light and be calm :) I recommend holding the soldering iron vertical. Use the thinnest tip you got.

Step 6: Connect, or Make, a Pushbutton

I didn't have any microswitches that would fit the thin space between the edge of the button and the battery, so I decided to make my own. Fortunately, we're just pulling a test point to ground, and guess what's grounded? The metal parts of the trackpad assembly. This along with the way the button is built makes putting a switch together super easy.

Step 7: Fix Your Switch in Place

Now let's make the switch more mechanically solid and protect it from shorts. If you used a microswitch in the previous step, you should have a good idea of what I mean. Tape and glue are your friends here... it's amazing how much of even the macbook pro is held together with double sided tape as it is. Keep in mind that in normal use this will be pushed against the top of the battery, so it doesn't need to be THAT strong. Still...

When you push the corner of the button, the (metallic and grounded) back of the button will touch the wire you added.

You're done! All you need to do is close it up.

Step 8: Close It All Up!

You're done -- time for closing the laptop, if you opened it, and testing it.

Put the piece of transparent plastic that protects the electronics back in place, use another layer of tape to hold it there if you have to.

Note that on my particular laptop I didn't even need to open it up... (Well, on MY particular laptop I had to because while I was at it I also cleaned the fans).

Video of it working (in case embed acts up) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPjDi4E_c3A

If you like my work, check out my autonomous robotics page at http://www.robotseverywhere.net/


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    24 Discussions

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    gmichaelt

    6 years ago on Introduction

    One Finger Snap (" is a Preference Pane that brings up the contextual menu whenever you click and hold down the mouse button. This means that you can do everything with a single-button mouse that you can do with a 2-button mouse." Once installed, and with 'enable access for assistive devices' turned on in the Universal Access system preference and 'tap to click' turned on in Trackpad, a prolonged mouse-down on the trackpad will bring up the contextual menu. Functionally, that's a right-click in your current context (RMB, effectively). You can set the delay before the menu appears i.e. the length of time required of the mouse-down. Generally, you want the delay to be ~.5 seconds, but it's tolerable at ~.75 or even 1.0 seconds. Obviously, this also works with a mouse button--should you ever come across a USB mouse with only a single button (they do exist).

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    spiritplumberjeff-o

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I only have a cellphone for a camera at the moment :) do you have any suggestions? I thought about making the photos into drawings.

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    Take the lens from a dead optical drive, judiciously mount it in a convenient holder, and secure that holder to the cell phone, directly over the lens of the phone... There's an instructible showing how that can be done, I believe. Haven't tried it myself--I don't have a cellphone.

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    jeff-ospiritplumber

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm, aside from getting a dedicated camera I'm not sure what to suggest. I suppose the photos you have are about as good as it gets for a cell phone camera - they're not so great for macro shots! Vector drawings could help too, though that's a lot of work. I think that one ought to be enough, just to show where everything is. That should help people get aligned, then they can follow the written instructions more easily.

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    Kittymewspiritplumber

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Work kinda never ended today, sorry about that; I'll try to remind her about the vector drawings, we had a rough day.

    While this approach may only work on the unibody, I use the System Preferences > Trackpad > For secondary clicks, place two fingers on the trackpad then click the button option on a mid-2007 laptop. It works like a charm, I don't have to try and get my thumb over to the right hand side of the click button. When I'm at work using my windows laptop I find that I miss this feature (even though I've got two buttons). This works in both Mac OS X and Windows (Bootcamp). I don't know if there's an option in a linux driver for this though.

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    willrandshipcody777

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    What a headache for something that should have been included. How could anyone play minecraft on that? :P

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    PSPersonwillrandship

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I do it all the time, It isn't too bad once you get used to it. Although, I do prefer my mouse, the trackpad is the most inconspicuous for in-class gaming.

    This works on 2006 to 2008 macbook pro's. it will also work on the macbook air but the circuitboard is slightly different (the test point is in the same place though). Mine is a 2007 model.

    yeah your hack do works in all, but the Systtem preferences > trackpad > seconadry click bottom only works in the new buttoneless trackpad

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    kelseymhVillainTricks

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Okay. Given the posting date, it wasn't obvious that the author was referencing an older model. (Hey, spiritplumber, do you want to add a note in the topic text about which models your solution applies?). Sorry for the confusion.

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    willrandship

    7 years ago on Step 6

    Doesn't mac have a left handed mouse option? If you reverse the joints, just use that.

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    Max Headroom

    9 years ago on Step 6

    Dude! Buy a decent digicam with macro mode before make a thing like this, please!