Update 2009-10-18: It seems like this is no longer an issue for me with Snow Leopard. Don’t know why, but it stopped happening on my MacBook once I upgraded. I got a new iMac at work and installed Snow Leopard with the free upgrade disk that came with it. I have the same setup, a mighty mouse and wireless keyboard. I’ve not yet had the problem. The only issue is once in a while when coming out of sleep I need to restart bluetooth for it to detect the mouse/keyboard. This happens rarely though, maybe once every 10 sleeps or so. I hope they backport this fix, whatever it is to Leopard for people who don’t plan to upgrade to Snow Leopard.
Many people with OSX Leopard have been experiencing a number of problems with Bluetooth. Apple has released several patches trying to remedy these issues, the latest of which was with this week’s 10.5.8 update. Being skeptical of success–10.5.7 included Bluetooth fixes that didn’t help–I updated yesterday and crossed my fingers. Well, today I can tell you, to no surprise, I’m still having Bluetooth issues with my MacBook while using a Mighty Mouse and Apple wireless keyboard. I’m assuming other also are in the same boat as me, so let’s take look at what’s going on.
Heck, if this was a $399 Dell, I’d not be as fuming over this issue, but it’s not. It’s a premium priced laptop using it’s own companies premium price peripherals. And not some weird, uncommon peripherals–it’s their top of the line freaking keyboard and mouse. It’s not like Apple has to deal with 1000′s of different bluetooth keyboards and mice… isn’t this the sort of thing they defend there closed platform OS against Windows and Linux by promising this silly crap won’t happen? Maybe they need to get IKEA to lend them one of those robots that test the softness of their beds after 100,000 presses of a 500lbs weight on it. Enough ranting, let’s look at the meat of the issue.
First, let’s look at my system:
Hardware: 2GHz MacBook, Core 2 Duo, model number A1278.
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.5.8 (Leopard)
Bluetooth Chip: Broadcom firmware version 180 (368)
Apple Bluetooth Software Version: 2.1.8f2
Bluetooth Devices: Apple Mighty Mouse (model A1197), Apple Wireless Keyboard (model A1255)
Pretty standard, all Apple products.
Some quick simple definitions of words I’ll be using:
- Associated: A device has been recognized and added to the list of devices the Mac is able to connect to. You have to associate a new bluetooth device to your Mac in order to use it. For keyboards, association usually requires entering a code on the wireless keyboard.
- Connected: When an associated device is active and should able to ‘talk’ to your Mac. For a keyboard, this means keystrokes should be getting sent to the Mac and for your wireless mouse it would mean button click and positioning information would be getting sent. Connected devices also sometimes report battery status if they require batteries to function.
Now let’s look at the different way’s Bluetooth devices fail on this system. I’m going to categorize the different ones I’ve encountered and the work-arounds used to get everthing working again.
- Bluetooth Devices Freeze, but Still Appear Connected: This is by far the most common failure mode. Basically, at seemingly random moments, both my Mighty Mouse and Wireless Keyboard will stop responding at the same time. The laptop’s keyboard and trackpad will still function. When I check the status of the bluetooth devices, they are both show to still be associated and connected. The fact that this error occurs with both devices at the same time strongly leads me to believe it is not the devices that have problems but OS X. Ways to fix:
- Usually turning bluetooth off then on in the menu bar clears the problem and the mouse and keyboard begin working again.
- On the wacky side, I’ve also found that when this error occurs, you can turn on and off your Airport Wifi and it will clear the bluetooth problem as well (very interesting).
- Going into a terminal and issuing a SIGHUP (kill -1) to the blued seems to work as well.
- Of course, a full rebooting of the machine works. Simply logging out and logging back into an account will not however. You’ll notice if you log out you’ll not be able to type or move your mouse via bluetooth on the login screen.
- Bluetooth Devices Freeze, and are no Longer Connected: Though much rarer than the first problem category, this type of issue makes much more sense–even if it is still frustrating. Both devices will no longer show up as connected, but they still appear on the associated list. Can be fixed by the same way as problem category 1.
- Mighty Mouse Moves Cursor, but Clicks do not Register: This is a funky bug. The wireless keyboard seems to work fine and moving my Mighty Mouse will cause the cursor to move on the screen. However, if I try to click anything with the Mighty Mouse (right, left, or scroll ball) nothing happens. For example, if I roll over the dock, I’ll get the Icon animations, but I can’t select anything, etc… Ways to fix:
- If you go to the trackpad on the laptop and click on something, then go back to the Mighty Mouse, it frequently clears the problem and the Mighty Mouse clicks will begin to register.
- Restarting bluetooth also seems to clear the issue most of the time.
The good thing about these issues is that most of the time simply turning on/off bluetooth and the problem is suppressed for a few hours. However, occasionally when one of these error states occur, nothing you do short of rebooting will fix the issue. My latest issue was a category 3, one day after installing the update for 10.5.8. This time clicking the trackpad on the laptop didn’t clear the issue with the mighty mouse. I tried turning on/off the bluetooth and that caused the mouse to no longer move in addition to having it’s clicks ignored, plus it dropped my keyboard. Both devices were reported as ‘connected’ in the bluetooth manager. I had to do a full restart of the system to get everything working again.
Online there have been many suggested fixes or work arounds, none which have been successful such as:
- Turn off any/all of the options in the bluetooth advanced settings like “Allow Bluetooth devices to wake…” or “Bluetooth-PDA-Sync”
- Reset the PRAM (this is the Mac support fix of choice for everything… “ah, you’re smelling something burning… let’s try to reset your PRAM”)
Here are some lengthy Mac Forums following this issue so you can see you’re not alone in your frustration.
A few other links to other places with folks who are dealing with this:
BTW, let’s wait, pay $39, the hope for Snow Leopard to fix the problem is not my idea of a successful fix. Feel free to comment with any other categories you think you may be seeing that isn’t in the above.