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Expose problem - computer going nuts!!! Please HELP!!!

by tigger32382 / November 28, 2009 6:09 AM PST

Hi everyone. I'm using a MacBook, the late 2008 aluminum edition. I'm running Snow Leopard and have updated to 10.6.2. For the last few weeks, I've been having a problem where my computer switches in and out of Expose view (where you can see all the windows open at once) and normal view, even when I haven't touched the trackpad or pressed F3 on the keyboard. Sometimes it switches back and forth very rapidly, other times, it just switches into Expose, and then I have to click back out of it, and as soon as I do, it enters Expose mode again. I don't have any hot corners enabled, and the problem occurs even when I turn off 4 finger swiping on the track pad. I can't find any information about this problem anywhere, and I don't know what could be causing it or what I can try to fix it. Thanks for any help!

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Expose icon in Applications
by Mr. Gregg / November 30, 2009 12:45 AM PST

When I right click on the above, I see an option to Compress Expose. I tried to search out what that does, but came up empty. Perhaps you will have better luck, or are adventurous enough to just try it. I also found Show Package Contents to be intriguing. I selected that, and a folder opened. Perhaps there is an answer with one of those files. Wish I could help more.

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(NT) Do you have any other USB devices connected?
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 30, 2009 3:48 AM PST
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by tigger32382 / November 30, 2009 1:29 PM PST

I do not have any other USB devices connected. Can anyone tell me what I would be doing by compressing Expose before I just try it? I'd ideally like to find a solution where I can still use Expose, because I find it really handy, just not when it switches on and off all the time.

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You would be creating a ZIP file of Expose
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 30, 2009 8:45 PM PST
In reply to: Expose

which is nothing you want, or need, to be doing.

Have you considered an Archive and install or deleting the Expose preferences


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How do I do that?
by tigger32382 / November 30, 2009 9:36 PM PST

I haven't tried the archive and install or the deleting expose preferences yet because I don't know how to, but I'd happily give it a shot.

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Expose preferences?
by Mr. Gregg / November 30, 2009 10:31 PM PST

A plist file? I don't see one in my User Library, or the HD Library. (OS 10.5.8)
Where is that found?

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Could have been an itchy trigger finger,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / December 1, 2009 1:15 AM PST
In reply to: Expose preferences?

I'll check again this evening.


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Any more ideas?
by tigger32382 / December 2, 2009 9:01 AM PST

Just checking to see if anyone has any more ideas for me... I'm going crazy with this. The other evening, the computer even woke itself up out of sleep mode to start zooming in and out of expos

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You could try an Archive and Install
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / December 2, 2009 8:51 PM PST
In reply to: Any more ideas?

of the OS and see what happens


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Happy to try
by tigger32382 / December 2, 2009 9:17 PM PST

I'd be happy to try that but I don't know how to, like I said a few posts back... can someone give me the rundown on how to do that?

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First, you need your OS installation disc(s)
by Mr. Gregg / December 2, 2009 10:51 PM PST
In reply to: Happy to try

Second, do a fresh backup

Put in Disc 1
Hold down C on keyboard

The rest should be easy to follow. I'm not gonna start it on my system, so I can't give you the exact name of what to click first.
What you're doing is reinstalling the OS.
Select the Archive and Install option.

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by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / December 3, 2009 12:28 AM PST

Do NOT proceed with the installation if you have NOT selected the Archive and Install option.

Doing so could result in ALL your data being wiped from the Hard drive


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re suggestions so far,
by balancedview / December 4, 2009 6:31 PM PST

The simplest is to find and delete current preference files for : Expose, Mouse, Trackpad. These will usually be found in User directory, Library folder, Preferences folder.
(Unfortunately, I do not have my Mac runnable right now, so I cannot tell you exact name - If you find a specific item for "Expose", "Trackpad" "Mouse" Great, drag those to the trash. But I think they may all be bundled together in the "" , in which case, drag that to the desktop and restart. The system will rebuild the preferences for those items with all default values.

The other things I would try BEFORE archive and install (which is a "BIG DEAL") are:
1) Run Disk Utility and Repair Permissions (not verify, but actual Repair)
2) Run a Preference checking program such as:
Preferential Treatment - though that one has not been updated for Snow leopard, so it might not catch everything,
TinkerToolSystem v2 - I have had this tool registered for a long time, it has lots of features, one of which is a thorough Preference files Validation process. Run that and see if it helps.
3) Use TinkerToolSystem (or similar Cache Cleaning program) to clean the cache files (do not clean out log files - they can be helpful later). Do not select any other of the cleanup routines unless you know what their results will be. Cache file cleaning is a safe one in most cases (in my experience, i've not had problems with cleaning cache files).
Other tools that do similar: Snow Leopard Cache Cleaner, Cocktail, Maintenance or Onyx. These tools are either free or small shareware fee.

And do a fresh restart after these cleanups and see if that helps.

Archive and Reinstall of the Operating system is really a LAST RESORT, as it means you MUST have ALL your user data and settings and registrations saved off to another disk location, then you have to Reinstall Mac OS X, and all the applications... rather tedious (though I've done it bunches Wink Plus, if you have to do a Reinstall, you never really find out what went wrong, so you don't have a good fix-up process if it ever re-appears.

Snow Leopard has refined the Archive and Install process significantly, so you do not have as much leftover stuff, but OS Reinstallation is still a big deal and you must backup all your data first.
Detail Note: Snow Leopard combines the old "Upgrade" and "Archive" installation by installing your new OS X software, then deleting the old system. It also disables any drivers or kernel extensions it doesn't know about, moving them into a holding directory. (I have not verified this, as I have not had to install SNow Leopard).

Links: - Preferential-treatment - TinkerTool System 2

Apple Help articles: - About the Archive and Install feature (Ti+) - about installation in general (Ti, Leo)

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Let's clear something up here,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / December 4, 2009 10:08 PM PST
In reply to: re suggestions so far,

Archive and Install is really NOT a big deal.

I find your description of the process a little flawed.

An Archive and Install (Preserve User Settings) does exactly what it's name implies. It Archives all your data, installs a new System (not the major applications like iLife/iWork/Any Third party software) and moves your data back to your Home folder.
Safari and Address book are archived and a new copy is installed.
ALL of the applications that you have installed, that are not part of the basic OS, are left intact.

On completion of the A & I, all you need to do is run the Software updater to bring your system version up to date.
Snow Leopard, after initial installation, uses Archive and Install as the Default method of installation. It does not move items to a folder, with the exception of those items that it knows do not work with Snow Leopard. It does not disable drivers, except for the initial install; where it removes those drivers that do not have a matching device.

It is ALWAYS a good practice to have all your data backed up, all the time, not just for the purpose of doing an Archive and Install, but it is always a good idea to back up data before attempting any repair.


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I just solved this on a G5 iMac running Tiger
by cavenewt / December 5, 2009 5:30 AM PST

At least in Tiger, the Expos

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Good one ;)
by balancedview / December 5, 2009 10:35 AM PST

Good solution (for Tiger OS at least).
Apple does seem to tie a lot of the GUI (Graphical User Interface) into the settings for the Finder and the Dock, which makes sense.
So it does seem reasonable that a reset of the Dock prefs back to default would help out.

Does this help original poster??

(I have had some situations where cursor, pointer, mouse related issues did track back to a faulty mouse &/or its wire cord -- so don't feel too bad about trying that route... )

(I have noted that Apple does sometimes reorganize where things are stored/controlled within the different OS releases (Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, yada yada). Which is why sometimes we need to reset one or another of the preference plist files.)

And as you point out, basic troubleshooting 'rule' says that if it happens to only one user's account, it is probably an issue with that particular user's setup, settings. If it happened to every user account on the computer, it would likely be at the system level.

So sometimes a good troubleshooting process is just to create a brand new user ID, log in to that, and see if the same problem exists in the new/plain 'vanilla' account. If the new one works without problem, then issue likely is with user's older settings/setup.

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So far so good...
by tigger32382 / December 5, 2009 10:43 AM PST
In reply to: Good one ;)

I tried resetting the Dock preferences, and I haven't had the problem occur again since. I'll keep an eye on it for the next few days. Since I did have some periods of reprieve before when everything would work fine, I still can't guarantee the problem is gone for good, but I've been on my computer for the last several hours working on an exam, which would usually be more than enough time for Expose to start going nuts on me, and so far I'm fine. I'm optimistic! I'm also happy because in resetting the preferences, I found that I had changed some stuff that I actually like better in its original format Happy

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Sigh... Oh well...
by tigger32382 / December 6, 2009 3:37 AM PST
In reply to: So far so good...

I was very hopeful, but no such luck. This morning, the Expos

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by balancedview / December 6, 2009 6:26 AM PST
In reply to: Sigh... Oh well...

Perhaps incense, sage and a few positive incantations about how you love your Mac when it works well???

Just KIDDING!! (or not - hey, if it works... Wink

I will give it some more thought.

Did you try creating a brand new User ID account?
Please give this a shot, it is not harmful to anything on your Mac -- from System Prefs / Users create a new Admin level account, (any name) then completely log out of your regular user account (do not do a fast switch), and log into the new user. Of course, you will not see any of your desktop files or folders, since this is a new account, but your data are all safe back under your original user ID.
Now go about word processing or web access or whatever you would normally do.
Does Expose go all weird in this brand new user ID?

If yes, then the problem is definitely a system level issue and may need more serious reset and or the reinstallation.

If there are no Expose problems in this new user ID, then the issue is with something about your regular user account that has gone "wonky" (as we say in the tech industry).

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Something could be trashing your Dock prefs repeatedly...
by cavenewt / December 7, 2009 12:34 AM PST
In reply to: Sigh... Oh well...

OK, so maybe something else keeps corrupting your Dock prefs. I would look in System Preferences/Accounts/Login items and delete anything unnecessary (note that checking the "hide" box does not do this, you have to click the minus sign at the bottom.) Then check your root level Library/Startupitems to see if anything old is in there. Have you ever installed any haxies?

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by tigger32382 / December 7, 2009 5:05 AM PST

Under System Preferences/Accounts/Login items, there is one called Director Docker, which sounds like it could have to do with the Dock, but deleting it is not an option. Under Library/Startupitems, there are 3 folders: HP IO (Date modified Sept. 20, 2009), HP Trap Monitor (Date modified Feb. 5, 2007 - before I even owned the computer!), and ProTecVb (Date modified April 24, 2009). Should I delete the HP Trap Monitor folder? I don't want to delete something I actually need. I don't know what a haxie is, so if I've downloaded any, it wasn't knowingly...

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by tigger32382 / December 11, 2009 2:29 AM PST
In reply to: Update...

Just wondering if anyone had a response to my questions in my latest post. Thanks!

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reply to the prev 3 questions
by balancedview / December 11, 2009 8:04 AM PST
In reply to: Anyone?

Hi Tiger32382,

Haxies - they are programs from Unsanity software development company, and they do various user interface adjustments. They were pretty popular in the early OS X days . Because of the way that the Unsanity Haxies (such as APE-Application Enhancer or FruitMenu) tie into the system at a low level, they are sometimes thought to involved in some of the weird system behaviors people get from time to time. (Some people love their apps, some think they are bad...)
If you have any items with the unsanity or haxie word in their title, or named as per their product apps list, it would be best to uninstall those. (a list of their programs is at:, as well as uninstall instructions)

Director Docker and HP IO are parts of the massive software support apps that get installed when you install HP printer drivers. (Note that different HP Printers, and different versions of their installation drivers install different things, so not every computer with HP printer will have same items on it... )

It is rather likely those items are not needed, even if you have an HP printer, so could be disabled at least temporarily.
But here is the thing with Mac Login items - while you can disable it by highlight then select the "-" minus button to remove it, there is no easy way to temporarily take it out then put it back.
So I always take a screen snapshot (Cmd-Shift-4) of just the login items BEFORE I disable anything. That way, if I want to put it back, I have a snapshot to let me know what named item to go search for.

If you have no HP printer attached to the Mac, you definitely do not need those HP items.

That would also indicate the computer was setup for someone else before you got it.

I did not ask before -- is this a Used computer that was originally set up for someone else and you bought/got it to use for yourself?
If so, then there may be a bunch of stuff in there which might cause issues down the road. If so, this would begin to look like a good case for OS re-installation, to clean out old, previously installed things that now have no usefulness.

Also, perhaps it is related to flakiness in the keyboard, with the f9, f10, f11 keys? Since those keys control the expose actions, if the keys are flaky, and the computer thinks they are being pressed often, then the screen would blink in and out seemingly on its own.
TO test this possibility, you would need to temporarily disconnect your keyboard. Either just see if the expose stuff stops or doesn't happen with no keyboard plugged in, or if you have an alternate keyboard, try using it and see if the expose weirdness happens.

Did you try the new admin user test I mentioned before?

Please try each of these investigation requests, then post back with the results, as, for example, use this list:
1) i found or not found any haxies, removed any found ones, did that improve expose problem?
2) took out HP items, restarted, did that improve expose problem?
3) this is or is not a used/previously owned computer so may have strange things in it?
4) i unplugged the keyboard and/or tried a different keyboard, did that improve expose problem?
5) i setup a new admin account, restarted into that user, did that improve expose problem?


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by tigger32382 / December 11, 2009 2:27 PM PST

I did not find any haxies on my computer. I took out the HP items and restarted, but that did not help the problem. This computer was not previously used. I bought it new in October 2008 and only I have used it since. I don't have an external keyboard to plug in, so I can't check that right now. (This is a laptop, so I just use the built-in keyboard.) I set up a different account, but the problem occurs there. Interesting thing to note: the number "3" seems to trigger the switching more than other things. Sometimes it still happens when I haven't pressed anything (it's even woken itself up from sleep before to switch back and forth). And sometimes anything I press or touch triggers it. But it started happening again a few minutes ago, and it consistently happened every time I pushed the 3, happened frequently with the "2" and the "4", and didn't happen at all with the other numbers. 3 isn't set to be any kind of hot key or trigger though, so I don't know why it causes the expos

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by DragonladyfromOz / December 28, 2010 5:46 PM PST
In reply to: Results

I know this thread is over a year old but we have just had the EXACT same thing happen with my husband's computer, the only difference being the right hand shift key sets it off.
How was this issue finally resolved?

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The Archive and Install didn't work for you?
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / December 28, 2010 8:56 PM PST
In reply to: Resolved?

Why not start a new thread on this and explain what you have already tried.


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Crazy Expose-like behavior
by cansail / July 2, 2011 12:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Resolved?

I recently had the same problem on my iMac with standard keyboard and trackball mouse, and I found an easy solution: Cleaning my keyboard with compressed air. Apparently one of the function keys was stuck... very annoying, but now solved! Hope it works for you too.

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