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Your MacBook trackpad is set up wrong. Change this one setting to fix it

By default, your new MacBook trackpad has tap-to-click turned off. We'll show you how to switch it on.

The new MacBook Pro laptops with Apple's M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are a huge leap, giving creative professionals the power they need for graphics- and processor-intensive tasks. (Check out CNET's reviews of the 14-inch MacBook Pro M1 and 16-inch MacBook Pro here.)  Similarly, the MacBook Air remains one of the best mainstream computers you can buy, great for students and adults alike. But... having unboxed and set up many (many!) MacBooks over the past 15 years, there's one settings choice on modern Macs that drives me absolutely crazy. 

If you're buying a new MacBook, received one as a gift or want to make your current one a little more useful, try clicking a few boxes in the System Preferences menu that always make these machines much more useful for me. 

One of the best things about MacBooks has always been the huge glass trackpad, which always felt more responsive and offered more surface area than the touchpad on any Windows laptop. The difference has narrowed over the years, but it's still hard to beat a Mac trackpad. But, it drives me crazy to see (and hear) people clicking down on their touchpads to do anything. Guess what? These touchpads have not physically depressed when clicked on for years. Instead a clever bit of haptic feedback makes it feel like you've clicked down. 

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Turn this on, even if you're not going to use it all the time. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Windows laptops have long been set up for tap-to-click, which means a simple tap of your finger works the same way as a left mouse button (or ancient touchpad button) click would. A two-finger tap is the equivalent of a right mouse button click. 

But every time I set up a new Mac, I spend several minutes vainly tapping on things with no effect, because MacOS has tap-to-click turned off by default. Why? I'm assuming it's just to make my life more difficult. Fortunately, it's easy to fix. And if you're a determined clicker and have no intention of becoming a tapper, that's OK -- change these settings and you can still click away, but now the tapping will work, too. 

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The supersecret hidden tap-and-drag settings menu. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

As a bonus, while we're doing this we're going to turn on both Exposé, which is a very useful multifinger gesture, and tap-and-drag, which is a much easier way to move things like folders around on the screen. 

Fix Apple's dumb default touchpad settings:

  • System Preferences > Trackpad >  Point & Click > Check the checkbox for Tap to click (which is unchecked by default). 
  • System Preferences > Trackpad > More Gestures > Check the checkbox for App Exposé (fifth checkbox from the top).
  • System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Trackpad Options > Check the checkbox for Enable dragging (without drag lock).

That's it, your MacBook is now set up in a logical way. 

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