Yesterday morning, I was typing happily on my Mac when I noticed the cursor disappeared. I was typing but no text was appearing. I determined that another app was stealing focus. The problem app was the Finder. I figured this out through the simple expedient of watching the menu bar to see which app jumped to the foreground when the problem came up.

This was going on every minute or so. Very annoying! I continued working like that all day, just Cmd-Tabbing back after the Finder stole focus. Around 4 pm I decided enough was enough.

After trying several possible solutions, I resolved the problem by rebooting in safe mode.

A couple of other things I tried before that:

  • Of course I tried Googling, and got the usual mishmash of confusing forum responses and just plain wrong search results. Completely unhelpful.
  • I asked ChatGPT.

Interestingly, ChatGPT’s answer was wrong but led me in the right direction.

ChatGPT’s first suggestion was a complete hallucination—it suggested disabling a feature in Finder through a menu setting that simply does not exist.

It suggested resetting Finder preferences. I followed the instructions (this time they were accurate) and that did not solve the problem.

It suggested incompatible hardware might be to blame. I gradually disconnected stuff from my MacBook until I was running it in pure MacBook mode—no external keyboard, no external storage devices, no external display, and so on. That didn’t solve the problem either.

ChatGPT mentioned third-party software twice, which led me to restart the Mac in safe mode. Safe mode accomplishes two things: Restarts the Mac without starting third-party software, and also performing some system maintenance. I suspect the system maintenance is what worked.

This is a five-year-old MacBook and I expect I’ll have to replace it soon enough. But it will survive another day!

This post is primarily for the benefit of anybody coming after me Googling “Finder stealing focus on Mac.” Good luck, my friend! I hope my advice helps you fix your problem.