How to Troubleshoot My Laptop Touchpad

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Laptop touchpads offer an alternative to an external mouse. Even when they work as designed, touchpads can cause your cursor to jump around unexpectedly or bring up unwanted menus and options due to high sensitivity and multitouch gestures. To troubleshoot erratic cursor behavior or an unresponsive touchpad, check a few settings in Windows and, if necessary, clean the pad itself. If your touchpad won't work at all, plug in a USB mouse to use temporarily.

Enable Your Touchpad

  • If your touchpad suddenly stops working, you might have accidentally turned it off with your laptop's function keys. Hold "Fn" and press the "F" key with an icon that resembles a touchpad. The switch key varies from laptop to laptop, and some laptops don't have a switch at all. If you don't have a switch or it doesn't help, confirm the touchpad is enabled: On Windows 8 or 8.1, press "Windows-W," type "Mouse" without quotes in the search bar and click "Mouse" in the results. Open the "Device Settings" tab and check whether the touchpad has "Yes" in the Enabled column. If not, select it and click "Enable." If you don't have a Device Settings tab, look for another touchpad-related tab name, such as "Cypress TrackPad," which appears on many Dell laptops. Not all models have an "Enable" option in the settings.

Turn Off Gestures

  • Touchpads support gestures, such as swiping down the right side of the pad to scroll the active window. Some touchpads also recognize smartphone-like gestures such as pinch zoom. If you trigger these gestures by accident, it can seem like your computer is behaving incorrectly. To disable gestures and check if the problem goes away, open the touchpad settings from the Device Settings or Cypress TrackPad tab of the Mouse control panel and uncheck any gestures you don't use.

Lower Touchpad Sensitivity

  • If the touchpad's sensitivity is set too high, your palm can cause the cursor to move or click while you type on the keyboard. In the touchpad settings, lower the sensitivity so the pad won't activate without a heavier touch. You might need to open the "Pointing" section to find the sensitivity option. Some touchpad models also have a palm-check feature that helps prevent erroneous movements.

Clean the Touchpad

  • Dirt on a touchpad makes it more difficult for the hardware to detect your fingertip correctly and can cause random cursor movements. Wipe the touchpad with a lint-free cloth to remove loose dirt or dust. To clean stuck-on dirt, moisten the cloth with water. Do not pour any liquid directly onto the touchpad. Do not let any liquid pool on the touchpad. Prevent any liquid from slipping down into the seams around the touchpad. The cloth must not be damp enough to allow any excess liquid to free itself when squeezed.

Update Touchpad Drivers

  • Old or incorrect drivers might contain bugs that cause erratic movement or break particular touchpad features such as gestures. Check your laptop manufacturer's support website for drivers you can download and install. If the site doesn't have touchpad drivers or installing them doesn't help, check the touchpad manufacturer's website instead. Touchpad manufacturer sites often have generic drivers that are newer than those from laptop manufacturers, but generic drivers might not work with some features on your computer, so only try them as a last resort.

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