Today’s computer puzzler

Last week, the folks in our Information Services department came up with a new — well, it’s new to me — laptop to replace the one that got stolen, the one I’d had ever since I started this blog. Which is great; they’ve even programmed it to do cool and mysterious things my old one never dreamt of.

But there’s one problem — whenever I’m typing, suddenly my typing cursor will jump, without warning, from where I’m TRYING to type to some other random part of the page, either in the middle of some previous sentence or out of the text box completely. This happens two or three times per sentence, and it’s sufficiently maddening that, as you might have noticed, I didn’t post at all yesterday.

The only "explanation" I could offer is that the typing always leapt in the direction of wherever the mouse pointer was at that moment.

The folks in information services figured it out today — the problem is that the laptop has a touchpad, and I’ve never gotten used to the things, so I plug in a USB mouse. The problem is that the heel of my hand, or ball of my thumb, or whatever you call the parts of the hand near the wrist, keep brushing against the touchpad. Every time that happens, it’s the equivalent of a mouse click, so the typing cursor jumps to where the mouse pointer is, if you can follow that.

So all I had to do was go to the control panel, and deactivate the touchpad. Simple. Obvious. I should have thought of it.

Only one problem: There’s nothing in the control panel about the touchpad. And nothing down in the right-hand corner of the taskbar, either (I’m running Windows XP). As far as this computer is concerned, it doesn’t HAVE a touchpad. Except that it does.

I’m sure the folks in IS will figure this out on Monday. In the meantime, I’ve got a piece of cardboard over the touchpad, and that’s working. But I was wondering — between now and then, does anybody out there have any suggestions for turning the blasted device off?

20 thoughts on “Today’s computer puzzler

  1. jfx

    What is the make and model of the laptop?
    In the meantime, if there’s no dedicated touchpad option in the Control Panel, and no touchpad options in the Mouse settings found in the Control Panel, you might try:
    Option # 1:
    1. Click Start, then select “Run” and type “msconfig” (no quotes). The System Configuration Utility appears.
    2. Click the “Startup” tab. You will see a list of all the items that are tasked to start running when your computer loads Windows. The running items have check-marks beside them. Look carefully at each item, and you may need to adjust the spacers of the “Startup Item” and “Command” columns to be able to read enough of the description to make a determination.
    3. If you find an item that says “touchpad”, uncheck its box to the left, click “Apply”, “OK”, and you’ll be prompted to restart the machine.
    Option # 2
    1. Right-click the My Computer icon on your desktop.
    2. Select “Properties”
    3. Select the “Hardware” tab.
    4. Click the “Device Manager” button.
    In the Device Manager list, you may see a row entitled “Mice and Other Pointing Devices”, or “Human Interface Devices”. Clicking on the + sign to the left of the row will show you the individual devices. If you see something that says “touchpad”, right-click on it and there may be an option to de-activate or uninstall.
    Option # 3
    1. Smash the touchpad with a carbide hammer point.
    2. Repeat til inoperable.

  2. martin

    my older hp pavilion has a little bar-shaped switch right above the touchpad? there is a blue light that goes out when i accidentally hit the switch and turn it off.

  3. Brad Warthen

    It’s a Dell Latitude D600.
    I’ve tried Option 1. No touchpad or anything like it.
    I’ve tried Option 2. Ditto.
    (Notice how calm my voice is — I’m like all those pilots who mimic Chuck Yeager, refusing to panic as the aircraft goes down, just methodically saying, “I’ve tried A; I’ve tried B…”)
    Am going to keep the cardboard on it for awhile before I try option 3.
    No little bar, just the mouse-click things. No blue light. (“Negative, negative; whiskey-kilo two-eight is NOT declaring an emergency…”)

  4. jfx

    Susan may have nailed it.
    Try this driver from the D600 drivers/downloads support area:
    “Fixes and Enhancements:
    – Adds the feature where the touchpad/stick is disabled when a USB mouse is plugged in. This feature is disabled by default but can be enabled via a checkbox on the Devices tab in the Touchpad. When a USB mouse is plugged in a pop up message informs the user that a USB mouse has been detected and that the touchpad/stick has been disabled. A red ‘X’ appears over the touchpad icon in the systray when it is disabled.”

  5. dave

    Just do what Microsoft does: Call it Mojave or something else and think beautiful thoughts. Of course the Tool Bar is neither intuitive nor effective, it’s Microsoft.
    (Cue southwestern theme music)
    Mo – jav – ayyyy.

  6. slugger

    If you had to buy your own laptop instead of the employer supplying it to you for free, we might be able to solve your problem. Nothing that is free ever works right. Just ask those guys that we are bailing out with our tax money. The bailout money must be free because if they had the know how to operate GM they would not be begging us for a handout that we will never get back our money.
    Now getting back to computers. You are not paid to be a computer geek. You are paid to push the letters on the keyboard and make words appear. The words are supposed to ignite a spark in our blog brain to either attack you or agree with you.
    Get the darn thing fixed so we can attack. If all fails, maybe someone will lift it out of your truck and you can start all over again.

  7. Ralph Hightower

    You don’t understand how things work in the corporate world. Those of us that work with computers to support you jerks in the corporate world understand that corporations have their policies about what is installed on computers connected to their network.
    A corporation would freak out if you brought your home computer into work and plugged it into the corporate network. You may be a “dumb cluck” who doesn’t think that virus protection or an Internet firewall is necessary or even think about maintaining protection. AntiVirusProtection 1998 won’t work in 2008.
    A few years ago, our home computer hammered by a company based in the midlands that was infected with a computer virus. I contacted their network provider and they agreed to throttle the size of the email, but that only made the problem worse. I called the company and asked the IT gal to unplug the jerk’s computer. She said that their computer network was infected with a virus and that they couldn’t stop it. I suggested unplugging their computers. Their network was sending confidential, proprietary documents that was infected with a computer virus.
    If you think nothing about plugging a home laptop into a corporate network or plugging a corporate laptop into your home network, then:
    You are not part of the solution.
    You are part of the problem!
    Never mind that, if you work for a company, your employer could be shut down or receive hefty fines for software piracy via the Business Software Alliance (
    Lee Muller was probably a omputer consultant to Charles Babbage when he invented the first mechanical computer in the 1820’s.

  8. Herb Brasher

    Brad, this is the reason I always get HP, because as far as I know, only HP and Compaq come with an easy switch on/off the mouse pad. I use that all the time when I’m on the road. At work, I plug in a wireless keyboard and mouse, because I”m basically working on desktop and laptop at the same time for much of the day. Obviously the Dell is set up with the features you need, but I hate mouse pads, and having to use the Control Panel to turn them on and off is a nuisance.

  9. Herb Brasher

    On a similar note, does anyone know which laptops perform best under adverse conditions? None of the “heavy-duty” laptops are showing that they function well at an outside temp over 96 Fahrenheit. I’ve heard that Toshiba does the best of all of them, but there are places that are a lot hotter than that.

  10. Herb Brasher

    Thanks for the tip, jfx, I thought I had looked around and studied a lot of specs, but I missed these, Very grateful!

  11. jfx

    Absolutely tongue-in-cheek. 3K is a bit outrageous. But, it’s all relative. Not long ago, such tech would have been 10K+, easy.

  12. Gary Rice

    SLAM the pc on the desk top 3 or 4 times. This will help believe me you have to let these new laptops know who’s boss.
    If that fails which I doubt it will – you can 1 – call the maker or 2 – let someone ‘steal’ it like you did that old clunker you had before. If this problem isn’t fixed soon call me at local – 740-1078 and I will give you my ‘final answer’ but be warned it includes controlled burning.

  13. gayguy

    I met this fully-rugged guy last night.Looked kind of like the Brawny paper towel man,and he knows all about fixing laptops.

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