You are in the middle of an important work task when your mouse and keyboard stop working on Windows. What do you do? If you have ever found that your mouse or keyboard suddenly isn’t responding correctly, here are some troubleshooting methods that you can try. We’ve arranged these from the most straightforward and obvious to the more unlikely and technical:
Reboot your computer
Rebooting your computer is a quick and easy way to clear up issues with peripherals. If you have problems with your mouse or keyboard, rebooting your computer can get them working again. As an extra step, or if the first reboot does not help, disconnect all other peripherals (printers, scanners, cameras, etc.) before rebooting.
Check or change batteries
If you’re feeling like your wireless keyboard and mouse aren’t giving you the same level of performance they used to or are working intermittently or not at all, it might be time to check the batteries. Wireless mice are battery-powered, and even those wireless keyboards advertised as “solar” will have a backup battery. Check them regularly to ensure they’re still fresh and supplying power to your devices. Some devices have a “battery check” button that can inform you if the batteries are low, but if you don’t have that and it’s been a while since you replaced the batteries, it’s worth trying some fresh ones to see if it helps.
Wired connections can come loose over time, particularly when the attached device is moved frequently, like a computer mouse. Wires are also prone to getting tanged, yanked, kinked, or frayed, all of which can potentially affect the function of a wired mouse or keyboard. If you use a wired mouse or keyboard, check that their connections to the computer are firmly seated and that the ports they are plugged into are not dirty or dusty.
Check the mouse work surface
If you use a computer mouse, it’s essential to consider the surface on which you work. Computer mice are designed to work best on smooth, clean surfaces. Some surfaces will interfere with the function of the mouse and may even cause it to malfunction. For example, a ball mouse works best on a smooth and even surface, but if you use it on a roughly textured surface, the mouse ball can get caught in the texture and not move freely. Optical mice work best on flat, opaque surfaces. Some surfaces reflect infrared light in ways that can confuse the device. Avoid any materials that could create interference (like metal or glass).
Check for damage
Keyboard damage can include cracks in the plastic casing, stuck keys, or impact damage from dropping the keyboard. These problems can affect the keyboard’s function, causing certain keys or the entire keyboard to stop functioning. Mouse damage can also be cracks in the casing, stuck buttons, or impact damage from dropping the mouse. These problems can make it difficult to move the cursor and interact with programs on your computer. If your keyboard or mouse is acting up, check it for signs of damage. Shake the peripheral gently – do you hear anything rattling around inside? If you suspect that your keyboard or mouse is damaged, replacing the damaged peripheral is your best move.
Clean your mouse and keyboard
Many people often don’t think about the dirt and food particles that can accumulate on their computer keyboards, but these things can cause problems down the road. Dirt and food particles can cause your keyboard to stop working correctly. Luckily, cleaning your keyboard and mouse is relatively easy – all you need are some basic supplies.
To clean your keyboard, disconnect it from the computer or shut the computer down. Turn the keyboard upside down and top the bottom to dislodge any crumbs and large particles. Turn the keyboard right side up and again, and use a computer vacuum or compressed air to remove any particles or dust bunnies between the keys. If you believe that dirt may be trapped beneath the keys, use a keycap puller to remove the keys so you can clean underneath them. Once cleaning is done, test your keyboard to see if performance has improved.
To clean your mouse, wipe away any dirt or dust on its surface or underside, and use a computer vacuum or canned air to clean out between buttons and crevices. If you have an optical mouse, check the light & sensor area on the underside to ensure that both are clean and unobstructed. If you have a ball mouse, twist the ring around the ball on the bottom to open it and remove the ball. Clean the ball using a soft cloth to wipe it down. If dirt is caked on, use a small amount of cleaning fluid or soapy water to remove the grime. Make sure to get all of the dirt and dust off of it. Clean the rollers next. Use a damp cloth to wipe them down. Again, get all of the dirt and dust off of them – you may find a cotton swab with a bit of cleaning fluid on it makes this easier. Be sure to dry both the ball and rollers thoroughly before using them again. Put the ball back in the mouse, replace the lock ring, and test its performance.
Test on another computer
If you’re having trouble with your mouse or keyboard, try using it on another machine to see if the issue persists. Keep in mind that you may need to install the driver for the device on the other machine unless it is already using the same model of mouse or keyboard. If the device works on the other machine, something amiss with your current computer prevents it from functioning correctly. If it does not work on the other computer, the device itself is at fault.
Test another device
If you have a spare keyboard or mouse, try that on your computer to see if it functions. Keep in mind that you may need to install the driver for the device unless it is the same model of mouse or keyboard. If the spare device works on your computer, you’ll need to focus on the original device as the source of the problem. If the spare device does not work, something is likely amiss with your computer.
Try a different port
If you use a wired or wireless USB keyboard or mouse, try moving the connections (or the wireless adapter) to a different USB port. If the device starts working again, try switching it back to the original port to see if it still works. USB port failures are rare but not impossible. Dirt, dust, or OS issues can also cause a USB port to stop working. If it appears that you suddenly have a non-functioning USB port, blow it out with some compressed air. If that does not help, try a computer reboot.
Update or reinstall drivers
Outdated drivers can often be the root of peripheral malfunctions, including wireless USB mice and keyboards. By regularly updating your drivers, you can ensure that all of your devices are functioning correctly and that there are no issues with compatibility.
Windows updates drivers automatically, but you can also update them manually. Open “Device Manager” in Windows and look for the device you want to update. Right-click it and choose “Update Driver.” You’ll be presented with two options: “Search automatically for drivers” or “Browse my computer for drivers.” Try the first option, and if Windows does not find a driver update, repeat the process with the second option. If no update is available or the update does not fix the issue, you can instead use the Device Manager to remove the device – right-click on it and select “Uninstall,” then reboot. Windows will reinstall the driver if it detects the device. You can download the device driver from the manufacturer’s website and install it manually if it does not.
macOS will routinely handle system and driver updates for your computer. To search for updates, click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen. Select the menu item “System Preferences…”, then click “Software Update” Any available updates will be shown listed here, or you will be informed your software is updated. If you wish to install or update a macOS driver manually, you’ll need to download the driver from the manufacturer’s website. Double click on the download – if it’s in an archive, you will need to click Extract, open the archive folder and double-click the file inside to install the package. A warning message may appear. If that happens, go to System Preferences > Security and Privacy > and click “Open Anyway” in the dialog box to mark the driver as OK to install.
In conclusion, your computer keyboard or mouse can stop working for various reasons. However, there are some things you can do to try to fix it. Try the steps outlined in this guide. If none of those things work, but you know that your computer is not to blame, you may need to buy a new keyboard or mouse.