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Tech Matters: How to fix a laggy mouse

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 1, 2021

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Leslie Meredith

When your computer is working as it should, you don’t appreciate it, but when something small goes wrong, it can feel like a major frustration. I am currently experiencing a sluggish or laggy mouse.

If you notice your cursor movements are slower or less precise than they used to be, you have a lag issue, which means the time between a mouse movement and its response on your screen is not as good as it should be. For instance, you may be scrolling down a Word document and the scroll bar pauses when you continue to scroll, or you may have to click two or three times on a web page link until that link opens.

Like with most computer-related issues, there may be more than one cause of the problem. The lag may be your mouse or it could be insufficient processing power. If you usually have many tabs open in your browser and are running multiple resource-heavy programs simultaneously such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere, check your RAM (random access memory) when you’re experiencing problems. RAM handles active apps and tasks, and when you don’t have enough of it, your computer will slow down.

Right-click on the Windows taskbar and select Task Manager. Click on the Memory or Performance tab, depending on your Windows version. If you have 4 gigabytes or less available, you are likely running low. Click on the Processes tab and you can see how much each application is using and then close as many programs and browser tabs as you can. Test your mouse to see if that solved the problem.

You’ve ruled out a memory shortage, so now it’s time to look at the mouse. Try the simple fix-all first: unplug it, restart your computer and then plug the mouse back into the port. If you have more than one port, try the second one. If it’s a wireless mouse, replace the batteries with new ones. Next, clean your mouse. Dirt could be covering the infrared sensor under your mouse. There could also be dirt inside the scroll wheel, in which case you’ll have to open the mouse with a screwdriver and use canned air to clean it out.

Check your mouse speed and sensitivity settings. If you’ve previously customized your mouse settings, it’s possible that a recent Windows update reset your mouse settings back to default. If you’re accustomed to your customized settings, the default settings could feel like mouse lag. Regardless, this adjustment is an interesting one that could help tailor your mouse to the way you like to work. Type in “Mouse” in your Windows search bar at the bottom of the screen to open these options. Select “Additional mouse options.” You can select Pointer Options to speed up or slow down its speed and check the box “Enhance pointer precision.”

The last option is to replace your mouse. You will have to decide between wired and wireless. Keep in mind that a wireless mouse needs to be charged and can be easy to misplace if you’re traveling. Either way, the most important specifications for a mouse is dpi (dots per inch) because it determines the sensitivity of your mouse, polling rate (the number of times the mouse reports its position to the computer) and optical versus laser technology.

Most mice range from 800dpi to 6,000dpi or more. The higher the dpi, the more sensitive it is, meaning your cursor will move farther the higher the dpi with the same physical movement from you. A standard wired mouse is usually around 800dpi. Move up to 1,200dpi and you will see the difference. The polling rate is measured in hertz. If a mouse has a 125Hz polling rate, it reports its position to the computer 125 times every second — or every eight milliseconds, which is sufficient for most users, but those who edit videos or play games may want a higher rate. An optical mouse is typically more accurate and cheaper, while a laser mouse is more sensitive, can be used without a mousepad and works on glass or other transparent surfaces.

My best advice to you is to stick with a regular mouse with higher specs than what came with your device. I’d avoid a gaming mouse (unless you’re a gamer) because adjusting to the new buttons will be difficult and the higher specs aren’t necessary. Choose the upper range of a name brand, which will not exceed $50 or so.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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