How to Troubleshoot a Touchpad Not Working in a Laptop

by David Lipscomb

Unique to laptop computers, touchpads replace many standalone mouse functions, allowing you to scroll your cursor around the screen and select and highlight onscreen content. If your touchpad is acting erratically or is completely inoperable, using a few quick troubleshooting techniques can resolve the issue in most circumstances.

Cleaning

Clean the touchpad using an ammonia-based cleaner, or one of the many screen cleaners available on the market. Because your touchpad is in constant contact with your fingers, anything on your fingers accumulates over time on the pad's surface. Food, finger oil, lotion and other contaminants can result in a film that may prevent the touchpad from registering the swipes and motions required to control your cursor.

Hard Boot

Programs and processes running on your computer may prevent normal touchpad operation. Shutting the unit off and restarting often solves this issue. If you have tried cleaning the touchpad and the device remains unresponsive, try this simple procedure next prior to digging into drivers and settings.

Hotkey Settings

You may have inadvertently disabled the touchpad by pressing a hotkey. Look at your "F" keys along the top of the laptop's keyboard, checking for a silkscreened icon featuring an image of the touchpad. Press the "Fn" key with the corresponding "F" key to enable and disable the touchpad. If the touchpad remains unresponsive, disconnect all peripheral devices from the laptop, including a docking station, if present.

Enabling the Device

Connect an external USB mouse to temporarily regain control of the cursor. Click "Start | Control Panel | Hardware and Sound | Devices and Printers," and then look for the touchpad or trackpad option under the "Devices and Printers" heading. Note that your touchpad might be listed as a conventional mouse in addition to the temporary one you are using to navigate. Look for an "X" or "!" indicating the device is disabled, then right-click and choose "Enable." Alternately, clicking on "Scan for Hardware Changes" locates a preinstalled driver to enable the device once more. Click "Yes" in the System Settings Change dialog box.

Sensitivity

Click "Start | Control Panel | Hardware and Sound | Devices and Printers | Mouse." Click "Buttons" in the Mouse Properties window. Click the arrow pointing towards the "Devices" header. Click "Double-Click Speed" to adjust how fast the touchpad responds to taps for accessing links. Click "Device Settings | Settings | Sensitivity | Touch Sensitivity." Move the slider to alter settings from light to heavy touch, depending on your preference. Click "Apply" to save your changes, and then "OK" to exit.

New Drivers

It could be that the drivers for your touchpad were never properly installed or are otherwise missing. Open a Web browser, navigate to your laptop manufacturer's website, look under the "Support" header for drivers for your specific laptop, and find the drivers listed for a touchpad or trackpad. The driver listed first is usually the most recent version; follow the onscreen directions to download and install this driver.

About the Author

David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

Photo Credits

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