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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 13 Issue 7
July 2019
The Top Reasons You're Having Trouble Clicking or Double-Clicking with Your Mouse

The problem

Controlling a modern computer with a graphical user interface involves a number of abstractions and metaphors. Moving the physical mouse around on your desk in turn moves a corresponding "flying mouse cursor" around your computer screen. Left-clicking, right-clicking, and double-clicking the physical buttons on your mouse lets you perform a variety of abstract actions, including pressing on-screen "buttons," choosing commands from menus, scrolling through more text or data than can fit on the screen, selecting, moving or opening icons and windows (which in turn represent documents, folders, disks, printers, and more), selecting or highlighting text, pictures, sound, video, etc.

However, when you're unable to perform these basic tasks with your mouse, it can be quite frustrating. Read on for my advice on how to identify some of the more common problems, and what you might do to resolve them.

Physical problems with your mouse
  • Corded mouse: Try unplugging and re-plugging its USB cable, or try a different USB port. Is the USB cable crimped or worn? Try a different mouse.
  • Cordless mouse: Try unplugging and re-plugging the cordless receiver, or try it in a different USB port. The batteries might be low, so try replacing them. Try a different mouse.
  • Your mouse's left or right buttons may be wearing out, which might take a few months or years. Symptoms can include: You're sure that you clicked, but the computer didn't register it; you're sure that you clicked-and-held (for example, to drag an icon or select some text), but the computer acts like you clicked and released.
And, if you determine that a USB port on your computer (or a USB hub) has stopped working, put a piece of tape over it to prevent you from accidentally using it again.

Problems with your software
  • Your computer or internet connection might be a little slow or a glitch may have occurred. Try waiting a minute or two, or reloading the web site, or closing and reopening the software, or Restarting the computer.
  • Are you sure that the item, icon, text, picture, etc. that you're clicking on is actually clickable or selectable, i.e., not a disabled item, or cosmetic decoration, or part of a background picture?
Problems with your technique
  • Are you putting the correct part of the on-screen mouse cursor directly on the item before clicking? Every mouse cursor has a single pixel called the hotspot, which is where your clicks actually register. For the "arrow" cursor it's tip of the arrow (not the center of the arrow); for the "I-beam" (text-selection cursor) it's the vertical midpoint; for the "hand" cursor it's the tip of the "index finger." If you don't understand this, your clicks will miss your target and either do nothing, or (worse) click somewhere else instead.
  • Do you hold the mouse completely still before clicking? Even small movement can make you miss a single-click target, and if you're trying to double-click, movement will make the computer think that you've done two separate single-clicks. It can help to "plant" your hand in one spot before you click.
  • Do you hold the mouse completely still while you're clicking? You might not realize it, but you could be clicking with so much force that you're also moving the mouse as you click, which can easily make you click somewhere else and miss your target.
  • Are you double-clicking too slowly, i.e., leaving too much time between the two clicks? Try clicking a little faster.
Mouse issues that don't directly involve clicking
  • If you're having trouble simply moving your mouse cursor around, it may be the surface underneath your mouse. Try a different mouse pad, or a blank piece of paper, or just your desk surface with no mouse pad at all.
  • If you often "overshoot" when you try to place your mouse cursor onto small targets with your mouse, your mouse "pointer speed" or "tracking speed" might be too fast. For example, this can interfere with your ability to click any of the little controls that close (or minimize or maximize) your windows or web browser tabs or tiny icons.
  • If you often "overshoot" small targets with your laptop's trackpad, if you don't want to adjust your tracking speed, I suggest another technique: First get your cursor close to the target, then "roll" your finger side-to-side or forward-and-back (like you're having your fingerprint taken) in order to move your mouse cursor the remaining small distance.
Where to go from here
  • To adjust your mouse or trackpad settings on Microsoft Windows, go to Control Panel or Settings, and on Macintosh open System Preferences.
  • After trying my suggestions above, if you're still having trouble with your mouse, talk to someone technical that you know and trust, or google: mouse click trouble
  • I also recommend keeping a spare mouse (and keyboard) on hand, so a sudden problem doesn't prevent you from using your computer.
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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Copyright (C) 2019 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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