How to clean a dirty trackpad

by on January 28, 2009

Q: The cursor on my Dell Inspiron laptop is very erratic. I tried changing mouse settings such as speed and sensitivity, but that didn’t help! Can you diagnose the problem and give me a solution?

A: It sounds to me like your trackpad is dirty. Even if you wash your hands before touching your computer, your hands still transfer lots of oils, dead skin cells, and other contaminants to the surface of your trackpad. The sensors in your trackpad are probably mistaking these contaminants for commands from your fingers.

The first step for cleaning your trackpad is to shutdown your computer; this prevents the cursor from clicking on things in your computer as you clean. Then use a damp paper towel to clean your trackpad. Next, use a dry paper towel to absorb as much of the remaining moisture as possible from the trackpad. Even after using a dry paper towel, some moisture will remain on your trackpad. Since moisture is a kind of contaminant, you must wait about 5 minutes for the remaining wetness to evaporate.

When you turn your computer on, your cursor should behave normally. If not, ask a computer expert in your area to test for damaged trackpad sensors in your computer.

Tip: You can use Post-it notes to clean your keyboards!

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