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For Seniors: How to Take Care of Your Computer Mouse and Keyboard

The good news is that mice, trackballs, and keyboards make computing easy. The bad news is that because they’re mechanical, these computer gizmos eventually wear out. Here’s the lowdown on caring for these devices so that you don’t have to replace them before their time.

Keep your computer keyboard clean

Never get your keyboard wet. Spilled liquids are likely to short out the electronics. Also, give the keyboard a good cleaning every few months. Turn off the PC’s power, unplug the keyboard, and turn it over to shake out dust and dirt (or use a can of compressed air to blow between individual keys).

Diagnose a troubled computer keyboard

If the keyboard stops responding, check whether the device is connected properly and look for any cuts or crimps in the cable. If the connections and cable are fine, reboot the computer.

If you’re still having problems, check the connection between the PC and the keyboard, as well as the status of the keyboard’s device driver. Choose Start→Control Panel→Keyboard (XP) to open the Keyboard Properties dialog box. (In Windows 7 and Vista this direct path is available from the icon view of the Control Panel.) Click the Hardware tab. Check the Device Status entry to see whether the computer is communicating with the keyboard properly. Click the Properties button to display another Properties dialog box; then click the Driver tab to examine the details of the driver and make any necessary changes or updates.

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Practice good mousekeeping

Always keep your desktop and mouse pad clean. If your mouse seems to have lost its way, the first thing to do is give it a good cleaning:

  • Mechanical mouse: Unplug the mouse from the computer, turn it over, and (on most mice) rotate the plastic or rubber ring to release the rubber roller ball. Use a can of compressed air to remove debris from the cavity. Then clean the ball (and rollers, if any) with mild soap and water or alcohol, using a lint-free cloth.

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  • Trackball: Instead of moving the hardware across the desk, you use your hand to spin the ball in place. You clean a trackball the same way that you clean a mechanical mouse.

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  • Optical mouse: An optical mouse contains no moving parts. Use an alcohol cleaner or a small spray of window cleaner on a rag to remove any buildup from the sensor on its bottom.

Find out why your mouse is acting weird

If your mouse is acting peculiar, make sure that it’s connected to the computer properly. If the connection is fine, choose Start→Control Panel→Mouse (in Classic View in Vista and Windows 7) to open the Mouse Properties dialog box. Click the Hardware tab and then click Properties (to see whether Windows is reporting a failure of a USB port). If the port has no problem, click the Driver tab to check for device driver issues.

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Also, check the manufacturer’s Web site for updated or corrected device drivers.

Revive a dead mouse, trackball, or keyboard

If your mouse, trackball, or keyboard isn’t functioning, restart the computer in safe mode. In safe mode, you should be able to repair or rest the device’s driver in Device Manager.

If the hardware itself has failed, replace the mouse.

Replace a dead mouse, trackball, or keyboard

Remove the old mouse from your computer and plug in the replacement keyboard or pointing device. Turn on the computer and then follow all instructions from the maker of the replacement device to install the new device’s driver or utility program.

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