An annoying cursor issue!
May 11, 2009 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Please help me get my WinXP cursor (mouse AND keyboard) to work properly again.

Here's what happens... I'll turn the computer on, log onto my user account and all goes fine... for a while. Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, the cursor just stops working. It doesn't matter if I use keyboard shortcuts, or a mouse, it just won't work. Sometimes it happens in five minutes, sometimes in sixty minutes, but it will just stop working altogether. I can't even shut down the computer. I have to just turn it off, which is not good for a Windows machine. Once it reboots, it will start all over again.

I have no idea where to start in trying to fix this issue. It began out of the blue. I made no changes whatsoever. No new downloads, nothing.

I have a XP w/SP2 (I have not upgraded to SP3 due to the bug issues it had, Windows is buggy enough without adding to it) Media Center Edition 2002; eMachine T6532; Intel Celeron CPU 440 @ 2.00GHz 0.99 GB

Is there anything else I need to post here to find out what to do?
posted by magnoliasouth to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
What happens when you unplug the mouse and keyboard and plug them back in?
posted by majick at 1:15 PM on May 11, 2009

When you say cursor, do you mean the mouse pointer or the carat that appers when you're editing text?
posted by stubby phillips at 1:18 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do other keyboard commands work (non-cursor/pointer movement related ones)?
posted by juv3nal at 1:22 PM on May 11, 2009

Is this a wired keyboard and mouse or wireless?

If its wireless, check the batteries, and make sure the receiver is positioned as near to the keyboard and mouse as you can manage.

If its wired, well, does the keyboard work *at all* when the mouse freezes? Can you hit the 'windows' key (usually between ctrl and alt on the left side of your keyboard) and pop open the start menu? If you can do that, you can at least do a graceful shutdown by using the keyboard shortcuts. If you can't do that, do your keyboards mode keys still work? If you hit caps lock does it toggle the keyboard caps lock light? If not, it suggests a hardware problem, try replacing the keyboard and mouse. If so, its possibly a software problem. Try checking the device manager, right click My Computer > Select Properties > Select the Hardware Tab > Hit the Device Manager button, and when the device manager window comes up, look for anything that has an exclamation point or an x next to it. These might suggest what is causing problems.

Which raises another question, if your keyboard & moue are usb devices, do you have any other usb devices connected to your system which might be flaky? If so, try disconnecting them, and see if your problem continues or not.
posted by Reverend John at 1:37 PM on May 11, 2009

Response by poster: Wow. Lots of questions very quickly.

This will be long, but to quickly cut to the chase: This is NOT a keyboard/mouse issue. This is a computer issue. The system is not frozen. I can tab, move the mouse pointer and so forth. As I mentioned, this is a cursor issue not a mouse pointer or keyboard issue.

This is the best way to explain it.

Let's say I have this computer (this OS doesn't matter, it's just the other computer I'm using for now), and then the XP (which is the one not working properly).

On this computer (or any computer) there are two ways I can enter text anywhere or in any program, whether it be a text box or word processor or whatever. The point is that there are two ways.

Way 1: I can tab to the text entry area and the cursor will blink and then I can type anything I want.
Way 2: I can click my mouse where I want to type text and the cursor will blink then I can type anything I want.

However, on the XP this does not work. There is no cursor blinking. It doesn't matter if I use way 1 or way 2. I can tab fine, I can use my arrow keys fine. The mouse pointer moves and is also fine. There is simply no cursor and I cannot type any text anywhere, not that I haven't tried. I have tried typing thinking that perhaps the cursor is just not blinking but it still might type. However this is not the case.

The keyboard is not a USB device, I swapped the keyboard with this computer and I'm actually typing this using the XP's keyboard.
I've used two mice. One is a USB device and one is not, same problem. Also, both work fine on this one.
Obviously unplugging and plugging them back in isn't helping since they are clearly working, it's the cursor that isn't.

When the cursor stops working, I cannot select anything. It will "look" selected (think how an icon looks when clicked only once on the desktop) but will not open or do anything.

On the Windows XP user log in start thingy (where it has user names and you type in your password to load your desktop and settings) I can tab and use the arrow keys to scroll through them and even the text box where you enter a password will open up. I just can't enter the password or anything.

Are there any further ideas?
posted by magnoliasouth at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2009

The randomness, plus the fact that you are not fully patched, makes me suspect malware. Is your anti-virus up to date and have you done a full scan?
posted by txvtchick at 3:47 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like some program is stealing and keeping focus.

I also suspect malware.

Until you figure this out, you may be able to shut down your computer by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete and following from there. You should see a Shut Down button.
posted by qvtqht at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2009

Now that I think about it, it sounds like a buggy keystroke recorder that's failing to pass on the keystrokes to the active program.

I will leave it to others to recommend the best anti-malware/anti-virus program, since I don't know for sure what to recommend.
posted by qvtqht at 4:43 PM on May 11, 2009

Sounds like some program is trying to steal focus. Have you installed any applications lately? Are you willing to do a system restore to before this started? It may not be malware, just a badly written app.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:25 PM on May 11, 2009

posted by patnok at 6:33 PM on May 11, 2009

I could be a bad USB device that's causing it's internal fusing to trip. Or it could be a bad UPS if you have one. I've seen both of these cause similar problems.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:48 PM on May 11, 2009

Response by poster: I've run Avast, and Adaware, nothing. In fact, hardly anyone has used that computer for awhile.

I don't think anything is stealing focus. How can it do that BEFORE anyone is logged in?

Ctrl+Alt+Delete doesn't work on the log in screen. :(

When it does it, I can't open any software. I agree that it sounds suspicious, but I really feel that malware is not the case. I've never heard of malware that affects the initial log in screen. I'm not saying I can't be wrong though.


On the plus side, I did run a scan disk and defrag last night. Since then - knock on wood - it appears to be working properly. As the day wears on, I'll see what happens. The thing is I don't like that as an answer because clearly something caused it and I'd like to know what so I can prevent this headache from happening in the future.

You all are angels! I'll check in again later today to see if any of you have figured this sucker out. :)
posted by magnoliasouth at 5:45 AM on May 12, 2009

Are you able to open a notepad window and type into that?

Are you able to open a dos prompt window and type there?

Wait, you can't enter your user password? Are you able to log in? Do you have a user account with no password that lets you log in?

How about safe mode? If you tap f8 during boot up can you boot into safe mode, and do you experience the same problems?

How about your bios setup? Are you able to get into that?
posted by Reverend John at 9:30 AM on May 12, 2009

Response by poster: I thought the scan disk and defrag helped. Yesterday it worked fine, but this morning back to the same 'ol.

No, you cannot log in if it happens on the log in screen. No, I have no accounts without passwords.

No, I can't do anything at all and it does it in safe mode too.

It sounds like a computer issue. What about drivers? What driver should I try to update and how would I do it?
posted by magnoliasouth at 8:51 AM on May 13, 2009

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