That sounds extreme...
June 18, 2012 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Fraking-Touchpad filter: My Dell Inspiron Touchpad completely ceased to work at all last night. Me and the Dell tech guy ran some diagnostics, and ascertained that it is NOT a hardware problem, it is an OS problem (I have Windows 7). He says my only option (aside from getting a external mouse and using that instead) is to wipe the whole OS and start over. Really?

I'm actually going to get the external mouse anyway, because it seems to be a handy thing to have as a backup, and also because I don't have the system disc for my computer (Best Buy didn't include it for some insane reason), and I'd have to pay Dell $75 to create a system disc for me and to also help me back up my files. I'm reluctant to go this route for the whole risk-to-my-data option alone (although, I have backed up my files to, but also since an external mouse would be a hell of a lot cheaper and would only be a slight inconvenience.

But I can't help but suspect that just trying to replace a driver somewhere, or doing system restore, may also do it. Does anyone have any suggestions for reviving the trackpad before trying to wipe the OS and start over? Or is the tech guy right? Also: any particular mouse I should be looking at when I hit up the Best Buy tonight after work?

Oh - again, it's a Dell Inspiron laptop, model M5030, Windows 7 OS.

posted by EmpressCallipygos to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Almost no windows 7 machines come with recovery discs, instead you access the recovery partition from the POST screen (normally F10 or F12 or DEL) or by pressing F8 to go to the safe-mode-select screen and choosing to repair/reinstall there.

As for mouses, I'm particularly fond of the m705 series logitech's because their battery life is strictly unsane.

But as for reviving the touchpad, you can hammer f8 on boot to go to the boot select screen, you can try "try last known good configuration", or whatever flavor of system restore you have available to you.

I also don't know how a remote technician could ascertain that it's definitely *not* a hardware problem, although it's almost certainly not a hardware problem---but I can't think how he'd come up with that.
posted by TomMelee at 8:51 AM on June 18, 2012

From what I remember of my Inspiron, Dell use some sort of dumbass software on top of the driver to make sure the trackpad works. I can't for the life of me remember what it is, though.

Meanwhile, is this driver update installed?
posted by griphus at 8:52 AM on June 18, 2012

I also don't know how a remote technician could ascertain that it's definitely *not* a hardware problem, although it's almost certainly not a hardware problem---but I can't think how he'd come up with that.

He asked me to restart the system, but hit "F12" as it was starting up to force it into some diagnostic area; we let it run through testing a lot of things, and then finally it offered us the option of a custom diagnostic. We asked it to test the mouse, and the diagnostic asked me to "move your cursor into this box using the touchpad, then click on both the left and the right buttons." My cursor was moving in that diagnostic area just fine. We got out of the diagnostic, and started my computer up normally again -- and I couldn't move my cursor with the touchpad again. He said that if it had been a hardware issue, I wouldn't have been able to move my cursor in the diagnostic area.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on June 18, 2012

The issue with Dell is that "format the hard drive" is literally the second thing they will ask you to do if something is wrong. Why? Because it's a really simple operation on their end and probably will fix the problem. The other side of the coin is that it's probably the single most annoying way to fix the problem on the consumer's end. Have you tried a reputable local computer place?
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would try the following:

1.) Download the touchpad driver for your laptop model from Dell's support site.
2.) Open the Device Manager on your computer
3.) Expand the "Mice and other pointing devices" section
4.) Right click the "touchpad" entry and click uninstall.
5.) Reboot your computer.
6.) Install the driver you downloaded in step 1
7.) It'll probably prompt you to reboot again.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:10 AM on June 18, 2012

Not tried a local place - this all happened literally only 13 hours ago, and I was going to just get a mouse so I could get some functionality back and then try to look into other troubleshooting means (it's hard to Google for a solution to something when you can't even move your cursor to the Google Chrome shortcut on your desktop, or click on it to launch the program).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2012

Oh, please get a wired mouse. It always works, and you won't introduce another problem driver.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:42 AM on June 18, 2012

caclwmr4: "Oh, please get a wired mouse. It always works, and you won't introduce another problem driver."

Just keep a wired mouse available; then the problem is surmountable if it ever occurs again. Cords suck.

EmpressCallipygos: "He said that if it had been a hardware issue, I wouldn't have been able to move my cursor in the diagnostic area."

Yep, I agree with him.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:04 AM on June 18, 2012

I am a hardware tech (well, currently a grad student but it was my bread and butter for years).

1) Blue Jello Elf has described the first thing I would try in very nice detail.
2) The next thing to try is making sure that you have the dell trackpad software as well as a fresh driver.
3) After that, I'd nuke both the driver and software and reboot, and see if windows detects the trackpad on its own.
4) If that didn't work, I'd try the windows restore point.

Only if all that fails would I consider reinstalling windows.
posted by zug at 10:19 AM on June 18, 2012

A lot of laptops with touchpads have a toggle switch or a Fn+F-key combo to enable/disable the trackpad. Like the NumLock state, this seems to be tied to Windows (which may explain why it was working in diagnostics but not in Windows.) Does your laptop have such a thing? My sister has a HP laptop and the switch is right on top of the trackpad, carefully positioned so you constantly bump it and turn it off.
posted by xedrik at 10:41 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not sure whether I have such an Fn+F key combo, but I doubt this is the issue - I wasn't doing anything that could remotely have triggered it when it happened. (It was working one second when I typed a search string into Google and hit "enter," and then literally one second later when I wanted to open another tab to do a second serach string, suddenly my touchpad wasn't working and my cursor didn't move.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on June 18, 2012

As xedrik says, you do have a key to disable the trackpad:
To the right of the F12 key, apparently. Worth a try?
posted by firesine at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2012

Firesine, it strikes me that if I'd hit that, I wouldn't have been able to use the trackpad when I was in the diagnostic mode. But I was.

I currently have a Logitech wireless USB port mouse that I am finally able to use this with; at least it's gotten me functional tonight, and as a backup (or a permanent replacement, should it come to that), I'm pleased. I'm in nowhere near the right headspace to try Blue Jello Elf's suggestion tonight, but will do so tomorrow.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:21 PM on June 18, 2012

Look for a tiny, almost pinhole-sized "dot" in possibly the upper left quadrant of the touchpad... my Dell laptop has this.

If I inadvertently press it too long while touchpadding, it disables the touchpad and thinks I want to use the "stalk" in the center of the leyboard.

Re-repressing the "dot" fixes it. When it's "activated" its lit up. TOOK ME FOREVER TO FIGURE THIS OUT!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:31 PM on June 18, 2012

The Fn+[key] thing is probably based in the operating system, so it isn't necessarily not the problem.

As for fixing the problem is that's not it, go into device manager, delete the touchpad device, reboot, and it should come back more or less automatically.
posted by gjc at 7:08 PM on June 18, 2012

Y'all aren't gonna believe this.

The tech guy at Dell said he was going to call back after I'd gotten the mouse to see if I wanted to do that, or wanted to go with the re-doing my OS. However, a DIFFERENT agent called back instead, and encouraged me to try pressing the "touchpad disable/enable button" just for the hell of it.

And that was what the problem had been all along.

I asked the new agent to please take a note to remind the other agent that he should have fucking asked me to do that first before making me sit through a one-hour diagnostic and suggested I wipe my OS, and making me buy an external mouse, and that was that.

I'm still gonna keep the mouse (it's a good backup), but otherwise this is good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

And an epilogue -

Apparently my snark about how the first guy should have remembered to try the trackpad disable/enable button first got passed to a higher-up, and a supervisor called me (well, actually, he emailed me about how he wanted to call me, I emailed back that it wasn't necessary, he called me twice at home to leave me messages "because you asked for a callback", I finally called back to say "actually I didn't, but since you're so insistent here's a better number," and then when he said that I didn't say in my email that I didn't need a callback I had to explain that "a callback is not necessary" MEANS "I didn't need a callback").

And during that conversation, something made me go for broke and say that it just seemed unfair that on top of all that happening, I'd had to pay $59 for the service fees on something that ultimately was the wrong advice and was something that could have been fixed in two seconds, and gee, that was unfortunate - and they're refunding that fee.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on June 27, 2012

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