Intermittent laptop touchpad problem
December 22, 2003 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Is there any way to make an intermittent problem with a laptop more regular? I have a year-old laptop that they talked me into getting an extended warranty for, and there is a problem with the touchpad I've tried to get them to fix twice, but it's never a problem when it's in for service. How can I give them something to fix?
posted by ferociouskitty to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
And what would you describe this "problem with the touchpad" as being like? That's vague enough that I can easily imagine a service tech waggling his finger around, seeing the pointer move, and then concluding it's PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.

Not to discount the seriousness or realilty of your woes, but you'll want to be as specific as possible when describing a problem (be it here or to your service guys). When it's wrong, what is it that's wrong? Is it always wrong? Is it sometimes wrong?
posted by majick at 3:42 PM on December 22, 2003


My machine suffers a similar problem, but instead of a touchpad problem, the whole machine will refuse to start untill the second a technician gets their hands on it.

My advice: either a) blow $10 on a USB mouse, and be much happier forever, or
b) get a desktop and learn to fix it yourself, and be much happier forever.

In any case, I wish you luck.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:42 PM on December 22, 2003

I dunno about making your laptop suck, but I am ALL FOR the laptop warranty. 2 1/2 years ago, I bought a HP laptop from bestbuy for $1200 as a floor unit that was regularly $1550 and the 3-year warranty for $249. Bring my laptop in for the 4th repair later about 3 days ago, I go in asking about their lemon policy. Thirty minutes later, I leave with a new Sony Vaio that was $1350 on sale with a brand-new three year warranty for a mere $47 out of my pocket. Hence, why I'm totally in favor of a warranty for laptops. Yea, you can say all you want about it being the 4th time it needed repairs, but that extra $1550 I'm saving not having to buy a new one will go a long ways...
posted by jmd82 at 4:05 PM on December 22, 2003

More specific on the problem - every now and then, the movement of the pointer becomes erratic and exaggerated. For example, if I move what would normally be about 2 inches to the left on the screen, it will shoot to the upper right corner. I tried a couple patches available from Toshiba, doesn't seem to help. The laptop is our secondary computer, so I'm just using the desktop now. But I hate owning a $1500 paperweight.
posted by ferociouskitty at 4:22 PM on December 22, 2003

Are you only using one finger?

I know it sounds like an insane question but that is the reaction a touchpad with give if you place 2 fingers on it and then remove on of them.

Maybe a bit of jewelry or shirt sleeve is coming in contact with it.
posted by Mick at 4:43 PM on December 22, 2003

Mick has a good point. Go to Control Panel, Mouse/Pointing devices, and make sure there's no Touchpad accelerator or shortcut software running.

As laptops age, screws loosen, and bits of the case get worn. Also, food, grit, orange juice, etc., get into the keyboard and touchpad. There could be 1 broken wire in a ribbon cable, or a bit of grit that moves around causing the random motion.

If you have paid for the extended warranty, and have not mistreated the laptop, call for repair, and don't take no for an answer. I have worked with Dell, Toshiba, Compaq (now HP) warranty repairs and have found that a polite but unyielding insistence on repair is effective. Tell them to replace the touchpad with a new part. Make sure the technician tightens the case screws, and shakes out any crud.
posted by theora55 at 5:04 PM on December 22, 2003

Adding to what Mick said, touch pads don't actually need to be touched.. some of them are sensitive enough that just having your finger/palm/whatever close enough to the touchpad will wonk it out. There are usually tools to adjust the sensitivity of the thing.

The first few weeks i had my vaio pcg-n505vx (quite a few years ago, and its still the computer i'm using right now - solid as a rock), I thought it had a problem, because occasionally the cursor would wing around the screen when I was just typing, not even using the touchpad. Turned out the heal of my thumb was getting too close.

Or, it could be bad hardware, and sporatic problems are the worst. The guy you're bringing it to hates it almost as much as you do. He probably isn't allowed to just replace it without seeing the problem himself, assuming its a chain store.
posted by duckstab at 5:07 PM on December 22, 2003

"...if I move what would normally be about 2 inches to the left on the screen, it will shoot to the upper right corner."

The repair folks are correct; there's nothing they can do. When you have problems like this it's because the manufacturer designed in a touchpad manufactured by Alps, and they do this In fact, you're lucky; most Alps touchpads just up and die completely. Mine (a Dell CPx) does it about twice a day, occasionally even shooting off into all four corners and clicking buttons madly. Unfortunately, there's no cure -- Alps just sucks ass -- and you can't switch one type of touchpad for another.

The only thing you can do about this is to make sure your next laptop doesn't include parts manufactured by Alps. (The Synaptics brand actually works. Look for those.)
posted by majick at 6:24 PM on December 22, 2003

I second majick: I've gone through many Dell laptops (from my employer's fleet) and every single one had this problem (and I keep hearing the same from co-workers). There's nothing you can do, although I have found that just opening up the Mouse Control Panel (and maybe selecting some calibrating procedure) usually stops it for a while --I think the Control Panel kicks in some calibrating routine or resets the driver in some way.

Also, does your Toshiba have a combo stick/pad unit? if so, I've also found that disabling the stick usually fixes this, if you can live w/o it (unfortunately I like both, for different tasks each).

Having said that, I've used laptops exclusively for 5+ yrs now and I would never, ever go back to a desktop (and yes, I used to build my own).
posted by costas at 8:59 PM on December 22, 2003

It might be a driver problem as well. I know if I don't have the proper driver loaded in Linux, the touchpad on my Vaio goes apeshit; I imagine the same could happen in whatever OS you're using (probably windows?).

But as others have said, just don't take "no" for an answer and usually the chain stores will agree to replace or repair it free of charge or for a small fee.
posted by thebabelfish at 6:10 AM on December 23, 2003

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