Fix Wireless Optical Mouse Charging and Tracking Problems

Discussion in 'Reviews and Articles' started by tweakmonkey, Sep 6, 2007.

  1. tweakmonkey

    tweakmonkey Webmaster Staff Member

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    Fix Wireless Optical Mouse Charging and Tracking Problems

    Before you do anything else in this guide, turn your optical mouse over and blow off any hair or dirt that may exist, then wipe your desk surface until clean. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's begin...

    I remember my first wireless optical mouse. It was part of the Logitech MX700 Desktop bundle that included a wireless keyboard as well. The keyboard probably still works and it's tucked away in one of those notorious cable boxes that all computer guys have stored in their closet.

    I unplugged it all after the mouse stopped working a few years back. The problems that tormented me most were the charging cradle, which never seemed to charge the battery when I needed it, the life of the batteries was poor, and the occasional skipping/tracking issues happened during gaming. I later upgraded to the MX1000 Laser and about a year after its purchase it also demonstrated the same issues so I knew there had to be a fix out there.

    This is a quick guide to fixing those problems, specifically charging and tracking issues to improve the performance and longevity of your wireless optical mouse.

    Note – If your mouse is still under warranty or can be returned at a store, consider contacting the retailer or the manufacturer of your mouse before you try any of this!

    Battery Charging
    The most common problem for me with this type of mouse is that it never sits quite right in its docking cradle (the thing you drop the mouse into when the light goes red saying the battery is about to die). It requires you to jiggle it around, sometimes for minutes, until it's just right, and it begins charging (for me, rotating or tilting it side-to-side in the base was the most effective). Here are a few steps that you can take to be sure it works every time.

    1) Clean the contacts. Use a pencil eraser first and rub all the grime off the contacts. There will probably be two copper contacts on the base station, near the bottom of the inside cup. There are also contacts on the mouse that touch these points. Rub them all very well, then use a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol to scrub them clean.

    2) The Ever-Useful Spit Trick! If the above doesn't work, there's a quick-fix I use to charge my mouse in a hurry. It might sound gross, but lick your fingers slightly, then touch the saliva against the copper points on the bottom of your mouse. Drop it into the base station and it will probably charge.

    3) If you want a more permanent solution, you have a few options. You could take a soldering iron and dab a little solder onto the points on the base station. Basically you would make them “stick out” a little further and have a cleaner, conductive point. You may want to manipulate the shape or position the mouse sits in, as the plastic on some of these base stations may warp slightly over the years.

    Check to see where the mouse is sitting by carefully watching it as it enters the cradle. You might want to use a spec of toothpaste (I know, it sounds odd) to mark the position it sits at. If it doesn't sit quite right, you may need to use sandpaper or a file to modify its shape slightly so the mouse fits perfectly. I highly recommend suggestion #2 as most people only charge their mouse once every few days and it's really easy to do. :)

    Battery Life
    If the batteries have been charging all along but still their life sucks, they might just be too old and require replacement. If the mouse has a base station, replacing the batteries is tricky. Sometimes you'll need to take apart the mouse with a small screwdriver, removing feet or glide pads, and even then you might not be able to find a suitable replacement battery type that's compatible with your base station. If you used a different type of battery or voltage, it might explode when you pop it on the charger, so you will probably have to use an external charger and remove the batteries.

    If there's no docking station or you don't want to screw with the risk of mixing types with chargers, you're best off buying some NiMH AA batteries at a local retailer (or online) and replacing the on-board batteries. Fortunately, most wireless mice take the equivalent of 2 x AA size batteries, and any brand should work once you can get inside the mouse.

    [align=left][gars_ad]null[/gars_ad][/align]Tracking Issues
    Dirt and hair are the worst nightmares for an optical mouse. These mice rely primarily on two magical technologies dancing perfectly together to reach maximum performance. The first is the optical portion – the light that is reflecting off the mousing surface to determine its direction and speed. Whether the mouse is a plain “optical” or “laser” mouse, you can clean the mouse and surface well in order to fix tracking issues quite easily. The other piece of magic is the wireless connectivity.

    Cleaning the mouse is easy. If you can, remove the batteries before you begin. First turn the mouse upside down and shake it out a bit (not too violently), pressing the buttons and moving the wheel. The goal here is to get some of the crumbs and dirt out from inside the mouse. If you have compressed air, blow that in any crevice you can find to remove some of the dust. Next, use a soft towel that's been slightly damped with warm soapy water. Do not get too much water on this -- just enough to wipe the mouse off thoroughly. Wipe both sides off, especially where your fingers sit and the optical area. Next use a less-damp, soap-free cloth to wipe the soap off all over. Finally dry the mouse with a towel.

    I use alcohol on the lens area because it generally dries fast and clear. Shake any more stuff out of the mouse, and finally, use the compressed air (or blow really hard) across the lens area to be sure there are no hairs or threads stuck. Again, taking it apart would make this a lot easier. Once disassembled, you can carefully clean anything inside with rubbing alcohol and Q-tips and a low pressure compressed air source.

    From what I've seen, the most common cause of tracking issues on an optical mouse is from a hair or small piece of debris stuck near the lens. If you have any issues in the future, always check and clean this area. While you're cleaning the mouse wipe the table or mouse area until clean.

    On older optical mice especially, the color or texture of the surface can cause tracking problems. Darker colors, especially black, and complicated patterns like checkerboard or plaid will be much more difficult for some optical mice. Obviously, a clear/glass surface is not desired, either. If your surface is not good for an optical mouse it will never perform to your requirements.

    To fix the other type of tracking issues, your best bet is to play with the wireless receiver. The docking station is usually where the signal is being received, so be sure its position is not being blocked by other devices like your monitor, router, or most likely three food-stained plates, a cereal bowl, and a couple of empty soda cans.

    Make sure the mouse and receiver are relatively close together and their heights are about the same. Closer is not always better, and a couple feet may fix potential problems. This will require some adjustment if needed. If you still have issues after this, you might need to play with the channel settings (assuming your mouse has one) or try the “Reset” / “Connect” / etc. button to re-synchronize the connection.

    Other Fixes
    If you were to call Logitech and complain about problems, they might recommend you update the software for your mouse. Logitech's support site is here. While this might not help, it is a potential fix for some mice, as the software can adjust setting that your operating system may not be able to tinker with alone.

    Next Logitech would say to update the system/motherboard USB drivers for your computer, or even update the BIOS. Other potential issues are other wireless devices causing interference or just something simply being wrong with your mouse or receiver. After all, sometimes you just need to throw this stuff in the trash and replace it.