Mouse maintenance

Everyone at one point or another, has experienced the frustration that comes when one's mouse refuses to cooperate.  

Fortunately, a recalcitrant mouse can readily be cajoled into further use.

There are two main types of mice.  Optical mice operate by shining an infrared light at the surface on which the mouse rests.  As the mouse is moved, the reflected light changes, and sensors within the mouse interpret the mouse's movements.  The other type of mouse has a roller ball, which turns as the mouse is pushed about, and turns wheels through sensors to interpret movement.

Ball mice are mechanical, and mechanical things have mechanical wear and tear.  In the case of mice, the biggest problem comes from the user's hands.  Sweat and dust congeal and get swept up into the mouse innards, causing sluggish or erratic response. This is easily sorted, though, as follows:

  • Turn the mouse over.
  • There will be a disc around the roller ball, which you can twist to remove it and the ball.
  • Within, you will see the rollers which capture movement.  Most likely, the rollers will be enveloped in black, stiff dirt.
  • A piece of tissue paper, dampened in warm water, in conjunction with a narrow spatula/blade are all that is needed to clear the rollers.
  • For very dirty mice, it may be necessary to open the mouse (using typically a screw on the underside).  This will not harm the mouse and will afford easier cleaning.  
  • Dry dust within the electronics can be removed by blowing.
  • Make sure that the tiny switches beneath the buttons, and the perforated wheels on the rollers are completely dust free.

Put the newly cleaned mouse together again, and it should function like new.{mospagebreak}

Optical mice do have some benefits over wheeled mice:

  • With no moving parts (other than the micro-switches under the buttons) wear and tear is minimal. 
  • With no roller ball, dirt and dust have no way into the mouse.

However, the surface upon which the mouse is used becomes very relevant when using an optical mouse.  Shiny or transparent surfaces can adversely affect the operation of the sensors, causing the mouse to be sluggish.  Worse still, if operating the mouse upon a patterned surface, some of which is specular, the mouse can appear to jump around the screen.  Optical mice appear to work best on a matte surface, e.g. heavy card, such as the back of an A4 refill pad.  Strangely, a mouse-mat received from a PC manufacturer causes the mouse to cavort about the screen uncontrollably due to its shiny, undulating character, whilst using the mouse on a folded up newspaper works a treat!