Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yikes!!! My mouse pointer is stuck!

This has actually never happened to me before, but on the off chance that it happens to someone else, here's what happened and what to do when your mouse pointer (sometimes called "the cursor") locks up on you. I'm using a Toshiba notebook computer, and the specific techniques will vary with other models and brands, but at least you know the general problem and can try similar solutions.

So, everything was fine and then I hit a control key sequence and things went crazy.

First, I meant to hit Alt+Space+X to maximize a window and accidentally hit Fn+Space, which magnifies the screen. I had never done that before, so it really freaked me out visually. It took me a while to figure out which key I had actually hit since I had thought that I hit the Alt key. It turns out that simply hitting Fn+Space two more times restored the magnification to its normal view.

But before I figured out how to resolve that minor problem, I had noticed that my mouse pointer (sometimes called "the cursor") was stuck. No matter how I moved my finger on the touchpad, the pointer simply wouldn't budge. The combination of this problem and the preceding problem (I'm not sure which I encountered first since they occurred right after each other), I tried the trusty technique of shutting down (using the keyboard since the touchpad was a no-op) and rebooting. It didn't help. The mouse pointer was still stuck.

I was fairly confident that the mouse pointer stuck when I was trying to type some Ctrl key sequence and must have hit Fn rather that Ctrl. So, I tried all the Fn keys, which are labeled in gray on the keyboard, but I didn't see any affect on the mouse pointer. Thinking that maybe there could have been a coincidence and maybe some hardware glitch occurred at the same time as the other problem, I power-cycled again. No help.

I even tried accessing the control panel applet for the Mouse using the keyboard only and even went through the troubleshooter, but still nothing.

Then I examined the system tray in the Start bar since I know there is some touchpad control feature there. I found the box-like system tray icon that controls the touchpad and noticed that it had a red X through it, strongly suggesting that the touchpad was indeed turned off. But without a working mouse, I could see no obvious way to get to that control and turn the pointer back on.

Convinced that it was an Fn key sequence that got me into trouble, I went back to examing the gray Fn key labels looking for something that looked like that touchpad icon. None of the box-like key labels seemed to control the touchpad. Then, I noticed that the gray key label on the F9 key actually looked like an upside-down two-button mouse. Actually the icon is even more confusing to figure out since it consisted of two of those inverted mice with a slash between them a slash in a circle over them. Looking back, I can see the "logic" of that key symbol, but without careful thought, visually it didn't look apparent at first glance. I took a deep breath and tried it... it worked! Toggling Fn+F9 toggled the red X over the touchpad icon in the system tray. I think I missed it before because I basically hit each Fn key twice to see what it toggled and then to return the toggled value to what it was before it was toggled and I hadn't looked at the touchpad icon in the system tray to notice its state when I hit the key.

I was getting rather freaked-out there for about five minutes, but everything is fine now.

So, even if you are "a Mac guy", you could really become someone's "hero" if you're on a plane or in a meeting or coffee shop and somebody accidentally hits Fn+Space or Fn+F9 and is now dead in the water and only you know the magic secret key sequence to restore their sanity.

And you Mac guys... no need to comment about how you never have these kinds of problems... this kind of thing rarely happens to me and now that I made it through those five minutes of hell, life is wonderful again, for now.

-- Jack Krupansky


At 7:41 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

ftnktvhLeave it to another Washingtonian to solve a 10 hour mystery for a transplanted Hawaiian! How lucky for the hair that remains on my head that I found your site...all with those little directional keys I'd been plucking at for hours!I really knew it had to be something as you've described it. I'd taken the laptop off of my lap rather quickly to help my 85 year-old mother, visiting from Washington. I'd been monitoring Hurricane Flossie all morning, had signed up for MLB.TV so Mom could watch the Mariner's games, and answered some email correspondance, then poof, no pointer/cursor/thingy. Hours and hours passed as I explored the Toshiba help section, with nary a clue, and struggled onto the net, after I finally figured out I could use the Tab key. In the process I encountered all kinds of advice about system restore, registry redo's, and lots of other info WAY over my head. So thank you Jack, I'm sending plenty of Aloha your way. Sincerely, Bobbee Downs

At 1:43 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

can i repeat Bobs thanks, only difference being the cat jumped on the keyboard to cause mine. Thank you very much.

Chris (UK)

At 4:26 PM EST , Blogger Patrice said...

This was SO helpful. Worked like a charm. Couldn't find this info anyplace else. THANKS

At 11:14 AM EST , Anonymous MarisaFotosensible said...

Jack, this is Marisa from Madrid Spain. Not yet tried your trick, but your exhaustive help is more than enough to thank you. I have recently experienced a two month troubleshoot case, where I was forced to contact all support services for a solution: Pinnacle, Microsoft for Vista and lately Toshiba as Pinnacle 11 ultimate did not work at all. When tired of being sent to nowhere, I decided myself to re-install Vista and Pinnacle worked, but the arrow mouse insist now on getting stuck, so you can imagine how my nerves break when this happen and how my discourage grows just thinking of contacting any technical support centre again.

Anyway, will try your suggestion and will come back to let you how it works with Vista. Thanks very much.

At 7:22 PM EDT , Blogger Srividya said...

very helpful...and totally solved the problem...thanks a ton

At 10:09 PM EDT , Blogger Hypatia said...


I'm working on a client's computer and your tip saved my butt and probably other pieces of my anatomy! I'm blind so the pretty pictures on the keys mean nothing to me so there really was nothing to go by to figure out what I had done.
If you ever get to NYC, I owe you dinner. Really.

At 10:10 PM EDT , Blogger Hypatia said...


I'm working on a client's computer and your tip saved my butt and probably other pieces of my anatomy! I'm blind so the pretty pictures on the keys mean nothing to me so there really was nothing to go by to figure out what I had done If you ever get to NTYC, I owe you dinner. Really.

At 3:04 PM EST , Blogger ndv said...

You just saved me a system restore Jack. Exactly my problem. Exactly my solution. Thank you.

At 10:43 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much man. You saved me a tiring and frustrating trip to mechanic and lotsa $$$... wonder who the hell uses the fn F9 to lock the mouse :)


At 11:03 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a million. I even impressed my computer geek husband with your solution!

At 1:40 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jack,
thank you very,very much.
Same problem,same solution.
Thanks again for sharing this with us.
God bless you.

At 2:54 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!!! ahhh it was so frustrating not to know what it was. It would have taken forever without your help. thank you thank you thank you.

At 12:18 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanx man it helped me alot.

At 9:45 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

SO GLAD I FOUND YOU!! It was your comment that you kept going back to the Fn key that solved my problem. I, too, had my cursor freeze just after I was doing things with the Fn key; I took another look at the various function keys and found my problem. The first time this kind of online help has actually worked for me! Thanks so much for your clear explanation/discussion.

At 10:30 AM EDT , Anonymous Loraine said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had to go on another pc to even look this up. This whole experience brought me back to the old days when you had to use arrow keys to get around. Might I add for anyone who has an ACER laptop the solution is Fn+ F7. The icon on F7 is a square with a finger over it. It comes up on screen 'Screen Enabled' - happy days. Appreciate you taking the time to post. Regards from Ireland

At 6:48 PM EDT , Blogger MICHAEL said...

Thankyou Thankyou thankyou a million million times.....

My little 5year old boy was playing with some computer games on my notebook and had my cursor frozen. I just couldn't figure it out, and got very crossed with my little boy. Until I found your solution.

thankyou once again a million times.


Michael Putupai, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

At 1:35 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9:41 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are my hero! I had no idea what my 2 year old hit while she was sitting on my lap. Thank you so much for taking the time to point this out!!!!!!!!!!!
A Grateful Mommy

At 8:17 PM EDT , Anonymous manu said...

Thanks Jack! Exactly my problem!

At 7:23 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! You saved a marriage today - my husband was furious about what I had "done" to his computer. You redeemed me!

At 7:54 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesssssss... whew.. F9 worked!

At 1:53 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No joy in Mudville today, but thanks for the future occurrences (I'm sure there will be.)

At 4:00 PM EST , Blogger VINU said... words.

At 4:01 PM EST , Blogger VINU said...

and thanks ..take care

At 11:22 AM EDT , Blogger Caseyis39 said...

I am going to try this and hope it will work on my home p.c. My cats like to jump on my keyboard but this time they really screwed me up locking the cursor! And they just look at me like "What?"

Thanks for this! I hope it will work!

At 11:39 PM EDT , Anonymous Kishahn Mishra said...

thanks but
when my mouse stucks i unplug and plug it and it start working!!!
and will try f9 one when it stucks again!!!


At 7:34 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much. I haven't been able to use my computer for a week!

At 1:46 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are my new Hero!!!! and wow look at all the people you helped with such a simple and EASY fix :)....hope one of us can solve and issue for you one


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