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Touchpad not working on your Windows 10 laptop? Here's how to fix it

Get tips to revive a dead touchpad or settle down one that's acting skittish on a Windows 10 laptop.

windows-10-touchpad

There are three things you can do to bring your touchpad back to life.

Matt Elliott/CNET

Don't let a touchy touchpad ruin your opinion of a laptop that's otherwise in fine working order. You can extend the life of your laptop with a few, simple tweaks to its touchpad. Whether your touchpad is dead to the touch or is acting skittish -- registering unintended gestures while failing to recognize your intended swipes, pinches, taps and clicks --  Windows 10 ($145 at Amazon) offers a host of settings to let you get working the way you want. 

I'll start with how to revive a dead touchpad and then cover the various settings you can use to tweak its sensitivity, gestures and scrolling direction. And if you'd like more tips, here's how to master Windows 10 using 11 hidden tricks. This story updates periodically.

Revive a dead touchpad

If your laptop doesn't feature a touchscreen display, then you will need a mouse to revive a disabled touchpad. With your touchscreen or mouse, open Settings and go to Devices > Touchpad and make sure the toggle switch at the top is toggled On

touchpad-settings
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

If your touchpad is dead and your laptop doesn't have a touchscreen and you don't have a mouse within reach, you can try to to find the function key that might enable and disable the touchpad. My Dell Inspiron laptop doesn't have function key for such a purpose, but look at your row of Function keys and see if one has an icon that looks a tiny touchpad with a diagonal line through it. Try toggling this key (while pressing the Fn key or, if that doesn't work, not pressing it) to see if your touchpad springs back to life. If not, then you'll need to find a mouse and go into Settings to toggle on the touchpad.

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Settle down a skittish touchpad

There are a number of ways a touchpad can feel wonky. Perhaps your cursor is moving too fast or too slow. Maybe the touchpad feels too sensitive, registering phantom clicks and gestures. Or maybe it's not sensitive enough, making you repeat yourself. Thankfully, Windows 10 offers a number of settings to fine tune how your touchpad reacts to your clicks, taps and swipes.

Head to Settings > Devices > Touchpad and you'll see a slider near the top labeled Change the cursor speed. Play around with the slider until you find a speed you can work with. 

One of of the most annoying problems you'll encounter is a touchpad that's overly sensitive to taps to the point where it moves the cursor around as your type because your thumb or palm brushed ever so gently against it. You can dial back this setting with the drop-down menu for Touchpad sensitivity, choosing between Most, High, Medium and Low sensitivity. 

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On any Windows laptop I use for any length of time, I always disable two touchpad settings: tapping and zoom. Tapping lets you, well, tap the touchpad to perform a click instead of using a mouse button or clicking down on the touchpad with your finger. I find it's more a nuisance than convenience because it makes a touchpad constantly think I'm tapping when I'm not, even when I'm using Low sensitivity. 

I also find a touchpad regularly thinks I'm pinching to zoom when the only time I use that gesture is when I'm using Google Maps. Since I don't use Google Maps all that often on my laptop, zoom is out. So, I uncheck the boxes for Tap with a single finger to single-click and Pinch to zoom.

If you are a touchpad tapper and zoomer, you can keep those two gestures and then disable any that require more than one finger to help prevent your touchpad from misreading your taps and pinch zooms. Uncheck the boxes for Tap with two finger to right-click and Drag two fingers to scroll

My suggestion is to disable any tap gestures you don't regularly use to prevent you from unintentionally engaging them.

touchpad-gesture-settings
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Now that we've got your two-fingers gestures under control, let's talk about three- and four-finger gestures. You've got two options -- swipes and taps -- for each. I usually leave the swipe gestures at their default settings -- switching apps with a three-finger swipe and switching desktops with a four-finger swipe -- and disable the tap gestures because, as you now know, I'm fundamentally opposed to keyboard taps.

Lastly, if you get a new laptop and the touchpad scrolls in the opposite direction to which you're accustomed, there's setting is also located on the Touchpad page in Settings to pick your direction. Look for Scrolling direction and choose either Down motion scrolls up or Down motion scrolls down.

Update your drivers

I'm using a 2019 Dell Inspiron and when I tried to update the touchpad driver, I was told that the driver was up-to-date; the driver is from 2006. So, the odds are your touchpad driver is current and not the source of your touchpad problems. Still, it's worth checking if your touchpad is acting up. To do so, search for Device Manager, open it, go to Mice and other pointing devices, and find your touchpad (mine is labeled HID-compliant mouse, but yours may be named something else). Right-click on your touchpad and click Update driver.

touchpad-update-driver
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Your laptop will check the internet for updated driver software and, hopefully, update accordingly. If your computer can't find an updated driver, you may need to look for the updated driver by yourself. Look at the downloads sections of your laptop manufacturer's website or just Google "[LAPTOP MODEL] Windows 10 touchpad driver." You may need to uninstall your old touchpad driver (Device Manger, right-click on touchpad, Uninstall) before installing the new driver.