How to enable touch-pad gestures on Windows 8 laptops

The new Windows 8 release to manufacturing doesn't seem to support touch-pad gestures out of the box, so you may need to download the drivers yourself.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Installing the Windows 8 RTM (release-to-manufacturing) on my two laptops went smoothly yesterday except for one problem -- no gesture support.

Trying to navigate the Start screen and other areas of the new OS, I found that left and right clicking on the touch pad worked fine. But using two fingers or other gestures to scroll or move around had no effect.

A Web search discovered other testers and users bumping into the same obstacle. This is odd, because I ran into no such problems with the Windows 8 Release Preview. So why doesn't Windows 8 RTM handle touch-pad gestures right off the bat?

A Microsoft representative confirmed to CNET that Windows 8 RTM offers a generic driver that recognizes the touch pad as input, but the edge and multitouch gestures are not supported. In contrast, the Windows 8 Release Preview came with Elan alpha drivers to give people a taste of the full multitouch experience.

Elan and Synaptics are both working on updated touch-pad drivers, according to the rep. Those aren't yet public, so Microsoft can't distribute them. Many PC vendors also offer drivers that can enable multitouch gestures, but those aren't yet fully optimized for Windows 8.

I resolved the problem by downloading drivers directly from Synaptics. I first hunted the Web for Windows 8 touch-pad drivers, but that search proved empty. Going directly to the Synaptics Web site, I discovered a page for generic touch-pad drivers for every operating system from Windows 95 to Windows 7, but no Windows 8 yet.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Downloading the Windows 7/Vista/XP drivers did the trick, though. After installing the 64-bit drivers in the Windows 8 RTM, I got my gestures and a full control panel for the touch pad where I could adjust all the settings. The drivers also picked up the red pointing stick on my Lenovo laptop, so I can now tweak that as well as my touch pad.

The Windows 7 Synaptics drivers seem to fill the niche just fine, at least until Windows 8-specific drivers become available.

Update, 10:15 a.m. PT: Adds response from Microsoft.

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