Get the most out of your laptop

Three things make your laptop computing experience a little better. Stop the cursor from going rogue, access commonly used items with Mobility Center, and keep the laptop cool with a cool tool.


Tame the cursor

Have you ever had a problem with the cursor jumping around for no reason? One minute you’re typing something informative or clever, and the next minute your document is word salad. What’s happening is that as we type, our palms either rest on or at least strike the laptop’s touchpad and the mouse moves to a seemingly random location.

The easiest way to resolve this problem is to use a wireless mouse and disable the touchpad. (Uninstalling the touchpad drivers is NOT a good idea. If you ever forget to bring your mouse, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.) It’s easy to disable your touchpad and enable it again if you need it.

One way is to use the keyboard. Every laptop I’ve ever seen used the Fn (called “Function”) key plus F keys (the top row of keys) to toggle functions on and off. On my little netbook, the Fn + F3 combination toggles the touchpad off and on. Your laptop might use a different combination. Look for an icon that resembles a touchpad, and try that key with the Fn key. See what happens. (Have a mouse handy, though!)

You might also use Settings. Visit the control panel, and find the settings for Mouse. If you have a Synaptics touchpad, you’ll see a red icon there which will let you control the touchpad settings, including disabling it.

If you actually want to use the touchpad, disabling it isn’t an option. But you can install a little free utility called TouchFreeze. It will disable the touchpad while you are typing text and automatically enable it again when you stop. It works great when it works at all, but TouchFreeze doesn’t work on every laptop. Before you install it, you might want to take a look at the Issues page (http://code.google.com/p/touchfreeze/issues/list) to see if it’s likely to work for you. You can get TouchFreeze here: http://code.google.com/p/touchfreeze/.


Windows Mobility Center puts you in control of your laptop

If you have a laptop running Windows 8, Windows 7 Home Premium or better (or even Vista Home Premium or better) you have a great little utility on your laptop that you probably don’t even know about. Windows Mobility Center provides ready access to useful settings on your laptop without forcing you to use FN+F key combinations.

In Windows 7 or Vista, activate Mobility Center by going to Start and typing mobility into the Search box. In Windows 8, press the WinKey and C at the same time, then type mobility in the Search box. In 8.1, just start typing mobility any place on the Start Screen, or do any of the preceding things!

The Mobility Center give you easy access to controls for screen brightness, volume your wireless connection, and battery status. Sometimes there are tiles for external displays and presentation settings. Not all computers can do all functions, and some computer manufacturers replace the generic Mobility Center with their own branded one.

You’ll find more information about the Windows 7 Mobility Center here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Using-Windows-Mobility-Center. Vista users go here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Using-Windows-Mobility-Center. Information on the Windows 8 version is here: http://blog.laptopmag.com/windows-81-wmc-save-time .

Keep your laptop cool

It’s that time of year again where I remind everyone that laptops need air flow. Using a laptop flat on a desk, counter, table, or any surface will impede air flow and cause the laptop to heat up.

You can buy USB cooling pads if you want to, but two inexpensive solutions work well and are lighter than a cooling pad. My favourite is two rubber doorstops from the dollar store used as wedges under the back of the laptop. You get the laptop off the table enough for some cooling and as a bonus it’s easier on your hands when you type.

Recently a customer turned me on to the “laptop ball” in The Source (http://images.thesource.ca/images/Online/26/2606116l.jpg). About the size of a golf ball, this rubber item comes apart to do the same thing as the doorstops and looks a little classier. They’re about $5.00, come in several colours and look a little classier than doorstops. I keep one in my laptop bag and another on my desk.


Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.

More Getting Along With Your Computer articles

About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

Computer Care Kelowna

Column Archives

Get Cate's column by email

RSS Feed

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories