Mouse hair

by Michael Alderete on 7/28/2004

Fifteen years ago, I began my post-college career providing front-line computer support in the Office of the Chancellor at UC Berkeley. I was taking care of 125 Mac users, most of whom had Macintosh SE systems.The number one problem people had was “My password doesn’t work,” for which the solution nearly always was “Turn off your Caps Lock key.” You gotta love end users. (Interestingly, Mac OS X and Windows XP both provide visual feedback when the Caps Lock key is down and you are typing into a password field. I could have taken two-hour lunches if that had been around back then…)

The second most frequent problem people had was “My mouse isn’t working anymore.” The solution for this was to go visit the user with my micro tweezers, take out the mouse ball, and tweeze out the hair, dust, fuzz, and other gunk that inevitably got into mechanical mice. This was something I probably did twice a week all year long at work, and for myself at home, 3-4 times a year. The difference in mouse smoothness afterwards was always amazing, and it was this issue that finally made me go out and buy a new optical mouse a few years back.

When I went optical I thought my problems with cat hair and other gunk getting into my mouse would be over. Today, while checking out why clicking and scrolling had started acting weird, I learned different.

While there is no mechanical aspect to mouse movement tracking, the scroll wheel (which I love love love) and regular buttons are still mechanical. When I opened up my mouse and peeked around, I found enough hair for a whole ‘nother cat, wrapped around the scroll wheel’s spindle. Cleaning it all out was oddly nostalgic — a job once again for the micro tweezers.

As I was doing it, I again found myself marveling at the wonderful design of my Logitech Cordless Optical Mouse. Removing two screws allowed me to lift off the top part of the mouse. Inside, it was easy to remove the mouse wheel to get at all the little places where hair had lodged. I wouldn’t call the design “user serviceable,” but it certainly wasn’t difficult. If you can handle a screwdriver and pay attention to where the three wheel parts go, it’s quite easy to take the mouse entirely apart and put it back together afterwards.

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