DIY Computer Repair – Keyboard or Mouse Not Responding

press any keyEver sit down to work on a project, type out a Facebook post, or just surf the web for cute cat GIFs?  And then your keyboard or mouse stops responding?  Frustrating, right?  Don’t worry, we have solutions for that.

Internal Keyboard and Touchpad

First of all, if you are using an external keyboard or mouse this isn’t the tutorial for you.  This is meant to address detection/function faults in a laptop’s integrated mouse and keyboard.  Rather, you may want to grab an external for testing – it will make this a LOT easier.

Pinning Down Possibilities

With that out of the way, let’s cover some basics.  When did the issue start?  If it just started, reboot the laptop.  No, I’m not kidding.  What we want to do is try to redetect the problem device.  It is possible for a device to stop working because Windows effectively drops the ball for one of a handful of reasons.  So, reboot and see if the issue comes back.  If it remains disabled, you could be looking at a newly-dead input device (liquid spills are good for this), a hard detection issue (usually the result of a bad cable connection), a driver fault (less likely but possible) or even something as simple as a manual function switch (those pesky Function keys can play tricks on you).

If you don’t know when it started, I’m guessing you just got handed the unit, or it’s been sitting in storage for a while.  Which means you don’t know who had access to it, what it has been through, or anything else in terms of what could be causing the issue.  That’s fine too, we are going to go down the same list for both – but we want this to be relate-able for as many people as possible.

Does it work in BIOS?

Power back on, see if you can get into BIOS or any kind of diagnostic mode.  These will always use the keyboard, and some will allow mouse function.  This is a great way to test out basic connection and function outside of Windows, which can help pinpoint a driver issue.  If you have it in BIOS/Diagnostic mode but lose it going into Windows, there is probably a driver fault to be addressed.

If it’s not the Driver.

Once you are back in Windows, check your device manager.  See if the input device shows up in the hardware list, or if it gets flagged for anything.  check drivers, make sure they are up to date.  If the device does not appear at all, you will want to check the cable connection.  This is also when you’ll find out if a liquid spill did any concealed damage.  Power down, find the screws or snaps that hold the keyboard in, and pop it out.  Keyboard and mouse connectors are usually close to each other.  Inspect for dirt, debris, and signs of liquid or liquid spill residue.


laptop mainboard with liquid residue


laptop LCD with liquid residue


laptop keyboard with liquid residue

Liquid Spill?

If you see goop or wetness on the keyboard, in the keyboard tray, or on the cables, then either you didn’t get that last cola spill cleaned up like you thought (it happens, we don’t judge) or someone else did and didn’t tell you (classy, we know).  This also means you’ll need to replace the affected hardware.  A touchpad is a bit more involved – some can be popped out but it is usually easier to replace the palmrest assembly, touchpad and all.  The keyboard is simple enough, just disconnect and drop a fresh one it.  This all assumes liquid didn’t get to the connectors or the mainboard.

Sometimes they Just Stop Working

If liquid ISN’T to blame, things get more interesting.  Again, check the connections.  Make sure dirt and debris are cleaned out.  Sometimes cables can get bumped loose and just need to be reseated.  Check your connectors, then power back on and see if you get function back.  If there is still nothing, you probably have a bad input device.  At this point you’ll want to look into replacement options.  As always, if you get into this and don’t feel comfortable pushing any further, seek a trusted professional.  These repairs may seem simple at first glance, but there are a lot of what ifs and maybes that can complicate things in a hurry if you don’t know what to do.