Why is my laptop touchpad not working?

laptop touchpad
Finger fail: get your touchpad back in action

Like a parent trying to wipe chocolate off a child’s face with a tissue, you’re swiping at your laptop’s touchpad and nothing’s happening. That pointy arrow on the screen isn’t moving a jot. Let’s try and work out why that laptop touchpad isn’t working.

This article is an extract from Help! My Computer Is Broken. Click here to find out more and order a copy.

First, it’s possible that you’ve accidentally deactivated the touchpad (sometimes referred to as a trackpad). Some laptops have a little switch that turns off the touchpad, others have strange key combos that disable the device – a feature designed for those who prefer to work with a mouse or trackpoint and want to make sure that accidental presses on the touchpad don’t send the cursor zinging across the screen.

To check if you’ve accidentally knocked out the touchpad, type “mouse” in the Windows 10 search box and open the mouse settings (you might need to plug in an external mouse to navigate the screens if you don’t have a touchscreen). Click on Additional Mouse Options in the top-right corner and look for options to enable/disable the touchpad.

On Apple MacBook laptops, you’ll find the trackpad options by clicking on the Apple icon in the top-left corner of the screen, selecting System Preferences and choosing Trackpad.

If Windows is reporting the touchpad is enabled, it’s time to check the touchpad’s software drivers. Windows updates often knock out the touchscreen or touchpad on Lenovo devices, for example, until you run an update on the laptop that installs all new drivers.

Most laptop manufacturers will have their own utility that checks for driver updates. Lenovo’s is called Lenovo Vantage, for instance, Dell’s is simply called Dell Update. Run that application and install any available updates for the touchpad or pointing devices.

Our old friend the Windows Device Manager can also reveal touchpad troubles. Open the Device Manager by searching for it, click on Mice and Pointing Devices and look for the touchpad (it might be called Synaptics Pointing Device or something similar). Right-click and select Update Driver if it’s reporting a problem.

Finally, it’s worth removing all external mice – including Bluetooth mice – to see if that solves your problem. It’s daft, but some laptops knock out the touchpad in favour of an external mouse.

If none of the above work, it’s possible there’s a hardware failure. Brace yourself for an expensive trip to the repair shop or get used to using an external mouse.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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