The two most basic input devices for computers are keyboards and mice. Without one (or sometimes both), your pc can become pretty worthless. Here are a few tips for troubleshooting your input devices before you throw in the towel! Since troubleshooting for the two devices is so similar, throughout this article I will refer to them simply as ‘the device.’ If you’re having trouble with your keyboard, insert keyboard, if you’re having trouble with your mouse, read it as though I said mouse.
There are three basic ways an input device can connect to your pc, the old style (yet still widely used) PS/2, usb, and wireless. A PS/2 device has a round end with pins in it and only fits in to the port on the back of your computer one way. A PS/2 keyboard has a purple end, whereas a mouse has a green end. If you check the back of your tower, the corresponding ports should be the same color. Then there’s the newer, faster usb ports. Many devices including mice, keyboards, printers, digital cameras, and countless more use usb cables. A usb cable has a flat, rectangular end. Often, there are multiple ports on your pc that this cable end will fit into. It doesn’t matter which one you choose UNLESS you know one of the ports is failing to work properly. Finally, there are wireless devices, which commonly have a usb component that plugs in to your tower, and the device themselves communicate with the component that is physically connected.
If your PS/2 device isn’t working, the first thing you should do it unplug it and plug it in again. This is called reseating the device. While not universally true, MOST PS/2 devices will require a reboot of the pc after they have been reseated in order to begin working properly. Go ahead and reboot. If the problem is not resolved, you may have a bad device. If you have another one available, try that. If it works (after rebooting) the first one is garbage. If it still doesn’t, the port on the pc itself may be bad. If you have a usb device available, try plugging that in. Wait a few seconds, and the device should start working.
Sometimes connections go bad. If your usb device chooses to stop working, first try unplugging it, wait a couple seconds, and plug it back in. Give your pc some time to recognize the device (usually just a few seconds) and try your device again. You don’t usually need to reboot to get the pc to recognize the device, but sometimes there are other problems you’re unaware of behind the scenes, so rebooting isn’t a bad option. Give it a try. If it still doesn’t work, try plugging the device into another open port. Give it a few seconds to talk to the pc…if it doesn’t work and you have another usb device available (or an old PS/2), plug in the spare device so you can narrow down the failure to the device or the pc. Luckily, if the usb device or connector (on the cable end) has gone bad, these are common and can be found even at Walmart, so you won’t have to spend a lot if they need to be replaced.
These are the most tricky to set up and difficult to troubleshoot, but are really nice once you get them going. The normal set up for these is to have a central usb device that plugs into your tower, and sits somewhere on your desk, where there is a clear line of sight between the mouse, keyboard, and the usb device. If your device (or devices) came with a cd, be sure you have installed the software. Sometimes things just didn’t get installed properly and you need to uninstall/reinstall. To do this, go to your control panel (on a Windows XP machine, Start|Settings|Control Panel|AddRemove Programs) and uninstall the software. Reboot and reinstall. Check the documentation that came with the device as to how to get them communicating with each other. Generally speaking, there is an on/off switch on each device (including the one physically connected to your pc), along with a reset button on each device. For specifics on getting these connected, you should check the documentation or manufacturer’s website.