Hacking Your Mouse To Fix The Misclick Of Doom

Wrapping Up

And that, folks, is how you hack a Trackman Marble to get rid of clicking glitches by making full use of its SPDT switches. The process should be very similar on any mouse utilizing similar hardware. The only mildly tricky part is figuring out how each switch gets read by the mouse's controller, particularly if it does something fancier than directly read whether the switch signal is high or low. It turned out slightly more complicated than I expected due to the odd circuitry on the left and right buttons tying into the PS/2 signals. But once that part got sorted out, the rest fell into place quickly enough. In the end, I would say the worst part of this little experiment was the tedious job of stripping and soldering over a dozen tiny wires.

When I gave the mouse a test-drive, all the button fussiness was gone. There were no misclicks or random drag-and-drop actions. It felt strange to have solid button behavior when my last memories of using the Trackman were so frustrating.

Was this all worthwhile? As a hobby or for curiosity's sake, it was a simple little project that I tackled mainly to prove that there is no reason for ancient switches to render your pointing device unusable due to contact bounce. For that purpose, I believe the project paid off, even though I doubt I'll use the Trackman for anything more than a spare.

Would I go through the hassle again? Probably not. After using the Trackman a bit for fun, I found that I did not like the left button's noticeably weaker feel. If I really wanted to repair this thing, I should have at least installed a new left button switch, though that would render my mod redundant. When my G500S' switches wear out, I'll be more inclined to simply replace the switches instead of modifying the PCB.

How about the total cost of my modification?

Item
Cost
CD4043$1.00
2N3904$0.50 ($0.25 x 2)
Prototype board$0.30
Wires$1.00
Solder and other supplies$1.00
Labor$100
Total$103.80

Financially, it makes little sense to bother with the repair unless you're trying to prove something to yourself. Repair costs that often exceed a replacement are the main reason why most consumer goods are rarely worth fixing. That doesn't change the fact that I am always annoyed when I run into easily preventable failures. The most expensive parts of my “perfect debounce” implementations are the SPDT switches, and those are already present, so there's no cost excuse to fall back on.

Are there any mouse manufacturers that use a variant of my SPDT debounce implementations? If not, I hope this little bit of increased consumer awareness will motivate manufacturers to do the right thing and implement one of these penny-scale fixes. There is no patent excuse for not doing so, since these techniques have been known for decades. I hadn't read through TI's CD4043's datasheet beyond the pin-out initially, but when I revisited the document to check something else, I noticed that SPDT debouncing is even given as an example application, albeit with 1MΩ resistors instead of the 10kΩ I used.

I would gladly pay $5 more for a mouse that offers lifetime glitch-free buttons over an otherwise identical model that doesn't. How much would such a feature be worth to you?

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Daniel Sauvageau is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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56 comments
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  • Rheotome
    I'll never look at a Mouse the same way after reading this !!!
  • SirGCal
    My problem with my MS is just finding a mouse I can use well period.I have some mice like this trackball myself and still can't use it properly. I need one controlled with the mind instead of hand. Which is probably coming sooner then we think.
  • mrface
    This is a really cool article. Thanks for sharing.
  • theaudiophile
    Holy shit, you're crazy in many many ways. I am an electronics hobbyist myself, and you sir are simply insane. I hope this article gets enough traffic and ad clicks to make up for the time you put in instead of replacing switches.
  • mikesinner
    Both me and a friend of mine have already bought new mice, but I did keep the old one, a logitech G700 with the terribly annoying double click glitch when only single clicking. It's not a very old mouse either, so I find it very disturbing that the switch is already worn!
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    2213136 said:
    Holy shit, you're crazy in many many ways. I am an electronics hobbyist myself, and you sir are simply insane.

    You give me too much credit. This is a simple hack once you know what you are dealing with - finding out what you have to work with is usually the most tedious part of a modification job, especially when you don't have design schematics or someone else's instructions to start from.

    The hack might be more trouble than it is worth but it does show that there is no reason for mouse buttons with SPDT switches to glitch until the switch mechanically fails. Other than mice manufacturers choosing to design them this that way that is.

    399868 said:
    Both me and a friend of mine have already bought new mice, but I did keep the old one, a logitech G700 with the terribly annoying double click glitch when only single clicking. It's not a very old mouse either, so I find it very disturbing that the switch is already worn!

    My G500S is about four years old and the glitching is at that early stage where I'm not sure if the glitches are caused by the mouse or by mouse movement when I click.
  • razor512
    Wouldn't it be easier to just use hall effect switches (like with some industrial machines)?

    The switches can be magnetically shielded, and as long as the button actuation functions (no broken springs), the button will continue to work, along with any vibrations of the actuation being calibrated out in software.
  • buzzrattie
    Wish there were a mouse that was cat-hair proof. Dang little buggers shedding all the time, and getting into the laser.
  • Daniel Sauvageau
    129458 said:
    Wouldn't it be easier to just use hall effect switches (like with some industrial machines)? The switches can be magnetically shielded, and as long as the button actuation functions (no broken springs), the button will continue to work, along with any vibrations of the actuation being calibrated out in software.

    I doubt switches that require additional calibration steps would be popular in a market where manufacturers are trying to optimize every penny of profit they think they can get away with out of their product.

    One option which does not require calibration is optical sensing: poke a slotted stem through the detector. Most mechanical mice used optical wheel encoders to convert ball motion to digital. The same thing could be done for switches.

    I doubt either option would be as inexpensive as a mechanical switch and with the "memory" version of my hack, it would be a practically free fix. Free is a tough price to beat.
  • waltsmith
    I agree totally that the reason manufacturers don't already implement one of these fixes or possible even a better one is simply, as you said, that it would screw with their replacement cycle. This kind of "designed to fail shortly after the warranty expires" philosophy is an integral part of the modern "consumer economy". I'd warrant that purposeful design flaws such as this are present in almost every modern "mature" consumer product branch.
  • 80-watt Hamster
    I was more excited than was probably appropriate when I saw they mouse you were modding. Been using a Trackman Marble+ (same thing with a wheel) since '98. I don't make my living at a computer, and don't use the Trackman much for games, so it probably hasn't had as hard a life as yours did. In any case, it's still going strong, and it's nice to see that repair is a viable option if it ever goes south. Great article, even if most of the electrical stuff went in one ear and out the other.
  • Nuckles_56
    When I read the title, I was wondering if April Fools day had come early... But thank you for what turned out to be an excellent article
  • spentshells
    Quote:
    My problem with my MS is just finding a mouse I can use well period.I have some mice like this trackball myself and still can't use it properly. I need one controlled with the mind instead of hand. Which is probably coming sooner then we think.


    I'll take one of those please.
  • Tom1945
    Mice last for years and they're cheap. When they fail I simply buy another rather than waste my time fixing it.
  • Xivilain
    This article, is why I like Tom's Hardware. Keep up the good work!
  • video99
    I don't suppose we will move on from mechanical switches in this application since it provides the short stroke and click feedback all in one. An optical or Hall Effect switch would still need a mechanical click function, and that would still wear out.

    It would be nice to hear back from the likes of Logitech or Microsoft about why they appear not to have implemented a proper de-bounce circuit of this type and when they intend to do so!
  • alidan
    if the mouse was guaranteed for life, and the laser was user replaceable with no hassle, id be willing to drop 400$ on the mouse. it would need a 12 pad on the thumb though.

    im so sick of mice wearing out, you finally found the perfect mouse, then 4-5 years later it dies, and you are on the hunt again because that model is no longer in production, and quality took a nose dive while you were away.
  • Shankovich
    These kinds of articles are what brought me to Tom's in the first place. Love it!
  • Spanky Deluxe
    Fantastic article, this kind of stuff is what originally brought me to Toms Hardware about two decades ago and I'm so glad to see such in depth technical detail again. I don't think I've ever seen a clearer example of planned obsolescence in action. Next time my mouse dies, I'll be sure to replace the switches; I hate adjusting to a new mouse!
  • NeatOman
    LOVED THIS ! !... I just had to take apart my Logitech Performance MX Laser mouse I've had for far too long now to add tension to the springboard Omron uses on there switches. Two years ago i did the left click and i just did the right click, also released some tension from the scroll wheel to add a longer scroll when i flick it.

    The mouse is now about 7 years old and still great :/ WTF other than some noticeable input lag.. wont let it die.. I'm the one relative that wont pull the plug. FYI i use a wired mouse for gaming.
  • Calvin Huang
    Quote:
    I agree totally that the reason manufacturers don't already implement one of these fixes or possible even a better one is simply, as you said, that it would screw with their replacement cycle. This kind of "designed to fail shortly after the warranty expires" philosophy is an integral part of the modern "consumer economy". I'd warrant that purposeful design flaws such as this are present in almost every modern "mature" consumer product branch.


    It's unlikely that this would happen in most industries, it's just not worth the effort in most cases. It's hard enough to design and manufacture a reliable, durable bug-free product as it is. It's just not worth the trouble/risk to introduce precise failures into the product. Market research might tell you the average usage patterns, allowing you to calibrate a component to fail, on average, a few weeks after the warranty period. But if you miscalculate, then you're looking at lots of products failing before the warranty period expires. Also, there's no guarantee that people will replace a broken mouse with another from the same company. If this were common practice, it would be very easy for a manufacturer to buck the trend and, without increasing their price or costs, produce a product that is far more reliable than any others on the market. Such a company would then enjoy the higher frequency of mice replacement built into their competitors' products as well as being viewed as higher quality than competing brands.
  • Uniblab
    Im on the other side of the posting. I have a "Microsoft Wheel Mouse Optical" that has been in use for 14 years. I sometimes connect two mice to my computer at the same time so when I want a mouse that has a few more features all I have to do is set this one aside and use the other. Try it, it should work for anyone since all I did was connect the two to the same computer. Both were microsoft though. The point is that this is one of the best mice ever made and how microsoft designed a great mouse. It totally shows the wear of being used, I should give it a spray cleaning - fantastic, Mr clean or whatever, but it fine where it counts. It simply works. Even the red led that is on its rear is as bright as it was when I first got it. Microsoft should reissue it as a classic so we can get new ones. A really good design.
  • Larry Litmanen
    This is a fascinating article.