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Issue #565: May 20-26, 2018

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Q: I have a Dell Inspiron 17.3, 5000 Series, with a precision touchpad. I am experiencing the problems previously reported in your column regarding the highly sensitive touchpad. I cannot locate a TouchGuard, nor is there a picture of a touchpad on any of the function keys. Please address this issue again as well as the irritating “hovering” feature.

– Shirley G.
Shalimar, Florida

A:  I discussed Dell’s TouchGuard™ around 40 issues ago (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #527, August 27, 2017).  That was actually the third column I’ve written that discussed the problem that some people experience of accidentally activating the touchpad with the heel of their hand while typing.  It turns out that I have some experience with your particular laptop.  In fact, I’m typing this column on virtually the same model.  Dell has equipped these laptops with what seems to me to be a rather expansive touchpad – one might even say oversized – that’s pretty difficult not to accidentally touch.  Unfortunately, what they are not equipped with is any way to disable this giant touchpad outside of Windows itself.  This includes the absence of any sort of dedicated physical switch or button on the laptop’s case, no Dell TouchGuard™ applet, and no alternative keyboard mappings accessible with the [Fn] key. The latter function, by the way, was previously mapped to the F5 key, but that key is now used for multimedia navigation when playing music or videos.  Personally, I’d prefer to have the touchpad toggle feature instead, but Dell neglected to ask me for my opinion when they made their design choice.

Without getting into the minds of the engineers at Dell to demand to know why they removed such a desirable function, I can only speculate.  My guess is that in Windows 7 it was necessary, but that changes in the setup features of Windows 10 made TouchGuard™ redundant, and they saw a way to save a few dollars by not supporting the software anymore.  If correct, that still doesn’t explain the lack of a switch or keyboard toggle, so for that, “Thanks, Mike!”.

So, with this particular laptop series, your only choice to combat the accidental touchpad activation is to use Windows itself.  As I said above, the setup feature in Windows 10 was broadened to include additional touchpad configuration items, so to begin, you’ll need to get to the touchpad portion of Windows Setup.  There are a bunch of different ways to get there, so pick your favorite, or just enter the word “touchpad” in the Search box on the Start menu. Choose one of the touchpad-related items from the search results.  In case you’re wondering why there are so many if they all take you to the same place, the difference is that Windows actually highlights the control that is used to change the feature that you selected off the menu.

On the “Touchpad” screen, the first thing you should see is a line that says “Your PC is equipped with a precision touchpad”.  On other computers it either won’t have a touchpad screen at all, or it will say something else.  Below this are all the controls that you will need to toggle the touchpad, disable it automatically when you connect a mouse, adjust the touchpad’s sensitivity, and even configure various taps and gestures.  I recommend that you turn off the checkbox labeled “Tap with a single finger to single-click.” Although the heel of your hand is not a finger, the touchpad interprets it as such, and translates that into a single left button click.  Depending on where the mouse cursor happens to be located when that happens, actions ranging from nothing at all, to frustrating hilarity can result.  While you’re on this screen, you might also consider tweaking the dropdown labeled “Touchpad sensitivity” so that it’s adjusted to the level that’s best for you.  Back out of the screen and your settings are automatically saved.  You may now enjoy your newly palm-resistant touchpad.

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