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Issue #845: October 1-7, 2023

Q: I really miss your ppresentationsssss at NWFC. My problem, as you can see, is an errraticc keyyboard. Sometimes iiiit doesnt respond unttttil after severraaal tries, most of the tiiiime it jjjjjust repeats A keystroooooooookkkke several times. Also, my mouse is iiiintermittannntly nonresppponsive. Anyyyy iiideas???????

– Bill F.
Freeport, Florida

A:  I almost always have “iiideas,” Bill.  But first I want to talk about those presentations you mentioned.  For the benefit of my other readers that may not know what we’re talking about, Bill is referencing the Northwest Florida Association of Computer User Groups’ Annual Tech Expo at Northwest Florida College.  Yes, with the exception of the very first one, I was invited to speak at every one of them. I just did what I do – fielded questions and did my best to answer them. The Expo was always held in late January, which just happens to coincide with things winding down at our annual Christmas lights and music show.  It was a good transition.  But like all good things, it came to an end, I think largely because of lack of participation.  It’s tough to sustain a large-scale event like that unless you get a lot of people coming out to support it, and that just wasn’t happening anymore.  I still do occasional personal appearances when I’m asked, but they are far and few between.

So, how about let’s talk some about keyboards randomly repeating characters?  Like so many PC issues, there are multiple potential causes, making pinning down the exact one somewhat challenging.  I started by analyzing your submission for patterns, to see if it could be one or two particular keys getting stuck.  Assuming you didn’t alter the text, I don’t really see anything.  I saw s, i, o, p, y, and others all both repeating and not repeating as you typed.  By that, I think we can eliminate physically sticking keys.

Is this a wireless keyboard?  If so, it may be suffering from electromagnetic interference (EMI) from other devices.  You mentioned that sometimes your mouse also misbehaves.  If they are both wireless, particularly if they are from different manufacturers, or even from the same manufacturer, but using different dongles, this would be one area of high suspicion to me.  You can test whether the mouse and keyboard are simply interfering with one another by taking one of them out of the equation temporarily and replacing it with a wired counterpart.  If the problem goes away, you’re on the right track.  Other common sources of EMI in the home are telephones (both cordless home phones and cell phones), microwave ovens, and things with an electric motor, like fans or vacuum cleaners.  If any of these are in the work area, try a test with them off, or relocated.  One other easily overlooked thing about wireless devices is their batteries.  Make sure your devices have strong fresh batteries to eliminate this as a possible problem source.

How old are the components?  Older PCs have slower USB capabilities, and if you have multiple USB devices all online at once, you may be pushing the envelope on what the system can handle without introducing errors.  Thumb drives, printers, external media drives, and so on can all use a lot of your available data bandwidth, and problems can occur when data can’t get through.

It’s possible that there is a problem with the PC, or Windows, or the driver that interfaces the device to the system.  An incorrect or outdated driver can give unpredictable results.  Make sure you’re running the manufacturer’s latest driver.  Don’t be afraid to remove it from Device Manager then let Windows re-install it.  If all else fails, visit your PC manufacturer’s website and download the latest keyboard driver for your model.

This is a bit of a stretch, but incorrectly configured keyboard repeat settings could also be problematic.  If the repeating starts too quickly, or the repeat rate is too fast, you can get results like you showed. This is something you’d have to play around with to see if it helps.

Lastly, I’d like to refer you to a keyboard troubleshooter that’s built-into Windows.  You can run it by going to the start button and starting to type Keyboard Troubleshooter.  By the time you get to the T, you should have a search result that says Find and fix keyboard problems.  Click it, and let the troubleshooter take a look and see whether it can find anything for you.  Gooood Luucccckk!

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