Set mouse and cursor settings in Windows

In Windows, the default mouse and cursor settings are not optimal. Because of that, your efficiency may be reduced. Let’s see how to set mouse and cursor settings in Windows so that you can work fast without accidental clicks or drag accidents. Some of these settings affect touchpads too.

Mouse and Cursor Settings in Control Panel

Buttons

The majority of the useful mouse settings are still located in Control Panel. Microsoft has ported only some settings to the Settings app. Despite this, Windows hides direct access to Control Panel and only allows opening these via the Settings app.

You can type control.exe into Start and press Enter to always reliably open Control Panel. Or you can type main.cpl into Start or Run dialog (Win + R) and press Enter to directly open Mouse Settings.

The settings to Switch primary and secondary buttons, Double click speed and ClickLock are a matter of individual preference and how comfortable you are with double clicking fast, or dragging without the click locking, so I won’t recommend any particular value.

Left and right mouse Buttons, Double click speed and ClickLock settings

For those of you unfamiliar with them, the setting to switch buttons is self-explanatory. Left click becomes right click and vice versa. Double click speed allows you to change how fast you click in quick succession for the system to consider it a double click. If you click slower than the threshold set here, Windows considers it as a single click.

ClickLock is for those who are not comfortable with holding down either mouse button all the time while they drag. So after turning on ClickLock, you can just hold down the mouse button for a brief period configured in those settings, and then leave the mouse button. It will continue to drag even if you let go of the button and move the cursor. To release the lock, click again. This would have been more useful if Windows gave some visual indicator or showed a timeout next to the mouse cursor when the click was locked but unfortunately it doesn’t.

Pointers

On this tab, you critically need to change the defaults. You see, resolutions of all PCs and laptops have gone up but the pointer size has remained the same. Microsoft has not bothered to change the default size of pointers, even if you set a higher DPI scaling setting in display. Personally, I always set pointer scheme to Windows Default (extra large) and check Enable pointer shadow, so they are no longer tiny. On the Windows logon screen, the pointer still remains tiny.

Mouse Pointers

If you are a fan of big, colorful and animated cursors, you may want to check out Winaero Cursor Commander. It is an app that can package cursors into a redistributable cursorpack so that you can share and change only cursors, without changing the entire Windows theme.

Pointer Options

Moving on to the next tab, pointer speed and Enhance pointer precision are again a matter of your individual preference. Select a speed that you are comfortable with and try checking the pointer precision setting to feel how moving the mouse is like – both with and without it. This setting also depends on what model of mouse you are using. On some PCs and some mice, I prefer having it on. On my current Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Mouse 3600, I turn it off.

Mouse Pointer Options
What is Enhance Pointer Precision

When Enhance pointer precision is turned on, raw x-axis and y-axis values related to the mouse movement (mouse position co-ordinates) are accelerated by scaling them based on the screen resolution, screen refresh rate, default values of the mouse refresh rate, and the default mouse resolution in DPI. Windows also takes into account the pointer speed slider to decide how much acceleration the pointer gets.

When Enhance pointer precision setting is off, there is no acceleration based on the above parameters except for the speed slider setting. This feature was added in Windows XP.

Snap To

The Snap To option is partially broken as it only works in older dialog boxes, windows and programs which use the older Win32 controls. It automatically moves the mouse pointer to the Default button set by the developer in a dialog.

Visibility

Hide pointer while typing is also broken in NT-based Windows which includes all versions of Windows released in the past 20 years. It only applies to the cursor when typing in the Edit control. And Windows always hides the pointer anyway when you start typing in the Edit control in Win32 dialogs. This setting last worked in Windows 9x.

The other two options, Display pointer trails and Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key are probably an accessibility feature for vision impaired users. The effects and animations for these need to be really updated.

Wheel

The wheel tab contains options to configure how many lines and characters to scroll when the user vertically rolls or horizontally tilts the mouse wheel. I generally set vertical scrolling value to 4. The option one screen at a time is the equivalent of pressing Page up/Page down.

Mouse Wheel settings
About the tilt wheel in some mice

Some mice such as the one I use, Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Mouse 3600, have a wheel which can be rolled up and down as well as tilted left and right for horizontal scrolling. Windows Vista and later systems natively support horizontal scrolling unless third party apps override it.

You rarely need horizontal scrolling these days on a widescreen display. So instead of horizontal scrolling, you should repurpose the tilt wheel buttons on such mice to other more frequently used actions. Using third party apps, you can remap tilt wheel left and tilt wheel right as mouse buttons 4 and 5. You can set them up to do additional custom actions.

Mouse Settings in the Settings app

To access Mouse Settings in the Windows Settings app, press Win + i and go to Devices -> Mouse or type mouse into the Search box. The only unique option here that’s not there in Control Panel is Scroll inactive windows when I hover over them.

Mouse Settings

Mouse and Cursor Settings for Ease of Access / Accessibility

Cursor size

In Windows 10, Microsoft has finally made some fantastic improvements to mouse cursors. You can finally make the cursor large enough that anyone with vision issues will be able to see it. To access these settings, go to Settings (Win + i) -> Ease of Access -> Mouse pointer under the Vision section.

The first option to change the pointer size is only in Windows 10 1903 and later. It adds a remarkable improvement to the Windows mouse experience as it finally lets you scale up the cursor size to a very large size. The cursor if set using this page uses SVG vector graphics as it scales to very large sizes and still looks sharp.

Mouse Pointer Size and Color

I don’t recommend a pointer size greater than 2. But still it is great that Microsoft understands that some people have vision impairment and would like a large cursor. In some cases, a large cursor is useful when presenting from a great distance on a big screen or projector while using a wireless mouse.

Your custom cursors at large sizes

The custom cursors that you use generally have raster graphics, that is, they are infinitely scaleable. To use your own cursors at a big size, first you need to increase the cursor size using the Settings app. Then go back to the Mouse Control Panel or Cursor Commander to switch to your own cursors. Windows will then enlarge them to the size you set in Ease of Access.

Cursor Commander With Custom Cursors
Cursor Commander With Custom Cursors

Be careful of setting the cursor size too big if you are using custom cursors with raster graphics. It will pixelate the graphics.

Pointer color

Pointer Color2

You can also personalize the pointer color which is another superb feature new to Windows 10 Version 1903. You can set it to any color you want. How great is that! Well done, Microsoft!

Pointer Color

Text Cursor

Right below the Mouse pointer page in Ease of Access Settings is the Text cursor page. The text cursor until now, used to be just a thin blinking line. But Microsoft has enhanced it to add a very prominent indicator. The indicator can have its own color, style and can be increased in size so the user can more easily spot the text cursor. This is another great accessibility improvement in Windows 10.

Text Cursor settings

You can set the text cursor indicator to any color as well. Finally you can adjust the text cursor’s thickness itself as you always could in previous releases of Windows. I don’t recommend increasing the text cursor’s thickness because it creates problems with tightly packed text characters.

Mouse Keys

The Mouse keys feature is present since Windows 95 but extremely useful. It allows you to move the mouse cursor with the numeric keypad keys. Specifically, the 4 arrow keys can be used to move the pointer in 4 directions. Home, End, Page Up and Page Down can be used to move the pointer diagonally.

Turn it on and you will be able to configure whether Mouse keys can be used with Numlock on or off. That way you can choose whether to use the Numpad for Mouse Keys + typing numbers, or Mouse keys + Home, End, Page up, page down keys and the arrow keys.

Mouse Keys settings

You can configure the pointer’s speed and acceleration too and speed it up when Ctrl is held down or use Shift key to slow it down.

I always turned on Mouse Keys for many years and set it to use when Numlock was on. But over the last few years, I have found a superior alternative app that does not require me to check the state of numlock and works without interfering with any other keyboard function. I will discuss it in a separate article.

Besides, an unfortunate trend is that many laptops don’t have the number pad at all. So using mouse keys is either impossible or a herculean task with the Fn key.

Hidden Registry Setting for Drag sensitivity

When you click and drag anything in Windows and then drop it, there is a certain distance in pixels that the mouse pointer travels after which Windows concludes that the user is dragging something. Unfortunately, this setting is set to an abnormally low value. Due to this, people often end up inadvertently dragging and dropping some file in the wrong place. Or they accidentally create a copy of it or worse, move it by mistake to a folder where it does not belong.

You can adjust this drag sensitivity and set it to a safe higher value such as 16. The Registry values for this are String values: DragHeight and DragWidth at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop. Just copy the following text into Notepad, and save as a REG file. Then double click to merge it into the Registry. Then log off and login again for the changes to take effect.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]
"DragHeight"="16"
"DragWidth"="16"

Microsoft recommends that you use their API to change these but you can use the Registry. If you prefer an easier way, you can use WinDragSens. It has the ability to test the sensitivity as you set it. Or you can use the all-powerful Winaero Tweaker.

Mouse drag sensitivity

That’s all for mouse and cursor settings and options in Windows. If you use a laptop and it has a touchpad, you may also want to properly configure the touchpad settings too.

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