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Help File: Taming a jumpy cursor; laptop battery cells

Sunday, December 13, 2009; G02

Q: My laptop's cursor jumps around -- sometimes up a line, sometimes back several characters. Please make it stop.

A: I recently suffered through this experience on a review laptop, and I can't think of a more maddening malfunction-- I was sorely tempted to take a baseball bat to the thing.

Instead, I tried disabling its touchpad's "tap to click" option, in which it treats any tap as a mouse click, on the theory that it was being too sensitive. That worked, and other users have since endorsed this fix.

But since Windows doesn't offer a standard control for this, you'll have to puzzle it out yourself in the "Mouse Properties" control panel (in Windows XP, it's under the Control Panel's "Printers and Other Hardware" category; in Windows Vista and 7, type "Mouse" in the Control Panel's search box). Click each tab in that window after the core Windows options ("Buttons," "Pointers," "Pointer Options," "Wheel" and "Hardware"), and one of them should have an option to disable this tapping option.

Updating touchpad drivers or adjusting the "Touch Sensitivity" option on some laptops may also fix this problem, but disabling tap-to-click is simpler.

I see a "6-cell battery" upgrade option on this laptop I'm considering. Should I get it?

In general, more cells -- the little cylindrical or rectangular modules inside a laptop battery -- are better, but you can only be sure of that when comparing different options on a single laptop. They're not as valid when comparing different computers, just as processor clock speeds say little about the relative performance of different lines of chips.

Usually, a PC vendor's middle battery option -- neither small and underpowered, nor bulky and heavy -- is the right call.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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