QUESTION My wife dislikes laptop touchpads and used to have a USB mouse that plugged into her Dell Inspiron 1520 laptop. She has now upgraded to a wireless mouse, but we can’t get it to work. We’ve tried three different wireless mice, all with the same lack of results. All three mice work fine on another Vista laptop and a Windows XP desktop. Windows troubleshooting reports: ‘This device is working properly’. Can you help? Chris Payne

HELPROOM ANSWER The USB ports on your Dell laptop are either faulty or underpowered, Chris. This prevents the wireless dongle from receiving enough current to operate correctly. Try connecting another USB device that has its own power source, such as a printer or digital camera, to confirm that the USB ports are at least working. If they are, you’ll need to plug the wireless dongle into a powered USB hub connected to the laptop to get the mouse to function correctly. The down side here is that the laptop becomes less portable.
Also check that the wireless dongle is being detected by Windows when you plug it in. Click Start and type device manager into the Search box, then select Device Manager from the list. Expand ‘Mice and other pointing devices’ in the Window that pops up and check that your dongle is listed.

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If it’s listed but still not working, try pressing the ‘Connect’ buttons on the mouse and dongle. If it still doesn’t work, go back to Device Manager, expand the USB controllers entry and look for any listing of ‘generic USB hubs’. Double-click these, then select the Power Management tab in the dialog box that appears. Deselect the box next to ‘Allow the computer to turn off the device to save power’, click Ok and reboot the laptop with the dongle still attached.

If you are still experiencing problems with your mouse, wireless interference could be to blame. If you have a number of wireless devices in the home, such as a wireless router, smartphones and other laptops, there could be a large amount of traffic swamping the signal between the mouse and the laptop.

Try turning off the laptop’s wireless radio to see if this makes a difference. You could also try changing the channel your wireless router works on (consult the router’s documentation to find out how to do this). Finally, ensure that your laptop has the latest Bios and motherboard firmware installed. You’ll find these updates at Dell’s support site.