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I have an office desk that I've been using for years. The area where my computer mouse is used most seems to have become worn over the years, and so when the mouse moves over this area, the cursor often stops moving.

There aren't any visible signs of wear on the desk, but the mouse works fine on other areas of the desk, and indeed on another desk, so I can only guess that it's the surface of the desk that's worn. However, I can't afford to replace the desk (which is fine in every other respect), and can't find a comfortable way of using the mouse somewhere else.

I have been using a mouse mat, but as I'm used to having a lot of space to move the mouse around, I keep running off the side of the mat! I'm hoping for a solution to fix the desk.

The desk looks a lot like this one, very similar colour. It's wood, with some sort of laminate. The mouse is an Anker A7852M wireless.

Anyone any idea if there is anything that can be done to fix the problem? Thanks.

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    Welcome to Lifehacks. Tell us more about the kind of mouse you use: optical or mechanical (with a moveable ball). Tell us more about the desk surface: colour and composition (wood or plastic laminate). A close picture of the area of the desk where the mouse works and where it doesn't would be helpful. Have you cleaned the surface of the desk since you got it years ago?
    – Stan
    Jun 20, 2023 at 16:12
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    Like most mouse types today, this model is optical. So it can't be a "worn" surface that prevents a ball rolling, more likely its texture. Place a thin book there that you only refer to occasionally, but often enough to want it nearby. Jun 20, 2023 at 18:09
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    Try cleaning the desk? Jun 20, 2023 at 19:18
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    So you haven't tried cleaning the desk you had for years: the obvious first thing to try. You have not made clear what the desk construction is anyway. "It's wood, with some sort of laminate." Does "laminate" mean a plastic surface on 'wood' chipboard, or a real wood veneer? Jun 20, 2023 at 19:42
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    @T.E.D. No reason at all. In fact, if you read my comment to the answer by Ditto, you'll see I have been using a mouse mat. However, as I'm used to using a lot of space when moving the mouse, I kept moving it off the mat. I was hoping for a solution that would rectify the desk. Jun 22, 2023 at 19:44

8 Answers 8

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Speaking as a former computer repair tech of 15 years and current software developer of 10 years (as well as computer user for many years before that), a mousepad is the obvious answer, which other people have already suggested and I despise.

You aren't the only one that thinks they are too small, and they get dirty really easily, with limited ways to clean them (which usually doesn't really clean them very well).

So my real suggestion is to get a different "mouse". I've been using trackballs for over 2 decades now. My preferred brand is Logitech, and they have an ergo wireless trackball (as an example) similar to the Anker you already have. The thing about a trackball is that you don't need to move it, because you only move your thumb. It takes a bit of practice, but I can flick the ball across my 17" laptop monitor and the 49" 4k TV I use as a 2nd monitor pretty easily. I can also move the cursor a pixel at a time to do image editing and CAD drawings.

With not having to move the mouse, you also reduce the amount of wear on the desk, too. I still move my trackball around, but for comfort as I change positions in my chair, rather than as a requirement for anything else.

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  • Thanks for the suggestion. I do have an old trackball, but switched as I like the sideways orientation of the current mouse. However, looking at the one you linked, it looks a lot better than the trackball I have. Might give that a go. Jun 25, 2023 at 13:13
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    Although this wasn't originally my preferred option, I bought a trackball (same as you as it happens, as that seemed to be the best of breed) and am very happy with it. Thanks again. Jul 9, 2023 at 16:27
  • @AvrohomYisroel, as it turns out, I have multiple M570's, instead of the M575 that I linked. It's probably very similar in all practical senses, though. I'm glad you like it. Lots of people seem to think trackballs are ancient tech from the 90's, which they kind of are, but I find it much better than flinging/chasing something around the desk and trying to have enough space for it. My desk is too full of junk. Lol. Jul 10, 2023 at 17:56
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A mousepad may be an option :)

Alternatively, in one case, I just took a single sheet of 8x12" white paper, and taped it to the desk... It worked perfectly. Every few months or so (depending on how dirty it got), I'd change the sheet of paper. It is a very simple and inexpensive solution.

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  • @Ditto I have been using a mouse pad, but I'm so sued to having a lot of space, I keep pushing the mouse off it! Plus, the only one I have handy is quite old, and the mouse doesn't work that well on it. Will try the paper though, sems like an easy one! Thanks Jun 20, 2023 at 17:02
  • @Ditto Been using a piece of paper for a couple of hours now, and no cursor sticking! The only problem is that it's harder to move the mouse, due to the higher friction between the mouse and the paper. Still, it's better than it was. Thanks again Jun 20, 2023 at 19:41
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    Try a "gamer mousepad" if size is an issue. Those come in gargantuan dimensions that I would have to cut down to even fit on my desk.
    – arne
    Jun 21, 2023 at 3:14
  • Nowadays there are even whole desk mats that offer mousepad "functionality", additional to the mentioned "gamer mousepads", which also offer a plethora of different sizes at many different price points
    – kopaka
    Jun 21, 2023 at 9:58
  • Alternatively to the desk mats or gamer mouspads, many playmats designed for trading card games work amazingly well as mousepads (they are typically built almost identically to good mousepads), and they are typically large enough to provide plenty of space. They’re also often less expensive than gamer mousepads (and sometimes cheaper than good desk mats too). Jun 21, 2023 at 11:39
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If you don't mind your desk being covered, and you want to keep the large useful mouse area (so that a mouse pad is not enough), a large desk mat sounds like an option. These are essentially ultra-sized mousepads so big that they cover your entire desk. They come in millions of styles and sizes, below is an office-friendly example: [image from Amazon]:

enter image description here

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  • I like these because they protect your desk against all sorts of things you don't normally think about. It's obvious that friction from sliding your mouse around can damage a desk's surface, but so can scooting your keyboard, heat from your laptop, even simply resting your wrists on the same spot.
    – bta
    Jun 21, 2023 at 21:50
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There are also self-adhesive plastic sheets (shelf liners) that can be trimmed to size for applying directly to the desk surface. The differences of this over existing mouse pads may be a shorter-life; but, it will be as large as you wish, have a thinner edge against the skin of your forearm, and can be replaced cheaply and relatively easily.

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  • Thanks for both of your suggestions. I'm currently trying a piece of paper as suggested by @Ditto, and the cursor doesn't get stuck, but the resistance with the mouse is more than I'm used to. Jun 20, 2023 at 19:40
  • The shelf liners I've used tend to curl around the edges, which would inhibit the use of a mouse and, IMO, just be a PITA in general. Jun 23, 2023 at 20:16
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In a pinch, try repurposing a manila folder as a mousepad.

The mouse may or may not slide better than the sheet of paper you're trying, but the manila should last longer wear-wise.

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Most probably, the desk is made from MFC - Melamine Faced (laminated) Chipboard - printed to resemble oak wood-grain.

A Do-It-Yourself/building renovation supplier can supply a thin (~ 2mm thick) piece of (matching or accent coloured) melamine plastic. Usually, an off-cut remnant can be found and trimmed that is still bigger than any unsuitably-small mouse pad. It will be resistant to wear and not as expensive as refinishing or replacing the desk you have.

You may want to use a small piece of double-sided tape under the square (or disk) to keep it from wandering out of position during use.

Good luck.

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  • I'd be very surprised if the OP had managed to wear through melamine, even with a steel bracelet or watch strap. That stuff is quite tough. OTOH the linked photo doesn't look like varnished real wood - but neither is it the OP's real desk
    – Chris H
    Jun 21, 2023 at 15:47
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I've used paper, and (various types of) adhesive contact paper. None was pleasant to use: the edges rub against the skin, and the paper gets stretched (!) and filthy shockingly quickly.

Now I sand the surface down a bit and brush on a few light coats of varnish. I used masking tape to define the area the first time, but if I had to do it over again I'd just roughly blend at the edges. The result is a smooth and mouse-compatible surface which thus far has lasted better than the rest of the desktop (and which in any case can always be topped up). The varnish protects the desktop from further wear and adds microscopic texture which your mouse can process. I used marine varnish, which is formulated to withstand far more abuse than your mousing hand can inflict.

My mousing area still had plenty of visible texture so gloss varnish (which roughly matched the shininess of my desktop) worked fine, but if the area was smooth enough to confuse a laser mouse I'd use matt or satin varnish instead. (Though again, the 3D surface of the varnish will likely suffice.)

BTW, on the first coat I had no idea how to varnish things and ended up with significant brush marks which I had to sand down with fine sandpaper. Learn from my mistakes: only dip the very end of the brush, and do thin coats.

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Before you try anything else.... Check if the mouse works normally on a part of the desk you rarely touch. If that is the case we can deduce that a) the mouse itself is OK and b) the problem is localized to the area of the desk you normally operate the mouse.
If the mouse has problems elsewhere too I would suspect the mouse is defective or its sensor is dirty.

Since it is an optical mouse it is possible that your continuous rubbing the surface were you use the mouse (with the bottom of the mouse and/or your hand/wrist) has polished the surface to a very nice shine. That shine can throw of the mouse-sensor on an optical mouse quite easily.
The solution is to dull down the shine. Wipe the area down with some de-greasing cleaning product (detergent for washing dishes should do nicely) and see if that makes a difference.
You might want to give it a very light sand with very fine steel wool as well. That won't leave visibly scratches but will re-texture the surface enough for the mouse-sensor to work better.

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