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Your mouse has failed, and banging it on your desk won’t help, any more than thumping your keyboard might when that fails. Similarly, don’t bang the side of your monitor, as that is unlikely to repair it.
Without the ability to see what you’re doing or interact with your computer, the first thing you will need to do is consider how you’re going to save your work. Why?
Well, in the moments that follow, some unplugging may be required. Something might get knocked and unplugged in error; besides, why wouldn’t you want to save your work?
Windows computers can suffer from issues with the mouse, keyboard, touchscreen display, monitors failing and laptop touchpads not responding. We’re going to show you how to work around these issues, with steps outlining how to save your work, exit programs and shut down your computer while you prepare alternative methods to interact.
Each of the following explanations assumes that the interface device has stopped working while the computer is running, and provides steps for overcoming this with an alternative controller.
No Mouse Or Touchpad Input? Use The Keyboard
Over the years, computer use has morphed from a keyboard-centric task to one that relies on the mouse or touchpad much of the time. As such, we tend to engage with our computers with a point and a click when often a keyboard shortcut can be quicker.
Such shortcuts are certainly of vital use when it comes to dealing with a mouse- or touchpad-free scenario.
If your mouse or touchpad has stopped working, you may want to save your work before proceeding. In most cases, this is achieved by holding CTRL+S. Should this not work, or you want to access other options from the app menus, tap Alt and use the arrow keys to navigate through each menu. On older applications, Alt + [the first letter of the desired menu] should open that list of options. Additionally, in Office 2013/365 you can use Alt and then the displayed numbers and letters to use the menus and functions that are shown.
On the Windows desktop (which you can reach with WIN+D) you’ll find that using the arrow keys will help you move around your icons, while Tab can be used to switch focus between icons, the taskbar and any already open apps. Holding the Windows key and a number 1-0 will switch to the open application that corresponds with the number. It will also open the corresponding application that is pinned to the taskbar.
These are really just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re not already up-to-speed with keyboard shortcuts, see our guide to every Windows 8 keyboard shortcut (which also includes some gestures).
No Keyboard For Windows? How To Get Typing, Fast
If your keyboard fails, you might think that you’re getting off easy… until it comes to having to enter text.
Mouse works, but no keyboard. What do you do?
On a tablet or touch-enabled laptop, it’s simply a case of clicking the keyboard icon in the system tray, but with other devices, you’ll need to launch the on-screen keyboard. This is easily done by pressing WIN+U if your keyboard is working, but for mouse-only circumstances, find your way to Settings > Ease of Access > Ease of Access Center > Start On-Screen Keyboard.
From here, you can begin clicking the letters and keyboard combinations you need.
To log into a computer with no keyboard connected or working in Windows 8 and 8.1, click the Ease of Access icon in the lower-left corner and select On-Screen Keyboard. You can then use this virtual keyboard to input your username and password.
A faulty keyboard is usually either due to drivers or damaged hardware. Try a different keyboard, or plug it into a different USB port. You may also spend some time investigating whether the USB port is in fact dead.
In the rare circumstances that you’re using a PS/2 keyboard, shutdown your PC, then reconnect the device before restarting.
Lights Gone Out? Navigating Windows With No Display
Should your monitor switch off for no apparent reason, things can get hairy. While a failed keyboard or mouse will leave you with a desktop that you can see and be able to confirm that your work is saved (for instance you should really have autosave in use for office documents) having no window on Windows will leave you virtually blind.
Coping with this really isn’t as difficult as you might think.
As long as the monitor doesn’t suddenly switch back on when you wiggle your mouse or tap your keyboard a few times (there’s a chance it might have switched off due to inactivity thanks to your power settings), you will need to take the following steps. Also, consider whether the display has been properly calibrated before proceeding.
The first thing to consider is: did you save your work? While Microsoft Office and other suites have autorecovery tools, it’s best not to rely on these unless you really have to. As long as the app you were using was the active window and you haven’t clicked any mouse buttons, press CTRL+S on your keyboard to save (there is a chance that the file hasn’t yet been saved, in which case you may be asked to enter a file name under normal circumstances. If this is likely, follow CTRL+S with Enter).
Your computer should now be ready to restart, best achieved by pressing the hardware reset button on your tower. For laptops, hold the power button.
With your computer rebooted, hopefully the monitor should power on and display your login screen. If not, it’s time to use a different monitor. You might consider connecting to your HDMI TV, perhaps, until a new monitor is available.
Laptop users can also connect their device to an external monitor, using F8 to detect and connect.
Windows 8 Tablets: Well, Use Your Finger!
Desktop and laptop owners running Windows 8 can use the solutions above to regain control of their devices, at least until driver reinstallation or replacement devices can be connected.
For tablet owners, the situation is a little different.
Text entry and pointing can both be achieved with just a finger, and as long as the hardware detecting touch interaction isn’t damaged, you should be able to find the solution you need.
For instance, if you’re using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with your Windows 8 tablet and they disconnect for some reason, switch them off and on, and check the battery strength of each device.
You should also open the Settings > Change PC Settings > PC and Devices > Bluetooth screen to ensure that Bluetooth is active. I’ve used the Acer Iconia W700 and Surface Pro (first generation) and found that Bluetooth can crash more often than it might in Windows 7, and while it usually sorts itself out, you’ll find that if the Bluetooth drivers have crashed the Bluetooth entry doesn’t appear in the menu.
In this situation, you’ll need to restart the device.
For tablets with no visible display, use a suitable HDMI cable or VGA adaptor to see if there is any output to an external monitor. Devices with display issues will probably need repairing or replacing by the manufacturer.
Using A Windows Laptop or Tablet? Plug Something In!
Problems with your laptop keyboard or touchpad, or your tablet keyboard (probably a Bluetooth device, unless your tablet is a hybrid) or mouse are frustrating, but initial solutions are obvious – you need a USB keyboard and mouse.
This doesn’t have to be a long-term fix; you might just use the devices to sort out just what you need to do to fix the issue that is causing your original interface peripherals to fail.
After all, you can’t easily repair and reinstall Windows devices and their drivers without a keyboard and mouse, can you?
Don’t Let A Broken Peripheral Stop You Using Windows
Long term use of your Windows computer will not be possible without the usual trio of display, keyboard and mouse. The tips above are provided to help you get your work saved and your computer safely shutdown so that you can effect repairs, which may range from trying the broken keyboard or mouse in a different USB port to spending money on brand new hardware.
Do you have any alternative suggestions for solutions? Share your tech support wisdom in the comments below.
Image Credit: Broken Computer Mouse Via Shutterstock, Broken Computer Keyboard Via Shutterstock, Man Biting Keyboard, Broken Computer Mouse on White Background, business woman holding a broken keyboard, Old computer monitors, USB cable connected into a laptop all via Shutterstock