How to improve optical mouse tracking on painted fiberboard surfaces


My new mouse isn't tracking well on my desk, and I'm trying to figure out how to improve that.

My previous mouse tracked well on the desk, but the buttons were starting to break, so I bought a new one of the same model, but it doesn't track well. It jumps around, gets stuck, etc. It does work fine on other parts of the desk, so perhaps that area I typically use it on has gotten worn down, which has changed the conditions for the mouse.

I'm very happy with the desk and mouse otherwise, so I don't want to switch to a different model of either. I also hate mouse pads (even large, thin gaming pads), so I don't want to use one of those. I want to figure out the exact problem with this mouse/desk combination, and fix that.

I've done a lot of searching, but the little information I've been able to find has been conflicting. Does the mouse laser need the surface to be shiny — and therefore, I should paint on a layer of glossy finish — or does it need it to be dull — so I should sand down the existing finish?

Or is the problem/solution something totally different? What are the typical reasons why mice have trouble tracking on these types of surfaces, and what corrections can be made?

The desk is just a cheap Ikea fiberboard with acrylic paint.

close-up of desk

Best Answer

Optical mouses seem to work best on tight patterns of change, for example a tight weave mouse pad works better than a larger weave. gloss or not should not matter, changes in the texture would. You probably have a combination of problems here A) Black On Black B) even with the black on black any discernable patterns of change are uneven and natural and sparce.

There are times when I also have hated mouse pads, I discovered there is not A mouse pad, there are hundreds of designs out there and ways to provide a tight pattern of change. If you do not like the fabric or softness of a mouse pad there are plastic pads with dimpled surfaces the mouse feet literally float on.
A person could use many styles of "contact paper" applied to the desk surface, a specific one I am thinking of is a Frosted , or the diamond pattern, Both of these would minimally change the desk (clear), provide for a replacable wear surface, and insert patterns for a light bounce.

Would sanding it work, yes it is likely to, any frosting would disperce the light bounces and create patterns of change, But cheezy "photo finishes" and thin paint on pressboard desks wont even last the wear of a high use computer users hand and mouse without becomming damaged, making it look bad and unsuitable for precision mouse work. If you like rolling a mouse around on the desk so much, time will pretty much ruin that anyway, sanding it would just increase the rate it would be ruined.
If i was going to sand that surface for that specific purpose, I would use a fine (not coarse) sanding wheel with flexable tines of this style , not flaps or regular block or hand sanding. It would also be possible carefully done with the lightests (least coarse) thin wire, brass wire wheel or thin wire, wire brush.

SO , I suggest discovering the array of mouse pads out there that are Nothing at all like a normal mouse pad, or putting portable or covering items in that location that would both protect the surface of the property you purchanced for long term enjoyable use, and put tight light breaking patterns on at the same time.

There are also many plastic placemats for dining table eating, they also would not ruin the desk idea, they cover large areas come in everything from frosted to pictures, would protect the desk, would glide the mouse better than the desk would, and would be huge for coverage.

With Notes: It certannly depends on the mouse, different mice have different sensitivities, even the distance of the light bounce and different compare routines, there are mices that would work on that surface without problem, then not work as well on other surfaces. There are huge variations in the methods used for optical mouses, what works for one would fail on another completly. Making permement changes to anything for a mouse you have today, would be forgetting about the mouse you will have tomorrow that will have entirely different problems.

Think beyond what is "mouse pad" sold at stores and the array of possibilites (depending on the issues your having) are endless, tons of inexpencive products are made that a mouse would happily glide apon, and provide the optics optimal operation.