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Fix the Scroll Ball on the Apple Mighty Mouse

March 14, 2009

in computer hardware,Macintosh

by Nathaniel Poor

If you have an Apple “Mighty Mouse,” the white one with the scroll ball, you probably use the scroll ball a lot. If not, I suggest you try it. If you do use the scroll ball a lot, it has probably stopped working at some point. Fixing it, luckily, is just as easy as using it. You don’t even need to get up from your computer to get any rubbing alcohol, you already have everything you need right in front of you.

Turn the mouse upside down and run the scroll ball firmly back and forth several times across a piece of paper or some other surface that will roll the ball. This will loosen the gunk that has built up on the inside of the ball mechanism. It may also scroll your window contents up and down, depending where the cursor is onscreen. Usually when the ball stops working, not only does it not scroll my windows but scrolling the ball doesn’t produce the usual clicking sound. The ball spins, but it is slipping so isn’t turning the internal mechanism.

Sometimes when I flip it back upright, the ball is loose for a few moments before it starts working again. If it isn’t working well enough, I flip it back over and run it back and forth a few more times.

The gunk is just a combination of your dead skin cells and oils from your skin. It’s perfectly natural, and don’t think it’s gross because that’s what you’re covered in right now. Your body is quite happy that way (although I am not suggesting you avoid the shower), but our mechanical devices don’t do so well under the same conditions.

One other nice feature of the Mighty Mouse that I didn’t notice right away is that it is not just a one-button mouse, even though its sleek modern design makes it look like one. It can be a two-, three-, or four-button mouse. Apple cleverly built it with different internal sensors. Check out your system preferences for more on that.

Nathaniel Poor holds a Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Michigan, where he studied media, technology and society. He has owned at least one Macintosh at any given time since 1988. He has built a PC, run Linux, and is a proponent of open source ideology. He is always on call for tech support for his mom. Currently he is a freelance researcher in New York City.