Q: Here is a computer problem I haven’t seen in probably over 20 years. I’m very knowledgeable about computers, and I have built and programmed many back when they cost around $2,500.

However, my wife’s Toshiba laptop running Windows 7 Home Premium recently developed a problem with the cursor relocating at random while typing in Word. She asked me to check, and it happened to me, too.

The person typing would suddenly see the cursor had skipped back to some other sentence, and would have to fix that to restart typing. I tried Notepad, and it jumped out of the program entirely. Very annoying, and Toshiba laptops have been solid performers for us.

Sounds like a device conflict, right? I checked, no device conflicts. Checked for updated device drivers, all are current. Checked for viruses and malware with trustworthy programs, no issues there.

Related Tech Q&As

Read more from Patrick Marshall here >>

After eight attempts and a modem and router reboot, I was able to install all relevant Windows updates. This is a simple setup, not running much besides the factory background apps. After the Windows updates, I was able to type half each of the Gettysburg address and Hamlet’s soliloquy without interruption in Notepad. However, Word is still exhibiting the same erratic behavior.

I’ve checked MSCONFIG, the BIOS, and a bunch of other stuff “under the hood.” I realize computers don’t last forever, but I have older computers that don’t do this, and this machine isn’t old, has seen only light duty, and it is run on a lean software setup to keep it simple.

Advertising

I’m going to try a plug-in USB keyboard just to be sure. Currently, I’m stumped.

Any ideas?

— Tom Pacher

A: Actually, the first thing to check is whether the laptop’s touchpad is disabled when you’re using a mouse. That’s optional on most laptops. And if both are functional it’s way too easy to inadvertently pass a thumb over the touchpad and move the cursor.

I’ve also experienced that problem when I’ve used a wireless mouse when the battery gets drained.

Another option: Depending on the specific mouse you’re using you may be able to solve the problem by adjusting the sensitivity of the mouse. To check, go to the Control Panel and click on the Mouse utility.

Q: I receive my internet through Comcast, which supplied me with free Norton Internet Security. I downloaded it on my desktop and laptop and keep it up to date. I travel for work and use my laptop when out of town, away from the Comcast cable modem.

Am I still protected when using another source to obtain my internet connection? I appreciate your advice on this.

Advertising

—Ansel Adams

A: Wow. You have a famous name!

Yes, your Norton Internet Security will still be working when you’re traveling. That will provide you with antivirus protection and some insulation from nefarious websites.

But it’s not necessarily enough protection on the road. If you’re working over the internet using public WiFi, your transmissions can be intercepted. That’s why I recommend use of a virtual private network (VPN). Once you subscribe to and launch a VPN, all transmissions between you and the VPN server are encrypted.

That means that an eavesdropper on that public WiFi won’t be able to understand your transmission. And websites you visit won’t know where you’re coming from.

Be aware, though, that some websites won’t allow access via VPNs. That often true of banks and other financially sensitive sites. They have their own software for secure connections. My recommendation: Don’t do business with those sites over public networks.

Tech Reviews and Tips »

More