Some months ago, I started dating a woman who one day complained her office computer mouse was creeping across the screen all by itself. Since she knew I was a computer expert, she asked if it could be a virus, to which I said “not impossible but not probable”. I told her the same thing seemed to happen on my computer occasionally, and I was pretty confident my system has no viruses.

A few days later, she accused me of breaking into her computer, at work, and spying on her. She was totally serious, and I was rather offended that she would so easily accuse me of something bad. After spending a little more time together I was feeling like some red flags where showing up, and told her I didn’t think I was likely going to fall in love with her. After an amazing rant accusing me of nearly everything bad that ever happened in the world, and how evil I was, I feel thankful that a malfunctioning mouse helped me avoid a bad relationship.

Some months later, I was watching my mouse creep across the screen, and still slightly feeling the effects of that woman’s paranoia, I decided to figure out what the story was. There had to be some technical explanation.

After a bunch of Internet searching, I came across some posting that suggested optical mice on smooth or shiny surfaces could creep like this. Yes, I used an optical mouse on a shinny desk surface (smooth light wood in my case), so plopped down a mouse pad under my optical mouse. Problem solved, it’s been rock steady ever since.

So folks, if your mouse is haunted, and moves by itself, it’s probably not your new geeky relationship partner trying to spy on you, or some hacker 12,000 miles away, or your company sysop reading your email. It’s probably an inherent limitation of optical mice on smooth shiny surfaces.