Over the years since its inception, Linux has gotten easier and easier to use. It used to be that even getting it to run at all was a victory, and now we take that for granted. That said, not everything runs as flawlessly as it could.
Laptops, especially newer laptops, can still be problematic with Linux. Part of this comes down to Wi-Fi and battery management, but the touchpad is often to blame as well. Unfortunately, trying to fix a touchpad not working in Linux can take some advanced troubleshooting.
Before You Start
If your touchpad is not working and you are connected to an external mouse, check in your System Settings to be sure you have not enabled the “disabled touchpad when mouse is connected” option.
If your touchpad isn’t responding at all, check to see whether the system even recognizes it. Start by running the following:
less instead of
cat if the output is way too long. You can also run the following:
You should see results similar to the following:
If your output doesn’t look anything like the above, either you’re dealing with a kernel bug or the hardware simply isn’t recognized. On the other hand, if you do get similar results, try the following:
If you get results from
xinput, you’re close to a solution to fix the touchpad not working in Linux. Usually, all you need to do is install the proper driver or simply configure it.
Figure Out Which Driver You Need
Once you have a clue from
xinput, you may need to install the proper driver. Common touchpad suppliers include Synaptics, ALPS, and Elantech.
On some modern Linux systems, installing the following packages will include support for the above touchpads:
In some cases, you may need to install another driver package like
Most of the time, the way to fix a touchpad not working in Linux is to simply install or update drivers. That said, there are a few other options you may need to check. Start by going into Settings and selecting “Mouse & Touchpad.”
Depending on the distro, you might not see a separate Touchpad option, which is the case with mine. In this instance, the mouse and touchpad are seen as the same thing.
If you do see a Touchpad option below the Mouse section, ensure it’s enabled. Also, check to see that the scrolling speed is set high enough to register. If it’s too low, your touchpad won’t work properly. You’ll also want to set your Mouse speed high enough as well, especially if your system is like mine and the mouse and touchpad settings are one and the same.
On some laptops it’s possible to disable the touchpad completely in the BIOS. You may see it listed by
xinput, but it won’t work. Make sure to check this before tossing your laptop in the trash. Just restart and tap the right key to enter the BIOS. This varies based on your device manufacturer.
Many laptops contain a hardware switch to disable the touchpad. Of. ten this works by holding down the Fn key plus one of the function keys on the keyboard. This will cause similar issues to a BIOS switch, so be sure to check for it. You can search your laptop manufacturer’s manual to see if there are instructions listed.
Touchpad Still Not Working?
There is one final thing you can try if your touchpad isn’t working and you’re using an older distribution. Try a newer Linux distro. It takes time and effort, yes, but newer distros have newer kernels which means better hardware support.
If you’re already using an up-to-date distribution and your touchpad isn’t working, you may just have to tough it out. A wireless mouse with a dongle isn’t ideal, but it’s better than having no mouse support at all. If you want to go one step further, take a look at our list of the best gaming mice for Linux and learn how to use auto-CPUFreq to squeeze battery life in Linux laptops.