Hack That Mouse

By Rossi Fernandes Published Date
01 - Jun - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2007
Hack That Mouse
...Did you even think you could?

Here at Digit, we take our games seriously. We play a lot of FPS games, especially on the LAN. However, a few of us also play online, and this is where things get complicated-it's a whole different ball game when we're on the Net, and we usually get fragged to kingdom come. It's not uncommon for us to hide in shameful misery, or just moan about our cheap mice, bad mouse pad, light-weight mouse, tangled wires… the list is never ending, as excuses generally are.

In this article we'll show you all the tips, tricks, and tweaks you may never even be aware of existed in your mouse. We'll warn you right here: performing some of the tweaks will void the warranty on your mouse, so be careful before removing any stickers-and perform the tweaks at your own risk.

Playing With Pads
While it is true that optical mice work well on almost any surface, the same can't be held true for laser mice. They tend to be picky when it comes to surfaces. Now, we know there are pads available like Icemat, Ratpad, Razer, Steelpad, Everglide, etc. However, they cost an arm and a leg, so most of us will never use them. We decided to look for cheaper alternatives.

The two main things we need are a hard base and the fabric that you want to put on it. We used acrylic as our hard base. If you want something cheaper, a thin sheet of wood, plastic, or aluminum works just as well. You might wonder if acrylic by itself would be a good surface. Its not! Optical mice fail miserably on acrylic just like on glass. We'll be talking of using glass itself as a mousepad a little later.

STEP 1 We went out and bought a 12 x 10-inch sheet of acrylic (Rs 50). We had a hacksaw and some sandpaper lying about,

Smoothening out the sharp edges

which we used to cut / shape the acrylic. We also got some frabic and a needle and thread.

STEP 2 We took the sheet of acrylic, created an outline of the shape we wanted, and then cut it.

STEP 3 We used sandpaper to smoothen out the cut edges.


Wrapping the fabric tightly around the board

Next, we held the fabric in place on the pad and made the necessary scissor markings.

STEP 5 We could either stick the cloth on the pad or hem up the pad. We kept things simple, but you can make a tight-fitting cover, or one that you can open easily and wash. Just make sure the surface is smooth, and has no wrinkles.
Some people would like to have a glass surface as their pad. This is easily done-just get a glass sheet cut to the size of your table or keyboard drawer, and have it etched. Optical and laser mice will not work unless you get the glass etched.

Using an etched sheet of glass as a mousepad

Wire Management
When gaming, mouse wires often get entangled and send your view in the game haywire. This is easily avoided by taking the proper precaution when connecting all wires, and making sure the mouse wire is free to move.

If the cabinet is located beside the monitor, it's wise to run the wire from the opposite side of where all the other PC wires are. If the cabinet is located at the bottom, we often find ourselves tugging away at the mouse wire; after all, gravity will always pull it down. This means that there's never any slack in the wire, which is terrible when gaming, and quite irritating even with regular PC use. This is also easily solved by looping the wire around a paper-weight after getting the slack you need. For gaming however, it's probably a good idea to invest a little time and make a mouse-bungee.

Mouse-bungees basically avoid cables spilling over your table and keep the mouse wire suspended in the air for least resistance. Although products are sold for around Rs 600 to 700 that do exactly this, they're not widely available, and besides, why pay Rs 700 for something you can make yourself for one-fifth the price?

STEP 1 We needed a stand of some sort, and chose an old, broken microphone stand. You can use a bendable webcam stand, or one of those bendable table lamp stands. Plastic clips, rubber bands or a rubber/plastic sleeve is all we needed to hold the mouse cable in place.

STEP 2 We ran the mouse cable along the length of the stand. When you're doing this, remember to measure and leave enough space between the mouse and the stand, depending on placement.

STEP 3. We added clips whereever necessary, and tightened them to prevent the mouse wire from moving about.

STEP 4. Positioning is important. We positioned our mouse-bungee in such a way that there was little or no wire touching the table, and still had enough slack to move about easily.

Attaching clips to the stand

At home, you could add plastic hooks alongside your monitor or cabinet to hold the mouse cable in place-depending on placement, of course.

Properly positioning the mousepad and stand

We found that just these simple steps helped us optimise out mouse for gaming, and headshots in Counter Strike were a lot simpler-the mouse moved freely and smaller hand movements were necessary.

Overclock 'em!
Yes, you can overclock mice. Depending on the mouse, it'll either drastically improve performance, not have any effect, or just damage it beyond repair (if you push too far). First up, we should tell you that doing this voids all warranties, so don't start shooting off angry e-mails to us if you mess it up. Next, you should know whether your mouse can handle over-clocking. Those of you with Razer mice need not attempt this, because the drivers already support changing refresh rates-the same applies to other mice that allow you to change refresh rates. Also, high-quality mice such as the MX518 perform exceptionally well at the native 125 Hz.

Now most mice have refresh rates of 125 Hz, and you can increase this to a whopping 1000 Hz. Basically, the idea is, the faster the refresh rate, the lower the response time. At 125 Hz, this is about 8 ms for normal mice, at 250 Hz it's 4 ms, and if the mouse can be overclocked to 1000 Hz, it's 1 ms. Most mice will not support 1000 Hz, so don't try to go that high.

Of the mice we overclocked, the ones that seemed to offer the best performance improvements were the MX300 and MX500; upon bumping them up to 1000 Hz, they performed almost as well as the legendary MX518, and all their skipping problems are taken care of. The same tweak should work with pretty much every USB mouse.

STEP 1. The first thing we did was checking the existing mouse rate using software called Mouse Rate Checker-www.tscherwitschke.de. You can also use a tiny application called Direct Input Mouse Rate. All we did was start Mouse Rate checker and move the mouse around randomly within the window. The polling rate is shown.

STEP 2. We decided to increase the polling rate in sane increments. We used a software called USB Mouserate Switcher-http://tinyurl.com/hyonv. After running it, we were prompted for whether we wanted to switch the polling rate to 250 Hz. After selecting Yes, we rebooted for the settings to be applied.

STEP 3. After the reboot, we checked the mouse, found it functional, and then restarted Mouse Rate Checker. It told us that the current rate was 250 Hz. Since the mouse was working perfectly, we decided to try for 500 Hz and increased the polling rate just as we had done in the previous step. We decided not to try 1000 Hz, and suggest that you do not either, because cheaper hardware just will not support it.

STEP 4. A well-known problem in XP is the acceleration bug, wherein mouse acceleration cannot be disabled. Those used to Windows 98's sensitivity would have noticed it while migrating to Windows XP. The only way is to fix it is to use a Registry key that disables it. We downloaded the fix from www.fpsbanana. com/tools/717; it's a WinRAR file, and we added the Registry key it contained.

Apart from what we did above, we also want to share other things we do to improve our input device performance, especially when gaming.

Mouse On A Diet?
Every gamer has his own choice of mouse weight. There's not much weight difference between what's considered too light and what's too heavy, and even then there's no perfect mouse weight for everyone. Some Logitech mice, including the MX500, come with weights. These add to the resistance and result in slower reaction times in a game, but a steadier hand for, say, Photoshop work. We have found a lot of mice brands add dummy weight inside the mouse body, which can be reduced (or increased) depending on your preferences. Open your mouse up to see if it does have such weights.

Reshoe That Mouse
Mice need their "shoes" replaced when they get dirty and worn out. For cheaper mice, these shoes are made of Teflon or plastic, and wear out faster. Our secret to making these shoes last longer is to use cello tape. We just tape over the mouse feet, and this causes the mouse to move more smoothly, and also when the tape gets dirty, we just remove it, throw it away, and add more tape.

Nail It Down
We've noticed that a lot of us get restless when we're losing in a game, and this causes us to move the mouse around a lot more aggressively. It happens to any person who plays FPS games all the time, actually. Unfortunately, when this happens, we find ourselves hunting for our mouse pads under the table-because they're gone flying off when we make sudden jerky movements of the mouse. To solve this problem, a lot of us at Digit use big, heavy mouse pads; some don't use a mouse pad at all; others find the middle path-using regular mouse pads, but gluing them to the surface of the table. This only works if you have a fixed seating position, of course.

Remember, at the end of the day, any number of tips, tricks, and tweaks will not magically improve your game. Even a good player with a ball mouse can tackle mediocre players armed with expensive mice. The key is to practice a lot, but hopefully, this little DIY will give you a slight edge and improve your accuracy a little.  

Rossi FernandesRossi Fernandes