How Does a Computer
Mouse Work?

Here we take a look at how a computer mouse works and we explain the different mouse technologies that has been invented over the past years.

These days, computer mice are so commonly used and are taken for granted. To sum up their purpose in a nutshell, a computer mouse is a hardware device used to manipulate data on a computer.

When you move the mouse on a surface it senses the motion and a signal is sent to the computer. The computer then acts appropriately according to how the mouse was moved or was clicked.

Computer Mouse Technologies

Let's take a look at the different computer mouse technologies, starting with the old-type mechanical mice:

Mechanical Mice

The first type of mouse around, the mechanical mouse (also known as a ball mouse), uses a moving ball to work. As you move the mouse across a surface, the ball moves too. Also inside the mouse are two rollers that roll against two sides of the moving ball. One roller tracks the horizontal motion of the mouse, and the other roller tracks the vertical motion.

The motion of the two rollers is converted into electrical signals which is then sent to the computer through a cord. The software on the computer then converts these electrical signals into meaningful X and Y movement of the mouse cursor that you see on-screen.

Optical Mice

Optical Mice are the most common computer mice in use today. An optical computer mouse works using optical technology and so don't require any moving parts.

As you move an optical mouse over a surface, a small red LED (Light-Emitting Diode) emits light onto a surface and reads the pattern or grid on that surface. The mouse converts this surface information into meaningful motion data which is sent to the computer.

Optical mice have many advantages over mechanical mice, some of them include:

  • Less wear and lower chance of failure because there are no moving parts.
  • Dirt or dust can't get into the mouse and interfere with the sensors.
  • Smoother response due to increased tracking resolution.
  • Using a mouse pad isn't required, optical mice can work on normal surfaces such as a desk.

Laser Mice

Laser technology has been the newest technology breakthrough in computer mice. The way in which a laser computer mouse works is similar to an optical mouse, but with better results.

The laser workings inside of a laser mouse can deliver up to 20 times the performance of an optical mouse. This means more accurate tracking of motion, and smoother movement. Laser mice can also work flawlessly on almost any type of surface, whereas optical mice haven't got as much versatility.

Connecting a Computer Mouse

These days most computer mice are connected via USB. A PS/2 connection used to be the primary way to connect your mouse, but these days mice are being made for USB.

Wirless mice have also been around for a long time now, and they are very convenient to use as opposed to a corded mouse. Wireless mice come with a USB receiver, which you simply plug into a USB port on your computer and you're all set.


After having read this article you should now know a little bit about how a computer mouse works. Computer mice are quite complicated pieces of hardare, so it's lucky that we don't have to understand them to use them!

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