How to Fix a Sluggish Trackball

If you know anything about me it is that I know the solution to every problem, more specifically, I know the solvent to every problem: Isopropyl Alcohol. Yes, it is the universal fix. I sometimes like to think I was the inspiration for the old guy in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who sprayed Windex on everything… as that is exactly what I do with isopropanol. Commonly mis?referred to as ‘Rubbing Alcohol’, this gem does it all:

  • cleans windows
  • de-stinks armpits
  • de-stinks feet
  • … basically takes the stink out of anything that has a stinking problem
  • cleans a freshly shaven face (causing a festive Macaulay impression)
  • gets some stickers off of objects
  • cleans vinyl records
  • slows flying bugs down so you can swat them
  • disinfects anything that you think needs disinfecting (who needs lysol)
  • burns when lit on fire
  • fixes bad connections between your power cord and electronic device
  • fixes bad connections between your headphones and mp3 player
  • … basically fixes any electrical connections that require you to move the cable around until a good connection is found
  • fixes the trackball on your IOGear GKM561R keyboard

Yes, your IOGear keyboard with the trackball that doesn’t respond very well, you know the one. You have a nifty Home Theater PC and you want to click to open your media and your trackball responds with the precision of a blunderbuss, …yes, a blunderbuss. That almost perfect keyboard just got more almost perfect now that I found a solution to the trackball response.

After reading enough reviews about how much everyone loves this keyboard but how the trackball will fail after about a year (then seeing IOGear reply saying that they will take care of it)… I knew there must be a better way than sending it back for a replacement. I am happy to announce that there is a better way and the answer is rubbing alcohol (if you didn’t see that coming, you should go now). Here are the steps involved:

  1. Do not throw your keyboard at the floor or break it over your knee
  2. Put keyboard on a flat surface
  3. Spray a small amount of isopropanol on the trackball and let it seep down a bit
  4. Rotate the trackball in multiple directions for several seconds (don’t worry if it seems to stick a little when you are doing this, it will pass)
  5. Tip the keyboard upside-down and rotate the trackball some more
  6. Take a piece of paper towel and rotate the trackball with the paper towel between your finger and the trackball to remove any excess isopropanol and gunk that was stuck on the trackball or bearings
  7. Check to see if it works better, if not, your probably didn’t use enough isopropyl alcohol, try again
  8. Repeat this process as needed
  9. If it was really gunked up before, sometimes I find that this loosens so much crud (that then falls on the optical sensor below) I have to take the dozen or so tiny screws out of the bottom, take the top panel off, and clean the stuff away from trackball area to get it working like new again.

You are welcome.

For the record, I use 70% isopropanol. It kills bacteria better than higher concentrations because the water content tricks them into opening their hearts to the alcohol and the alcohol breaks their hearts… that is about the extent of my biology knowledge.

12 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    You write beautifully. Thanks for your help with the IO gear trackball. Seems to have worked

    I want to return the favour. Email me and I’ll send you a download of my music…

  2. Steve B says:

    The issue with this keyboard is not that the trackball gets dirty… well.. that is an issue too… but the big issue with it is that the ball bearings inside that the track ball rests on are extremely cheap. They are made out of metal and anyone who has taken apart this keyboard for cleaning will tell you that they develop flat spots. Yes, the plastic track ball wears down the metal ball bearings.

    They can be replaced with ceramic ball bearings but I do not recall the specific size needed to replace them. I rotated the ball bearings in mine today (not intentional but whatever) and now the whole thing works considerably better.

    • Bourbon says:

      They definitely develop flat spots, but the problem I was having was the cursor not responding to movement, not so much that the ball was stuck. Good advice though. I’ll have to try rotating the bearings and applying some oil to them.

  3. Njitram says:

    Ok, thanks a lot Bourbon! Alcohol did most of the trick. I had to go for the hard solutions and clean the bearings as well. Result is a perfectly working trackball….boy am i glad not to hulk-smash my keyboard 🙂

  4. Gary says:

    Thanks to Steve B! Only needed to take mine apart at the trackball corner to see my issue was worn down ball bearings. So worn down that my track ball had been sitting too low and was a nightmare to use. Flipped them around and now it’s good as new…well…at least for another 3-4 months then I guess I’ll have to completely replace them.

  5. Yi says:

    Things to do:
    1. Just unscrew it all, there’s like a dozen screws but there’s no plastic clasp or anything and the cover comes off very easily
    2. Clean the ball
    3. Clean the sensor
    4. Rotate the bearings to avoid the flat spot, just pull them off with your fingers

    For me, the problem wasn’t the ability to rotate the trackball, but the sensors were wonky. The flat spots on the bearings caused the ball to be too close to the sensor. Even after rotating them, however, it still wasn’t as sensitive as it used to be, so I ended up placing some tissue paper under each bearing to prop it up further. Be careful not to make it too thick otherwise the ball will be pressed up against the cover; I used tissue which I can compress down by pressing down if necessary.

  6. Stef says:

    Solved my trackball problem… I removed the two screw located near the trackball. theses screw probably press the ball down too much like someone said before.
    Work perfectly now.

  7. G. Williams says:

    I am on my way. Even a teetotaler can say that “Bour” is bon (good, lol). I have not used the Alcohol yet but the knowledge contained in this post about rotating the ball bearings along with a little compressed air has brought my keyboard back from the pile. I am truly grateful.

  8. Pepe says:

    Your article gave me the confidence to open up and clean the keyboard. Works well. Also, I noticed that the track ball has a separate fascia that can be rotated about 20deg couter clockwise to release the ball. No need to remove screws.

  9. Daniel says:

    After searching on GLE to fix the Trackball problem on my 3 Years old Iogear model GKM571R , I found this usefull article .
    On this compact model ,the first step is to pry up gently the Gray center part of the Hinge .Then, the 4 screws holding the top cover in place ,Be carefull not to break the small tab of plastic on the translucide cover that activate an internal electrical switch when cover is open . After ,their is 5 screws on the back cover to be able to spit off the two section . At this step ,be carefull not to do damage the connection from the Keyboard ,
    Their is 2 screws holding the laser module in place , and finally 3 screws to get to the track ball and is metal ball bearings .
    Here is what i have found in mine ; particles of fabric and dust on the laser module window and had flat spot on the 3 Ball Bearings .
    Turned a quarter of a turn the 3 ball after cleaned everything with alcool and a lint free paper .Works like a charm now .Thanks

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