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Flaky Synaptics Touchpad Driver Occasions Interesting Encounters

I’m using a Dell Venue 11 Pro 7139 as one of my two primary Windows 10 test machines at the moment, and it has become a recent focus for some interesting driver issues. Late last week, MS unleashed a new Synaptics HID TouchPad driver through Windows Update for Windows 10. As soon as I applied the driver, the touchpad stopped working properly (the cursor appears on screen and the touchpad buttons work, but the cursor does not move in response to motions on the touchpad once the system finishes booting up; interestingly it works fine during boot-up, but not afterward, once I establish a log-in). A quick trip to Device Manager, where I go to the driver Properties, Driver tab, and clicking the Roll Back Driver button takes care of the problem, and things go back to normal.

Until MS, or Synaptics, or Dell, fixes the standard driver not working problem on the 7139, I’m going to see this in WU.

Why is this a problem? The reason is that Windows Update in Win10 doesn’t give me the option to hide driver updates, so I can’t tell WU not to apply this update. Every time the system reboots, it checks for updates, applies the new (non-working) Synaptics driver, and bang! there goes my touchpad into “out of order” mode. I can, of course, use an external mouse (I have both Bluetooth and Unifying receiver-based meese at my disposal) or I can zip back into Device Manager and roll back the driver each time WU re-applies it for me. Just for grins, I decided to give Dell Tech Support a call to see if they knew anything I didn’t. Once they found out I was running Windows 10, they punted in Microsoft’s direction and urged me to post my issue to the Windows 10 Insider Hub/Windows Feedback (I have already done so) but were unable to offer any other solutions that might fix the problem once and for all. I spoke to a very nice service technician, and her boss, both of whom agreed that the issue essentially boils down to a lack of means or functions to selectively refuse driver updates from Windows Update in Windows 10. I hope that Microsoft will address this kind of general functionality in the RTM and/or GA releases, perhaps by making such drivers optional (which gives users the ability to refuse them, and hide them to prevent further auto-installation attempts).

[Note added 5/25: Last Friday (May 22), I visited the Synaptics widget in Control Panel, and by increasing the touch sensitivity of the touch panel, I was able to restore it to proper working operation. Something about the driver update caused the settings to be massively decreased, to the point where the touchpad really couldn’t function. Monkeying with those settings, and getting them to an apparently more normal range, allowed me to regain use of the device. Go Figure!]