Thursday, 17 August 2017

What Is “Enhance Pointer Precision” in Windows?

The “Enhance Pointer Precision” setting in Windows can actually make you less precise with your mouse in many situations. This poorly understood feature is enabled by default in Windows, and is a form of mouse acceleration.

What Is “Enhance Pointer Precision” in Windows?

What Does Enhance Pointer Precision Do?

Normally, the only thing that controls the distance your mouse cursor moves on the screen is how far you physically move your mouse. The relationship between the two is controlled by the “dots per inch” (DPI) setting. A higher DPI means your cursor moves farther when you move the mouse the same distance.

Enhance Pointer Precision is basically a type of mouse acceleration. With this setting enabled, Windows monitors how fast you move your mouse and essentially adjusts your DPI on the fly. When you move the mouse faster, the DPI increases and your cursor moves a longer distance. When you move it slower, the DPI decreases and your cursor moves a shorter distance.

In other words, Enhance Pointer Precision makes the speed you move your mouse matter. Without this feature enabled, you could move your mouse an inch and your cursor would always move the same distance on the screen, no matter how fast you moved the mouse. With Enhance Pointer Precision enabled, your cursor would travel a smaller distance if you moved your mouse more slowly, and a greater distance if you moved your mouse more quickly—even when moving your mouse the exact same distance.

Why Enhance Pointer Precision Is Enabled By Default

This feature is enabled by default in Windows because it’s useful in many situations.

For example, let’s say you’re using a PC in an office and you have a cheap $5 mouse. The mouse doesn’t have a very good sensor and is limited to a fairly low DPI setting. Without Enhance Pointer Precision, you may need to move the mouse a longer distance to move it from one side of the screen to another. With Enhance Pointer Precision, you can move the mouse more quickly to move it from one side of the screen to another without moving it a greater distance. You can also move the mouse more slowly than normal to gain better accuracy when precisely moving the mouse small distances.

This can also be particularly useful on laptop touchpads, allowing you to move your finger more quickly on the touchpad to move the mouse cursor a greater distance without dragging your finger all the way to the other side of the touchpad.

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Is Enhance Pointer Precision Good, or Is It Bad?

Whether this setting is actually helpful depends on your mouse hardware and what you’re doing.

One problem is that the acceleration produced by Enhance Pointer Precision isn’t a perfectly linear increase, so it’s hard to predict. Move your mouse a tiny bit faster or a tiny bit slower and there may be a large increase or decrease in the distance your pointer moves.

With Enhance Pointer Precision disabled, you build up muscle memory better because you learn exactly how far you need to move your mouse to place it at a certain point on your screen. The distance is all that matters. With the acceleration enabled, it’s not just about distance—it also depends on how fast you move your mouse, and it’s difficult to predict what small differences in speed can do. This is bad for building up muscle memory.

In particular, gamers with decent mice tend to dislike Enhance Pointer Precision (and mouse acceleration in general) for this reason. It causes problems and can slow you down when you’re trying to make fast, precise movements in multiplayer games. Especially considering many gaming mice let you adjust DPI more precisely using buttons on the mouse—so you can use low DPI when aiming and high DPI when running around. (Some gamers may like that Enhance Pointer Precision handles this automatically, though.)

Office workers—especially if they have cheap mice with no DPI buttons—may be perfectly fine with Enhance Pointer Precision and used to the acceleration that occurs. Even if they’re off for a few milliseconds, it’s no problem. On the other hand, a few milliseconds in an online game can mean the difference between winning and losing.

How to Disable or Enable Enhance Pointer Precision

To control this setting, head to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Mouse. On Windows 10, you can also navigate to Settings > Devices > Mouse > Additional mouse options. Click the “Pointer Options” tab, toggle “Enhance pointer precision” on or off, and click “OK” to save your changes.

What Is “Enhance Pointer Precision” in Windows?

Some mouse manufacturers create mouse configuration tools, like Logitech SetPoint and Razer Synapse. These often disable Enhance pointer precision automatically so they can enforce the manufacturer’s preferred settings.

Unfortunately, this setting is system-wide. For example, you may have a laptop with a touchpad, and you may want to use Enhance Pointer Precision for the touchpad but not for a USB mouse you plug in. There’s no way to change the setting separately for each pointing device. All you can do is toggle it on or off.

Some PC games use raw mouse input, bypassing the system mouse acceleration settings while playing the game and enforcing their own mouse settings. However, not all games do.

On Windows 10, Windows automatically syncs this setting between your PCs, even though you may want different settings on different PCs with different hardware. Mouse manufacturer utilities may also forcibly disable it. 

How to Adjust Your Mouse’s DPI

If you’re used to the mouse acceleration produced by Enhance Pointer Precision, your mouse cursor will likely feel weird after you disable it. You need some time to get used to the new setting and build up muscle memory.

If you’ve just disabled Enhance Pointer Precision and it feels like you have to move your mouse too far to move longer distances, you should probably increase your mouse’s DPI. You can find this setting in one of two places: In your mouse manufacturer’s control panel tool, or adjusted via buttons on the mouse itself. You may need to download your mouse manufacturer’s tool from their website if you haven’t installed it already.

Don’t increase your DPI too much, however. With a higher DPI setting, you need smaller movements to move your mouse cursor. It’s all about how precisely you control the mouse and the distance it moves, not about how fast you move it.

What Is “Enhance Pointer Precision” in Windows?

Even after adjusting your DPI, you may also need to adjust the “pointer speed” option located next to the Enhance Pointer Precision option in the Mouse control panel window, which affects how far your cursor moves. The pointer speed option functions as a multiplier. In other words, DPI multiplied by pointer speed (also called mouse sensitivity) equals the distance your cursor moves. You’ll likely want to experiment with different combinations of settings to see what works for you and your mouse.

If you can’t change your DPI setting because you have a fairly cheap mouse and it isn’t working for you, you can still adjust the pointer speed option. However, you may just be better off leaving Enhance Pointer Precision enabled with mice like these.

What Is “Enhance Pointer Precision” in Windows?

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