How to disable touchpad on Debian or Ubuntu Desktop

On my Dell Inspiron laptop, touchpad is extremely sensitive, even with lowest sensitivity level. This ultra sensitive touchpad often comes in my way as I type in keyboard, causing all sorts of unintentional actions, including accidental clicks, randomly opened/closed browser taps, runaway mouse pointer, etc. The "disabling touchpad while typing" option on Ubuntu Desktop did not help. So after all, the best option for me was to completely disable touchpad, and stick with a plain old mouse.

The following guide is on how to disable laptop touchpad in Gnome desktop environment of Debian or Ubuntu.

Method One

What you can do to disable touchpad on Gnome Desktop is GPointingDeviceSettings, which is a small GUI tool for configuring pointing devices such as mouse or touchpad. Using the tool, you can fine-tune tapping, scrolling, or speed of your pointing device.

To install and run GPointingDeviceSettings, do the following.

$ sudo apt-get install gpointing-device-settings
$ gpointing-device-settings

Once you open GPointingDeviceSettings, all you have to do to disable your touchpad is to check "Disable touchpad" as shown below, and the touchpad will be deactivated from that point on.

GPointingDeviceSettings

One caveat with this approach is that the change you made via GPointingDeviceSettings does remain persistent across reboots. If you would like to permanently disable touchpad, refer to the second method below.

Method Two

dconf-editor is another GUI tool which supports far more general application settings than GPointingDeviceSettings.

In order to disable touchpad permanently on your laptop, invoke dconf-editor.

$ dconf-editor

Then go to "org"->"gnome"->"settings-daemon"->"peripherals"->"touchpad" on dconf-editor, and uncheck "touchpad-enabled" field as follows.

dconf-editor

Once the change is made, touchpad will remain permanently disabled across reboots.

Note that the touchpad setting so changed via dconf-editor is stored in your Gnome Desktop environment. This means that touchpad is disabled only when you are logged in to your Gnome Desktop. If you are logged out of your Desktop, or logged in as someone else, touchpad will still be active.

Method Three

On Ubuntu Desktop, you can use GNOME extension called touchpad-indicator to easily switch between the enabled/disabled touchpad.

To install touchpad-indicator on Ubuntu Desktop, run the following.

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/atareao
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install touchpad-indicator

To launch touchpad-indicator, type "touchpad" Ubuntu Dash to locate the program, and click on it.

To disable the touchpad, simply right-click the touchpad-indicator applet on Unity panel, and choose "Disable Touchpad". To re-enable the touchpad, do similarly.

The touchpad-indicator applet will display the current status (enabled/disabled) of the touchpad as follows.

If touchpad-indicator applet does not work, one possible reason is Python support for unicode strings. The following fix worked on touchpad-indicator 0.9.4-src on Ubuntu Desktop 12.10.

$ sudo vi /opt/extras.ubuntu.com/touchpad-indicator/share/touchpad-indicator/watchdog.py

Changed from:

faulty_devices = [
        u'11/2/a/0', # TPPS/2 IBM TrackPoint
        u'11/2/5/7326'] # ImPS/2 ALPS GlidePoint

To:

faulty_devices = [
        '11/2/a/0', # TPPS/2 IBM TrackPoint
        '11/2/5/7326'] # ImPS/2 ALPS GlidePoint

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Dan Nanni is the founder and also a regular contributor of Xmodulo.com. He is a Linux/FOSS enthusiast who loves to get his hands dirty with his Linux box. He likes to procrastinate when he is supposed to be busy and productive. When he is otherwise free, he likes to watch movies and shop for the coolest gadgets.
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4 thoughts on “How to disable touchpad on Debian or Ubuntu Desktop

  1. My touchpad is recognized as an additional standard PS/2 mouse. How I can disable it? The function key on my laptop doesn't work. I'm on a Debian Wheezy freshly installed & fed with some apt-get update, but without adding sources. I just put a # in front of the CD source line & deleted the one in front of the mirror source of Debian.

    What can I do?

  2. Method #2 worked for me on my Debian 7.3.0 Wheezy. Got tired of having to uncheck and recheck the "Disable touchpad" in GPointingDevice Settings every time I logged on. Now the touchpad is dead after login and that is what I want.

  3. There is a rather undocumented command in the Synaptics touch pad driver:

    synclient TouchpadOff=0/1.

    Set it to '1' to disable the touch pad.
    To make it persistent, add a startup program with this command (in Ubuntu or Debian).
    Neat, isn't it?

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