Some users who frequently use an external USB mouse with their laptops prefer disabling the touchpad when the mouse is plugged in. The reason for doing so is to avoid accidental touches to the touchpad that might mess up with the current view they are on. Unfortunately, Linux Debian does not provide configuring this touchpad setting through its otherwise very useful Settings utility. Therefore you have to install and make use of an external application in order to make this setting. In this article, we will describe two ways for Debian users to configure their laptop’s touchpad in a way that it is automatically disabled whenever they plug in an external mouse

  • Through the Touchpad Indicator utility
  • Through the dconf Editor

We have run the commands and procedures mentioned in this article on a Debian 10 Buster system.

Method 1: Through the Touchpad Indicator tool

The Touchpad Indicator extension from Gnome Extensions can be installed through the Debian Software Manager. Open the Software Manager through the Activities panel/dock and then search for Touchpad Indicator as follows:

Touchpad Indicator

Then install the tool by providing your authentication details as only an authorized user can install and configure software on Debian. Then launch the tool through the Application Launcher search. As soon as you launch the tool, you will be able to see the touchpad icon in your top/main panel as follows:

Touchpad icon

You can configure some basic settings through the tool’s right click menu.

Touchpad preferences and settings

For more options, click on the Indicator Preferences option from the menu. Then open the Auto Switch tab to switch to the following view:

Touchpad Indicator

Here you will see the “Automatically switch Touchpad On/Off’ slider button. When you turn this button on, you are configuring the touchpad to be automatically disabled whenever you plug in a USB mouse device.

Method 2: Through the dconf Editor

In order to configure your touchpad settings through the dconf Editor, you first need to install it by running the following command in your Debian Terminal:

$ sudo apt-get install dconf-editor

You can open the Terminal either through the Application Launcher search as follows:

Linux Terminal

Please enter the password for sudo in case you are asked to do so as only an authorized user can install/uninstall and configure software on Debian.

Install dconf editor

You can then launch the dconf Editor through the GUI by searching for it through the Application Launcher

Dconf Editor

Or, launch it through the command line by entering the following command in your Terminal:

$ dconf-editor

The dconf Editor will launch, displaying the following message:

Start dconf

The message means that you need to be very careful while performing system configurations as it might mess up with sensitive settings and break down your system. After clicking the “I’ll be careful” button, search for touchpad through the search button. This will display the following results:

GNOME Touchpad settings

Click on the /org/gnome/desktop/peripherals/touchpad/ folder. This will open the following view:

Send events enabled

Click on the send-events key; this will open the following view:

Edit send event settings

Try to locate the Custom value drop-down and select the “disabled-on-external-mouse” option as shown above. Now save the settings and close the dconf Editor. Now your touchpad will automatically become disabled every time you plug in a USB mouse device.

Although dconf Editor is a very useful tool for editing system configurations, you can uninstall it through the following command whenever you need to:

$ sudo apt-get remove dconf-editor

With these two ways mentioned in this article, you can avoid the touchpad to mess up the work at hand and let the external mouse take control of your input.

Disable Touchpad when Mouse is connected to your Debian 10 System

Karim Buzdar

About the Author: Karim Buzdar holds a degree in telecommunication engineering and holds several sysadmin certifications. As an IT engineer and technical author, he writes for various web sites. You can reach Karim on LinkedIn