Beware the perils of Bluetooth keyboards and mice

OK so I’m being a little dramatic. Personally I use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse on my PC and they work fine. In fact, Bluetooth is a great technology for connecting these things, because it’s built into many PCs and therefore you don’t use up a USB port on a little wireless dongle. There is, however, something you need to know: You can’t count on Bluetooth in an emergency.

Bluetooth drivers are some of the more finicky ones you’ll find, often crashing for no apparent reason. It seems to boil down to the customizations demanded by PC makers in order to better fit Bluetooth chips into their PCs. This isn’t terribly surprising or unique; the same applies to makers of Wi-Fi and wired network hardware, except that technology is more mature and less likely to break down.

Not only that, but beware of “generic” update packages that come straight from the chip manufacturers; these are almost guaranteed to cause more harm than good. That would be fine of course if PC makers always kept their own drivers up to date, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you’ll have a compatibility problem that can only be solved with an updated driver and the only solution is to wait for your PC maker to come out with one. Very frustrating when you know that the chip maker has already fixed the problem.

When calamity strikes your PC, your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse aren’t going to be there for you. If you need to boot into safe mode or use your recovery disks, you won’t be able to use Bluetooth at all, and that may mean you don’t have access to your keyboard or mouse. Naturally this is exactly when you need everything to work properly for you, and it’s frustrating when it doesn’t.

That’s where you can really help yourself out by getting a wired keyboard and mouse and keeping it around. You can usually find them at thrift stores for very low prices, just make sure they come with the USB connection rather than the older round connection. That shouldn’t be a problem really. Trust me, this will save you when you need it because I’ve learned from experience that Bluetooth will leave you high and dry in this sort of situation.

Let me back up a bit here. It’s not that I’m saying you shouldn’t use Bluetooth devices for everyday use. They’re just fine for that, and in fact better than just fine, they work great. It’s just that you should have some sort of backup available for when you need it. It should be part of your overall regimen to keep your computer ready to function when you need it to. It’s just a sad fact that every year computer hardware gets less and less reliable, not more and more… because people want to pay less and less for their equipment. No one is going to pay $5,000 for a computer anymore, not even a hardcore gamer. Most of us want a computer in that sweet spot of $500-$750 and there’s a lot of technology in there.

There are only a few ways to keep hardware costs down… you can cut out functions, like leaving out the CD writer or floppy disk, but sooner or later you’ve cut out all you can. You can use less powerful chips or smaller drives, but people want fast computers with lots of space. That leaves the least desirable alternative, which is to use cheaper components that have cheaper software support. That’s what happens all the time and while you may be ok with it on an everyday basis, sooner or later it’s going to get you. That’s where a few simple steps can keep you running just long enough to get your data to another computer or to the cloud.