Static or skipping from your Bluetooth speaker? It could be your mouse! (whaaaaaa?)

Don’t laugh, this happened to me. I don’t usually listen to music at my desk but when I do I use a Bluetooth speaker. Why? Because the built-in speaker on my computer is … a little lacking. I prefer to hear music that sounds like it was created in this century, not designed for some 78rpm wind-up Victrola. I think it’s a genuine shame that PC makers can’t put a little more thought into the sound systems in their devices, but I guess every penny counts when you’re competing. Or something like that.

Brr…bzzt…flppp

So, I was plugging along listening to my favorite stuff and I started to notice that the music was skipping and their was a lot of static. I thought maybe I had a bad file, so I tried another one. Same problem. I thought, well I use iTunes and it just updated, so maybe it’s a bug. They say the Groove Music app on Windows 10 is pretty good. I never cared, but let’s try it, right? Same problem. Worse, in fact. I switched to Spotify, thinking it could be a problem with my hard drive. No difference.  So, I stopped to think what could be going on.

And then it got weird

And, when I stopped working and started listening to the music, the problem went away. That really worried me. Could it be something wrong with the hard drive? Could there be some process eating up so many resources that playing music became impossible? I looked deep into the system and everything looked fine.

So I had a few things to do, and I observed the problem was actually worse when I moved the mouse and not when I was typing. AHA! There’s the problem. I have a Bluetooth mouse! I switched to my backup wired mouse and the problem went away!

Bluetooth can be a pain

I did some checking around. It turns out that Bluetooth devices can interfere with each other if they pass a lot of data between them. This can happen with networking and high-bitrate music. If there’s not enough bandwidth and errors occur, then there is error correction and that can actually make music seem to skip.

I’ve had my problems with Bluetooth over the years. It turns out it’s a great technology for wireless headphones but it’s not incredibly reliable for computers. This has more to do with the way Windows 10 handles Bluetooth as oppose to Bluetooth itself. If you use a wireless keyboard or mouse that has its own little nubbin, it’s reacting with the PC in a very basic way. Your PC actually thinks the nubbin is a mouse or a keyboard. Not only that, it understands that mice and keyboards are pretty dang important. So, nothing’s going to override the keyboard and the mouse.

On the other hand, if you have a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse, your PC essentially says, “Eh. It’s just a Bluetooth thingie. It’s less important.” And so if other things go on with your computer, it’s probably ok to ignore the Bluetooth thingie. It’s not like it’s a keyboard or a mouse or anything.

Microsoft could fix this problem by understanding that Bluetooth keyboards and mice are important, but they won’t. That would take a lot of work and I guess the problem isn’t as widespread as you’d think.

What’s the solution?

If you have this problem, use Bluetooth for one thing and not the other. Many speakers have wired inputs, and there are plenty of non-Bluetooth mice. One way or another you can solve this problem. I did.

Oh, and by the way, shop for the best computer accessories at Solid Signal. 

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.