IntelliMouse phones home

By Brian Livingston

I’ve seen several comments from readers about versions of Microsoft’s IntelliMouse software — its configuration utility for pointing devices — trying to quietly establish an Internet connection. For example, Bill Kennedy sent in the following description of his experiences:
  • “Here’s something that caught my eye after I changed my firewall to Outpost a few weeks back, which traps outbound IP sniffs. It has to do with the MS IntelliMouse Pointer.exe program attempting to contact MS via ports 453x at regular intervals.

    “Sometimes it’s an MS 207.xxx.xxx IP address, and sometimes it’s origin2.microsoft.com, which appears to be a clone of whatever the current www.microsoft.com home page is at that time. [Note: At present, the origin2 URL re-directs to Microsoft's Windows Update page. —Brian L.] Needless to say, I’ve permanently blocked Pointer.exe from hitting the Internet.

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    “Perhaps you can find out why it is doing this surreptitious nonsense (I would like to use a much stronger word), as well as why MS does not tell us!”
Everyone is justifiably worried about programs that try to contact a server on the Internet without the knowledge and permission of the PC owner. But in this case, the “phone home” behavior seems to be caused by IntelliMouse’s “auto update” feature, not a privacy or security threat.

I should note that there are several IntelliMouse products that have been sold by Microsoft over the years, many of which are now obsolete. (Some wags suggest that many of these products were obsolete when they first came out.) For example, the Basic IntelliMouse and IntelliMouse with IntelliEye have been discontinued for some time. Microsoft now sells the IntelliMouse Explorer, IntelliMouse Optical, Wireless IntelliMouse, and so forth. Each of these products is a hardware pointing device with associated software.

The older IntelliMouse’s attempts to contact microsoft.com are caused by its driver file, which is named Pointer.exe. The cure is to download and install a newer driver, which bears a name such as Point32.exe (if available for your model of IntelliMouse).

It’s best to first uninstall the old IntelliMouse software, using the Control Panel’s Add/Remove Software applet, and then install the newer driver. During the setup routine, you can disable “auto update.” More info

There are several other quirks about the various versions of Microsoft’s IntelliMouse software that are worth mentioning, in case they relate to problems you may be having. These gotchas are described below.  

Wheel and button problems in Windows XP
If you use IntelliPoint 5.0 software on Windows XP Home or Pro, the mouse’s scroll wheel and customized button assignments may not work. You might also find that the entire PC crashes about 10 minutes after being restarted. This affects at least the wireless versions of Microsoft’s IntelliMouse Explorer, Optical Mouse, and Wheel Mouse.

Microsoft says this is caused by Terminal Services not being enabled on Windows XP. You could turn on Terminal Services, but if you don’t have a need for this program, I recommend you leave it turned off.

A better solution is to install an IntelliPoint software update, which Microsoft re-released as recently as February. If you use that Microsoft’s IntelliType Pro 5.0, it has a related problem that also requires an update to its software. More info 

Mouse and USB keyboard cause 1-hour bootup delay
If you plug a PS/2-style mouse into some of the current crop of USB keyboards, it may take up to one hour for Windows 2000 to boot up. Microsoft says this happens about 5% of the time in this configuration.

If this occurs to you, you may be able to work around it by plugging and unplugging the keyboard during the waiting period. This point in the startup process occurs when the progress meter is showing its 12th bar.

Upgrading to Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 solves the issue. But if you don’t wish to install that upgrade, you can get an updated version of a file named i8042prt.sys from Microsoft’s Product Support Services. More info 

Mouse preferences need resetting on every restart
If you need to re-establish your preferred mouse properties every time you boot up, something probably knocked Point32.exe out of the Startup group. This prevents it from running automatically and finding your pre-established settings.

The easiest way to fix this is to drag a shortcut to Point32.exe into the Startup group. To do this, open Windows Explorer, then look for Point32.exe in the Microsoft Hardware subfolder under the Program Files folder. Make sure you can see the Startup subfolder in another Windows Explorer pane or another instance of Windows Explorer (the subfolder is under Documents and Settings, your logon name, Start Menu, Programs). Then right-drag Point32.exe into the Startup folder and click Make Shortcut on the context menu that appears.

I’m sending a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of his choice to reader Kennedy for his help with this topic.

To send me more information about these problems, or to send me a tip on any other subject, visit WindowsSecrets.com/contact.
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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2004-04-22: