Troubleshooting a keyboard and mouse issue turned out to take a little while to figure out:

“It seems that the Windows update in early October has screwed up the settings for my computer.  I cannot insert my PIN (no dots appear in the box as I type), I got a message that I was holding down the CNTL button and would I like to open Word in Safe Mode, my mouse wheel is now Zoom, not Scroll, when I type a search, each letter triggers a prior search beginning with that letter, when I click on an email it does not open (a new tab is entered in the taskbar which I then have to click on)… and on and on.  I flail around and around and eventually, things mostly return to normal for a while.  But, if I am away from the keyboard for an hour or so, I am back to square one.  What on earth is going on?”

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I’m not so sure the Windows update is to blame. Are you using a wireless keyboard and mouse?  If so, one or both of them might be the issue. Try reseating or replacing the batteries in both devices.  Low batteries can cause all kinds of weird behavior including jumping cursors, mysterious keystrokes, difficulty typing, and more. If there’s a USB receiver involved, make sure it’s securely in place or try moving it to another USB drive. You may also want to go to your device manager and update drivers for the devices.

I passed this advice on to the reader via email and told him to let me know if any of these solutions worked.

He replied a bit later.

“I looked at your advice, but mice and keyboards (two, seated and standing) seemed to be working OK.  I found workarounds like a hard shutoff or two that would work for a time, then the old craziness.  When the craziness returned soon after powering up this morning, I suspected weak batteries, knowing that they regain some strength when OFF but that diminishes over time.  Pulled them from my little-used standing position keyboard and the craziness went away.  Apparently, the marginal voltage was causing a signal that a CNTL key was being depressed and a subsequent keystroke from either keyboard initiated an associated Function.  That might also explain the message upon powering up “scanning and repairing drive C” if a CNTL key depressed at that time triggers a scan of drive C.  Does it?”

Congratulations on successfully troubleshooting your problem. Pressing Ctrl on startup will indeed start the configuration utility for your PC. And you bring up a good point.  If more than one keyboard or mouse is linked to your device a problem with any of those devices can cause issues. Years ago I worked in an office where someone else had the same wireless mouse that I did and when they moved his desk close to mine, my PC started responding to his mouse clicks.

That’s why my first bit of advice when a wireless keyboard or mouse starts behaving oddly is to replace the batteries. Even if the issue doesn’t appear to be caused by the battery.  I’m glad the solution worked!