Mouse pad missing from desk.
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Mousepads have been a staple on desks for decades, but as mice have gotten better, they’ve become less necessary. You may not technically need one anymore, but you should still use a mouse pad.

When Mousepads Were Needed

The public debut of the mousepad occurred in 1968 during what has become known as “The Mother of All Demos.” It was used by Douglas Engelbart as he showed off some revolutionary computer hardware and software.

Of course, mousepads were created in response to computer mice. The first mouse used two wheels to track movement, but they quickly evolved to use trackballs instead. Mousepads were created to increase the friction of the ball in the mouse.

Without a rubberized mousepad, the trackballs could easily slip and not register movement as accurately. If you’ve ever used one of these ball-based mice without a mousepad, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. A mousepad was very much needed.

Over time, trackballs were replaced by LEDs and photodiodes to detect movement. Those early light-based mice needed special mousepads with patterns to detect movement, but eventually that wasn’t necessary either. Which brings us to today, where almost any mouse can be used perfectly fine on any surface.

RELATED: Why Is a Computer Mouse Called a Mouse?

The Case for Using a Mousepad

Since mousepads are no longer needed to ensure precision of moving your mouse, some people have decided to go without. However, there are still plenty of benefits to using one.

First of all, a mousepad is just plain comfortable. Using a mouse—even a fancy ergonomic model—on a hard surface without a mousepad doesn’t feel great on the bottom of your palm and wrist. Sure, every once in a while, it’s fine, but doing that every day would build up some calluses.

A mousepad not only protects your hand, it also protects your desk. Almost any type of desk surface—especially wood—will start to show wear if you don’t have a mousepad. That wear can be anything from oil and grime from your hand to permanent scratches. It’s easier to clean or replace a mousepad than get a new desk.

Speaking of wear, your precious mouse can also show signs of use much quicker without a mousepad. The little pads that help it glide smoothly will get worn down and scratched, making the mouse more difficult to use. Again, it’s easier to use a mousepad than find replacement pads or buy a new mouse altogether.

In general, a mousepad enables a more enjoyable computer experience, and it will contribute to the longevity of your hand, desk, and the mouse itself. That’s a win/win/win.

Get Yourself a Nice Mousepad

Logitech desk mat.
Logitech

You may be surprised to learn mousepads have changed a lot recently if you haven’t used one in a while. More and more people are using large “desk mats” instead of the classic circle or square mousepad.

A desk mat has all the same benefits of a traditional mousepad, but it goes under your keyboard as well. This means it can double as a wrist pad for typing and act as a coaster for cups and mugs. if you sit at a desk a lot, I highly recommend a desk mat.

Of course, there’s still plenty of traditional mousepads in all shapes, colors, and patterns to choose from. A mousepad may not be the most exciting computer accessory, but it’s one you should have in your arsenal.

The Best Mouse Pads of 2023

Amazon Basics Gaming Computer Mouse Pad
Best Overall Mouse Pad
Amazon Basics Gaming Computer Mouse Pad
Orbitkey Desk Mat
Best Large Mouse Pad/Desk Pad
Orbitkey Desk Mat
SteelSeries QcK Gaming Surface
Best Gaming Mouse Pad
SteelSeries QcK Gaming Surface
Corsair Gaming Mouse Pad
Best RGB Mouse Pad
Corsair Gaming Mouse Pad
Vornnex Ergonomic Memory Foam Mouse Pad
Best Ergonomic Mouse Pad
Vornnex Ergonomic Memory Foam Mouse Pad
Logitech G440 Hard Gaming Mouse Pad
Best Hard Mouse Pad
Logitech G440 Hard Gaming Mouse Pad
Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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