Microsoft Trackball Explorer, discussion continues

I’ve today posted an update to the original 03 July 2007 article about the demise of the venerable Microsoft Trackball Explorer pointing device. Check out the original article, the update (following the original article), and the countless comments the post has received over the past year. What’s the matter with Microsoft?!

12 thoughts on “Microsoft Trackball Explorer, discussion continues”

  1. hi all you ballers,if like me,after years of use you have warn flats on your three bearings. i have fixed the problem,hears how disassemble your explorer drill holes in casing behind the barrings carefully.then press balls out from the other side and reinsert after rotating the bearings and spot with superglue on the side from which you drilled.this is very tricky for the average bod good me if you need help. []

  2. I’m curious if anybody has tried using the TBE with Windows 7. Any problems? I’m still using my original TBE that’s over 7 years old. I’m currently running XP Pro SP3 but want to give Win 7 a try, but not without my TBE.

  3. Hiya guys.

    Just thought I’d add my experience.

    My first TBE was bought around 2000 for the standard retail price – I think it was about £35 GBP.
    This lasted me years, but finally gave up the fight with flattened ball bearings and dodgy buttons, so it’s been packed away since about 2006. I sourced a 2nd hand one on eBay UK for about the same price ( I was lucky!) and when it arrived it was like new. This is the one I’m currently using to date. Realising the rising price and rarity of these, I ‘saved’ my search on eBay and got daily or weekly (as appropriate) emails from eBay telling me of new auctions. One appeared and I was fortunate enough to get in touch with the guy moments after it the auction appeared. There was little description but it was in a box, so I just went ahead and offered him £50 GBP to sell it me there and then – he agreed, stating he wasn’t concerned about the prices they went for, he needed fast cash to go visit friends, so I bank transferred the money and the trackball was sent. When it arrived I was shocked to see it was absolutely brand new. It’s now my VERY last resort back up! 😀

    Now, after Googling about I see an Asian guy on YouTube drilling out the three bearings on his TBE and replacing them. I also read about people ‘turning’ the bearings. So today, I thought what the hell. My fist TBE needs attention. I have two more, so I’ll give it a go.
    This is EASY guys. I didn’t even take the TBE apart, I just used a tiny penknife to ‘pop’ the bearings out, turned them, and popped them back in. Lo and behold, the ball spins perfectly and works like a dream. Some attention to the intermittent micro switches and this will be a fully working TBE. Anyone with any doubts, don’t be afraid. They just pop out with a little persuasion. The ball isn’t ‘held’ in place any more like it used to be. It still falls out when the TBE is turned over, so I suspected there was maybe wear on the ball itself, but popping a brand new ball in made no difference.. Perhaps there’s wear elsewhere, or I have put the ball-bearings back in too far? I don’t know about that yet. I measured the bearings whilst out, and they appear to be 1.5mm in diameter. A local company do bags of ten of these bearings for literally pennies, so I’m thinking of replacing them as well as fixing the switches, and I’ll hopefully tackle the ball falling out issue along the way.
    Interesting to note, the guy on YouTube seems to drill three new holes in the red casing and insert three (maybe four?) new ball bearings. This seems to me to be a great idea.

    As a footnote (and as well as the ‘save search’ tip on eBay) I posted on a forum I use to ask if by any chance anyone had one of these knocking about that I could buy for repair. Within moments a pleasant chap that I have already dealt with replies that he has one, and that is now on it’s way to me too! So now, I have 4 of these TBE’s. They ARE out there. They must be for the eBay guys to be able to offer spares and repair services, so keep looking.

    Here are some pics:

    First, the repaired TBE with the bearings turned, which took me all of 5 minutes.

    And secondly, just to be smart, my brand new one. 😉

    Hope that’s helped anyone who’s thinking of attempting a repair. Go ahead, it’s a breeze.

    P.S. Works no prob with Windows 7. I *think* I may have used XP compatibility mode on the install for the Intellipoint software, though I may just have used the MS Vista drivers, not sure. But it works exactly as it should on Win7.

  4. Update:

    Had the first TBE in bits and the switches were fine.
    The one piece grey plastic that is the left and right click assembly had actually snapped inside (???) which was causing the intermittent clicks. A bit of superglue and some tape for rigidity and all’s working well again. Not bad for a 9 year old much used mouse.

    And for a word of encouragement – the innards of these are very easy to work with. All bits could be replaced or re-fabricated (read botched even!). My biggest (albeit, slight) hindrance was the many screws of differing lengths. Mark these as you take them out and your re-assembly will go without a hitch. This 9 year old TBE is now my main mouse and is working alongside me as I speak.

  5. Tip on drilling out the bearings: The smallest bit I had was a 1/8 brad point which I decided was way too beg for the job, so I turned to a sewing kit and took a needle and installed that on my drill; worked like a charm!

  6. Greeting,
    I used forum to get information for that i had in my class. This is an excellent site for this information

  7. Hi Minnickup! Thanks.. and I’m glad you’ve found the information here helpful! 🙂

    All: Had some server downtime week before last, but things should be back to normal again.

  8. hi

    your advice looks good, my one is playing up, so i have taken it apart, broke a couplf fittins for the small board on the base, but some sticky back foam holds it on place, and i do see for the 1st time i have looked, that the balsl are flat, will explain quite a lot, of what was wrong with this, and also i clean the wheel, as that has started to make webapges and the like move on their own accord, no to put the thing back together, ive not found a better mouse, and dont want ot have ot buy something else

  9. If you are like me and have the fooling Microsoft Trackball Explorer, Logitech track ball or Kensington Turbo Ring pointing devises, you will undoubtedly find that after some time in the Microsoft Trackball Explorer, and Logitech track ball FX the 3 small bearings will get flat spots and the big ball starts to stick, Plashing helps but not for long. The only solution is to replace the balls. One option is to go on e-Bay and send it into one of these places charging from $46 to as much as $80 to supposedly refurbish the device. Well let me tell you, the USB cable is more then likely fine and the addition of shielding is BS as the device needs none, and messing with the inside is a raspy for damaged parts. Infarct I saw one of theses “rebuilt units” the PCB was superglue in place and they did more damage then they actually had to fix as the butanes never worked the same again. So what can you do? Simple take a X-acto number 11 knife and slightly dull the tip, using the tip pry gently under each ball from the top once the big bal is out. The little buglers will pop out try not to damage the plastic so go slow and be patent. Once the balls our out you will be left with 3 little holes.

    Order 3 Ruby Balls #B 2.00 R price is $10 from Install the balls by carefully dropping them in to the holes and snapping them in with a genteel pres from your finger nail. Don’t crush them in its is not necessary. The result is a fantastically smooth rolling ball for a fraction of what the e-bay rip-off place charges and you never had to open the mouse

    Enjoy. Fell free to email questions

  10. My TBE has worked perfectly for over 10 years but today the left click function wouldnt allow me to scroll up or down with it. Otherwise the left click works fine. I have switched to the right click as a primary for the time being but that isnt a permanent fix. Does anyone know what might cause this problem and how to repair it. I cant use it in its present state so i dont mind taking it apart and trying to fix it even though im no technician. Finally, does anyone have a recommendation for other trackballs that work well. Nothing i have ever found compares to the TBE! Thanks for the help.

  11. @bearcatjer Until TBEFan gets his TBE replacement (Kickstarter) project off the ground, the best alternative is Logitech M570. Getting used to the thumb-operated trackball takes a week or so, and it’s never as accurate as a forefinger-operated trackball (such as TBE), but it works and it’s well built (and it’s wireless). If you combine it with the free X-Mouse Button Control software (on Windows), it gets the job done. Hopefully in the near future we’ll get to place orders for the “next generation TBE” (also wireless & other improvements). Updates will be posted here as well as on the project forum at

  12. I’m thinking that if someone has a 3D printer they could reproduce the most often broken parts such as buttons and perhaps bases in the case of the “clip in” model with more durable materials.

    We’ve solved the bearing issue with ceramics, so now broken buttons and clips in the base (and connections due to stiff ribbon cables after repairs) need to be solved.

    I’d be in much better shape if the two models didn’t have very few interchangeable parts.

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