Why is my cursor flickering?

Written by stephen byron cooper Google
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Why is my cursor flickering?
Some cursor flicker is normal. (Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The cursor is an icon, a symbol, a pointer or some sort of indicator that reflects on the screen the movement of the mouse or the mouse pad. A second type of cursor indicates the current position in a document or drawing and can coexist with the mouse cursor. Different applications use different symbols for the cursor. The cursor may change appearance within the same application under certain circumstances, or it may disappear, blink, flicker, or freeze. Some of this behaviour is normal, some is worrying.

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Normal flicker

The cursor marking the current position in a document blinks at a standard rate. This is to draw attention to itself, but also to show that you may continue typing. If the word processor gets overloaded with other tasks, momentarily, like saving the document, the cursor will cease to blink, or even disappear. This shows that you cannot add any text at that moment and that you will have to wait for the blinking to start again before you can continue. This form of cursor flicker is useful and not a problem. You should not worry if your document cursor blinks. You should worry if it stops flickering.

Changing cursor

Some applications use the cursor to indicate different modes. For example, applications, like online maps, that enable the use to drag a view on a larger picture, change the cursor from a pointer to a hand when the user presses the left mouse button. When the user drags the view, that open hand will change to a clenched hand. Word processors that represent the mouse cursor as a long thin “I” change the cursor when it moves into an area of menus to show a pointer. The cursor may also change if the application is occupied and wants to show the user it cannot respond at that time. In these cases, it is usual for the cursor to change into an hour glass.

Boundary conditions

Most applications are programmed to have a precise location for the change from one cursor icon to another. However, less sophisticated programming languages may struggle to show the cursor if it rests exactly on the changeover point. In these instances, it is possible that the cursor will switch back and forth rapidly between its two icons and cause a flickering effect.


The cursor may flicker if the process or the computer is heavily loaded, it does not have time to refresh the image of the cursor quickly enough and so it will cause the cursor’s blink rate to erratically turn on and off in time with its processing of commands in the application. Similarly, if the program of an application does not build in a small delay in the manipulation of the cursor, the cursor may toggle rapidly between its ready state and occupied state with each effort of the program, erroneously showing that the application is ready for input when it is momentarily unoccupied as it passes from one process to another.

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