Using a Microsoft Bluetooth Mouse on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

Today’s blog post is a bit of a note to self. As usual, I had solved this problem once before, but had to repeat a fair bit of work to solve it again on another box. So I thought I should really write it up, for future reference.

Over the last several weeks I have been working through some long-awaited upgrades to my home PC. This involved performance upgrades (the usual mainboard, CPU, RAM combo), quietness upgrades (basically I replaced all the fans with lower-noise Noctua fans for a very significant improvement), and human-interface upgrades (mice and keyboards). Most of the process was fairly straight forward, so I’ll spare you the details there. With the mice, however, I hit a few snags (which I must say were not unexpected).

Background

The problem at hand is how to pair recent Microsoft Bluetooth mice with an Ubuntu box, and get them to work. This applies at least to the following models:

  • Microsoft Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse
  • Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Mouse
  • Microsoft Surface Mouse (which looks suspiciously like the Microsoft Modern Mouse)

I have each of the above models, and this solution has been tested with all of them. (The first model is what I use as a portable mouse with my Surface; the others are intended for my desktop, which has a dual-seat setup.)

The difficulty is that, with an out-of-the-box Ubuntu setup, the mice will pair but will not work.

Solution

First of all, you’ll need a bluetooth adapter that supports the 4.0 LE standard or later. You can check what standard your system supports by running the following command:

hciconfig -a

The Bluetooth version is listed under “HCI Version”. Next step involves editing a couple files in the system:

  • /lib/udev/rules.d/50-bluetooth-hci-auto-poweron.rules
    • Comment out the only non-commented line
  • /etc/bluetooth/main.conf
    • Uncomment the lines with “[Policy]” and “AutoEnable=true” (the latter one needs to be edited)

Reboot, and pair the mouse. At this point it should work, but if not, try un-pairing and re-pairing once (in some cases this may be necessary).

Just to make life more interesting, the web page where I had found the solution originally (when pairing the Arc Touch with my Surface) seems to be offline. Thankfully, the web archive has a copy.

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4 comments

  1. Great article – I used to run Linux on a Windows machine but now mostly work off my Macbook…. anyway in the past I have also struggled with these things, so pretty sure this page will get picked up on Google searches quite a bit.

    • Thanks Nick. Yeah these technical articles tend to find their way to Google quickly. And they get the lion’s share of the traffic too…

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