The dangers of setting your double-click speed too short

After I noted how the window manager uses the double-click time as a basis for determining how good your reflexes are, people got all excited about reducing the double-click speed to make Windows feel peppier. But be careful not to go overboard.

Back in the Windows 95 days, we got a bug from a beta tester that went roughly like this:

Title: Double-clicks stop working after using mouse control panel
Reproducibility: Consistent, hardware-independent
Severity: Major loss of functionality

  1. Open the mouse control panel.
  2. Go to the Double-click speed slider.
  3. Drag the slider all the way to the right (fastest).
  4. Click OK.

Result: Mouse double-clicks no longer recognized.

We had to explain to the beta tester that, no, everything is actually working as intended. But if you set the double-click slider to the fastest setting, you had better be good at double-clicking really fast. You have clearly set the double-click speed was faster than you are physically capable of double-clicking. Maybe you can ask your twelve-year-old nephew to do your double-clicking for you.

That's why there is the test icon next to the slider. Before clicking OK, make sure you can still double-click the test icon. If you can't, then you picked a setting that's too fast for your reflexes and you should consider a slower setting.

Pre-emptive Yuhong Bao comment: In Windows 95, the test icon was a jack-in-the-box.

[Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (31)
  1. Medinoc says:

    Wow.. The authors of the linked page obviously confuse "speed" and "delay"…

    You make Windows "faster" by reducing the double-click delay, therefore increasing the double-click speed.

    On the subject of today’s post, it’s funny how sometimes users have uncommon expectations, leading to mistake the "commonly expected" behavior for a bug…

  2. Robert says:

    I think the bigger problem here is that it isn’t intuitive how to get at this setting if you can’t double click (for example, it isn’t intuitive for most users how to open a control panel applet without double clicking it).

  3. Neil says:

    Maybe you should have been required to double-click the test area to confirm the change in double-click speed, or better still (but harder) make the panel actually learn your double-click speed instead of making you find it out by trial and error. (I’ve never bothered to adjust it, but my natural double-click speed seems to be between 90% and 100% of that slider.)

  4. Matt Newman says:

    I don’t know Neil, I really doubt that forcing people to prove they can double click fast enough would solve the issue. Instead bugs would be reported saying the test area wasn’t working.

  5. Brian says:

    I really like the idea of having a little icon with text above it:

    "double click this icon to set your double click speed"

  6. SuperKoko says:

    I set the double click delay short to be able to make two single clicks at small intervals.

    This is useful for interfaces not recognizing a double click as a click so that, if you click at regular short intervals, half of the clicks have no effect.

    Another example: Renaming a file in explorer by clicking on the text label after having selected it (with a previous click).

    Other than that, it doesn’t make Windows feel faster.

  7. DWalker says:

    Huh?  I don’t know how much of those comments were meant to be ironic, but making the double-click speed faster doesn’t make Windows "peppier" or "faster".  No matter how long the double-click delay is set, you can still double-click very fast if you want to.

    Two relatively SLOW clicks (where the time between clicks is larger) will be seen as a double click, or as two separate clicks, depending on the speed.

    Setting the speed to fast just REQUIRES that your double-clicks are very close together for you to have any hope of sending the OS a double-click.  Windows doesn’t seem "peppier"; it just forces YOU to click faster.

    I make Windows seem peppier by turning off all of the icon and menu animation and taskbar icon sliding and smooth-scolling textboxes.  Everything "snaps" into place instantly, so Windows seems to operate faster.  My screen doesn’t seem to be full of molasses.

    I also set my mousewheel (in the Mouse control panel) so that pressing it sends a double-click.  I’m not sure how that works, exactly; maybe the mouse driver sends two VERY fast clicks (with no mouse movement between them) to the OS.  I suspect that those clicks are sent faster (closer together) than is humanly possible.

  8. lpetrazickis says:

    DWalker, Windows uses the double-click setting to determine the ideal delay for showing menus.

  9. DWalker says:

    lpetrazickis: I didn’t know that, but now I think I remember that Raymond’s previous post said something about it.  I had forgotten, since it seems so strange.  Oh well.

    TweakUI has both double-click settings and menu delay settings.  I’m not concerned enough to wonder how they are related to Raymond’s earlier post on the topic…

  10. Leo Davidson says:

    DWalker59, The first link in this post goes to Raymond’s previous post about the setting which I think explains everything in just a few words (including the menu vs double-click time).

  11. Hieronymous Coward says:


    CTRL-ESC, R, main.cpl

    What’s not intuitive?

  12. Zem says:

    CTRL-ESC, R, main.cpl

    What’s not intuitive?

    Stating the answer before the question.

    What’s really confusing?

  13. Médinoc says:

    For me, the natural way of accessing the mouse properties without double-clicking is via the context menu.

    What’s REALLY confusing is when a program has set the double-click to an action NOT in the context menu. Yes, I’ve seen programs like that.

  14. WinKey says:

    What’s not intuitive?

    That you used CTRL-ESC, R instead of Win+R?  That you expect that everyone knows the shortcut keys?  That I had to actually press CTRL-ESC to figure out what it did?

  15. mvadu says:

    CTRL-ESC, R, main.cpl

    What’s not intuitive?

    Exactly the same thing you mentioned, how many common users do you think would know how to get in to Mouse Properties dialog box through the way you mentioned.

    I think better way would be to have a information bubble saying "You Have recently changed the Double Click speed, If you are facing difficulties in double clicking after that Click here to revert back" or some thing like that..

  16. SuperKoko says:

    Setting back double-click time to a normal value is pretty difficult if you know about the [RETURN] key. Click+[RETURN] is equivalent to double-click in explorer.

    With newer Windows versions, by default, Explorer comes with a single-click interface, which makes things even easier.

  17. Yuhong Bao says:

    "With newer Windows versions, by default, Explorer comes with a single-click interface, which makes things even easier."

    No, it isn’t the default, but yes since IE 4 you could set Explorer to open items on a single-click, not a double-click.

  18. Nidonocu says:

    Let me be the first to say, I miss the little animating Jack in the Box.

  19. KJK::Hyperion says:

    I miss the tambourine animation during system upgrades

  20. Erzengel says:

    I’ve had and corrected such moments as a beta tester myself. Usually in the process of researching a bug-that-is-not-a-bug, determining what exactly went wrong and what you need to do to cause it to happen, you will usually figure out that it’s not actually a bug. I’ve always had other testers sitting right next to me and they usually help in determining "oh hey, that’s not a bug."

    Makes me wonder what exactly happened there. Don’t you have someone that recieve the bugs before they are posted to the development team?

  21. Sinan says:

    Hmmm … I must be very agile then. I have always set my double click speed to the max and never had problems. One of the benefits of using a touchpad I guess.

    — Sinan

  22. monkey fuel says:

    yes, that sounds like tester mentality to me: i can’t get it to work implies that it must be broken

  23. Worf says:

    Hmm… I recall that one Windows version had that "double-click here to set double-click speed" thing…

    Was it Windows 3.x? Or maybe I’m mistaken… and it was double-TAP speed in Windows CE. (Which I can’t see why it isn’t in regular Windows since taps just send LBUTTON_DOWN events in the end.

  24. andl says:

    I miss the tambourine animation during system upgrades

    Seconded. I imagined myself a drumroll sound, making me all excited about the new gizmo’s that were about to be unveiled.

    Pre-emptive Yuhong Bao comment: In Windows 95, the test icon was a jack-in-the-box.

    In Gnome, it’s a lightbulb :)

  25. Gregor Petrin says:

    I had to solve a problem once that involved a computer where ‘the desktop was broken’.

    Turns out they had a virus that did no serious damage but would annoy the user by playing little tricks on her, like setting the double-click speed to its lowest setting, thus ‘disabling’ double clicking.

    It sparked my interest enough that I did a bit of research about the virus after removing it from that particular computer, the actual virus was actually just a host that would download naughty modules like the double-click-disabler from a remote site and install them. Apparently, there was even an API :)

  26. gechurch says:

    There’s a really simple way of fixing this issue. Make the OK button on the Mouse Control Panel require double-clicking instead of a single click. Voila. Set the double-click speed slider too high and you can’t save the setting!

  27. SuperKoko says:

    There’s a really simple way of fixing this issue.

    Make the OK button on the Mouse Control Panel

    require double-clicking instead of a single click.

    This would break a GUI interface principle, providing a weird non-standard interface to a standard-looking widget. I don’t expect many people to understand it.

    I’d rather require the user to successfully double-click the test area before enabling the [OK] button.

    A plain english label would explain that, to validate the choice, the user has to successfully double click in the test area.

    We had to explain to the beta tester that, no,

    everything is actually working as intended.

    Right, it’s not a bug. However, a fool-proof OS should make it hard to mess up to the system to a point it isn’t usable anymore.

  28. James Schend says:


    I once had a GEOS disk for my Commodore 64 I liked playing around with. Since Commodores didn’t typically come with mouses, but most of them had joysticks, GEOS let you use a joystick as a mouse. Which was good, because it was so mouse-oriented, many things had no keyboard equivalent at all. (Like old Mac OS versions)

    Anyway, once while playing around with it I went to the control panels and fiddled with the mouse tracking speed. For some reason, no doubt inspired by some genius, the low end of the mouse speed setting was actually 0. If you set the mouse speed to 0, the mouse didn’t move. At all. And it was impossible to unset. And GEOS saved the setting to disk immediately, so even rebooting wouldn’t work.

    It made it clear to me why Windows took off and GEOS didn’t. :)

  29. Lanny Heidbreder says:

    Am I mistaken, or did the maximum double-click speed get reduced somewhere around the time of Windows XP? I seem to remember having to force myself to slow down my single-clicks because a Windows upgrade handicapped me.

    I’ve certainly gotten used to it, because now I’m in complete agreement with <a href="">Neil above</a> — my preferred speed now is between the last two increments.

  30. kd says:

    In Gnome, it’s a lightbulb :)

    I had to open my preferences window to check this one.

  31. The Imp says:


    For me, the natural way of accessing the mouse properties without double-clicking is via the context menu.

    Before Windows 95, there was no context menu (for the Control Panel)


    That you used CTRL-ESC, R instead of Win+R?

    Before Windows 95, there was no WinKey

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