How to change your mouse cursor in Windows

Change your mouse cursor in Windows with these quick tips

The mouse cursor is one of the pillars of modern user interface design. Even if you’ve transitioned to a tablet or touchscreen device like Microsoft’s great Surface Pro line, sometimes you just need that reliable old cursor, especially in an operating system that still skews heavily toward the conventional desktop (i.e., Windows).

But that doesn’t mean you have to stick with the default option. Users looking for different cursor colors and size, whether for better visibility or simply based on cosmetic preference, can follow our simple guide on how to change your mouse cursor in Windows. Changing the cursor to a variety of built-in Windows 10 “themes” — which function as collections of cursors for normal operation, text selection, hyperlinks, etc. — is fairly easy, but users can also customize individual images or install themed packs.

Changing the default cursor

Step 1: Change mouse settings

Click or press the Windows button, then type in “mouse.” Click or tap Change your mouse settings from the resulting list of options to open the primary mouse settings menu. This is also available from the primary Settings application. Then select Additional mouse options.

In older versions of Windows, the Mouse or Touchpad settings shortcut is usually found within the Control Panel.

devices menu
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 2: Choose a scheme

In the Mouse Properties window that appears, select the Pointers tab. The first option there is Scheme, and it’s all that most users will need. Click the drop-down menu and you’ll see roughly a dozen different cursor schemes. These are collections of static and animated images that completely replace the default “arrow” cursor and its associated tools. Most of them are boring but functional, and they take on the regular Windows look. The variations come in white and black for the best contrast, and in a variety of sizes to suit different screen resolutions and those with poor eyesight.

scheme
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 3: Select and apply a scheme

Click on any of the schemes to see a preview of the applicable cursors in the bottom half of the window. You can move back and forth between them to compare the color and size. The “inverted” schemes are especially useful for those who have a hard time seeing the standard white cursor.

When you’ve found one that looks good to you, click Apply to implement the changes. Then return to the Mouse Properties menu for any additional changes in the future. The Enable pointer shadow option adds a cosmetic shadow to the cursor — it’s interesting, but not all that useful.

Customizing cursors

If you’re looking to change one or more individual cursors, that’s easy to do as well.

Step 1: Select a cursor

In the Customize portion of the window, select the cursor you’d like to change. There are 15 different cursors that can apply to different situations in Windows 10, though most of the time the primary pointer, link pointer, text select, and window resizing cursors are all you need to worry about.

To select a custom cursor for the highlighted individual item, click Browse. That will open the default Cursors folder, “C:WindowsCursors,” where hundreds of different cursor options are available.

browse menu
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Step 2: Pick a function

Click one that matches the function (not the scheme) of the current cursor, then click Open to apply it to the current scheme. You can repeat this step as many times as it takes to get the desired result or click Use Default to return to the standard cursor for the scheme in question.

Repeat the process with any other individual cursors you’d like to change, then click Apply to activate them.

Downloading cursor packs

Customizing Windows interface elements has become less popular as of late, but it’s still an option for more advanced users. There are many programs that will install additional cursor schemes or individual cursors to the default menu, such as Stardock’s CursorFX, and sites like the Open Cursor Library have dedicated sections for custom cursors. Once installed, these are selected in the process mentioned above.

If you’ve found one or more individual cursors that you want to install manually, you’ll need to copy their image files directly to the Cursors folder. In Windows 7, 8, and 10, this is in the default Windows installation folder, usually located at “C:WindowsCursors.” The Browse function we previously outlined can actually go to any folder on your PC, but it’s usually best to keep all your cursor files in the default folder for easy access.

When downloading individual cursor files or add-on programs, exercise caution as with any download — ransomware and other malware attacks are increasingly serious problems and can’t be taken lightly. Do not download files or programs from questionable sources, and check files with a virus scanner before opening them.

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