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My mouse has an unfortunate feature. On the left side, right where my thumb sits ever so gently when I'm using it, there are two buttons that are so sensitive a mere brush will make them click.

I'm talking of course about the pesky forward/back buttons which, if pressed in a browser, can make watching that hour-long youtube video that much harder. Is there a way for me to disable them? Would this be handled by X?

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I'm almost sure that you can turn it off using xinput, but I don't know details... – pbm Sep 12 '11 at 15:10
This question and the answer also applies to back / forward buttons on keyboards, e.g. on Thinkpad keyboard – Daniel S. Sterling Mar 20 '13 at 13:32
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Start the program xev in a terminal. Move the mouse inside the xev window; you'll see a lot of stuff scroll by. Press each button in turn. Then switch back to the terminal window and press Ctrl+C. xev shows a description of each input event, in particular ButtonPress and ButtonRelease for mouse clicks (you'll also see a number of MotionNotify for mouse movements and other events).

It's likely that your forward and back buttons are mapped to mouse buttons, maybe buttons 8 and 9:

ButtonPress event, serial 29, synthetic NO, window 0x2e00001,
    root 0x105, subw 0x0, time 2889100159, (166,67), root:(1769,98),
    state 0x0, button 8, same_screen YES

If that's the case, remap these buttons to a different action in your browser; or to disable the buttons altogether, put these lines in a file called ~/.Xmodmap:

! Disable buttons 8 and 9
pointer = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 0

Test it with the command xmodmap ~/.Xmodmap. Most desktop environments and window managers run this command automatically when you log in; if yours doesn't, arrange for it to run when X starts.

It's also possible that your mouse sends a keyboard event when you press these buttons:

KeyPress event, serial 32, synthetic NO, window 0x2e00001,
    root 0x105, subw 0x0, time 2889100963, (957,357), root:(2560,388),
    state 0x0, keycode 166 (keysym 0x1008ff26, XF86Back), same_screen YES,
    XLookupString gives 0 bytes: 
    XmbLookupString gives 0 bytes: 
    XFilterEvent returns: False

In that case, put lines like these in ~/.Xmodmap:

keycode 166 = NoSymbol
keycode 167 = NoSymbol
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No_Symbol generated an error for me on Fedora 18: bad keysym name 'No_Symbol' in keysym list -- but using NoSymbol instead works fine – Daniel S. Sterling Mar 20 '13 at 13:33
Thank you both for the question and the answer. Incidentally, to reduce the insanity of the xev output, just pipe it through grep: xev | grep -A2 ButtonPress ; this will leave all the mouse motion events, focus events, etc. and just show the ButtonPress events, which is all you need here. – Lambart Sep 19 '14 at 18:50

You could use xev to find which key maps the button maps to and use the code below (in $HOME/.xsessionrc) to map it to something you are not using.

xmodmap -e 'keycode THE_CODE_HERE = XF86Launch1'

Alternatively, you should be able to do that from a GUI of you use Gnome/KDE or any other modern desktops.

Yet another option would be to hack the xorg.conf to remove the button definitions.

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