Windows XP enables it by default, I don't know about vista or 7, in Mac OS X you have to buy a shareware to remove both mouse acceleration AND accelerated scrolling.

Why are those things always accelerated and why isn't there an option, is there any science behind it, because it feels so unnatural, I don't understand how it can be the default behaviour.

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    On the contrary, I feel better with acceleration on. It helps me get to any corner of the screen without giving my hand a workout. – JoJo Jul 28 '12 at 22:30

What mouse acceleration essentially does is applies a sort of logarithmic scale to the distance moved per milisecond based on the speed you are moving at.

The general concept is that when you are moving the mouse faster, you are trying to move it to a point further away, so acceleration scaled the distance the pointer will move to be even more than you moved it. You will slow down as you get closer to your target point, and then accuracy is more important, so it acceleration will move the mouse pointer a smaller distance than what you really moved it.

I don't have the references to studies on this, but I read one years ago, and for the average person, this resulted in less movement of their mouse while working as well as faster and more accurate pointer movement.

To experience this directly, turn it on and then move your mouse pointer across the screen very slowly and note how much your mouse had to move. Then move your pointer across the screen fast and note the difference. If you turn acceleration off, there will be (or should be) no difference.

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  • Less movement, maybe, but more accurate pointer movement, this is really subjective and I really doubt it. An average user cannot predict the position of the cursor if there is acceleration, it has to be linear. I played a lot of FPS, and I can assure you mouse acceleration is not intuitive at all. – jokoon Jul 28 '12 at 13:38
  • I mean, when you look at something, your eye manage to align itself with the target directly thanks to linearity, it will not rotate faster if you rotate your eye faster. Pointing a cursor onto something should work exactly the same: if you want your cursor to go somewhere, your brain will do the same just like your eye. It's not like it's a car which accelerate, and slow down before reaching its destination. Optical mice are very precise, and the screen is not a huge area. – jokoon Jul 28 '12 at 13:44
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    @jokoon: the movement is still very accurate, since when you need to have a pixel-size precision, you just slow down. On a large screen (or, better, three monitors setup), without acceleration you will constantly run out of space for your mouse on your desktop. – Arseni Mourzenko Jul 28 '12 at 21:17
  • no I won't, I just change my mouse sensitivity. – jokoon Jul 29 '12 at 8:39
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    Some people prefer not to have it, but the tests that have been done show that it make mouse use much faster and more accurate for the majority of people. So personal preferences aside, UX wise it seems to be a good idea. – JohnGB Jul 30 '12 at 7:56

Because it allows users to seek targets quickly at the cost of accuracy, which is bearable in a desktop environment because large monitors can accommodate large buttons and icons, increasing target size.

This is a different interaction to that you experience playing an FPS (you mention this as a comparison in one of your comments), where targets are smaller and rapid turns are irrelevant except for in melee scenarios.

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  • large monitors ? not everyone can buy a 24" monitor or a 27" imac – jokoon Jul 28 '12 at 19:09
  • @jokoon - even small monitors provide desktops with significantly more screen estate than other devices, in part thanks to the high resolutions of desktop outputs. When I say 'large', I mean in the context of other electronic interfaces - not just PCs. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Jul 28 '12 at 23:22
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    @jokoon, you asked a general question so you're getting answers that reflect that. If your question is "why would someone with one small monitor use mouse acceleration?", you might want to ask that specifically. (Though I've found it helpful on a single 17" monitor -- obviously tastes vary.) – Monica Cellio Aug 17 '12 at 16:27

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