If you recently bought a new computer, and your function keys are not working, it's likely that they are reversed, broken, flipped, or whatever you want to call it.
The point is, your keys are the opposite of they way you want them, and it's a big deal...
I almost returned a BRAND NEW computer that I loved because my function keys were not working the way I wanted them to work.
This is also a classic reason why you might think that your keyboard shortcuts aren't working. To see a full list of reasons and how to fix them, see our guide here.
Dominant function keys or media keys?
To see which of your keys are currently dominant on your computer, simply:
- Fire up PowerPoint, Word or Excel
- Hit a naked F1 key on your keyboard (only touch the F1 key)
- Evaluate what pops up
If you get the Help menu, your Function keys are dominant (my personal preference and setup).
If you mute or unmute your computer (or had some other media function happen), your media keys are dominant.
Before you switch your functions keys...
Before you switch your setup and commit, here’s the main reason why new computers start with the new media key setup.
Most people barely use any keyboard shortcuts at all. They just don’t.
As a result, the trend appears to be making the media keys dominant on new keyboards. The manufacturers probably figure that it will encourage more people to start using them.
That said, if you are a keyboard jockey, spending the majority of your time at the office crunching Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides, this default setup will drive you nuts.
That’s because it complicates your basic keyboard shortcuts, like these ones:
- Save As: F12
- PowerPoint Selection Pane: ALT + F10
- PowerPoint Rulers: ALT + SHIFT + F9
- PowerPoint Grid Lines: ALT + F9
Note: Switching the setup of your function keys as described below has ZERO effect on your computer’s operating system. It’s simply a personal preference based on how you work best.
How to fix your Function keys
Warning: To fix your functions keys, you’ll need to restart your computer and make some changes to your System BIOS.
As such, I recommend re-opening this page on a separate computer screen, such as an iPad, so you can follow along.
In a nutshell, these steps to fix your function keys are this (all detailed below):
- Restart your computer
- Interrupt your computer's normal startup (hit Enter at the launch screen)
- Enter your System BIOS
- Navigate to the Keyboard/Mouse setup
- Set the F1-F12 as the primary function keys
- Save and Exit
1. Restart your computer to get at your BIOS
To inverse your Function keys, you first need to get to your System BIOS.
The only way to get there is to Restart your computer: Windows Button, Power Options, Restart.
2. Hit Enter at your computer's launch screen
As your computer restarts, when you see your computer’s logo onscreen, hit Enter (or whatever it says to hit beneath the logo). On my Lenovo, it says: “To interrupt normal startup, press Enter”
After hitting Enter, just sit tight for a second while the Startup Interrupt Menu loads.
Note: It might take you a couple of times to nail the timing (it took me three times). So if you miss it, don’t freak out…just restart your computer and try it again.
3. Enter the BIOS Setup Utility
Once the Startup Interrupt Menu loads, hit F1 to enter the BIOS Setup utility.
If your startup menu is different than mine, just follow whatever prompt it gives you to get at your BIOS Setup Utility.
Don’t dally here either. This menu is on a timer that exits back to a normal computer startup. If you miss it the first time, take a deep breath and start over again with step #1.
4. Navigate to the Keyboard/Mouse setup
To get to this setup, do the following:
- Hit the right arrow key to navigate to the Config tab
- Use the down arrow key to highlight Keyboard/Mouse and hit Enter.
5. Set the F1-F12 as the primary Function keys
Within the dialog box that opens, navigate to the F1-F12 keys and just reverse whatever you have.
On my Lenovo computer, it is: F1-F12 as Primary Function [Enabled].
If you want the revers, you can disable the F1-F12 keys to set your media keys as the dominant keys.
6. Save and Exit
With your Function keys now flipped, hit F10 to Save and Exit the BIOS utility.
7. Double-check that everything is now as it should be
Once your computer restarts, open an Microsoft Office program like PowerPoint, and hit F12 for the Save As Dialog Box.
If hitting F12 opens the Save As dialog box, you are now all set up and ready to go.
If not, you probably just missed one of the steps above or didn’t save your setup.
Keyboard Shortcuts STILL Not Working?
Inversed functions keys are just one of the reasons why your shortcuts might not be working.
To see other reasons why your shortcuts might not be working (and how to fix them) see the short video below or click here.
If you use A LOT of PowerPoint, Word and/or Excel, I highly recommend flipping your functions keys. That way you can take advantage of a number of useful keyboard shortcuts in these programs, like F12.
If you want to learn more about how to speed up everything you do in PowerPoint, including tips and tricks and shortcuts, you can learn more about our training courses here.