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Fix: Function Keys Not Working


If you recently bought a new computer, it’s likely that your Functions keys are reversed, broken, flipped, or whatever you want to call it.

The point is, you want your keys the opposite of what they currently are, and it’s a big deal…

I almost returned a BRAND NEW computer that I loved because I thought that my Function keys were broken.

Note: If you want a more flexible solution, allowing you to switch between your media keys and function keys on the fly, see this article on what to do if your keyboard shortcuts aren’t working.

Are your Function keys or media keys dominant?

To see which of your keys are currently dominant on your computer, simply:

  1. Fire up PowerPoint, Word or Excel
  2. Hit a naked F1 key on your keyboard (only touch the F1 key)
  3. 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.

Why are the Function keys set up like this?

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.

Resetting your Function keys

In a nutshell, here is how you reset your Function keys:

  1. Restart your computer
  2. Interrupt your computer's normal startup (hit Enter at the launch screen)
  3. Enter your System BIOS
  4. Navigate to the Keyboard/Mouse setup
  5. Set the F1-F12 as the primary function keys
  6. Save and Exit

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 screen, such as an iPad, so you can follow along.

Step #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.

Step #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.

Step #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.

Step #4: Navigate to the Keyboard/Mouse setup

To get to this setup, do the following:

  1. Hit the right arrow key to navigate to the Config tab
  2. Use the down arrow key to highlight Keyboard/Mouse and hit Enter.

Step #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.

Step #6: Save and Exit

With your Function keys now flipped, hit F10 to Save and Exit the BIOS utility.

Step #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.

What's next?

Updated on December 11, 2017

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