There is nothing worse than learning a new keyboard shortcut only to discover that it DOESN’T work on your computer.

Or worse yet, one of your favorite keyboard shortcuts like F12 for Save As suddenly doesn’t work. In this post, I’ve pulled together a list of 6 reasons why your keyboard shortcuts might not be working, and how to fix them.

If NONE of these shortcut fixes work for you, you most likely have a hardware issue. That means you probably need to replace your keyboard or buy a new computer (bummer).

Here are five common reasons why your keyboard shortcuts might not be working (all described below).

  1. Inversed media keys
  2. Language bar
  3. International keyboard layouts
  4. Mac keyboard
  5. Program trolls – the worst!

Once you’ve fixed your keyboard shortcuts, you can see a list of the top 25 Windows 10 shortcuts that will save you time, read our shortcut guide here.

1. Inverse Your Function / Media Keys

Most new computers start with the media keys at the top of the keyboard as the dominant command.

That is, if you hit the F1 through F12 keys, the media keys (mute, lower volume, increase volume, etc.) are triggered, rather than the standard F1-F12 commands.

Note: If your media keys aren’t working, that means your F1 through F12 keys have been set as the dominant commands.

There are three different ways you can solve the media key problem:

A. Add the Function key (Fn) to your shortcut

Add the Fn function key to your shortcuts to fix them

Whichever problem you are having with your media keys, adding in the FN key to your shortcut will solve it.

For example, if F12 for Save As is not working in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, that probably means that your media keys are dominant.

You can just hit FN + F12 and your ‘save as’ keyboard shortcut will work. Below you can see examples of what your shortcuts will look like by adding the function key.

Add the function key to your shortcuts to make them work

B. Function lock your Function / Media key

If you want to use your media keys once in a while but still use your shortcuts normally, you can simply lock your media keys.

To lock your media keys, find the Function Lock (FnLock) command on your keyboard and activate it. On my keyboard, the Function Lock shortcut is FN + ESC.

Hi the Fn plus FnLock key on your keyboard or hold down the Fn key to lock your function key

In this way, you can lock your Media keys, using the volume and mute commands when you are watching a movie on your computer, and then unlock it when you are using Excel, PowerPoint and Word, so you can use all of your F1 through F12 keyboard shortcuts normally.

C. Switch your media keys (System BIOS)

If you want your media keys to ALWAYS be in a specific way (you don’t want to flip back and forth between them) you can permanently inverse your function keys. This means that you will not have to add the function key to your keyboard shortcuts to make them work.

For example:

  • F12 for Save As instead of Fn+F12
  • F2 to edit a cell in Excel instead of Fn+F2
  • Alt+F10 for the Selection Pane in PowerPoint instead of Fn+ALt+F10

As you can see, having to add the extra function key is annoying. If you want to reset your function keys, you simply need to restart your computer and go into your System BIOS. For help fixing your function keys like this, read our guide here.

2. Adjust Your Language Bar Settings

If you are using more than one language input on your computer (English, Chinese, French, etc.) your language bar might have overridden some of your favorite keyboard shortcuts.

Adjusting your language bar settings can free up your shortcuts that are not working

To adjust your language bar keyboard shortcuts, follow these steps, according to your version of Windows (see which image looks like your computer above):

Version #1

  1. Click on your language bar
  2. Select Language preferences
  3. Scroll down to Related Settings and click on Additional date, time, and regional settings
  4. Under the Language section, click on Change input methods
  5. In the left sidebar, select Advanced settings
  6. In the Switching input methods, select Options
  7. Select Change language bar hotkeys
  8. Change the key sequence for shortcuts that are missing

Version #2

  1. Right-click your language bar
  2. Select Settings
  3. Select Advanced settings
  4. In the Switching input methods, select Options
  5. Select Advanced key settings
  6. Change the key sequence for shortcuts that are missing

For a video walkthrough of this, see the video at the top of the page at 1:52.

Use the change language bar hotkeys menu to adjust your shortcuts

3. International Keyboard Layouts Are Different

International keyboards have different shortcut combinations causing your shortcuts to not work

Most keyboard shortcuts that you find online are quoted using a standard U.S. keyboard.

That means that if you are using a Dutch, French or other non-English keyboard, the key sequences might be slightly different.

There is no formula for converting U.S. keyboard shortcuts into other language keyboards, so you’ll have to find your shortcuts one by one. In this case, Google will become your best friend.

4. Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Are Different

Most keyboard shortcuts are quoted based on Windows PC keyboards.

That means that if you are using a Mac or a Mac keyboard, your key sequences might be slightly different and will require a bit of extra research.

In general, the CMD key on a Mac translates to the CTRL key on a Windows keyboard, allowing you to quickly learn Windows keyboard shortcuts.

Example of the different keys on a Mac keyboard which could be why your shortcuts are not working

For example, here are the Windows and Mac versions of the Copy shortcut:

  • CMD + C to Copy on a Mac keyboard
  • CTRL + C to Copy on a Windows keyboard

To learn more about the Copy shortcut (and how to use the Clipboard Copy to copy up to 24 items at once), read our guide here.

While some keyboard shortcuts are the same (or remarkably similar), often Mac shortcuts are longer (requiring more keys).

  • CMD + OPTION + G to Group on a Mac keyboard
  • CTRL + G to Group on a Windows keyboard

5. Watch out for Program Trolls (the Worst!)

Having a program troll hijacking your shortcuts is another common way you might lose access to your favorite keyboard shortcuts, for no apparent reason.

Program trolls are simply other programs on your computer that have their own set of shortcuts that take over your existing ones.

This can happen immediately when the program is installed on your computer (like EverNote), or it can happen only when the program is open and running (like GoToWebinar). Three common program trolls I see are EverNote, GoToWebinar and Camtasia.

There are a variety of programs like Evernote, goto webinar, skype, and Camtasia that will hijack your keyboard shortcuts

To get your old keyboard shortcuts back, all you need to do is:

  1. Find the program troll in question (this might take some trial and error)
  2. Open the settings or options for that program
  3. Find the Hotkey or Shortcut section
  4. Find your lost shortcuts and change them in the program

Changing the shortcuts for each program troll should automatically turn on your old shortcut, but you can always restart your computer to make sure it takes.

Example removing shortcuts from Evernote to fix your broken keyboard shortcuts

To see an example of me clearing out some overridden Evernote shortcuts, see 4:11 of the video tutorial at the top of the page.

Final thoughts

So those are different ways you can fix your shortcuts if your keyboard shortcuts suddenly aren’t working.

Using keyboard shortcuts is the FASTEST way to improve your productivity and save time, regardless of which program you are using. That’s why it’s important to know how to fix your shortcuts if they are not working.

If I missed a technique in this article, please let me know in the comments section below as that will help others fix their shortcuts too.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about our training courses and other free resources, visit us here.