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 shortcut 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).

[Watch] Keyboard Shortcuts Not Working

Here are 5 common reasons why your keyboard shortcuts might not be working (all described below).

  1. In-versed media keys (0:25)
  2. Your language bar (1:52)
  3. International keyboard layouts (3:00)
  4. Mac keyboard (3:38)
  5. Program trolls – the worst! (4:11)

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

1. In-verse 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, you have the opposite problem: 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.

B. Function lock your Function / Media key

If you want to use your Media keys every 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 inverse your function keys.

To do that, you’ll need to restart your computer and flip them in 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.

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.

3. International Keyboard Layouts Are Different

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

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

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

There is no catch-all description for what will and won’t work, so you’ll just have to look them up for your specific keyboard. 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 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.

Mac keyboard shortcuts are different and often times longer than PC keyboard shortcuts

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

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

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

To learn all the ins and outs of the group shortcut on a PC in PowerPoint, see our guide here.

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 you install on your computer that have their own set of shortcuts that take over your existing keyboard shortcuts.

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 GoTo Webinar). 3 common Program Trolls I see are EverNote, GoToWebinar and Camtasia.

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.

Keyboard shortcuts are one of the FASTEST ways to improve your productivity and save time, regardless of which program you are using.

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


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