How to Unlock a Keyboard That's Locked

Troubleshooting frozen computer keyboard issues

What happens when your computer or laptop keyboard locks up? It could be caused by a few different things, and there are several ways to get it working again. Here's how to unlock a keyboard that's acting up.

This article focuses on causes and solutions for Windows-based PCs although some of the fixes could apply to any trouble-making keyboard.

What Causes a Keyboard to Lock Up?

Any number of problems can cause your keyboard to lock or freeze up. You may have inadvertently pressed a key combination that causes your keyboard to hibernate (this is especially true on a laptop), of your keyboard, may not be properly connected to your system. If using a wireless keyboard, it's possible that there's a connection problem. Regardless of the issue, a keyboard that's locked isn't very useful, so you need to get it going again as quickly as possible.

How to Fix a Keyboard That's Locked

The method you'll use to fix your keyboard if it's locked or frozen will depend on the cause of the problem, but these troubleshooting steps should work. These solutions are listed from the easiest and most likely to work to harder, but could possibly work. So, try each step in order until you find the solution that gets your keyboard active again.

  1. Restart your computer. It seems like a simple fix, but for some reason, restarting a computer can clear up all kinds of issues. At the very least, if your keyboard is locked up because of some issue with a program or application you're using, restarting the computer can close out that program and release your keyboard from its death grip.

    Restarting may also fix the problem if what's actually going on is that your computer is frozen, and not just the keyboard. If that's the case, the issue is probably not with the keyboard at all.

  2. Turn off Filter Keys. Filter Keys is a feature in Windows that lets you ignore repeated keys or slows down the keyboard repeat rate. You enable or disable it by depressing the right Shift key for 8 seconds. You should hear a beep and a brief message will flash on the screen.

    If you've accidentally enabled Filter Keys, it could be the cause of your keyboard not working. Try disabling to get functionality back.

  3. Try your keyboard with a different computer. If you're using an external keyboard, try connecting it to another computer. You can even install a wireless keyboard on another computer to see if the issue is with the keyboard or the computer.

    If the keyboard works with the other computer, then the problem you're facing is with the machine and you may need to open the Device Manager to see if your keyboard is being recognized by your computer, especially if it seems a USB-connected keyboard isn't being recognized.

  4. If using a wireless keyboard, replace the batteries. Even brand new batteries can fail, so even if you've recently changed the batteries in your wireless keyboard, try replacing them with fresh batteries.

    It's also possible that the USB dongle that the keyboard connects through could be loose or not well seated in the USB port. Try unplugging it and then reconnecting it.

  5. Clean your keyboard. A dirty keyboard may result in keys that don't work or get stuck, and a key that is stuck in the depressed position could be preventing any other keys from responding.

  6. Check your keyboard for physical damage. Frayed cords, broken keys, and cracks in the housing could cause a computer keyboard to experience mechanical failure. If this is the issue, you'll need to replace the keyboard completely.

  7. Check your keyboard connection. If you're using a wired keyboard, make sure the plug is properly seated in the USB port and that the end connecting to the keyboard is intact and undamaged. The best way to do this is to completely disconnect the keyboard and then reconnect it.

    If you're using a wireless keyboard, the USB dongle that the keyboard connects through should also be properly seated in the USB port. Try completely disconnecting it and then re-pairing the keyboard to the computer to get a clean, fresh start.

  8. Update or reinstall the device drivers. A corrupted or out-of-date device driver could cause connection issues between your keyboard and your computer whether it's wired or wireless. Try updating the device driver.

    If that doesn't work, then you can completely uninstall and reinstall the device driver. You may need to download drivers from the manufacturers' website.

When to Replace Your Keyboard

If none of these troubleshooting steps get your keyboard working again, then it might be time to replace your keyboard. There are plenty of wireless keyboards, ergonomic keyboards, and keyboards that are designed for specific purposes, like wireless gaming keyboards, to choose from. So, maybe a keyboard that's locked and can't be unlocked is a good opportunity to upgrade to something better.

  • How do I fix keyboard keys that aren't working?

    To fix it when a mechanical keyboard key isn't working or is unresponsive, unplug the keyboard or remove its batteries before trying to fix it. Try a different cable and clean the keyboard. Pry the keycap off the unresponsive switch, hold the keyboard upside down, and blow out the switch using canned air. You can also use contact cleaner on the key switch.

  • How do I fix sticky keys on a keyboard?

    If your keyboard keys are sticky, turn off the computer and unplug the keyboard. Gently dislodge the sticky keys using a key puller, moisten a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol, and clean the keys and plungers. Replace the cleaned keys and wait until everything is fully dry before plugging it back in.

  • How do I fix keyboard keys typing the wrong character?

    If your keyboard is typing the wrong characters, disabling Num Lock may fix your problem. If not, you may have inadvertently changed your keyboard layout. Click the language button on the taskbar to check. You can also try running the Windows keyboard troubleshooter to see if this solves the problem.

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