Num Lock: What It Is And How It Works

How to find and use the number lock key on Mac and PC

A dial lock on top of a white keyboard

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Number lock is a feature found on most keyboards, including those with designated numeric keys above the letter keys. Even compact laptop keyboards have a Num Lock key, and many Mac keyboards support a similar feature.

Information in this article applies generally to all keyboards for PC and Mac computers.

What Does Num Lock Do?

Number lock replaces the functions of certain keys on the keyboard with a numeric keypad. Some computers turn on number lock automatically during start up, but it must be manually enabled on most compact keyboards.

This often ignored feature can be beneficial in a few situations. For example, some people find it easier to type long sequences of numbers using a keypad like those found on phones and calculators. Also, activating num lock is occasionally required to type special characters like curly quotes.

How to Turn on Num Lock

Press the Num Lock key to toggle the number lock feature. It may be labeled NumLock or NumLK on your keyboard. If you don't see a designated Num Lock key, it could share a key with another function. Many keyboards have an LED that lights up when Num Lock is enabled.

Some computers turn on number lock automatically during startup, in which case pressing the Num Lock key will disable it.

Where is the Num Lock Key?

Traditional keyboards for desktop computers have a keypad on the right side in addition to the horizontal row of number keys above the letter keys. Num Lock is usually located in the upper-left corner of the keypad.

Num Lock is usually located in the upper-left corner of the keypad.
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Num Lock on Laptops and Compact Keyboards

Because laptop keyboards are typically more compact, Num Lock and the numeric keypad often share keys with other characters or functions. Look for "Num Lock" or "NumLK" near the Backspace key on the upper-right side of your keyboard. If a key has two functions, the alternate function might be labeled in a different color. Hold down the Fn (function) key and press Num Lock to activate it.

On some keyboards, there's a designated key just for number lock, but you still must hold down Fn as you press it. If Num Lock is labeled the same color as the Fn key, then this is probably the case.

Num Lock on Mac

On Apple keyboards with a numeric keypad, the Clear key is typically located where the Num Lock key would be on a PC keyboard. Although they don't technically support number lock, most Macs have a built-in accessibility feature called Mouse Keys that lets users control the cursor with the number pad. If your keypad stops working because Mouse Keys is activated, try pressing Clear or Shift+Clear to reset it.

How to Turn Off Number Lock

Once enabled, number lock will remain active until you disable it. Num lock works like the caps lock feature in that it can be toggled on and off by pressing the appropriate key. No matter which keyboard you're using, turn off num lock the same way you turned it on.

How to Use Num Lock in Windows 10 With the On-Screen Keyboard

If your Num Lock key is broken or missing, it's still possible to enable the number lock feature with the On-Screen Keyboard:

  1. Type "OSK" into the Windows search bar at the bottom of your screen and select the On-Screen Keyboard app when it pops up.

    Type OSK into the Windows search bar at the bottom of your screen and select the On-Screen Keyboard app when it pops up.
  2. Select the Options key on the on-screen keyboard.

    Select the Options key on the on-screen keyboard.
  3. Select Turn on numeric key pad, then select OK.

    Select the box beside Turn on numeric key pad.
  4. Select the Num Lock key on the on-screen keyboard.

    Select the Num Lock key on the on-screen keyboard.
  5. The keypad on your physical keyboard should now work, and you can continue typing as normal.