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How to Troubleshoot a Keyboard

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/28/2009

If your keyboard suddenly does not work at all, or certain keys do not seem to be doing what they should, you cannot perform the tasks you need to do. Fortunately, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to resolve these problems and fix your keyboard.

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    Keyboard Doesn't Do Anything

    Troubleshooting a keyboard that doesn't work at all often tends to be an easy fix. Make sure the keyboard is plugged into the computer correctly. Shut down the computer first, and then unplug the keyboard from the port. Verify that it is in the correct port and then restart the computer. Not only might the keyboard have been plugged into the wrong port, but if you have a PS/2 port and the keyboard cable was inserted while the computer was turned on the computer might not have recognized the keyboard.

    If you have a wireless keyboard, the first troubleshooting step to take is to try installing fresh batteries. Also, make sure the adapter for the wireless keyboard is inserted properly into the computer.

    If the keyboard is still unresponsive after trying these troubleshooting steps, check the status of keyboard's driver. To do so, go to the Control Panel from the Start menu. Open System from Classic View or System and Maintenance from Category View. Open Device Manager. Expand Keyboards by clicking the ~ezentity_quot+ezentity_quot~ to the left of it. Right click the name of the keyboard you are troubleshooting and select Properties. On the General tab, check the Device Status box to see if there is a problem detected. If not, go to the Driver tab. Click the Update Driver button and search for updated software for the keyboard.

    Keyboard Driver Troubleshooting 

    Once you have completed all of these troubleshooting steps, your keyboard should be working again. If it is still unresponsive, try installing it onto another computer, if possible. If the keyboard does not work at all on a different machine, then the keyboard itself is damaged and will need to be replaced.

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    Keys Don't Work

    If only some of the keys on your keyboard are not working, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can try to fix this problem. The first would be to check the device status and update the keyboard's driver. Follow the same steps listed in the previous section to do so.

    When the driver is updated, restart the computer and open a text editor such as Notepad. You can do so by right clicking any blank area of the computer desktop, pointing to New and selecting Text Document. Type "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" or press the keys that were not working before to check and see whether the keyboard is now working properly. If not, your keyboard may simply need to be cleaned. Read How to Clean a Keyboard or How to Clean a Laptop Keyboard for tips on safely and properly cleaning the keyboard.

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    Keys Don't Match

    Perhaps you are troubleshooting a different problem in which the keys you press on the keyboard do not match the characters that are displayed on the computer. If so, your computer may be using the incorrect language settings. To troubleshoot and fix this problem, open the Control Panel from the Start Menu and select Regional and Language Options. Go through the various tabs of the Regional and Language Options dialog box and make sure the correct language and country or region are selected. Don't forget to click Apply after making any changes.

    Troubleshoot Keyboard Language 

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    Special Keys Don't Work

    If the problem you are troubleshooting consists of keys such as the Windows key or the Shift key not working, the problem should be easy to fix. It is likely that the Sticky Keys feature was inadvertently enabled. Simply press the Shift key five times in a row. Sticky Keys will be turned off and your keyboard will be working properly once more.

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    More Resources.

    For more keyboard help and how-to tips, check out Print and Save: List of Keyboard Shortcuts and The Many Different Types of Keyboards - Your Choices.