Few things are more frustrating than when your keyboard stops working. Of keys that don't respond properly to power and backlight issues, a lot can go wrong with keyboards these days, even if you've picked a reliable model. Let's take a look at common problems users have and what solutions they can tap back into as soon as possible.
The keyboard stops responding
If the keyboard previously worked fine but suddenly stopped working, this indicates a power or software problem. Start with the basics: If you have a wired keyboard, check that your connection to the computer is stable and established. Unplug the connector and reconnect if necessary. For wireless keyboards, check to see if they have battery life / new batteries left and plug them into a power source to see if that solves the problem.
If you have a wireless keyboard on the software side, turn off the bluetooth connection and then turn it back on to see if that helps. If not, check to see if you need updates and install them. You should also check the Device Manager and Keyboards sections to see if drivers need to be updated individually with a new version.
Even if no updates are waiting, unplug all other accessories from your computer except those that you need and restart the computer. A full restart with no other connections can fix unresponsive keyboards.
If all else fails, run a virus scan: some malware can interfere with accessories such as keyboards and make them function poorly.
The keyboard turns on but does not work at all
If you see the indicator lights come on but no response from the keypad, check your connection first. For wired keyboards, verify that they are plugged into the correct USB port: Different keyboards are designed for different USB protocols and may not be compatible with all ports, even if they turn on. For wireless models, check the bluetooth connection and try disabling and reconnecting bluetooth to see if it makes a difference.
If everything worked out fine, it's time to go to your keyboard drivers. Find Device Manager and open the window. Find and expand the Keyboards section to view your current drivers. Right click to uninstall the drivers and restart your computer. When you sign in again, Windows should automatically find and download the correct drivers for your keyboard.
You can also try visiting the Dells keyboard diagnostics page for a closer look at the exact errors.
Certain buttons no longer work
First, look for basic reasons why a key might not work. For example, if you have a numeric keypad, you likely have a numeric keypad that you can use to turn it off. If this lock key was accidentally pressed, it explains why certain number keys don't work.
Otherwise, this problem indicates a hardware problem with that particular key. If you have a mechanical keyboard or some other version that allows you to detach that particular key, check out what's under it. Sometimes a crumb or bit of dirt will prevent the key from properly pressing the switch, and blowing it away will fix your problem.
You may find that part of the button or switch is permanently damaged. This is a more serious problem that requires the keyboard to be pulled back for at least a while. With mechanical brands of keyboard, you can sometimes buy and replace individual keys and switches to solve such problems. Otherwise, it is probably time to start looking for a new model of keyboard.
The keys remain stuck while typing
Lock keys are a primary sign that your keyboard is dirty and needs cleaning. There are many levels of cleaning: some users like to spray jets of compressed air and hope for the best. We're not big fans of this option as it can push crumbs even deeper into the keyboard than before, and we prefer to use a vacuum brush accessory to completely vacuum out debris. However, in the event of a serious malfunction, the best solution is to remove the keys and do a thorough cleaning (this may not be an option with scissor or butterfly keyboards, but a good wipe will still help). Check out our guide to cleaning a keyboard for more useful information.
Every keystroke leads to repetitions
If multiple characters are entered each time a key is pressed when only one is to be entered, entering them quickly becomes an annoying problem. If the key itself feels stuck, it is usually dirt or grime. Pull the plug out of the socket and carefully pull out the button. Wipe the key and the surrounding area with a cloth with a little alcohol or some other solvent.
We also recommend going to Keyboard Settings and trying to adjust keyboard sensitivity and related features to see if you can fine tune your writing style and sensitivity.
The keyboard has the wrong characters
This usually means that the software layout on your computer does not match the keyboard you are using. Fortunately, you can quickly change the layout to one that suits your keyboard. Look for the Windows Region & Language section. In this new window, select your language and options to see how that language is supported. In the Keyboard section, make sure that only your specific keyboard layout is supported.
(Oh, and make sure no one has mistaken your keys as a prank.)
Key presses react too slowly
This can also be a problem with a dirty key or some dirt that has partially blocked the key switch. If possible, take the key off and clean it with water and a Q-tip or similar option. Then inject some compressed air.
If that doesn't fix the problem, go to your keyboard settings. Keyboard settings, including third-party keyboard software, include options to “filter” keys or adjust keyboard repeat rates to slower levels. Turn off all filtering options and experiment with similar settings to see if this helps get the answer feature where you want it.
Keyboard shortcuts don't work
Read our article on useful shortcuts to make sure you are using the correct shortcut. You should also check the keyboard settings: Windows offers an option for "sticky" keys, which require pressing one key at a time to activate the shortcut. If this was turned on by mistake, it could be causing your problem.
The keyboard backlight or RGB lighting does not work
Lighting problems, while annoying, usually have simple solutions. First, check the keyboard software settings to make sure the lights have been turned off or adjusted. Often times, if everything looks fine, lighting problems can be solved by restarting your computer, unplugging the keyboard, and then plugging it back in after restarting your PC.
If that doesn't work, find your specific keyboard model online and re-download the drivers or update the firmware as needed.
If you recently spilled something on your keyboard, it could cause some or all of the backlight to stop working and not turn on. You can try looking for a compatible "backlight sheet" to replace your old version. However, this is not a guaranteed solution. Choosing a new keyboard might be your best option right now.