Windows key not working: Here’s how to fix it on Windows 10

If your Windows key is not opening the Start Menu and none of the Windows key shortcuts are working, your Windows key is not working. While this is not a computer-breaking technical problem, it’s understandable to want complete functionality of your Windows operating system and peripherals. The Windows key is one of the most commonly used keys in Windows 10. Continue reading to learn the origins of the Windows key, the most useful Windows key shortcuts, why your Windows key might not be working, and the best solutions to fix a Windows key that is not working.

What is the Windows key?

The Windows key is a function key built into most modern keyboards. It made its first appearance in 1994 when the Microsoft Natural keyboard was released. Apple has had a similar function key, the Command key, since 1980, while Linux computers have had the Meta key since 1970. Following its first implementation during Windows 95, Microsoft has continued adding and refining the shortcuts associated with the Windows key for each operating system.

The Windows key may be referred to as win, winkey, or WK depending on the source. The Windows key, illustrated with the Microsoft logo, is currently found on the left-hand side of the keyboard, between the Ctrl and Alt keys. Additionally, some keyboards have a second Windows key on the right-hand side as well.

When you press the Windows key, the Start Menu will open. From there, Windows 10 users can use the search bar and access programs, folders, and documents.

Windows key location on a keyboard

In addition to the Windows key, Microsoft has also developed the Menu function key. This key looks like a menu with a cursor hovering over the menu. When pressed, this function key will open whatever menu is associated with your current window or application. So, instead of right-clicking the mouse to open a menu, users can use the Menu key.

Menu key location on a keyboard

If your keyboard lacks a Windows key, or your Windows key is not working, you can instead press Ctrl+Esc. This shortcut will open the Start Menu, just like the Windows key would. Unfortunately, the other Windows key shortcuts will be unavailable to you in this situation.

Common Windows key shortcuts

Listed below are some of the most useful Windows key shortcuts. Once you learn these, you will be using them every day:

  • Open Task View: Windows key + Tab
  • Open Quick Link menu: Windows key + X
  • Lock your Computer: Windows key + L
  • Display or Hide Desktop: Windows key + D
  • Maximize Window: Windows key + Up arrow
  • Take Screenshot: Windows key + PrtScn

Why is the Windows key not working?

The Windows key may stop working for multiple reasons, with the common causes listed below:

  • Windows key has been disabled
  • Keyboard has been damaged
  • Debris (food, dust, etc) stuck under your Windows key
  • Outdated or incompatible Windows 10 Game Mode
  • Filter key bug
  • Windows 10 update software conflicts

Perform these Quick Checks First

You should try these quick fixes before you begin working through the solutions outlined in the following section. When troubleshooting issues with peripherals, there are a few issues you want to rule out first.

  1. Restart your computer. This classic troubleshooting solution fixes the majority of keyboard issues.
  2. Clean your keyboard. You can physically remove the keycaps (keep their orientation so you know how to put them back) the clean underneath. Don’t use any water. Instead you can use compressed air to dislodge any debris and gently tap your keyboard upside down. Also check for damage to the cord and plug.  
  3. Scan your system for malware that could be interacting with the Windows key.
  4. Close extraneous applications from the Task Manager. An application may be disabling Windows key functionality. This application can then be uninstalled.
  5. Plug another keyboard into your computer to see if the problem follows to the new keyboard. If the problem remains the issue is unrelated to the hardware and most likely a software issue.
  6. Some keyboards allow for the Windows key to be disabled and will have a lock symbol and indicator light. Check that this light is off on your keyboard.
  7. Replace batteries for wireless keyboards. Low battery can cause an array of keyboard issues.

How to fix the Windows key not working issue

1. Run a PowerShell command to re-register applications

PowerShell is a command-line task automation tool. This tool is typically accessed using a Windows key shortcut (+S), but the solution will show another access method.

Note: You can make significant changes to your machine with PowerShell, so you should exercise caution when using PowerShell commands.

Windows 10 users have reported success in fixing Windows key problems with the specific command used in this solution. This command re-registers all applications on your computer to hopefully solve software issues affecting your Windows key.

Here is how to execute the command in PowerShell:

  1. Open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and select Task Manager from the menu.
  2. In the Task Manager window, find File and then select Run new task.
Run new task
  1. In the search box, enter “PowerShell“. Click OK and PowerShell will open.
run PowerShell
  1. Within PowerShell enter the following command:
    Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register “$($_.InstallLocation) AppXManifest.xml”}
Windows PowerShell command to fix a Windows key that is not working
  1. Once the command has been completely executed you should restart your computer and check if the Windows key is working again.

2. Run Windows 10 keyboard troubleshooter

Before trying any of the following solutions, you can take advantage of the excellent troubleshooters built-in to Windows 10. The keyboard troubleshooter can detect and automatically fix issues associated with your keyboard.

To run the troubleshooter:

  1. Right-click on the Start button and select Settings from the menu.
  2. Navigate to the Update & Security section.
Windows Settings
  1. On the Update & Security page, select Troubleshoot from the left pane.
  2. Now on the right-hand side find and select Additional troubleshooters.
  3. In the Additional troubleshooters window select Keyboard and click Run the troubleshooter.
Built-in keyboard troubleshooter to fix a Windows button that is not working
  1. Allow the troubleshooter to completely finish before closing. Try to use the Windows key to see if the problem has been resolved.

3. Disable Keyboard Gaming Mode

If you are using a gaming keyboard, you may have Gaming mode enabled on your keyboard. Gaming mode will disable keys that may interrupt your gaming experience. Because the Windows key is associated with opening the Start Menu, this can be especially disruptive for online gaming. For example, accidentally clicking the Windows key could minimize your game to the system tray.

Often users accidentally turn on gaming mode and aren’t aware of what it does and how it will affect the use of their keyboard and computer functionality. So, if your Windows key is not working, it’s a good idea to check if Gaming mode has been turned on for your keyboard.

The methods to turn on and off Gaming mode will vary with every manufacturer. Check your keyboard’s manual or search online for how to disable Gaming mode for your specific brand and model. The keyboard may have a unique function key, or Gaming mode may be disabled by a combination of keys.

4. Disable Filter Keys

Filter keys are an accessibility option that is highly beneficial to many users. You can use filter keys to ignore repeated or rapid keystrokes. You may accidentally turn on filter keys by holding the Shift key for 8 seconds. To disable Filter keys and prevent this feature from causing issues with the Windows key:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Settings from the menu.
  2. Navigate to Ease of Access.
Ease of Access
  1. From the left-handed pane select Keyboard and find Use Filter Keys on the right-hand side.
  2. Make sure this is toggled to Off.
Turn filter keys off to fix the Windows key not working issue

5. Update keyboard drivers

Some users have noted outdated drivers as the source of Windows button issues. For example, if your keyboard’s driver is not communicating correctly with Windows 10, some keys may not work properly. To update your keyboard’s drivers, access Device Manager by following the step-by-step directions below:

  1. Right-click on the Start button on the Taskbar. Find Device Manager from the list and click to open.
  2. In the main pane, find Keyboards. Double-click to expand.
Device Manager
  1. Find your current keyboard. Right-click and select Update Driver.
  2. A new window will open that will prompt you “How do you want to search for drivers?”. Select Search automatically for drivers.
Search for the latest keyboard drivers to fix your Windows button
  1. If Windows does not locate any updated drivers you can instead right-click on your keyboard device and select Uninstall.
  2. Then you can click Scan for hardware changes by clicking the icon with the monitor and magnifying glass. This will automatically find your keyboard and reinstall the most updated driver.

6. Create a new user account

While this solution seems farfetched, users have reported great success with creating a new user account. Each user account created will have settings that apply to that account only. Files and folders will be controlled separately from other accounts. To create a new user account on Windows:

  1. Click on the Start button and enter Settings.
search for settings
  1. Click Open to start the Settings application.
  2. Navigate to the Accounts section.
Windows Settings
  1. In the left pane select Family & other people.
  2. Under the Other people heading click Add some else to this PC.
Family & other people
  1. When you are prompted “How will this person sign in?” look at the bottom of the window for “I don’t have this person’s sign-in information“.
  1. This time you will be prompted with “Let’s create your account” and again look at the bottom of the window for “Add a user without a Microsoft account“.
Create account
  1. Create a name for the new account and click Next.
  2. Now you can sign-out of your normal account and into the new one. Check to see if the Windows key opens the Start menu and if any of the shortcuts work.

7. Perform an SFC scan

SFC or system file checker is a powerful utility included in Windows 10 that can scan your system and restore corrupt system files. If your Windows 10 system files have become corrupted, this can cause many strange behaviors, even Windows button malfunctions.

To run an SFC scan:

  1. Open Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and select Task Manager from the menu.
  2. In the Task Manager window, find File and then select Run new task.
Run new task
  1. In the Create new task window enter “cmd“. If the check box is available, check Create this task with administrative privileges.
open CMD
  1. Command Prompt will open. Enter “sfc /scannow” and press Enter.
Run an SFC scan to fix your Windows key
  1. The scan will take some time to complete so please be patient. When the scan is completed, restart your computer and check to see if the Windows key problem is resolved.

Note: If you run into an SFC /Scannow error when starting the scan, don’t worry. We have written dedicated articles on what to do if SFC scannow is not working, including:

Success: Windows key is now working

If you followed the solutions above, you hopefully now have a working Windows key button. The Windows key is an invaluable function key in Windows 10. The Windows key shortcuts are extremely useful, but the Windows key also opens the Start menu. The quick list included before the solution methods was to help eliminate some of the most common issues associated with keyboards. If that list didn’t solve the problem, then the seven great solutions should have.

The solutions included using the Windows 10 keyboard troubleshooter, re-registering all your applications, disabling Filter keys, disabling your keyboard’s Gaming mode, updating your keyboard’s drivers, creating a new user account, and running an SFC scan. These solutions are mostly direct recommendations from Windows 10 community users that have reported success in solving their Windows key problem.

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