Oops! 10 Keyboard Shortcuts Users Keep Hitting by Mistake

Have you ever accidentally hit a key on your computer that caused something weird to happen, seemingly out of nowhere? Suddenly, your display turns on its side, you can’t type correctly, or an annoying dialog box keeps popping up.

Chances are that you’ve hit a keyboard shortcut by accident. Here’s a guide to several common Windows keyboard shortcuts that are easy to mistakenly activate, how they happen, and how to fix their effects.

1. My Display Is Flipped!

One of the most common keyboard shortcut goofs results in your computer’s display rotating 90 degrees in some direction. This means you have to deal with irregular mouse movement, which seemingly prevents you from using your computer as normal.

Thankfully, the key combination to fix this is basically the same as what triggers it. Use Ctrl + Alt + Arrow keys to re-align your display. Pressing the Up arrow should set it back to normal.

Note that this shortcut typically only works on displays using Intel integrated graphics. If your Windows screen is turned sideways and the above shortcut does nothing, head to Settings > System > Display. Scroll down until you find the Scale and layout section, then set Display Orientation to Landscape.

If you have trouble using the mouse to reach this menu because your screen is turned, hit Win + I to open Settings, then use Tab to cycle through the parts of the interface. Inside the relevant area, use the arrow keys and Enter to make selections.

2. This Website Says My Password Is Wrong!

Sometimes you’ll type your password for a website several times, yet see a message that it’s still incorrect. During your repeated attempts, you’re sure that you typed it out correctly. What’s the problem?

Chances are that you accidentally hit the Caps Lock key. The key above your left Shift key makes all characters you type uppercase, which will cause you to enter your password incorrectly since it reverses the normal behavior of Shift. Double-check if Caps Lock is on (most keyboards have a light for it, often at the top-right), then try your password again.

Some websites, as well as browsers, will let you know if Caps Lock is on. Even with that heads-up, this is a frustrating oversight that’s easily fixed. And if you never use this feature, you can disable Caps Lock in Windows to prevent it from activating by mistake.

3. My Number Pad Is Acting as Arrow Keys!

Seeing your current app window quickly zoom in or out? You’re not going crazy; this is another useful shortcut that’s easy to activate by mistake. Holding Ctrl and scrolling your mouse wheel is a common shortcut to zoom in and out, and it works in many apps.

This is quite handy if a web page is too small for you to see, or if you want to fit more information on the screen. But next time your display zooms in or out all over the place, check your Ctrl keys. One of them could be stuck, which results in the zoom action when you scroll your mouse wheel.

To quick reset to 100% zoom, just press Ctrl + 0 (the number). This works in most apps and is the fastest fix when everything is super zoomed-in or zoomed-out.

We’ve already looked at two issues that involve the Lock keys on your keyboard; this one completes the trio. Scroll Lock is rarely used on modern systems, and as a result, one of its few actual uses can trip people up.

By default in Microsoft Excel, pressing the arrow keys moves the current cell selection. But with Scroll Lock enabled, the arrow keys will scroll the entire screen around instead.

Which behavior you prefer is up to you. But if you run into this issue, check the Scroll Lock light on your keyboard to see if you’ve accidentally enabled it. Disabling Scroll Lock should return this behavior to normal.

6. Typing Erases the Next Letter!

Normally, typing simply inserts the new text next to what’s already there. But sometimes you’ll find that typing instead erases the text in front of it. This is the fault of the Insert key on your keyboard.

Hitting this switches between Insert and Overwrite modes. The former mode is what you’re probably familiar with; the latter causes entered text to erase what’s already on the page in front of your cursor. Overwrite mode often makes your cursor into a highlighted box around the current character, instead of the usual blinking line.

Simply hit the Insert key to change this. If you often do this by mistake, you might want to look into remapping your keyboard layout to disable the Insert key, since it doesn’t do anything else.

7. My Laptop Touchpad Won’t Work!

While there are many potential causes for a laptop touchpad not working, one of them is the keyboard’s fault. Most laptops have a Fn key that performs additional functions when combined with other keys. These include adjusting brightness, controlling media, and similar.

However, a lot of keyboards have a button that disables the touchpad. The exact key depends on your laptop model, but it’s often one of the F keys at the top of your keyboard (F5 in the above example). It’s easy to hit by mistake, so if you suddenly find that your touchpad stops working, press that key and see if it’s fixed. Some laptops have a light to indicate when the touchpad is disabled.

8. I Can’t Exit the Current Screen!

If you find that the current app fills your whole screen and certain control elements (like your browser’s address bar) have disappeared, you’ve probably entered full-screen mode by mistake. In many apps, you can switch to this by pressing F11.

Next time you find yourself stuck in an app, give this a try. Don’t forget that you can use the shortcut Alt + F4 to close the current app if you need to escape for whatever reason. Shortcuts like Ctrl + Shift + Esc (to open the Task Manager) and Ctrl + Alt + Del (to open a screen with various options) will still work, even if an app is stuck in full-screen.

9. Nothing Is Working Right and I Hear Beeping!

If you’re experiencing complete chaos with your keyboard, such as random text highlighting, windows minimizing, and lots of beeping, you’ve probably accidentally activated a feature called Sticky Keys. Windows has many accessibility features that are vital to people who need them, but can cause problems for other users.

Sticky Keys is one such feature; it allows you to use shortcuts that require the Shift, Ctrl, Alt, and Win keys by pressing them one at a time. For instance, instead of hitting Ctrl + Alt + Del all at once, you can press them in succession.

By default, pressing Shift five times in a row brings up the Sticky Keys dialog box. If you say Yes to its prompt, you’ll enable it. This is easy to do by mistake. To disable Sticky Keys, just press Shift five times in a row again, or press any two of the modifier keys at the same time. You’ll hear a beep to confirm the action.

How to Turn Off the Sticky Keys Shortcut in Windows

If you don’t need Sticky Keys, it’s a good idea to disable this shortcut so you don’t turn it on by accident again.

Head to Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard and under Use Sticky Keys, uncheck the Allow the shortcut key to start Sticky Keys box. While you’re here, you may want to disable the shortcuts for Toggle Keys and Filter Keys too, as they can cause similar issues.

On Windows 11, these options are under Settings > Accessibility > Keyboard.

10. My Keyboard Is Locked and I Can’t Type Anything!

If your keyboard seems to have locked up, you might have enabled Filter Keys, which makes your computer ignore quick or repeated keystrokes. Follow the instructions in the above section to check if Filter Keys is disabled, and turn off the shortcut so you don’t turn it on by mistake in the future.

While we’ve mainly covered specific keyboard shortcuts that trigger unwanted behavior, your keyboard can lock up or generally misbehave for several other reasons. Discussing every possibility is beyond the scope of this guide, but we’ll close with a few general tips if the above didn’t fix your issue:

  • Reboot your computer. The problem could be a temporary glitch that’s simple to clear up.
  • Make sure you haven’t selected the wrong keyboard layout or language. If you have more than one enabled, use Win + Space to cycle between them. Remove any languages you don’t need (visit Settings > Time & language for the relevant options) to reduce potential issues.
  • Check to see if you have a key that’s physically stuck, especially if your computer is stuck in shortcut mode. A bit of debris or an old keyboard could result in a jammed key. If your keyboard won’t type letters but only activates shortcuts, give all the Alt, Ctrl, and Win keys a good strike to free them.
    • To check what keystrokes your computer is recognizing, visit Keyboard Tester for a visual representation of what you’re typing. If it doesn’t match up with what you’re hitting, you may need to fully clean your keyboard.
  • If you’re using a wireless keyboard, check to make sure the batteries aren’t dead and that the connection with your computer is strong. With a wired keyboard, remove it from its USB port and try another one on your PC.

See our guide to fixing a laptop keyboard that’s not working for more help. This covers important troubleshooting tips like reinstalling the keyboard driver.

Your Keyboard Is a Friend, Not an Enemy

Now you know how to stop several annoying behaviors that can arise from accidental keyboard shortcuts. But you shouldn’t think that your keyboard is out to get you, as it’s one of the handiest tools you have as a computer user.

Once you’ve learned to recognize and avoid mistaken keyboard shortcuts, you can move on to taking advantage of the many useful shortcuts that Windows offers.

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