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How to Remap Keys on Windows Using PowerToys

PowerToys is an official Microsoft tool that bundles a collection of utilities that add and improve the overall Windows functionality. One such utility in PowerToys is the Keyboard Manager. Using it, you can remap keys to specific keyboard shortcuts or other keys. For example, you can remap the function keys (F1, F2, etc.) to perform common tasks such as opening the File Explorer, copying & pasting, and more.

To put it simply, it’s a great tool to remap unused or damaged keys on your keyboard. Here’s the quick tutorial on using PowerToys to remap keys.

Install PowerToys on Windows

If you haven’t already installed PowerToys, go to the GitHub page, and click on the PowerToysSetup-x64.exe link under the Assets section to download the PowerToys setup file.

download powertoys from github

After downloading it, locate the setup file, and double-click on it. Agree to the license terms and click Install to install PowerToys. Once you do that, follow the next section to change key mapping.

click install

Remap Keys Using PowerToys

First, open Start, search for PowerToys and click on it to open the PowerToys application.

open powertoys from start menu

Once opened, navigate to the Keyboard Manager tab on the sidebar and turn on the Enable Keyboard Manager toggle.

Next, click on the Remap a Key option to start key mapping.

enable keyboard manager and click on remap a key option

Click on the Add (+) icon in the Remap Keys window to add a new mapping.

click on the add icon

Click on the first Select button, press the key you want to remap, and click OK. For example, I want to remap my F3 key. So, I pressed it. If you are unable to press the key, you can select it from the dropdown menu under the button.

press the key you want to remap

After that, click on the second Select button and press a key or shortcut you want to map to. For example, I’m assigning the Windows key + I shortcut. Essentially, I’m remapping the F3 key to send the Windows key + I shortcut so that I can open the Settings app with a single key press.

Note: You can also use the dropdown menu under the second button to assign the key. But, you cannot select a combination of keys (like shortcuts) from the dropdown menu.

press the key or shortcut you want to assign

Finally, click on the OK button at the top to save. If you see a warning prompt, click Continue Anyway.

delete a key remap in powertoys

And there you have it, you’ve successfully remapped a key using PowerToys.

Delete Key Remapping in PowerToys

If you don’t need a specific key remap, you can delete it. For that, open PowerToys by searching for it in the Start menu, navigate to the Keyboard Manager tab and click on the Remap a Key option.

Locate the remap you want to delete and click on the Delete icon. Click OK to save changes.

click ok

Alternatively, you can turn off the Enable Keyboard Manager toggle to completely disable all key remaps without deleting them.

Limitations and Caveats When Remapping Keys with PowerToys

While PowerToys makes it easy to remap keys, there are a few important things you should know and understand. Otherwise, you can sometimes face unexpected behavior.

First, certain keys and shortcuts, including the Fn key and system critical shortcuts like Windows key + L and Ctrl + Alt + Del, cannot be remapped.

Unlike other keys, the Pause key will only send one key down event. That means pressing and holding the key will not repeat the key.

When you remap a key to another key or shortcut, that remapping will take precedence whenever you use that remapped key, even as part of another shortcut. Here, the order of key press matters. For example, if you remapped the Alt key to Ctrl + P, pressing the Alt + Tab shortcut will send Ctrl + P + Tab. As you can guess, that’s not the behavior you expect. So, keep that in mind when remapping any key, including the modifier keys such as Ctrl, Win, Alt, and Shift.

You cannot use remapped keys on the log-on screen (lock screen).

If you change the keyboard language, it affects the key remapping. For example, if you remapped U to V in the English (US) keyboard language and then changed the keyboard language to Japanese, typing U in the Japanese keyboard still results in the English V character.

Some key remappings may not work in certain games. Essentially, it depends on how the game interprets the keypress. Additionally, it can have a negative impact on FPS and game performance.

Update: The tutorial is updated with new information and easier-to-understand steps. Original published date Oct 26, 2020.

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