Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

have a dell vostro 1520, installed an external usb keyboard which works fine but the laptop's keyboard does not work properly.

in the log in screen everything works as it should, once logged in the keyboard breaks. keys that have an alternate symbol accessible with the FN key render it by default. Meaning i have to press the FN key for it to render the proper ones- p has the * as FN, in order to get the p i have to press p+FN.

share|improve this question

This sounds like a driver related problem. Most laptop keyboards come with special software that enable the alternate function key. It's possible that there is a "function lock" that inverts the FN key to always on.

Since it only breaks once you launch into windows, there is probably a program that is causing this to break. Go to the Run line and type in MSCONFIG. Go to the startup tab and uncheck any Dell related executables. Restart the computer and see if that makes a difference. If you disable everything and it still breaks, then it is a service that is causing the keyboard to break.

Once you identified the program or service that is causing the problem, you can uninstall it and look for an updated version that doesn't have this bug. Unfortunately, if Dell doesn't have a patched version, then there is not much you can do the "fix" the issue and still retain FN functionality.

share|improve this answer

Usually for Dells, in the Windows Mobility Center [win_key+x] you can set the FN behaviour.
You want the setting "function key" as opposed to "Multimedia key".

Often the default for this setting can also be set from the BIOS, In the Advanced section.
Setting a default in the BIOS might be useful if your external keyboard "breaks" this functionality.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.