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I started using my desktop PC this morning to discover that my Windows key (to open the Start menu) seems to have become intermittent. That is, whereas it used to display the Start menu every time after a normal "tap", now I have to press it a couple of times, or hold it down for a second in order to get it to show the menu.

At first I thought it might be a problem with the batteries in my wireless keyboard, but changing the batteries made no difference. I'm not having a problem with any other keys, and the Windows key seems to work fine in combination (for example Windows-Tab). I've also tried plugging in a wired USB keyboard, and that suffers the same problem.

Intriguingly, if I launch a Virtual machine (using Oracle VirtualBox) and go full screen, the Windows key works as it should within the virtual machine.

I've tried Microsoft's "How to Enable the Windows key" quick fix, but that made no difference.

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Your tests with using different keyboards, and with a virtual operating system, seems to indicate the problem is a software issue/setting with the operating system - as opposed to a hardware problem. The Windows Key is actually two key codes, CTRL and ESC. When using the "On-Screen Keyboard (thru the Ease of Use start menu option), it seems to demonstrate that same double click behavior needed to use the windows key. Since the On-screen keyboard uses a sticky key UI model, I looked at how enable sticky keys effects the windows key. Sure enough, enabling that causes an effect like you describe - requiring 3 clicks before the windows key brings up the start menu.

To toggle Sticky Keys quickly - hit "Shift" key 5 times (or go thru the more elaborate keyboard settings menu). That brings up a dialog, prompting your choice. Pick "no" to turn off sticky keys and return to a single click windows key/start menu.

Interestingly, in sticky key mode, the CTRL+ESC shortcut starts the window key/Start menu instantly.

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I've just tried turning sticky keys on on a different PC, and the effect is different to what I was observing on the problematic desktop. With Sticky Keys, three taps consistently brings up the start menu, but on my PC, it could come up straight away, or after a couple of presses. – Samuel Jack Jul 16 '12 at 19:02
How about entering CTRL-ESC? Does it work consistantly or intermittently? – jdh Jul 16 '12 at 19:17
Strange: this morning everything seems to have returned to normal. No idea what changed! – Samuel Jack Jul 17 '12 at 8:54

I used to have this with my mouse, turns out it just wore and I needed a new one. Clicking a bit harder worked.

Or perhaps there is some dirt below the key which makes it harder to press.

If this is not it, try using the keyboard on another PC. I doubt it's a software issue, but it just might be.

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