In most dell laptop (e.g. Studio 1555, Inspiron 1545, Inspiron 3000, Inspiron N5010 etc) the F1-F12 keys at the top of the keyboard are dual function with Multimedia/OEM keys such as volume and screen brightness etc. The problem is, is that the Multimedia/OEM keys are the default, and you have to press the Fn key to get the F1-F12 key to work.

For example, this means you have to hit Alt+Fn+F4 to close a window, instead of the regular Alt+F4. This is really annoying. Is there a way to reverse the default functions of the F1-F12 keys in Windows?

Ideally this is possible without some kind of third party hotkey manager.

9 Answers 9


From Whirlpool's KB article on the Dell Studio 1555:

The media buttons are switched on by default instead of the F keys so to perform a task such as closing a window (Alt-F4), you are required to press Alt-Fn-F4. To reverse this function, it is necessary to go into the BIOS.

  • 5
    There it is, it's called "Function Key Behavior". Thanks! Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 18:48
  • 4
    It's now called Fn Lock Disable in POST Behavior
    – eithed
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 22:21

Often the ESC key will have a 'function lock' icon which looks like a padlock. Press the 'FN' select key and ESC and it switches the function keys to behave as function keys.

  • 8
    This is the most correct and up-to-date answer
    – cuongle
    Commented Jun 28, 2020 at 23:32
  • 3
    Especially useful if your laptop is managed by an IT department and you can't get to the BIOS. Hit FN/ESC every boot... Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 22:43
  • 3
    This also works for external keyboard.
    – Tometzky
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 7:53
  • This is the correct answers - as pointed out in this page too - In general, you can often change this setting right on the keyboard itself via the Fn Lock key or a hidden Fn Lock shortcut
    – Gangula
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 7:32

On Dell XPS 13 9370 it's depends on the BIOS settings. See the picture below.

You have three options:

  1. With "Fn Lock" you can toggle between Functions and Media keys with Fn+Esc.
  2. With "Lock mode disable" you can use F1-12 keys as Media keys.
  3. With "Lock mode enabled" you can use F1-12 keys as Functions keys.

Fn Lock Options


Just for reference, I have been using a Studio 1555 with Vista 64bit for the last 6 months.

This setting does not appear in the Windows Mobility Center on my system, so I needed to change the setting in BIOS by pressing F2 at boot (no need to press fn F2, even when the keys behave as media keys in Windows). Occasionally, this setting appears to revet and I need to set the option again in the BIOS.

As noted above, perhaps there is some key combination to change the behaviour. I cannot explain why the keys reverted back to their media function by default.


I believe it's ...

shift + numlock

My laptop is at home, so I can't test it.

Per comment: Check out this thread. It indicates there is a BIOS setting.

  • 1
    There is no numlock key. There's no number pad either (even as a Fn alternative behind other keys, as my other Dell laptop has) Commented Aug 13, 2009 at 21:40

You set the media keys in the bios from media to function. It will toggle the Fn keys to the top and media where you hold the Fn key.


Just search for Windows Mobility Center and change the option from there. No need to goto the BIOS.



For Dell Control Panel->Hardware and sound ->Adjust Commonly used Mobility Settings Change the Function Key Row to 'Function Key' thats all


Yes, this is possible, but I cannot remember if it is a BIOS setting or software setting. It might just be a combo you push on your keyboard to turn function on or off by default. This can vary from laptop to laptop. On Apple macbook pro's the function is on by default. A dell laptop i had once was off by default and you could change it through a combo on the keyboard.

  • If you can't remember then you should post this as a comment instead of an answer.
    – Daniel Wu
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 8:58

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