I have a Dell Latitude E5400 laptop running Windows 7.

Everything runs fine on it for days then I suddenly notice the enter/return key is no longer working e.g. I could be writing an email, press enter for a new line but it doesn’t ‘register’ – so no new line. I thought it might be some dirt under the key perhaps so I tried running the Windows onscreen keyboard but the Enter key on that doesn’t work either.

A reboot always fixes the problem but it’s a pain. Any ideas a) how to fix it and b) out of interest, is there some other key combination that I can use as an alternative to using the Enter key when I need to?

UPDATE: Thanks to CarlF's suggestion, I tried exiting running programmes and found it seems to be a problem with PhraseExpress.

  • You could always launch the on-screen keyboard as a backup. Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Ease of Access – Shinrai Jan 14 '11 at 17:42
  • Huh? As I said, the enter key on the onscreen keyboard doesn't work either. – andygrunt Jan 14 '11 at 18:20
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    Whoops! Missed that, it sort of vanished into that paragraph there. – Shinrai Jan 17 '11 at 15:28
  • I had a possibly related problem on my HP Probook 4530s while running Linux. Working at the command line, all of a sudden my enter key didn't result in a return, but rather printed '^M'. In any case, restarting my computer got rid of the problem, at least for now. – Brian Peterson Apr 23 '14 at 16:56

This happens after days, right? Try killing the running programs one by one. It's possible that one piece of software has a memory leak and gets increasingly bloated over days until it starts doing weird stuff. Use the Task Manager to be sure their are no applications running, then check whether Enter is still locked out.

The other thing that occurs to me is a keyboard shortcut being assigned to Enter. I don't know that this could happen spontaneously, though.

Finally, in most programs Ctrl+M substituted for Enter, but many Windows programs now don't allow this.

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  • I do turn my laptop off at night so it's not like it's running for several days at a time. Yes, killing the programs and checking is a good thought but I only usually have email and a word processor running - I'll check next time it happens though. Thanks for the idea. – andygrunt Jan 14 '11 at 20:17
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    Looks like it's a (known) problem with PhraseExpress. If I exit it, Return works as normal. Thanks again for the suggestion CarlF. – andygrunt Jan 15 '11 at 18:30

This is a known problem with Phrase Express. Had to hard kill it too since quit wasn't shutting it down.

Apparently you can stop it from registering enter in expert options as described in this Stack Overflow answer

In PhraseExpress, please disable the expert option "Route TAB and ENTER through PhraseExpress" if you experience problems those keys.


enter image description here

Please also note that using multipe Text Expander simultaneously may introduce interferences as you experienced. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around this limitation for us vendors.

Michael Schmidt PhraseExpress Team

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I had this problem on my old laptop and it turned out that it was just that the keys that were not registering was just shorting out and the whole thing needed to be replaced. You might want to try to do a Windows Update and see if there are any other programs that need to be updated to rule out that issue first since it's so extreme.

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    But as the Enter key on the onscreen keyboard doesn't work either, that suggests it's not something physical with the keyboard. – andygrunt Jan 14 '11 at 18:21

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