About 6 months ago, out of nowhere my old keyboard's Winkey stopped working. CTRL+ESC would still show the Start Menu, but just the Winkey would do apparently nothing. Winkey+M would show the Desktop, Winkey+L would still lock the computer and so on though. Inside other applications, Winkey would have a different behavior:

  • In Firefox, it'd show the bookmarks
  • In Visual Studio, it'd open help

After trying logging off, rebooting and probably every solution on Google, I tried the easy way out and switched the keyboard. It was a brand new keyboard with only 6 months use (no, it wasn't a gaming keyboard) and this one was 6 years old then (now 7), but for some reason it worked. I considered it one of those random things that happen under Windows and moved on.

About a week ago, this keyboard began showing the same results. I have a hard time believing it's hardware-related, considering those keyboards are from different companies and use different inputs (PS/2 for the 6 year old one, USB for the newer one).

Right now, Winkey on Firefox is showing Bookmarks, and on VS it shows Help.

I want to know:

1) How to permanently fix this issue?

2) What exactly causes this?

Also, I tried the solution Here but it didn't help.

EDIT: Rebooting does fix it, but after a while it stops working again.

EDIT2: Yesterday I looked in looked in Event Viewer and noticed the Winkey changed its' behavior right after the Application Experience service started. I disabled that service and thought it worked. It didn't.

  • Mabey a display of what the system believes is being pushed might help ? romeosa.com/osdHotkey/help.html <-- this program claims to show which keys are pressed. Does Mr.Winkey :-) ever fix hisself after a full Power off of the computer, then back on again? – Psycogeek Mar 2 '12 at 20:09
  • Just tried that program, and it shows as WIN when I press the Winkey. After testing, I rebooted and the Winkey is working again, though I know it's temporary. – stelonix Mar 2 '12 at 20:26
  • I was wondering if any other key had become "stuck" also. Some of the mouse hooks and keyhooks that we used sucessfully and with rare problems in XP, are acting up more in 7. . Because a key and a mouse action involves a Key_down and a Key_up type of thing, some sticks will show up as a key_down with no up having occured. a software stuck, not hardware problem. – Psycogeek Mar 2 '12 at 20:36
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    Are you possibly switching between keyboard layouts using Alt+Shift? – Der Hochstapler Mar 4 '12 at 21:07
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    I'll check for the BIOS message, but I'm pretty sure I'm not switching between layouts (I've got the language bar always showing, so I'd know). Just left the computer for 5 minutes, and when I came back it had changed behavior again. – stelonix Mar 4 '12 at 22:16

There is two problem here instead of just one: the first is to remap the Windows Key and the second is to detect and eventually avoid a remapping from a (suspected) software running in your sytem.

A) Remapping the keyboard to default values

The keyboard layout is located in these registry keys:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout

and they are a bit tricky to change so I suggest you two easy solutions to remap the Windows key to the default value.

1- Microsoft Keyboad Layout Creator



2- KeyTweak


Both are presented there: Remapping the Keyboard Layout in Windows XP, Vista, and 7


I suggest you to try first with KeyTweak because MKLC is a too much "heavy" solution: it create a huge setup file and "lighter" solution is, imho, better...

Just reset the "W key(s)" to their default value...

enter image description here

B) How to find the unwanted "remapper" culprit?

I suggest you to monitor which process is accessing the registry keys related to the keyboard layout with the Sysinternals Process Monitor.


When you'll find it you'll decide what to do with this "remapper"... [e.g. Recycle bin... ;-)]

Hope this help. Let us know. :)

  • Is there a way that the the Questioners Keymapping had changed in the scenario of it "just not working anymore" Observe the second comment, knuck ran a test thing, and it showed that the "win" key was pressed. would it have still showed that if the key had been remapped? I was thinking more like it was not being "seen" by the software? This is interestingly different. – Psycogeek Mar 5 '12 at 20:34
  • May be... I'm waiting to read the questionner feed-back... :) – climenole Mar 5 '12 at 21:22
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    I downloaded Keytweak, and as soon as Winkey stops working, I'll run it and see if it's detected there. I'll let you know asap. – stelonix Mar 6 '12 at 0:17
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    @Psycogeek = It was showing that the Windows key was being pressed because it was. It was just mapped to a different function. Based on the fact the help menu was comming up....it sounds like it was mapped to F1 which is the default "help menu" button for all Microsoft products. – Ramhound Mar 6 '12 at 12:38
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    Just noticed this when I press the Winkey (simplified here to be more readable): "Explorer.EXE RegOpenKey HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AppKey\6 NAME NOT FOUND Desired Access: Query Value" Result is "NOT FOUND", apparently – stelonix Mar 6 '12 at 18:09

I would suggest you get hijackthis and see what applications are loading on startup. After that you should close them from the task manager Ctrl+Shift+Esc one by one and see after each one of them if the win-key returns to its normal behavior. If that doesn't work, try to load windows in safe mode and load each one of the applications on your own and see when the win-key stops functioning as it should.

I believe that after doing that you'll be able to answer both 2) you'll find the program that causes it, and 1) uninstall/re-configure that program to permanently solve it.

  • I thought about trying hijackthis, but since the Winkey changes behavior randomly (it's not upon OS load, it's really random from what I can tell), I thought it'd be too difficult to find the application changing it. But I will do it, either way. – stelonix Mar 6 '12 at 0:15
  • Tools of what is running/starting-up/taking-over, are essential in todays computing Hijack-this is A good one to see what those are. I feel it is more pre-emptive to Know what is there today, then see if it ever changes when thing go badly. AKA I would have it on, for general viewing, before it is needed :-) – Psycogeek Mar 6 '12 at 14:57

The HKCU in your other comment means its hopefully isolated to your user. I would create a new user and run it for a while to see if it reoccurs, if not just move all your stuff over (A pain, I know)


The Win key is normally registered as a hotkey by explorer.exe, using the RegisterHotKey API function. You can find out what hotkeys are registered using Hotkey Explorer, although its display is more "user friendly" than I would prefer.

It sounds like it's getting remapped at some level to act like the Favorites key on "internet" keyboards. It can't be too low a level, or Win+M etc. wouldn't still work. In any case, for the Favorites key, this line in Process Monitor is normal:

10:43:11.7233223 PM explorer.exe    1028    RegOpenKey  HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AppKey\6    NAME NOT FOUND  Desired Access: Read

(I'm running XP, YMMV slightly)

  • @knuck consider adding a filter to Process Monitor for "Path contains AppKey" immediately after restart. Once you notice the WIN key no longer functioning as desired, check on Process Monitor to see if a program has requested a change to this registry key. – Jeremy W Mar 11 '12 at 3:00
  • I believe Explorer crashed and now a reboot no longer switches it back. Keytweak doesn't see it as switched and Hotkey Explorer fails to start with an error Google has never heard of. ("Hotkey Explorer init failed! (-7)") – stelonix Mar 12 '12 at 20:42

This could of course only be either hardware or software.

Checking for software is best done by booting in Safe mode with networking (for Internet), if you can stand it for a whole day. If this doesn't happen any more, then this is caused by some installed program. You could also try mapping another key to be WIN and see if this changes anything in the observed behavior.

For hardware, I would try still another keyboard connected via another USB port.

If you cannot find what the problem is, taking the computer to a repairman is my last idea beside giving up on using the WIN key.

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