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I'm not sure how/when this started happening, but this is the scenario. The windows key works perfectly fine (pressing it brings up the start menu), but any windows key combination shortcut doesn't (for example WINKEY+D to bring up the desktop).

What could be causing this and how can I fix it?

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    I have almost the exact same problem, only that in my case the shortcuts do work but only if using the Windows key of the right side. The one to the left is not actually broken, as if I press it the start menu still opens, but the shortcuts are not being recognized. Oct 27, 2015 at 19:16

8 Answers 8

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For others encountering this issue, you might have a fancy keyboard with a "gaming mode" switch of some sort that disables the windows key. In my case I had a Logitech G110 and had no idea what the switch did :/

The fact this is the top voted answer and this page has 100K views should tell keyboard designers something... Certainly it was a feature added with good intentions to prevent accidentally losing focus on a game when hitting the Windows key by accident, but the keyboard should beep or something when you hit a key and it ignores it.

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    Sometimes it's the simple solutions that make you feel dumb for spending hours trying to implement complicated fixes. Nov 11, 2014 at 15:51
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    Corsair K70 also has a "disable windows key" button, right above Scroll Lock. Oct 1, 2015 at 2:27
  • Razer BlackWidow (chroma stealth) had this same problem.
    – Andrew
    Dec 26, 2015 at 19:34
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    Thanks! And if there's no obvious switch you might also want to try unplugging and replugging your keyboard briefly. On my keyboard (Novatouch TKL) it turned out pressing Fn+F9 toggles the "Windows key lock" function - no light, no on-screen indication, just a dead Windows key. Apr 19, 2017 at 0:07
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    Just want to emphasize that the ”gaming mode“ issue has nothing at all to do with the operating system or any kind of software. Rather than MS Windows I use KDE Plasma 5 including KWin and KGlobalAccel. I heavily use ”Global Shortcuts“, combining the Windows/”Meta“/”Super“ key with many other keys. Of course, modifying kwinrc did not solve the issue. The xev command, even when run as the root user, didn't show any key event, which finally made me focus attention to the hardware itself (the keyboard). (PS: hopefully this comment helps finding this SU answer for KDE/Plasma users.. #SEO..)
    – myrdd
    Apr 17, 2020 at 13:39
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  1. Quick check Win+Tab, Win+P, Win+L and Win+R - are they also not working?

  2. Now check Ctrl+Alt+Del, which should bring up the Windows Security screen (menu), and Ctrl+Shift+Esc, to open Task Manager - are they working (malware test)?

  3. Hit Shift 5 times quickly - is Sticky Keys working?

  4. Now reboot the computer, and test again.

Go to Microsoft KB216893, and do NOT run the "fix it" (XP). Instead, go halfway down the page to "Let me fix it myself", run regedit, and see if the following key exists there:

  • Key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout
  • Value: Scancode Map
  • Type: REG_BINARY (Binary Value)
  • Data: 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 03 00 00 00 00 00 5B E0 00 00 5C E0 00 00 00 00
  • That value disables it, you would remove the key completely to have it work normal.

Then check this key as well while you're in there:

  • Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer
  • Value: NoWinKeys
  • Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value)
  • Data: 0 to disable restriction, or 1 to enable restriction

Check for other software running. Do you have any AutoHotkey scripts running? Do you have any shortcut programs running, like special launcher software, or special mouse or keyboard or touch drivers/software? Temporarily stop that software in Task Manager, and/or temporarily stop the services that it runs on. Or disable the driver, without disabling your last input device, and test again.

I also wonder, because the Win key can mess up a game pretty badly, maybe some games have ways of disabling that while they are running?

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  • Win-Tab, Win-R, etc are not working. Strangely CTRL+ALT+DEL is not working (this might indicate malware, yes). I have disabled sticky keys myself IIRC, so don't know about that. The kb fix didn't do anything (neither of the keys was there). I'm not running any AHK scripts, nor any special launcher software. The bug always occurs, regardless of games run.
    – orlp
    Apr 15, 2012 at 6:22
  • Well it might be some kinda malware? How would other qualifyers stuck keys effect it, Stuck menu key , no, Scroll lock, num lock, caps lock , page, print, pause, no, no, no. I can not (yet) find a combination of stuck keys that the Win(start menu) would work when the Win-R(run) also would not work (although that can be dependant on the keyboard).
    – Psycogeek
    Apr 15, 2012 at 22:20
  • I guess the next test that would be done is a different user? setting up another user to see if the same problem exists in a new user. Booting into safe mode , and seeing if it works there. running a SFC /Scannow to check the system files. Going through the items that startup. Using "AutoRuns" program and looking at the non-windows driver items, and startup items. Using "Hijackthis" to see if anything looks suspitious.
    – Psycogeek
    Apr 15, 2012 at 22:32
  • Changing the NoWinKeys from 1 to 0, and killing and restarting Explorer (Windows File Explorer), worked for me. I'd had some malware on this laptop because it's been just standing there for about 2 years. Malwarebytes removed the malware but didn't fix the NoWinKeys. Aug 17, 2015 at 9:12
  • Someone else with a similar problem here. Shortcuts like Win+R, Win+E, Win+A work, but Win+I to open Settings doesn't work. Windows 10 Creators' here. Jul 28, 2017 at 17:29
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In my specific case, I had played around with the Windows Game Bar to record a JavaScript animation. I think that this Game Bar disables the shortcuts. In my case, I had to first press only Win to popup the start menu. After that, the Win+R shortcut worked because the browser (of which Windows now thinks it's a game), lost focus.

Somehow the problem disappeared after reading through this question and successively pressing Win+Tab, Win+P, Win+L and Win+R, but obviously, one should be able to disable it by telling the Game Bar that the application (in my case, the browser) is not a game.

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  • I have exactly the problem you describe, I dont know how to fix it definitively as it appears whenever. Mar 9, 2016 at 14:15
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I had the same problem, and fixed it with Combofix.

I wouldn't have guessed that I had malware, as I had no symptoms. I had thought a bad keyboard, so I tried using this keyboard testing software, and it said my keyboard was fine, but the shortcuts didn't work.

Thanks Psycogeek for leading me the right way.

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Just had same problem, fixed it by closing remote connection on TeamViewer with "set key combination" function turned on.

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Variant: Ctrl-N Ctrl+N stopped working

I came across an equivalent problem today but "Windows Key" was not affected which made it harder to find a solution. Only Ctrl-N didn't work and it looked like a text editor glitch, but then it didn't work in browsers and the only "solution" visible on the net was ridiculous (reinstall driver - yeah right :-).

On-Screen keyboard (Win+R OSK Enter) served as a diagnostic tool, showing that Ctrl-N was really not getting propagated but that a browser (or editor) does receive Ctrl-N from OSK.

The Ctrl+Alt+Del and then Esc (to simply go back - the whole point is not to interrupt your running stuff).

It took some time for the logoff/lock/switch screen to show op => Windoze does perform a light UI-related reset on Ctrl-Alt-Del and something was stuck or slightly messed up.

The only suspicious thing within the past few days was that I've found a MaskVPN process and eradicated the whole thing manually (MaskVPN is nominally legit but is used by some malware as "self protection", Win Defender never screamed a fault so it was probably from some game on AppStore - they only things I installed for the past week+).

MaskVPN has a deamon that's visible in ProcExp but you can't spot it unless you are checking. I have a habit of checking processes in perpetually running ProcExp once in a week or two and MaskVPN has been eradicated a few days before I noticed the Ctrl-N problem (not using it frequently).

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I have a Gigabyte Force K81 keyboard - it has a 'Win Lock' key on the bottom right of the main key set (right of the space bar). When pressed it disables the Windows key and a little blue light is lit on the right of the indicator panel at the top left of the keyboard.

Really simple when you know where to look for it - I had been searching settings for ages!

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I had the same problem (Win + D, Win + L, Ctrl + Alt + Del not working) and just now fixed it by installing Adobe Acrobat Reader update, which was sitting on my tray notification.

It sounds weird, but believe me, it fixed the issue.

Don't forget to restart the computer.

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    Did you restart the system even before installing the update? And didn't it help? I'm almost sure that it was the restart itself what fixed your issue. Sep 16, 2016 at 13:55

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