When using an external keyboard, how can use a function key as a function key (e.g. F10) instead of Mac custom control button (e.g. mute)? The built-in keyboard contains an fn button, but I cannot find it in the external one.

  • When you say external, do you mean 3rd party? I'm confused because the recent Apple keyboards, even the small ones, come with a Fn key.
    – emgee
    Sep 18 '09 at 5:33

The only way is to disable system-wide (that includes the notebook's keyboard) the custom control keys, and tell OS X that you just want to use it as normal F1-F12/F16 keys.

Go to System Preferences > Keyboard. Check the box that says "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys"

Screenshot of Keyboard Preferences in MacOS Catalina on a MacBook with a Touch Bar

If you are using a Mac keyboard, there should be a Fn key. On the latest Mac wired slim aluminium keyboard, it is around the home, page up, page down area. On the wireless slim keyboard, it is to the bottom left.

  • When taking a screenshot of a single window in OS X, pressing command shift 4 space will allow you to capture the single window with it's drop shadow, without any other apps in the background.
    – Josh Hunt
    Sep 18 '09 at 8:42
  • @joshhunt nice screenshot :)
    – alex
    Sep 18 '09 at 8:43
  • I am happy to report that you can safely enable this on the new 2016 macbook pros, and it works just fine for an external keyboard and leaves the touchbar intact!
    – chrismarx
    Jan 5 '17 at 15:30
  • On my mac it doesn't show the option "Use all F1, F2, ect. keys as standard...." Jul 2 '20 at 13:44
  • Unfortunately, this does not work on a Cherry KC 6000 Slim for Mac.
    – Bernhard
    Jul 29 at 12:10

Silly me. The fn button is below F13.


You can do that with Karabiner-Elements:

It allows you to configure the Fn keys per device. In this case, I set it to use the default keys when on the external keyboard:

enter image description here

  • 3
    Thanks, that totally worked for me using a windows keyboard on the mac. Not only i now can use the function keys for media controls as default osx does, but i also remapped all special keys like CTRL/ALT/WINDOWS key to match the layout of a mac keyboard. Great! Note: If you also use a "windows" mouse and need different scrolling directions for the mouse and your trackpad, check out "Scroll Reverser"
    – choise
    Apr 11 '18 at 12:00
  • I use Spark and it helped me to remap some shortcuts in my Windows PC Keyboard to control some basic functions like the volume commands. A Con, the app was not maintained in a long period of time. Latest version 3.1b2 (470) can be found at shadowlab.org Dec 11 '19 at 22:30

Interestingly for me Scroll lock (F14) worked as brightness down and Pause Break (F15) as brightness up on a USB PC keyboard.

  • Welcome to Superuser, your answer doesn't sound like a good answer, you have not shown enough concern to compose it properly. Just refer this link, superuser.com/help/how-to-answer. Jun 1 '18 at 17:52

Also, you could try something like this utility.


If you are running Windows 7 under Boot Camp you can change in the Boot Camp control panel in your windows session. enter image description here


If you're using an external keyboard for a mac, check the external keyboard for a f-key lock button. On my logitech it is on the escape key.

(I just spent half an hour figuring it out!)


I'm using Corsair K95 RGB USB keyboard, I too was figuring out how to use the brightness control on my Mac and then when I used the F14 and F15 keys, it all surprisingly worked out.

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