Why do I have to hold down the “Fn” key to get normal letter?

Computer manufacturers use the Fn key to cram even more virtual keys onto smaller laptop keyboards. Sometimes it can get confused.

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As i type right now, i have to hold down the “Fn” key just to get normal letters. I don’t know how it happened, but I’m on a laptop and the only way for me to get the “u,i,o,l,;,k,j,m,7,9,0,/,p” keys are to hold down the “Fn” key. It is purple on the lower left of my internal keyboard.

One of the compromises that laptop manufacturers had to make to support a full-sized keyboard into the space of a laptop is that numeric keypad that most keyboards have. What they’ve done is overlaid it “on top” of the regular alpha numeric keyboard.

The trick, of course, is noticing it, and then turning it on, or in your case, off.

Here’s a shot of my laptop’s keyboard (please, ignore the dirt – it’s a well used, and well traveled, machine):

Leo's Keyboard

and down in the lower left you’ll see the “Fn” key that we’re talking about (though mine’s blue instead of purple):

Fn Key

That layout of blue characters mimics the layout of the numeric keypad on a full-sized keyboard.”

If you look closely at the rest of the keyboard you’ll see that several keys include blue lettering on them as well. In fact, if you look at the keys 7, 8, 9, 0 on the top row, U, I, O, P on the next, J, K, L, : on the next and M, > and ? on the bottom, you’ll see that each has a blue character on it:

Embedded Key Pad

That layout of blue characters mimics the layout of the numeric keypad on a full-sized keyboard.

Normally, if you hold down the “Fn” key, you’ll get whatever character or function is printed in blue on those keys. So holding down the “Fn” key, you now have a numeric keypad in the middle of your keyboard. Release “Fn” and things are back to normal.

Which is exactly the opposite of what the question is asking. The person asking needed to press the “Fn” keys to get the normal, white, characters for each key.

The “problem” is simply that there is a persistent toggle. If you press “Num Lk” (I’ve also seen it labeled “Pad Lk” for numeric Pad) it turns on the blue keys, and inverts the meaning of the “Fn” key – it’s a way to use that embedded numeric keypad without having to hold down the “Fn” key the entire time.

Num Lk Key

To fix it, just find and press the “Num Lk” or “Pad Lk” key again. (Note, sometimes these keys are themselves “Fn” keys, so you may, or may not, need to also hold down the “Fn” key to get the right function.) Often there is an indicator light associated with the setting.

Comments

  1. luke

    Great Tip!! One thing, I had to press either control numberlock or fn+ numberlock to get it to work…. by the way, My email address here is not my real address :)

  2. Victor Bennett

    Thanks for the help. I don’t know why the num lock was on after a reboot wasn’t before today. I am leaving on a trip tomorrow and was afraid I was going to be with the use of my laptop. I opened a help desk ticket, well see if my IT dept. can help. I will give them a couple of days and then give them the answer.

  3. NIC

    I am thanking you for your help I have had this problem for weeks and tech support(husband) couldn’t figure it out 30 secs of your instructions and problem fixed.You are the greatest

  4. cham

    Hi,

    I just plugged a numeric key pad to be able to type the numbers faster. Unfortumately, you have to turn on the numlck for that. Is there a way to use the numeric key pad and the keyboard at the same time? If possible as well, can you email me the answer. I appreciate it!

  5. German

    Hello, thank you so much :S I was freaking out, it’s ironic because before that I could never do work the Fn keys, it was like a heaven’s call telling me: “well, do you want the FN working huh?” and then I oculd write well… Thanks for the help!!

  6. Alaine

    hey,

    i had the same problem, except i had to press SHIFT and NUMLOCK to fix it. i was stressing cuz it was very hard to type.
    neway cheers

  7. Leo

    Hi,
    this is for converting the blue keys in to NumLock and take them back to normal. But I am using a Compaq laptop, while I press Fn Key, the blue keys are typed, and when I release the Fn key, I can type the normal keys. This is a very great tool for me. But sometimes for some unknown reason (maybe I press some key wrongly) this tool is gone, and I can not get it back until I run the Windows restore system tool.
    Could you please show me a way to get it back noramlly, perhaps by pressing a combined sets of keys??!
    thanks
    Leo

  8. Tammy

    HELL YEAH!!!! Awesome.. I’m a tech at a college and had the whole dept. stumped, we have a shitload of these laptops and it was happening left and right… no way.. how easy was that? Awesome.. I’m still so excited that I found this answer.. I’ve been searching for months for something, on the internet, called the computer store we purchased them from… no one knew… thanks a lot. You saved us a lot of money. We were ready to get at least 8 new keyboards. Thanks again.

  9. Destiny

    Thank you, so much. I thought I was going insane. I recently got a windows laptop, and I’m a mac junkie, so thank you for saving me the disgrace of taking this into a shop, haha.

  10. jodyk

    HEEEEELLLP!!! My Compaq Presario Fn problem is similar but it seems THE FN KEY DOESN’T WORK AT ALL. I press it over and over trying to release [something]and only get the numbers and no letters. Have tried pressing the Number Lock but it doesn’t help.

  11. Jayme

    Thanks!! This has happened to me more than once, usually after a child has got a hold of my laptop! Now I know how to fix it, and how to use the blue keys!!

  12. Phil

    I have had my laptop for a year but this “fn” has never happened to me. For two days I was wondering how to solve this mistery until I came to this website. Thank you for your help.

  13. Robin

    Thanks

    This helped a lot. Whenever I logged onto a laptop from a domain I could never use the keyboard as I had to hold the key to get certain letters although other users didn’t have to. Now I know why!

    Thought it was a problem with the profile settings. Thanks a lot!

  14. Fidel

    Thanks a lot.!!!!!!! I had to replace keyboard for my laptop some days ago and I was really disappointed that some keys only worked when I was holding down they Fn key. I was about to return the new keyboard and solution you gave me was so simple, Thanks again.

  15. Vamsi

    Hey buddy !
    Could not thank you enough for the tip !.
    I was worried if i did something to the laptop…!!

    damn…the lenovo.com , ‘great’ sites did not even mention the subject !!

    thanks
    Vamsi

  16. Felix

    November 16, 2006

    Re: Fn and NumLk Keys

    Thanks! I had the same problem just now concerning the Fn key and after reading your article I was able to solve the problem. Simple but fix but very difficult for those of who don’t know the simple fix.

    Thanks Again,
    Felix

  17. Gogoyaya

    Thanks. I have the same issue. It has now been fixed.. I need to hold Fn key ,while press Num Lk to unlock it.
    Many Thanks.

  18. karen

    omg thank u been like months couldn’t figure this damn thing out thanks . by holding the fn key and then f9 or pad lock i did it!

  19. Sahil

    Thanks a lot… ur like god in need… IBM itself has no information to turn off fn key…. it wasted my 2 hrs…. Lastly i could find it here..

    thanks a lot…

  20. aleeya

    I was having the same probs…now im sorted…thanx to this site….i thought i was going to have to go through all the books…so thank youuuuuuu

  21. J

    I updated to Windowsxp sp2 and i use the the login so when the window pop up for me to put the pw i couldn’t type any leter j, k. even i tried that numlk. If i press the fn key and or the shift key i can’t type any letter. so any idea???

  22. Amit

    The Compaq heldesk guy did not know wht he was talking about when he was helping. Wasted my 1.5hrs…..and got to work late as well. The next day i found the solution here and was fixed in sharp 6mins. Leo ur genius.

  23. Fred

    You da man!! Thanks, I was using an external mouse, and the ms on screen keyboard. I num locked the on screen (entering a lot of #’s) when finished I removed the mouse and couldn’t get my laptop working right ’til I found your site. You da man!!!

  24. John Walker

    You are a Genius!!!! The techs at Gateway had me running in circles, spending hours on their phone lines and “chat” support then telling me the only way to fix this (after trying to uninstall/reinstall the keyboard driver) was to find a restore point at a time prior to this “problem” happening and then doin a full system restore!!!!!!!! I spent literally days on this PROBLEM and you gave me (and apparently about half of the user population) the straight forward solution in 30 seconds!!!!!!!! I don’t know if you are saint but I’ll certainly vote for you on the first ballot for your sainthood!!!! jsw

  25. Maureen

    I am having the same problem. I have a gateway laptop. this week end I used an external keyboard. I can not type with out the numbers on the center of the keyboard on. no letters. I do not have a number lock that I can see. HELP
    maureen

  26. Merlin

    I use an external mouse and keyboard.
    when I activate numlock, the keyboard works fine and types a number. when I deactivate it types letter, right all is OK. /but now: I hold the function key and then type “j” to get 1 instead the notebook sees it a directional or arrow key. How do I fix this. When I have a external keyboard I press numlock twice and the problem seems corrected. But I do not carry a keyboard along the whole time.

  27. Larry

    I was just getting ready to take my Compaq laptop to the shop as I couldn’t figure out how to unlock the function key (lost manual). Your solution was right on. Can’t wait to read your newsletter. Thank you.

  28. Bob

    Thanks for the information. M being displayed as a 0 was driving me nuts. Based on your explanation, I was able to turn Fn off.

  29. Nereyda Caceres

    Thank you!!! I am so glad I googled my problem and your page came up. I had been sitting here with Windows help for 2 hours and did not come close as to how to fix my problem. MY KIDS ARE NOT PLAYING THERE GAMES IN MY LAPTOP AGAIN!!

  30. Lorna

    My gripe is that I can’t figure out a way to get the special characters that I used to get when I typed something like alt + 0186 to get the degrees symbol, etc. Is there any way I can type these symbols without having to use the character map, please? I’ve tried all sorts of key combinations but no luck.

  31. Leo A. Notenboom

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    I was able to to that by holding down the Fn key and the Alt key and using the
    blue numeric keypad embedded on my keyboard.

    Leo

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  32. Crumhorn

    Thanks so much. I just googled “Fn key” and yours was the first hit. I have spent over an hour discovering all sorts of setting on my laptop that I didn’t know about, but none of them fixed the problem. It was so simple – I’m glad I didn’t take it to a Pro to be fixed – I’d have felt such an idiot. (Thought my laptop was on its way out – it’s quite old now).

  33. cm

    wow, brilliant, great, holding down ‘fn key’ all the
    time was really annoying. so glad to sort it out
    and before my computer mad son and hubby too!!

  34. Leo A. Notenboom

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    Sounds like a broken keyboard. Get it repaired.

    Leo

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  35. lulu

    i tried again and it worked. this time i pressed shift at the same time as numlk. thank god for that!my dad wont be cross now. thankyou so much, you have given me a good excuse to carry on with my homework! lol! you are the best and i will recommend this website to all those with pc problems!

  36. Chuck

    Thank you very much.
    After working on this damn thing for over 1 day, it came to me to run a search. Duh!!
    The worst part of the entire situation is I work on these silly technological blunders.
    Thank You Again,

  37. Pam Armstrong

    My cat just walked on my keyboard. I was able to Google “Fn”, then pick “Fn key” from the related topics and found you. Thanks!!!

  38. Di

    Many thanks worked treat had this problem with a recent samsung laptop i purchase which by the way didn’t even have scroll key for me to activate so when it says show picture of keyboard did it like that tapped the scroll key and everything went back to normal hooray:-0

  39. Justin

    I have a more complicated problem, I have a Toshiba m45-s265 with XP. I’ve been searching the net all net for a possible fix.. it seems a few other people have the same issues with their Toshibas. So ok heres my problem, theres some malfuction inside the board itself. When its tilted the fn key lights up and then bam you cant type jack****!.. somethings loose, I dunno.. my warantees expired, replacement isnt an option at this moment. id did some searching and I’ve waisted a whole night filtering through crap and not getting my answer.. What I want to do is just disable it.. i havent found any third party program that allows remapping of the fn key. If you know of any for this situation please tell me, i grow weary. I tired looking for a process to disable or delete but no luck. The last thing I can thing of is deleting a possible regestry if there is one. As one other mention in a different forum it turns into an obbsession. So as u can see this is quite a perdiciment…I just got a gut feeling i can handle this internally through the OS as is i have no use for the fn key because ive grown a burning hatred to get rid of it! Im not gunna give up just yet and if u can help email me at [Email Address Removed] >>>> dont mind the name im an anarchist and its a statement 😀

  40. igorus

    oh my gosh. thank you so much. i thought that my FN key got stuck in reverse or something.
    this is embarrassing for me too, because i work with computers as a profesion..

  41. Mfatal

    Great stuff* Thank you for that brilliant article!
    Saved the day.

    One minor thing worth mentioning.
    Maybe put the solution straight after this sentence.
    “”The trick, of course, is noticing it, and then turning it on, or in your case, off.””

    And then give a detailed breakdown of the FN and related keyboard functions.

    Still fab article*

  42. Sandra

    So glad to find the answer. i have to assume that my cat turned the Fn key on as she likes to walk on my computer while I type.

  43. angela weaver

    Thank you sooo much, this has been driving me crazy. I let my three yr old play on Disney and the next time I try typing I find that the Fn is stuck, what a pain. THANK YOU!!

  44. Evgeny

    Hey, thanks a lot for the article, could you maybe also help me in the case, that my “num lk”-key is not working. is it possible to disable the fn-keys at all?

    Thanks a lot in advance

    Evgeny

  45. Tameka

    Thanks, Leo. You are a lifesaver! I’d been to Microsoft’s page and they wanted to charge me $60 to ask a question. That’s crazy. It seems like they could put that type of information into their help menu (where I’ve been searching the past week). Leo, you’re great! BTW-my fiance’ is named Leo, too. It must be code name for great guy!

  46. Melissa

    Thanks so much Leo, this was so helpful…wasnt sure how my Fn key was turned on but i followed your instructions and “Fn + NumLk” solved the problem….thanks!!!

  47. Chris Wiste

    Wow, this is amazing, I thought that my laptop was just getting ruined (as I do let my daycare use it often). I never would have thought of the nUM lock key changing the FN keys, maybe I should have considering lots of them are numbers ! Thanks so much for solving a real irritating problem !

    Chris

  48. chiq

    I have a different problem though..why is it that when I hold down the Fn key, some of the keys won’t work. Specifically the numbers on 789 uio jkl, all the other function keys work except for those keys.

  49. chiq

    oh.. dont mind my previous comment. I already found a solution for it. thanks anyway! u just have press fn f12 and numlk all at the same time. thanks!

  50. Yvette

    Thank you for this information. I too did a search for the “fn key” and did not get answers via my computer help search field. As soon as I typed fn key in a google search, your page appeared and help with an answer quickly. THANK YOU SO MUCH! It was driving me crazy. Y.

  51. Chris P

    Thanks so much Leo, it was driving me nuts! First it happened at home and now at work on another machine. Such a simple situation but never suspected it!

  52. Anne

    Thanks a million. Couldn’t find the answer on any of the microsoft help options. Tried Alt Ctrl & every other combination of keys.

  53. Jennifer C

    Thank you Leo!!!! I could not for the life of me, figure out how to undo this annoying trait. You are a lifesaver!

  54. Lorna

    Thank you Leo. I can’t for the life of me understand why Sony haven’t put those instructions in their manual along with the other function of the Fn key, ie, to alter the volume, brighteness & contrast, etc, when used with the normal Function keys (F2, F3, etc). Now I’ll have to suss out which keys to activate to type characters such as the degrees symbol and French accents, etc, that I used to do using codes, such as Alt+0186 and Alt+0233.

  55. Nitesh

    Thanks for such a usefull article, i never thought that num lock key is used to disable/unable fn keys….thanks again.

  56. angie

    Thank you so much! This problem was driving me crazy. I tried every combo that I could think of. I even had a computer tech look at it. I held down the fn key with the scroll key and that cleared it. I am glad that I can type this without holding down the FN key! Thanks again!

  57. Maggie Whitson

    I am trying to turn off the FN key so I can type on the laptop, however I do not have a number lock key or the other key you were speaking of, what should I do. it is a tablet PC addition of a laptop.

  58. Maggie Whitson

    I am trying to turn off the FN key so I can type on the laptop, however I do not have a number lock key or the other key you were speaking of, what should I do. it is a tablet PC addition of a laptop.

  59. soy

    My problem is that the number NOR the letter won’t type. I am logged out of my computer now so I can’t even log in and I don’t know what comes up or not.
    What’s wrong with it?

  60. Shelly

    Thank you very much!! My 4yr old managed to turn the Fn on & I could not figure out how to turn it off. I was searching everywhere (which by the way Microsoft was no help to me on this one) to figure out how to get it back to “normal”. Thanks again!!

  61. larry

    omg thank you! i install a program to turn my keyboard into a piano and when i did, my keys and fn went crazy! i had system restored like twice and tried to uninstall my keyboard cuz i thought i did something wrong. thank you so much!

  62. seymour Butts

    you sir are an FN legend!!!!

    I tried all the buttons I could think of but didn’t realise that the num lock button was a FN as well thank you

  63. Meredith

    Thanks a million!
    My parents gave me this laptop a week ago and I thought that I had broken it! I had hit the num lock key and the ‘Fn’ button turned on (like you said.) I am so relieved and now I don’t have to explain this crazy story to my parents.

    Thanks again!

  64. Katie

    I just wanted to say thanks for easy-to-follow help. I must have accidentally hit the Num Lk key without realising that’s what it does! Thanks for help – now I don’t have to hold down “Fn” with my pinkie while I type! 😀

  65. Sarah

    That has been annoying me so much that I stopped writing using my laptop! Thank you so much for helping me fix this thing in any easy-to-understand way!!

  66. Aref

    Hi dear Leo
    It worked on my friends laptop. Thanks a lot.
    But I have a problem that my laptop doesn’t have any NumLock key or PadKey.
    I have the problem and I don’t know what should i do?

  67. annie

    Thanks so much!!!! It took a bit of internet searching to find this page, but I appreciate the full use of my keyboard back! (As well as the knowledge of how to do and un-do that again.)

  68. Leo

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    Aref: Check your computer’s manuals. Many computers use this
    Fn key, but others may use other keystrokes to the same
    effect. You’ll need to check what’s correct for your machine
    with the documentation or the manufacturer.

    Leo

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  69. Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
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    I’m closing comments on this article since the VAST majority
    are simply “Thank You”.

    You’re welcome. :-)

    Leo

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  70. Prince

    you are a genius leo! i considered myself computer literate,but after upgrading 2 laptops at once to vista..my keys went haywire..Thank you for your help..

  71. amelia

    thank you so much, i saw some comments saying they didn’t have a num lock key. neither did i, but i worked out it’s joint with the F11 key, hold down Fn + the F11 key, and it should turn off. :)
    thanks for all your help leo! 😀

  72. Tracy in SW WA

    Thank you for this! I borrowed my husband’s NEW laptop and immediately “broke” it (disabled the Fn keys). Now, thanks to you, he’ll never know. Muhahaha….

  73. robin

    Hi
    I had the opposite situation; I needed to use the numeric key pad and couldn’t figure out how to get it to work. I googled the question and your information was absolutely perfect. Thanks.

  74. Bob Hammond

    I do not have a num or a pad lock key. I tried the fn and the f11 keys but that did not work either. I have a Gateway laptop. Can anyone help me?

  75. dellboy

    [edited] i am still confuse i have a dell laptop and i dont have scroll lock neither num lock :( when i try to press f1 i have to hold down fn or else it do the short cut key

  76. Julia

    Thank you for that – you were the first google hit for “laptop keyboard fn key” and told me exactly what I needed to know. Hurrah.

  77. orwell arthur

    cheers. ive been trying the stupidest support page for the past one day. i have a vaio laptop. works fine, but incase of trouble, theres literally no support. tanx a million.

  78. smileymonkey.

    I do not have a num or a pad lock key. I tried the fn and the f11 keys but that did not work either. I have a Gateway laptop. Can anyone help me?

    I have a gateway laptop aswell. You do have a num lck key. It just looks different. Hold the Fn key and hit the scroll buttin, (it should have scroll, then a picture of a lock with the number 1 in it.). This worked for me:)

  79. david

    For GATEWAY users, the numlock key is on the scroll key and looks like a padlock with a ‘1’ in it…i.e. ‘number’ ‘lock’. Cute but a pain in the …for those of us without an imagination or looking for something else, but for small keys, a symbol is easier to fit than several letters I guess. Anyway, thanks for the tip and it worked for me!

    My problem is why is the keyboard backwards locked since I installed a wireless keyboard? I shouldn’t have to use num lock to use the regular keys in the first place.

  80. Alain

    I absoloutely love you Leo that was so helpful, my typing was seriously slowing down when i had to hold the fn button and you taught me something new.

  81. Jim

    Thanks Leo. You’re my hero of the day. I thought my laptop was infected with a virus. You saved me lots of time. turned off the “num lk” on my Compaq Presario C700.

  82. Brenda

    I was happy to find this website, but your answer doesn’t seem to work for my laptop. I have an HP that I just bought in Sept/09. I have more of those blue keys than your keyboard, Leo, but your suggestion doesn’t work for my computer. I dont’ know which keys I accidentally hit to turn the blue keys on, but all of a sudden they are on and I can’t turn them off unless I restart my computer. I think I’m turning the blues on with a mistype using the caps lock or shift keys, but I can’t figure it out no matter what combinations of keys I hit on purpose. Help!

  83. maggie reed

    Thank you soooooo much it has been driving me mad. I knew it was something I had pressed but could not remember which key (it should have been the screen dump PrtSc key). You have saved me hours of frustration – thank you again.

  84. Ray

    Had the same problem with my daughters mininote, after her little brother stood on it. Thanks to you, all fixed and she thinks I’m a genius!

  85. Nick

    Thank you for that piece. I never would have thought someone would have the same problem like me…nevermind a detailed page describing how to fix it.

    Thanks again.

  86. Jennie

    Many thanks for this. Very helpful and easy to read and use ( for a technophobe like myself!) Feel that I have ‘grown’ as I didnt have to call my dad to fix it!
    Thanks again!

  87. mary smith

    thank you so much – i was loosing my mind trying to type holding down the fn key. Phew – such relief, thanks Leo!!

  88. Mark Stanghon

    Detailed, informed,invaluable a big big thank you. Keep up the good work sharing the knowledge and making many people very happy..

  89. Leo

    I’m closing comments on this one, simply because so many are nothing more than “Thank You!”. You’re welcome.

    Leo
    21-Dec-2009
  90. palash

    my net book special keys on, but my need suggestion how to off special keys. asus netbook-Eee pc seashell series.

  91. RAKIB

    my PC have no NUM LK . when i press Fn+F11 this problem is solve temporarily. but some time after restart PC this problem start again. and every time after windows set up this problem start. now what can i do for permanent solution?

  92. Man Bahadur

    while pressing “forward arrow ->” system is showing “8”
    ]while pressing “backward arrow ->” system is showing i””
    while pressing “Home button” system is showing “]”

  93. Poojan Patel

    Thank you so much…….
    It was very much helpful as i was also having the same problem….
    It was a great help to me…

  94. Hellen

    Thank you so much! I was so scared, and going through a lot of difficulty with this; I had no idea of how simple the solution was.

  95. alireza mehraban

    i love u man, u just save my life, thank you man for sharing this soloution, i having this problem in months and my language is farsi, until today i searched in english and your web site show up, god blessed u.

  96. badmos olabayo

    WOW… THIS IS REALLY GREAT, SO MUCH THANKS TO YOU. I HAVE HAD THIS PROBLEM FOR WEEKS AND I HAVE THOUGHT OF FORMATTING MY LAPTOP BEFORE I CAME ACROSS YOUR PAGE. IT IS VERY HELPFUL.

  97. vinoth

    Thanks a lot for the help… I have totally confused to remove this function key problem. I thought to run new OS for my lap. but finally i got your help. thanks a lot…………………………

  98. Robert Fitch

    Unfortunately this fix does not cure my problem. No matter what keys I press, the letter ‘u’ makes my cursor step back and ‘p’ is an asterisk etc, etc.
    It just started for no reason. If I connect a USB keyboard, it’s fine. I’m stumped.

  99. Daniel

    Fixed within a second… after searching for 5 minutes on what the hell happened here…
    Since it was taken from an image it could have been driver related, but nope. Re-updated them.

    Viva NumLk … Why do they put this automatic though, this is a big WTF in Panasonic’s ToughBooks CF-31{1,2,3,4]mk5

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