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Why Do I Have to Hold Down the “Fn” Key to Get Normal Letters?


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 laptop manufacturers had to make to support a full-sized keyboard into the space of a laptop is the numeric keypad 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.

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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

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 questioner is asking; they need 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 the embedded numeric keypad without having to hold down the “Fn” key the entire time.

Num Lk Key

To fix it, just find and press “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.

162 comments on “Why Do I Have to Hold Down the “Fn” Key to Get Normal Letters?”

  1. 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 šŸ™‚

    • OMG!! THANK YOU!! I spent the entire day and night yesterday googling this issue with no luck! I was going “crazy”!! If I didn’t find your Help today I was going to have to bring it to the “Geeks”. Thank you, Thank yo, Thank you!!!

  2. 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.

    • I pressed fn then scroll number lk while still holding fn and it worked. Make sure your number lk is turning off. If it isnt, then try one more time. Don’t press them at the same time. Press fn, hold it, then press number lk while still holding fn. That worked for me.

  3. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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??!

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

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


  16. 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,

  17. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!!!

    • Leo, sorry, but my question did not get answered and am still struggling with how to eliminate the light off icon when pressing Fn and PgUp where the light icon is. Sometimes when I do use those two keys together, it will disappear, but not always. Any suggestions, please.

      Thanks in advance.

  24. 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. 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

  26. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    Hash: SHA1

    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.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  32. 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. 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!!

    Hash: SHA1

    Sounds like a broken keyboard. Get it repaired.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  35. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 šŸ˜€

  40. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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


  45. 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. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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!

  49. 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.

  50. 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?

  51. 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! šŸ˜€

    Hash: SHA1

    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.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


    Hash: SHA1

    I’m closing comments on this article since the VAST majority
    are simply “Thank You”.

    You’re welcome. šŸ™‚


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  54. 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….

  55. 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.

  56. 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?

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

  58. 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:)

  59. 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.

  60. 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!

  61. 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.

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

  63. 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?

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

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

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. 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…………………………

  69. 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.

  70. 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

  71. Thanks so much!!! Its been a year already i cant figure out how to type normally on my samsung notebook. I dont even want to use it anymore but now i can bring my samsung notebook anywhere i go. Thanks a bunch!!!

    Just purchased a genius i200 for work (Debian OS) and was going nuts remembering when to press the function key to get “regular” keys to work without the function key. Was just deciding that I had chosen poorly and buy something else, but with your helpful advice, I’m a happy keyboard user = again!

  73. i broke 2 keys in solving the problem thinking it would be because of keys jammed in key board
    Thanks for the solution šŸ™‚

  74. I’m very thankful to read some comments and messages in fixing the problem and I tried to search the same problem that I encountered but I didn’t see a similar case. Can you please help me solve my problem for my asus notebook model transformer t100 with OS windows 8.1, because yesterday I experienced some key problem in my laptop,once press some letter such as L or M my laptop might be switch off. I tried to restore or reset keyboard settings but nothing happen..
    Thank you and your comment is really appreciated..


  76. Thank you Leo! I brought my computer to a repair place that charged me $200 to change the keyboard, which wasn’t (and didn’t solve) the problem; it was this (I got my money back and sent them your article for future reference).


  77. Had similar…tested the keyb by booting Linux, but same result. Test was seeing if Windoze was prob. either driver or keyb subsystem.
    Saw your post about fn numlock combo and it worked !! Was wondering if the keyb internal mappings were flushed, or similar explanation !!

  78. That’s amazing!! it worked!! woohooo! I had exactly the same problem! Thanks so much! very well explained too. Learnt a lot šŸ™‚

  79. i had a similar problem that i had to press my function key then the letter keys, else i will display numbers. it simply needed to press the num lock key. after following keenly the instructions, it worked. thanks a lot

  80. thank you so so much…. while typing this comment my fingure automatically goes for fn key… bcoz am facing tis problem fr last 2years….

  81. LEO YOUR THE BEST……. you saved me from spending my little cash. A Nigerian common saying to appreciate wonderful men like is ” you be correct guy”…. so have it —-> “Oga Leo na you be the most correct guy”.. really cant thank you enough.

  82. Thank you!! i somehow activated the Numlk key without my knowledge and all of a sudden i was getting the numerals! I almost wiped out my centOS installation running on a VM thinking its all screwed up!!

  83. I can’t find ‘num lok’ key? fn does let me use numbers, but I have to hold it down to do that. your explanation with the numlok sounds good, but I just can’t fine numlok key……. help !

  84. Since the last window 10 update i cannot use the space bar without holding down fn key and can’t use the arrow keys either and shift keys.
    please iam going crazy trying to solve this problem. I have a Toshiba Satelite l775

  85. Hi! Whenever I press Fn+NumLk the Numpad in the laptop keyboard deactivates… However, the ā€œu,i,o,l,;,k,j,m,7,9,0,/,pā€ keys still won’t work and I have to press Fn to get those characters. Help, please!

  86. I just love how you explain things in simple terms. You are very good at it. I use your site very often.

  87. I am having similar issue cannot use space bar without using FN or use any other key that needs FN. ie 1, 2, 3, 4 or special characters Above those keys even Shift does not work either.

  88. wow that is awesome … Thank you very much I have had this issue for more than 3 weeks and you helped me solve it . Thank you so very much again

  89. hey there

    It did not work for me. Same problem but I DONT HAVE NO FREAKING NUM KEY ON MY LAPTOP!!!

    Still here is the solution:

    1 attach a normal keyboard from your friend or so
    2 keep the fn on your laptop pressed
    3 press the num key on the external keyboard

    worked ease like shit broo i’m so happy being able to write these lines without holding fn hahahaahaha

  90. HI
    I am experiencing the same thing, i tried to hold the num lk but nothing happened is there any way/s to get back my key board into normal without using fn
    sorry i can’t use even question mark
    i’m using msi lapto*

  91. Thank you! Just bought a tablet PC and I was afraid it was a manufacturer defect and I already have had to return one tablet already due to a defect and it’s the week after Christmas so half people in the city are in line at store return stations.

  92. Jazak ALLAH thanks, brother. You have solved the big issue. It was one hell of a task for me. Now my keyboard is working fine šŸ™‚

  93. Thank you so much……you fix my error in Second thanks once again …………for this error i saw 10th video in YouTube but no one work and your Method is work thanks again

  94. Hi ,
    thank you so much for this post. For the past couple of days i was so frustrated while typing my keyboard as i had to press function key while typing j, k , l , m and others. After going through your post i was able to resolve this issue.


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