Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Why Doesn’t My Keyboard Work Until Windows Is Running?

Question: My keyboard doesn’t work before my Windows XP boots, after which it works well. Mine is a USB keyboard. I find it difficult while reinstalling the OS. I now have to borrow a PS2 keyboard every time. Is my problem solvable?!

Solvable? Perhaps, but probably not.

But if it makes you feel any better, I have exactly the same problem.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

The answer is in your question – you (and I) have a USB keyboard.

The process of booting your computer is handled first by the BIOS, and then by the Windows bootstrap loader. Neither of those have the drivers required for every possible hardware configuration, so they rely on a default. Sadly for you and me, USB keyboard support is not part of that default. It’s not until Windows loads that all the hardware on your system, including the USB keyboard, becomes available, and ready to use.

I believe, but I’m not certain, that newer computers may include a BIOS with more robust USB support. I kind of expect it, since USB has become such a popular standard for peripheral devices.

Even then, though, I think I’m still screwed. I happen to have a USB Bluetooth keyboard. As a result, USB support in the BIOS is not enough … I’d need it to support Bluetooth (a short-range wireless technology) as well. So depending on the specific type of USB keyboard you have, you may also be out of luck.

And yes, I do keep an old style PS2 keyboard in a drawer nearby, in case I need to do something with computer at some point before Windows XP starts up.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

47 comments on “Why Doesn’t My Keyboard Work Until Windows Is Running?”

  1. I can’t believe you didn’t recommend a USB to PS2 coverter, they’re inexpensive and are sold nearly everywhere.

    The nature of keyboards makes it completely safe, you will not experience any problems or differences in speed etc by using this converter with a USB keyboard.

  2. That is a very good suggestion for some. Unfortunately it will not work for many “USB” keyboards – in particular wireless keyboards that use a USB plug-in transmitter.

  3. >I believe, but I’m not certain, that newer
    >computers may include a BIOS with more robust USB

    You are correct. My computer (about a year old) has an option in the BIOS to ‘Enable UBS keyboard support’. Unfortunately, it’s turned off by default, so those who have USB keyboards can’t get into the BIOS to enable the BIOS’s support for USB keyboards.

    That’s some catch, that catch-22…

  4. I have a Microsoft USB Wireless keyboard.. It works fine when I startup my computer, no matter what I am running, CMOS Setup, DOS or Windows.

    (I recently had to recover a HD with a DOS based recovery program, only the mouse didn’t work)

    I think the key is a new BIOS.

  5. My computer dealer of the past 20 years (all that time, among the most respected in our city) insists on a PS2 keyboard and mouse — even for my new 3.40G dual-core screamer. And now I can see why! It never dawned on me that a USB keyboards might not let me access my BIOS, let me boot into Safe Mode, etc. I have a enough of a time making sure the F-Lock key becomes active in time for Safe Mode access. (A physical disability forces me to use the MickeySoph split keyboard.)

    He talks of other potential problems, too, but this would be the most obvious for me.

    Even though many of my keyboards have had USB plugs, they usually ship with a little PS2 adaptor (or vice versa: a PS2 plug with a USB adaptor). If this is the case with your keyboard, then you needn’t keep an extra one handy, just plug it into the PS2 adaptor before you boot.

    Take care!

    – The Zero Card

  6. Oddly enough, I have a REVERSE problem…

    My wireless keyboard (PS/2) works just fine in the BIOS, but as soon as Windows XP loads and prompts me for my password, it won’t respond at all!

  7. To solve my problem, I tried buying a new keyboard that’s USB. Again, it works fine with the BIOS, but not when WinXP loads. I actually have to uninstall then reinstall the keyboard to use it!

  8. Just boot in the recovery console, and write cmd: copy c:\windows\repair\system c:\windows\system32\config … it will copy 1 file (overwrite – yes), keyboard and mouse on ps/2 should now working.

  9. Does anyone know if the recovery console option works?
    I have a wireless keyboard and mouse ( PS2 ) this works great on Windows 2000 but will not work ( in windows, works fine in dos or the bios ) as soon as the password screen comes up – Nothing!!

  10. Installing XP on a system where the PS/2 port is shot is no fun at all… “Press any key to boot” and the USB keyboard which works within bios is not recognised… grrr! :)

  11. o.k, So i go and spend about a grand on computer parts and new screen i get it all home and my computer starts acting wacky after i hook it all up. i turn on the power supply in the back and then for some odd reason i am able to turn on my computer with the keyboard and then after my key board and mouse stop working and i am stuck on then no signal screen because to activate it i need to be able to push a button on my keyboard, but another odd thing is that for a split second when i turn the power source on my keyboard and mouse light up and then dont work, then i of course push the button on the keyboard and turns the computer then after they do not work. I really need help as i have spent a lot of money and do not plan on spending more i just need expert advice.

  12. I have similar problem. Keyboard works fine in the bios and thats it. wont work in windows. The PC has been imaged, the image works fine on other pc’s. have gone as far as re-imaging the pc, trying diff keyboards (ps2) and even disabled usb keyboard in the bios.

  13. I have just built a new computer trying to boot xp with a wirless usb keyboard and it doesnt work why cant they just stick with PS/2 people were much happier then

  14. My problem is that I have a Microsoft Wireless keyboard/mouse pluged into my USB port, I have the drivers from the installation CD loaded OK,(WIN XP home)
    my system goes to load from the BIOS then stops and says no keyboard present. I have to change to another USB slot and restart it then works fine, next I reboot it may work or not, then its back to swapping ports I have tried using the PS2 Plug
    that also comes with the unit to no avail it won’t regonzise the PS2 plug(It’s a pain in the B…..)I have USB on in the BIOS any help would be appriciated.DE

  15. OK, so what do I do if my new PC doesn’t have a PS2 connector?? How can I get in to Repair my OS if my keyboard won’t work because it’s USB and I don’t have a PS2 connection on the back of the PC?

  16. I have this problem but INVERTED!!! I have a PS2 keyboard, and it doens’t work UNTIL windows is running!!! I can press F8 to get into the “secure mode” menu but then i can’t select the option. Also, i can’t enter F2!!!! It works fine when windows boots….How can format my computer????

  17. I have a weird problem: its the opposite(kind of)my keyboard works right at the start and thats it.Its not working now either(onscreen keyboard is annoying)
    When I try to reinstall it, it says:

    Windows cannot start this hardware device because its configuration information (in the registry) is incomplete or damaged. (Code 19)

    What do I do?

  18. my plug in keyboard wont work, either does the hub, ive tried cordless and still no joy, someone advised a green connecter, what do u think it is. ive had a keyboard work b4 on this pc

  19. Hi;
    I am using a logitech cordless desktop keyboard and mouse. I restarted my pc with windows xp pro but I cant rstart windows because the keboard and mouse wont work. The pc reboots ok but when it gets to loggin on as the windows administrator I cant type in my password, the kepads on the keyboard does not work nor does the mouse. But when I navigate through the bios it works fine.
    I cant even start in safe mode because it asks for my password and I cant type it in.
    Can you pleas help me I am desprate!!!!


  21. I have the same problem. Unfortunatel my ps2 port is damaged and i can only use a usb keyboard. I desperately need to format and reinstall xp. But I can’t boot from the xp cd because my keyboard wont work until windows loads. What do i do?


    Hash: SHA1

    I don’t know of a solution other than getting that keyboard adapter fixed. :-(

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  23. I have a different problem. My keyboard works on startup but then as soon as windows starts it doesn’t! I I can’t use my pc! help? x

  24. I have recently had the problem of F8 not working with my USB keyboard when trying to install WinXP and after several attempts and ensuring my bios supported USB keyboard. I finally, out of frustration, tried switching on all three lock keys (Caps, Scroll and Num) when at the licence agreement screen and it worked.

  25. Any update on this? I have only usb. Works in BIOS and POST but not at Login. Im on a 2003 domain and must hit CTRLALTDEL to log in.


  26. I have the same problems i try installer the XP and my keyboard don’t work, after the set up….wh….same body tell me whats go in on with this matter?


  27. I have a problem with my ps2 keyboard working in BIOS. I think my little niece and nephew were messing with the settings. My system in an IBM Netvista 8305-pcu.

  28. Hi, i tried to overclock with a ECS NF650iSLIT-A moderboard, and after that it wouldn’t start. util we put the stock values back. After this the USB keyboard Logitech G15 won’t work in boot menu. What’s the problem?

  29. i have an idea of this problem. Just buy a new keyboard with a round adapter and not for USB port.
    i bought a new one and now it works perfectly.

  30. I have recently had the problem of F8 not working with my PS2 keyboard when trying to install WinXP and after several attempts.How can I install winXP ?

  31. durin the boot keyboard is working proper but after load windows xp not working keyboar. and i cant restart or shutdown computer usin mouse,
    is this is a virus problem?
    how can solve this problem

  32. Hi there! I had the same problem, but just fixed it, so I thought I would share this with you all!!
    Basically, I knew my PC was capable of booting with a USB keyboard, because it always did before! I went into the BIOS settings, and evrything seemed to be okay! (USB Keyboard support was enabled, and so was USB legacy support) However, the problem arised after the house had an electricity power-cut. This seems to be what had caused it, and sometimes people experience similar problems after fresh installs of either software or new hardware. Basically, the way I fixed it was to go into the BIOS settings, and saved those settings! (Which saves the configuration to the CMOS battery, where it stores all your hardware configuration.) This fixed the problem! So even though in the BIOS, it still showed that these settings were correct, these settings were previously not saved in the CMOS, (which is where your computer will look when it trys to load everything up when it boots up!) So this is something I urge you to try if you’ve been having this problem, because it’s so easy to miss, that I almost didn’t think to check it myself! In fact, it’s something I discovered completely by accident! On a further note to this, if this still doesn’t fix the problem, it could also mean that your CMOS battery needs replacing, because once they start to go, it will forget all your CMOS settings, and certain things just won’t be remembered everytime you do a cold boot! (cold boot = a bootup from when the power is off). Anyways, hope this helps some of you that were also having this problem! Just remember these three steps:
    1) from the BIOS set USB keyboard support to “Enabled”
    2) also from the BIOS set legacy support to “Enabled”
    3) SAVE SETTINGS (which saves them to CMOS)

    Job done!! ;)

  33. And I second that. Or threehundredandtwentynine that ;). USB Legacy was switched off (why?!), and now it’s working. Thank you very much!

  34. I had the same problem when i changed my motherboard. I had to put an new windows, but my usb keyboard wasn`t responding to any control, except standard comands like flash bios, enter bios, recovery etc.

    I was lucky because my new motherboard has a fine bios. I checked “Enabled”, in BIOS, on USB Keyboard and problem solved. The defaul setting was disabled and this was the reason why the system wasn`t recognising my usb keyboard until windows was running.

    Hope you have a fine bios and you`ll solve the problem easely. A huge problem using usb keyboards…Who manufactured them wasn`t thinking at this potential problem?! Clasic keyboards are better! They run anyway with no problem…

  35. When it’s just a normal usb keyboard and not a bluetooth one you can always buy an adapter plug so that you can connect the usb keyboard to the ps/2 port(sometimes included with the keyboard in the box). it also exists for a usb mouse.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.