Out of all the technological devices we use, keyboards are perhaps the most problem-free of them all. It’s pretty rare for a keyboard to start malfunctioning out of nowhere, unlike mice that can start randomly double-clicking or headphones that start producing crackling sounds.
That being said, keyboards being this reliable can cause keyboard-related problems to be even more infuriating when they appear as these problems are entirely unexpected.
The arrow keys of your keyboard suddenly ceasing to function is one such issue that can cause tremendous amounts of frustration, as it’s such an odd problem where everything else on your keyboard is working just fine.
So, what are the things that can cause your keyboard arrows not to work?
- Scroll Lock is active.
- One or more arrow keys are stuck.
- There are issues related to the keyboard drivers.
- The keyboard is malfunctioning.
- Num Lock is active. (Keypad arrows only)
As each of the reasons we have listed below can cause your arrow keys to stop functioning in different ways, let’s take a look into each one of them in greater detail and see what other symptoms they bring.
Why Are Keyboard Arrows Not Working?
While keyboard arrows not working is definitely a frustrating problem, finding the reason behind it is straightforward in most scenarios as there isn’t much of a technical complexity attached to it.
Active Scroll Lock
The scroll lock function being active is perhaps the most common culprit behind arrow keys stopping to function as intended.
Scroll lock is a function that causes the arrow keys to scroll through a document without moving the cursor through the text when enabled. You can toggle Scroll lock on and off by pressing the Scroll lock key on the keyboard, similar to Caps lock or Num lock.
While the scroll lock function does not affect the behavior of the arrow keys during the usage of most modern software, due to the invention of the mouse removing the necessity for such a function, it can be the reason behind your arrow keys not working.
One of the best examples of software where you can still see the effects of scroll lock is Microsoft Excel. When enabled, the scroll lock function allows you to scroll through the sheet with arrow keys without changing the cell you have selected.
To see if the scroll lock function is indeed the problem, press the scroll lock key on your keyboard and see whether the problem continues or not.
If your keyboard does not have a Scroll Lock key, you can use the On-Screen Keyboard feature in Windows to toggle the Scroll Lock function instead.
If you are on macOS, the Scroll Lock functionality is bound to the key combination of Fn and F14 on the extended keyboard.
Stuck or Damaged Keys
Stuck keys can be the reason behind a decent amount of issues, including arrow keys of your keyboard not working. While the word “stuck” makes it sound like the key is entirely unpressable, a key can actually be stuck without you even noticing it.
As you know, the keyboard switch requires to travel a certain distance to actuate and send the input to the computer. While the keypresses can still feel natural to you, especially if you are a light typer, the switch may be getting stuck right before reaching its actuation point.
As a stuck key often causes the key to be completely unresponsive, the first order of business is to check whether the key is sending inputs or not.
- Launch the On-Screen Keyboard utility if you are on Windows or search the internet for an online keyboard tester.
- Press each of the arrow keys while the tester window is focused. If your arrow keys are working, you should see feedback in the form of the keys you press glowing or changing color on the screen.
If you are getting no feedback on any of the keys, gently remove the keycap with a keycap puller, and try directly pressing the switch a few times with more force than you usually use to press a key.
While this process can help to loosen the switch, if you are not getting feedback even when you press it fully down, a stuck key is most likely not the issue.
Faulty Keyboard Drivers
In rare cases, faulty keyboard drivers can be the culprit behind the arrow keys not working.
As the issues caused by faulty keyboard drivers can present themselves in a multitude of ways, the best course of action is to perform a clean reinstall of the drivers.
In Windows, you can reinstall the keyboard drivers by bringing up the Device Manager dialog, right-clicking the keyboard entry in the list, click the Uninstall button, and restarting your computer.
When your computer boots up, Windows will reinstall the keyboard drivers, solving any driver-related issues.
Finally, the arrow keys may not be working as intended due to a malfunctioning keyboard.
The best way to understand whether your keyboard is malfunctioning or not is to try a separate keyboard on your current computer or try your current keyboard on a separate computer.
If the keyboard does not function as intended on any of the computers, or if a separate keyboard works as intended on your computer, it’s safe to say that your keyboard is malfunctioning and should be replaced or repaired.
On the other hand, if you don’t have access to a separate computer or keyboard, here is what you should do.
Start by unplugging your keyboard from its current port, and plug it into a different one.
If this hasn’t solved your issue, try a clean operating system to eliminate the possibility of the problem being computer-related.
Unless you already have a separate operating system you can switch to, the easiest way to boot from a clean operating system is by creating a live Linux drive with a widely-used distribution, such as Ubuntu.
In the case where the arrow keys of your keyboard do not work as intended after these steps either, it’s safe to assume that the keyboard is malfunctioning.
Active Num Lock (Keypad Only)
While the num lock function does not do anything for the standard arrow keys, it could be the reason behind your keypad arrow keys not functioning as needed.
Num lock is a function that toggles the behavior of the keys between two sets, with one of these sets being numbers and the other being composed of arrows, home, page up, page down, and end keys. You can toggle the Num lock function by pressing the Num lock key on the keyboard.
As the num lock function causes the keys of the keypad to insert numbers when it’s active, you can quickly tell if num lock is causing your issue by the numbers that appear on your screen when you press the keys.
To get the arrow functionality back, disable the num lock function by pressing the num lock key on the keyboard.
If your keyboard does not have a Num Lock key, you can use the On-Screen Keyboard feature in Windows to toggle the Num Lock function instead.
How To Fix Keyboard Arrows Not Working?
If you are looking for a way to fix the issue of your keyboard arrows not working without diving deep into what may be causing your problem, here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to diagnose the issue as quickly as possible and solve it.
Unless stated otherwise, you can stop following the steps as soon as one of the steps has fixed your issue.
- Start by testing the arrow keys with software. Use the On-Screen Keyboard or a web-based keyboard tester to see whether the arrow keys are sending input. If the keys are working, move to step 5.
- Check if the keys are stuck. Remove the keycap and press the switches fully down to ensure that it actuates. If they don’t go fully down, try to clean them to ensure that nothing is blocking them.
- Reinstall keyboard drivers. As faulty keyboard drivers can cause arrows keys to malfunction, reinstalling the keyboard drivers is often a good idea.
- Try the keyboard on a different computer, try a different keyboard on your computer, or connect the keyboard to a separate port and use a clean operating system. Following any of these processes will quickly allow you to see if the keyboard is malfunctioning. If the evidence points towards the keyboard malfunctioning, you will need to purchase a new keyboard as the issue is most likely on the hardware level.
- Check if Scroll Lock is active. The scroll lock function can cause your arrow keys not to work as intended in some scenarios, meaning that disabling it will restore functionality. To toggle the scroll lock function, press the scroll lock button on your keyboard.
Arrow Keys Not Working in Excel
If Excel is the only software where the arrow keys of your keyboards don’t work, the Scroll Lock function is the main culprit.
The scroll lock function prevents the arrow keys from traveling between the cells of a spreadsheet in Excel, only allowing you to use them to scroll through the document.
To fix the problem of arrow keys not working in Excel, turn the scroll lock feature off by pressing the scroll lock key on the keyboard.
While keyboard arrows not working can quickly frustrate you, finding the cause behind it shouldn’t be taking you too much effort and time if you take the correct steps.
Considering that the fixes for any of the cases aren’t too technically challenging either (except if you got a malfunctioning keyboard), you should be able to restore the functionality of your arrow keys in no time.