Keyboards are a straightforward peripheral to use for the most part. You press a key, and the character that is bound to that key appears on the screen. When you think about it, there isn’t much that can go wrong with such a simple mechanism.
That being said, just like any other piece of technology, odd things can happen with your keyboard now and then, which can a lot of frustration and takes a decent amount of your time and effort to fix.
One such problem that users computer users commonly come up against is the keyboard typing symbols instead of numbers out of nowhere.
Facing such a problem can be highly infuriating, especially if you are closing in on a deadline and you haven’t noticed that all the numbers you typed a few minutes ago are random symbols.
As a fair few factors can cause your keyboard to type symbols instead of numbers, we have compiled a list of fixes that you can walk through and hopefully resolve the issue.
- Ensure that the left and right SHIFT keys aren’t stuck.
- Ensure that the left and right ALT keys aren’t stuck.
- Ensure that the sticky keys functionality isn’t active.
- Ensure that you have the correct keyboard layout set.
- Unplug your keyboard and plug it back in.
- Reinstall keyboard drivers.
- Try the keyboard on another computer or try a different keyboard on your computer.
Next up, we will explain why your keyboard numbers could be typing symbols in greater detail and the steps you can take to resolve the issue even if you haven’t identified the cause.
Reasons and Fixes for Keyboard Typing Symbols Instead of Numbers
While there are a few different things that can cause your keyboard numbers to type symbols, they are simple issues that you can test for quickly.
Let’s get down to each of these things in detail and how they can cause your keyboard to type numbers instead of symbols.
Left or Right Shift Key Stuck
Left or right shift key being stuck is one of the primary causes behind symbols appearing when you press the number keys on the keyboard.
As the shift modifier replaces numbers with symbols in most keyboard layouts (including US layout), the key being stuck without you noticing would cause symbols to appear instead of numbers.
To check a stuck shift key is causing your issue, press some of the letter keys. If uppercase letters are appearing (assuming caps lock is off) on the screen, it means that your shift key is stuck.
For the most part, unsticking a shift key is as easy as pressing it down a few times until it pops out of the place it’s stuck in. If this doesn’t work, you can try pulling the keycap out and re-seating it.
Left or Right Alt Key Stuck
Left or right alt key being stuck is another commonly encountered case where your keyboard would type symbols when you press the number keys.
While this isn’t the case for the US layout, the alt modifier is known to replace some of the numbers with symbols, and it being stuck can cause symbols to be printed instead of numbers if you are using one of such keyboard layouts.
If your issue is caused by the alt key being stuck, pressing the letter keys should be triggering shortcuts of the software that you are focused on instead of typing letters.
Just as the shift key, unsticking an alt key should be as straightforward as pressing it down a few times until it pops back to its original position. Once again, you can also pull the keycap out and re-seat it if that does not help.
Sticky Keys Are Active
Sticky keys is a feature that you can find in Windows, macOS, and in some Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu), which allows you to enter key combinations sequentially instead of the standard way of entering with simultaneous key presses.
In a nutshell, once you press a modifier such as CTRL, SHIFT, or ALT, the key “sticks” until you press another key.
For the sticky keys feature to turn numbers into symbols, you would also have to press a modifier such as SHIFT or ALT on accident.
If only a few of your number inputs are becoming symbols at random times, sticky keys may be the culprit behind the issue.
Here is how you can disable the sticky keys feature depending on your operating system.
- Windows – Press the SHIFT key five times in a row in quick succession.
- macOS – Find the Universal Access dialog in System Preferences, click the Keyboard tab, and click the Off radio button next to the Sticky Keys text.
- Linux (Ubuntu) – Find the Universal Access dialog in Settings, bring the Typing Assist dialog up, and use the slider to turn Sticky Keys off.
Wrong Keyboard Layout
A keyboard layout assigns the characters to the keys on your keyboard, which means that the key that corresponds to the letter A can be a completely different character in a different layout.
If you have accidentally activated a different keyboard layout, your number keypresses may trigger symbols, depending on the configuration of the layout.
In such a case, it’s highly likely that the number keys aren’t the only ones affected. To test, you can try pressing random keys on your keyboard and see if they actually print the characters they should.
Here is how you can change the keyboard layout depending on your operating system.
- Windows – Go to Settings, Time & Langage, Language. Select the language you wish to type in under the Preferred languages heading and click Options. Click the Add a keyboard button to add a new layout, or press on the pre-existing ones to delete.
- macOS – Go to System Preferences, Keyboard. Click Change Keyboard Type, and follow the instructions you see on the screen.
- Linux (Ubuntu) – Go to Settings, Region & Language. Change the Language option to the language you wish to type in, and add or remove layouts in the Input Sources section.
Problems with Keyboard
If nothing has worked so far, you might be facing problems related to your keyboard, the keyboard drivers, or the connection between the keyboard and the computer.
Here are the steps you can follow to see whether the issue is keyboard-related or software-related.
- Unplug the keyboard and plug it back in. While this solves the issue in most cases, move to the next step if it doesn’t.
- Reinstall keyboard drivers. In Windows, you can do this by going to Device Manager, right-clicking the keyboard, clicking Uninstall, and restarting your computer.
- Try the keyboard on a different computer or a different keyboard on your computer. If you have access to a separate keyboard or computer, performing this test will show you whether the problem lies within the keyboard or the software.
Why Is My Keyboard Typing Numbers When I Press Letters?
Keyboard typing numbers instead of letters is a problem that mainly occurs in laptop keyboards due to Num Lock being active.
The Num Lock feature on a laptop keyboard is designed to simulate the behavior of a keypad that you can find in external keyboards, as most laptops don’t have space for a separate keypad section on their keyboards.
When you activate it, the Num Lock feature replaces the functionality of a portion of the keys on the keyboard with numbers. In most cases, these keys are denoted with numbers printed on some part of the key.
To resolve the issue, find the Num Lock key on your keyboard, and press it to deactivate the feature.
If you can’t find the Num Lock key, you can use an on-screen keyboard where it’s easier to do so.
Why Can’t I Press Numbers on My Keyboard?
Here is a list of things that may prevent you from pressing numbers on your keyboard.
- One of the CTRL keys is stuck.
- One of the ALT keys is stuck.
- The keyboard layout is wrong.
- Num Lock is off. (Keypad only)
- Mouse keys are on. (Keypad only)
How to Change Numbers to Symbols on the Keyboard?
If you would like the number keys to insert symbols without the need for pressing modifiers, here are some ways to do so.
- Use AutoHotkey to remap the behavior of the number keys. AutoHotkey is a program that allows you to create macros where you can bind certain inputs to trigger certain actions. While there is a learning curve involved, scripting the behavior to replace numbers with symbols should be easy, especially if you have programming experience.
- Create a custom keyboard layout where you map the number keys to insert symbols. While the process for doing so depends on the operating system, most operating systems allow you to create a custom keyboard layout either as a part of the operating system or through external software.
Keyboard typing symbols instead of numbers can be very annoying and confusing if you have never experienced such a thing before, especially if you aren’t too involved with computers.
Fortunately, solving the issue is straightforward once you know what caused it, as there isn’t much of a technical complexity involved in applying the potential fixes.
That being said, if you haven’t been able to identify the root cause, you may have to go through a fair few of the fixes before finding the one that works for you, which may take some time and effort on your part.