Many computer users think that the functionality provided by different keys on a computer keyboard is fixed in stone and cannot be changed at all. Most might be surprised to hear that it is possible to remap all keys on a computer keyboard in Windows.
But why would someone want to change specific keys on the keyboard so that they have a different functionality? One reason could be to disable or change a key if the functionality of it is never used.
Think of the Caps Lock key for instance. It could be disabled or remapped instead of running the risk of pressing it accidentally and switching all keys to Shift-key mode. The Windows-key is another example as it can have side effects if pressed in the wrong situation (think fullscreen applications).
Another example are media keys and special keys. Media keys for instance can be used to play, pause or stop media and change the volume. Not every software on the other hand supports these keys and some users might be inclined to remap the media keys to different keys.
Some users might want to add functionality to a keyboard by adding keys that it does not have. Laptops without a Windows key come to mind as a basic example. Computer keyboard remapping tools can be used to remap a key like Right-Ctrl, or Right-Alt to the Windows key so that the functionality becomes available.
The direct way of remapping keys in Windows is to use the Windows Registry.
The problem with this approach is that the user needs to know the scan codes to change a key's functionality. A list of scan codes for common keyboard keys is available here.
A creation of a System Restore Point is advised before changing any keys directly.
A better approach for most users is to use a software instead of directly editing the Registry. A software usually has two advantages.
The programs automate the process of remapping the keys in the Registry. They do not need to be running in the background once the keys have been edited.
We have reviewed Sharp Keys some time ago. The program does not display a visual representation of the keyboard, just a list of supported keys.
The portable software supports key identification making it easier to find a key in the list. A key can be remapped by selecting it in the left column and selecting the new key in the right column afterwards.
This portable 30K application displays a visual keyboard on screen. Keys can be changed by selecting them first with the left mouse button and picking a remap key in the pull down menu afterwards. All remapped keys are displayed in green. There is also an option to save the layout and reset the keyboard layout in case something went wrong or is no longer needed.
Map Keyboard does not support media keys and other special keys. Users who need that functionality have to rely on Sharp Keys or the keyboard remapper KeyTweak instead. Download the program with a click on the following link: mapkeyboard
KeyTweak is the most advanced program of this guide. It supports standard keyboard layouts and specialty buttons. The program offers a teach mode that comes in handy to identify and remap keys. The teach mode is also helpful if the key is not displayed as part of the virtual keyboard. KeyTweak will recognize the scan code of the key in teach mode so that it can be changed.
Keys can either be changed by using the handy teach mode or by clicking on a key in the program's interface right away. The Choose new remapping menu holds all the keys that the selected key can be remapped to.
Defaults can be restored with a click and remapped keyboard layouts saved to import them on other computer systems.
KeyTweak contains the functionality of both Sharp Keys and Map Keyboard making it an excellent choice to remap keys. It is on the other hand the only software in this guide that needs to be installed. Click on the following link to download the program: KeyTweak_install
All three programs have been tested to work on 32-bit and 64-bit editions of the Windows operating system.
Here is a list of other programs to remap keyboard keys on Windows:
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.