For all the changes Windows has undergone in the last 35 years, one thing has remained almost exactly the same: the keyboard. The QWERTY layout has remained is just as widespread now as it was back then, and the many function keys are used for similar tasks.
While this works for most people, it might not be tailored to your needs. Maybe there are a few keys you don't use, or the placement of a certain key isn't in the most natural place. Fortunately, there are three ways to remap your keyboard, each with increasing levels of complexity.
How to remap your keyboard using SharpKeys
There are various third-party programs which help you remap buttons on your keyboard, but we like SharpKeys. It's free, easy to use and perfect if you're just looking to remap one key to another. Here's how to use it:
- Download SharpKeys from randyrants.com. We'd recommend the ZIP file
- Unzip the file and open the app. You'll need to give permission for it to make changes to your device
- Click 'Add' from the bottom left corner
- In the window that appears, you'll see two almost identical lists - one for the 'from' key and the other for the 'to' key. Select which current key function that you'd like to change from the left list and which function you'd like to change it to for the right list (selecting 'Turn Key Off' means it will not do anything which pressed). You can type out the key you're looking for below each list if it's easier
- Once both keys in the list are highlighted, click OK to confirm
- Repeat for as many keys as you'd like to remap. As you can see below, the Q key will now perform the F1 function, the Right Shift will perform a backspace and the Windows Key will no longer do anything
- Click 'Write to Registry' to apply changes and then restart your PC
- That's it! You can add, edit or delete any of the customisations at any time by returning to the app, but make sure you always click 'Write to Registry' after you make modifications
Remap your keyboard using your keyboard's software
If you have a desktop PC with an external keyboard, it's likely to come with its own companion app. Within the likes of Logitech, Corsair and Razer's software, there's an option to customise hotkeys. As it's tailored towards gaming, this often goes far beyond simply remapping keys. Multi-key combinations, text shortcuts and setting individual profiles depending on which game you're playing are all common options.
For even more options you can use the AutoHotkey scripting language, which may be your best bet if your keyboard doesn't come with software. However, we'd only recommend it if you want to really serious about keyboard customisation, as there is a significant learning curve.
You might want to remap the function keys, but it's worth learning what they do by default first.
Remapping the keyboard is just one of a number of customisation options available in PowerToys, a set of tools aimed at power users which returned to Windows 10 in 2020.