About the Fn key
The Fn key on your laptop allows you to control many functions that you could otherwise only control via the system settings. This not only saves time, but can also be an annoyance if the required setting is always just a key combination away. In this guide, we’ll show you how to activate the Fn key, what features it offers, and also how to disable the Fn key if it’s permanently active, for example.
Fn key (on laptops): What is it and where can I find it?
The Fn key is mainly found on laptop keyboards. The Fn stands for function. It is often located between the well-known special keys like Ctrl, Alt and the Windows key at the bottom left (or right) of the keyboard. With the Fn key you can reach another control level of the keyboard (like with the Shift or AltGr key), i.e. you can use a second or third assignment of a key. The functions differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and sometimes also between the different laptop models themselves.
The keys that have a second assignment for the function key can often be identified by a matching symbol, often in a certain color. You can perform the following functions on most laptops with an Fn key combination:
- Adjust screen brightness
- Switch screen on/off
- Volume settings (Louder, Quieter, Mute)
- Putting the laptop into standby mode
- Touchpad (de)activation
- NumPad on the right half of the keyboard (if the laptop does not have a number pad)
- Controlling External Monitors
Fn key (de)activate – How to do it
Sometimes the Fn key may be permanently activated or locked. This is similar to the caps lock key, where everything is capitalized. This means that you can no longer use the normal functions of the F-keys in games or suddenly write numbers instead of letters. To release the Fn-lock, there are (unfortunately) different key combinations depending on manufacturer and model. Try the following key combinations one after the other to (de)activate the Fn-key permanently:
- Ctrl + Shift + Num
- Fn + Num
- Fn + F11
- Num + F11
If you do not have a Num key on your laptop keyboard, you can try the combinations with the Ins key instead. If all the key combinations don’t work and driver updates and the like don’t resolve the Fn lock, you can still try a manual approach to the problem. For example, you can use the free tool SharpKeys to give certain keys the function you would like to perform on a keystroke.
Fn-key does not work – What can you do?
If you have exactly the opposite problem, i.e. the Fn keys don’t work at all, this could also have various causes. This is often the case if you have rebooted your laptop or just upgraded to Windows 10. In that case, you should go to the manufacturer’s website and download the appropriate drivers for your laptop model and operating system. After installing and rebooting, the Fn keys should return to the desired functions.
If you want to use an external keyboard with an Fn-key, you should also install the included drivers and overwrite the default keyboard driver. Otherwise the Fn- and extra keys often don’t work.
If you want to use an external keyboard without the Fn key on a laptop, you can often use the Fn functions anyway: Instead of using the Fn key, simply press Ctrl + Alt + the F key that has the desired function on your laptop.
Related: Find out what the difference between a chiclet and mechanical keyboard is.
F keys without FN – How to change default assignment
If the default settings generally do not suit your interests, then the solution via Fn Lock probably does not go far enough. Fortunately, you can change it on most devices as well. keep in mind that a slower reaction of your laptop or computer when you press a key can be a cause of a dying CPU or other components getting older.
On most PCs the default settings are controlled by a setting in the BIOS or UEFI. Restart your PC and before starting Windows, press the key that is displayed to open BIOS/UEFI – usually F2, F10 or Delete. Alternatively, search the net for your PC model and the keywords “open BIOS” or “open UEFI”. In BIOS/UEFI, search for a setting called “Function Keys Behavior”, for example. Depending on the PC, the setting may also be hidden, for example, in software used to control the keyboard and mouse. Such programs are usually located in the systray, the area next to the time display in the start bar. In the Windows Mobility Center (part of the PC settings) you can also look at the setting for the preassignment of the function keys. If you don’t find what you are looking for, search the net for the model name of your computer (or keyboard) and “Function Key Settings”.