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How Can I Disable or Reassign the Windows Key?

If you’re not sold on the functionality of the now ubiquitous Windows key, can you reassign it to a more useful task? Read on to see how.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Auron wants to know:

Between Ctrl and Alt, modern keyboards have an abominable key: the ‘Windows’ key :P

By default, when this key is pressed alone it opens the Start menu. Many applications and a great number of games work in fullscreen mode, and if you press this key accidentally, most of times because you wanted to press the Ctrl or Alt keys, the application usually freezes for a while and minimizes itself. If you are lucky, your videogame will pause, but sometimes it continues even when it is minimized.

Is it possible to disable the ‘Windows’ key?

It would be possible to show the Start menu with another combination of keys? I would like to keep combinations that use the Windows key working, like Windows+L, which leaves current session.

What can Auron do?

The Answer

Several SuperUser contributors all pitched some great ideas for helping Auron. Phoshi suggests:

Autohotkey?

That can do a lot more, too.

LWin::Return 

disables it, but

#F::Run firefox.exe 

would tell Win&F to run firefox. You could even set the winkey to only be disabled ingame, or require a double-press to fire, or have to hold it down before it triggers, and more!

If you’ve never used AutoHotkey before, we’d strongly suggest checking out some of our articles on the handy little program including: The Beginner’s Guide to Using an AutoHotkey ScriptHow to Save Time by Automating Tedious Tasks with AutoHotkey, and Insert Any Special Character with a Single Keystroke.

Another contributor, Junior Mayhé, offers this suggestion:

You can download SharpKeys! It saved my life, especially when I want to press ESC and accidentally press F1.

SharpKeys is free. You can download it from here

  • When installed, click on Add button,
  • on Map this key (from key) section click on Type key button. Type F1.
  • on the To this key (to key) section, select Turn Key off item.

Confirm with OK, reboot your Windows (because registry got changed). You’re done!

Finally, MiffTheFox offers a solution that simply disables the Windows key altogether so there is no accidental key presses when using the left ALT and CTRL keys:

You can add a certain value to the Registry to disable it. Here is a good tutorial, and some .reg files you can download.

However, this will disable the key entirely, as in no WinKey shortcuts. However, what I do is that I disable only the left Windows key, and use the right one to enter shortcuts. It’s a sacrifice, but it means that I don’t minimize anything fullscreen by accident.

Thanks to their contributions we have two perfectly serviceable solutions to help remap the Windows (or any) key to a new function and one way to outright disable it.


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.


 

 

 

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/27/12

Comments (7)

  1. r

    …I reassigned mine to open my neighbors garage door.

  2. Jeff

    This app also works. Once you start the app, it can be disabled from the taskbar. I’ve used it on Win 7 and Win 8, not sure if it works in earlier versions of windows.

    http://wkeydisabler.codeplex.com/

  3. DOH!

    Mine now opens that square glass thing on the wall in my kitchen.

  4. KO

    Why not just physically pull the Windows key off? I’ve never seen a keyboard (a “regular” one with individual keys, that is) that can’t have any or all of the keys pulled out of their little sockets/holes/etc.

    When playing games or for whatever reason when I don’t want the Windows key possibly interfering with my clumsy fingers, I just get out a small screw driver, pocket knife or something and pry it out. Done! No potential viruses by installing some unknown piece of code and no dangerous registry mucking. Problem solved until I want it back which is usually just a matter of snapping the key back in place.

    Sometimes, low-tech is the best tech.

  5. Ssundra

    In Linux my left key opens a terminal, right opens a browser.
    In Windows(gaming) they are space, and space is Ctrl+Alt.

  6. Josh

    One great function the windows key are it’s short cuts. New with windows 7, I often use it with arrow keys for side-by-side windows. Also windows + E and +D are useful too. For that reason alone I wouldn’t rip it off the keyboard physically.

  7. David

    My logitech G15 has a toggle that will turn the key off when I want it off.

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