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How to Prevent the Windows Key, Alt+Tab, and Sticky Keys From Ruining Your Gaming

windows-key-on-computer-keyboard

Windows is designed for desktop use, not gaming. The Windows key, Alt+Tab, and other keyboard options like Sticky Keys will rip you out of full-screen games and back to your desktop — but you can disable them.

We’ve seen keyboards with the Windows key pried off and special gaming keyboards that advertise “no Windows key” as a feature. These hardware tricks aren’t necessary — you can disable these obnoxious keys entirely in software.

Disable the Windows Key

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Permanently disabling your Windows key isn’t ideal. It’s very useful for quickly opening your Start menu, using Windows search, and performing many different keyboard shortcuts. That’s why we recommend the AutoHotkey method below — you can disable the Windows key only when playing games.

You can also use other methods for disabling the Windows key. For example, you can also use SharpKeys to reassign the Windows key to another key or change the Scancode Map value in the registry on your own.

disable-windows-key-with-sharpkeys

Disable Alt+Tab, Windows Key + Tab, And Other Shortcuts

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Other shortcuts can also be obnoxious. Pressing Alt+Tab or Windows Key+Tab will open an application switcher that takes you out of your game. We can’t disable these shortcuts in the registry, but we have successfully used AutoHotkey to disable Alt+Tab, Windows Key + Tab, and the Windows Key itself.

First, download and install AutoHotkey. Open it and click File > Edit Script.

edit-script-in-autohotkey

Delete the contents of the default AutoHotkey script and add the below content. The lines beginning with ; aren’t necessary — they’re comment lines that don’t do anything, but explain what the script does. If you only want to disable some shortcuts, you can choose which of the lines you want to include in your script.

; Disable Alt+Tab
!Tab::Return

; Disable Windows Key + Tab
#Tab::Return

; Disable Left Windows Key
LWin::Return

; Disable Right Windows Key
RWin::Return

Feel free to look up how AutoHotkey works and add other keyboard shortcuts you’d like it to ignore. If there’s another key or combination of keys that bothers you, AutoHotkey can take care of it.

disable-windows-key-and-alt tab-in-autohotkey

Save the in Notepad and click File > Reload Script in AutoHotkey afterward. AutoHotkey will grab the keyboard shortcuts and make them do nothing at all when you press them. AutoHotkey will automatically load this script each time you launch it.

autohotkey-reload-script[4]

When not playing a game, you can click File > Suspend Hotkeys in AutoHotkey. AutoHotkey will release the keys so you can use the Windows Key, Alt+Tab, and other shortcuts normally. You can also just exit AutoHotkey and launch it before playing a game.

You could set AutoHotkey to only capture these keys while you’re using a specific application — however, you’d have to add each game you play to the list.

autohotkey-suspend-hotkeys

Turn Off Sticky Keys

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Tap your Shift key five times in a row and you’ll see the Sticky Keys prompt. This is designed to help people who have physical disabilities, but it’s inconvenient if you just want to press Shift in peace.

To disable the Sticky Keys pop-up, tap the Shift key five times in a row to bring up the Sticky Keys dialog. If the pop-up doesn’t appear, you’ve already disabled it. Click the “Go to the Ease of Access Center to disable the keyboard shortcut” link.

disable-sticky-keys-pop-up-in-windows

In the Set up Sticky Keys window that appears, uncheck “Turn on Sticky Keys when SHIFT is pressed five times” and click OK.

turn-off-sticky-keys-pop-up-on-windows-8.1

Turn Off Filter Keys

Filter Keys works similarly. To bring up the Filter Keys dialog, hold down the right Shift key for eight seconds. Click the “Go to the Ease of Access Center to disable the keyboard shortcut” link.

disable-filter-keys-pop-up

Uncheck the “Turn on Filter Keys when right SHIFT is pressed for 8 seconds” option and click OK.

disable-filter-keys-on-windows-8.1


Hold down the Num Lock key for five seconds and you’ll see the Toggle Keys pop-up. Toggle Keys can be disabled in the same way, but it’s much less likely you’ll stumble across it. Most gamers aren’t holding down their Num Lock key for any particular reason.

Image Credit: AI R on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 08/24/14