How to Remap Windows Keyboard Shortcuts in Boot Camp on a Mac

By Chris Hoffman on October 5th, 2014

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A Mac’s keyboard layout just isn’t quite right for Windows. Whether you’re primarily a Windows user or primarily an OS X user, the layout doesn’t feel quite right when you run Windows in Boot Camp — but you can fix that.

There are several possible ways you might want to rearrange these keyboard shortcuts depending on what you’re used to. All it takes is a few clicks with SharpKeys and you’ll feel more at home in Boot Camp

The Problem

Mac keyboard layouts are subtly different from PC keyboard layouts. On a typical PC keyboard, the bottom-left corner of the keyboard contains keys in this order: Ctrl, Windows, Alt. On a Mac keyboard, you’ll see the following layout: Control, Option, Command. In Boot Camp, these keys function as Control, Alt, Windows.

In other words, the Alt and Windows key are swapped from where you’d expect them to be. Worse yet, Mac users will have to use the Control key for various keyboard shortcuts that require the Command key on Mac OS X.

There has to be a way to fix this — and there is. We’ll be using SharpKeys to remap these keys in Windows. SharpKeys is an easy-to-use, open-source graphical program that creates the appropriate Windows registry entries to remap keys. You could actually do this all in the registry editor if you like — it just takes more work. This utility works on Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and even older versions of Windows.

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Solution 1: If You’re Used to Mac Shortcuts

If you’re used to Mac keyboard shortcuts, you may want to make the Command key function as the Control key. You’ll then be able to use Mac keyboard shortcuts like Command+C, X, or V for Copy, Cut, and Paste in Windows. Pressing Command+L will focus the location bar in your web browser on Windows just as it does on OS X — without the remapping, that Command+L shortcut equals Windows Key+L, which will lock your Windows system.

To do this, install SharpKeys and launch it. Click the Add button and click “Type Key” under the “From key” column on the left. Press the left Command key. Next, click the “Type Key” button under the “To key” column on the right. Press the Control key.

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Click OK and click “Write to Registry.” Log out and log in or reboot to activate your changes. Your left Command key will function as a second Control key, which means many Mac Command key shortcuts will just work like you’d expect them to. If you need to press the Windows key, press the Command key on the right side of your keyboard instead.

Solution 2: If You’re Used to Windows Shortcuts

If you’re used to Windows keyboard shortcuts, you’ll probably want to swap the Option/Alt Key with the Command/Windows key.  This will change the order from Control, Alt, Windows to Control, Windows, Alt — the same order you’ll find on a standard Windows keyboard. The muscle memory you’ve built up for keyboard shortcuts won’t fail you.

To do this, install SharpKeys and launch it. Click the Add button. Scroll down in the left column and select “Special: Left Alt.” Next, click the “Type Key” button under “To key” on the right. Press the Command key at the right side of your keyboard and then click OK.

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Next, click the Add button again. Click “Type Key” under the “From key” column on the left. Press the left Command key. Scroll down in the “To key” column on the right and select “Special: Right Alt.” Click OK and click “Write to Registry.”make-mac-command-key-function-as-alt-key-in-boot-camp-windows

Log out and log back in, or reboot your Mac. The Alt/Option key will function as a Windows key and the Command key will function as the Alt key. This means the layout at the left side of your keyboard will be Control, Windows, Alt — just like on Windows.

Solution 3: Make Mac OS X’s Keyboard Shortcuts Match Windows

You could instead adjust your keyboard shortcuts in Mac OS X so they work more like they do in Windows. For example, you could swap the Control and Command keys in Mac OS X — then you’d press Control+C, X, or V to Copy, Cut, and Paste in Mac OS X, just as you would on Windows.

To do this, boot into Mac OS X, click the Apple menu on the menu bar, and select System Preferences. Click the Keyboard icon, click the Modifier Keys button, and swap the Control and Command key functions. You can also easily disable the Caps Lock key from here.

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If you decide you don’t like the keyboard remapping you chose, you can open SharpKeys up again, delete the rules you created, and click “Write to Registry.” Everything will be back to normal after you log out and log back in or reboot.

Image Credit: Faruk Ates on Flickr, abdallahh 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 10/5/14
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