Microsoft PowerToys is a handy utility for Windows that lets you customize all sorts of things about Windows—everything from the behavior of windows on your screen to your keyboard shortcuts. Here’s how you can use PowerToys to remap your favorite (or least favorite!) shortcuts.

Download PowerToys from Microsoft and Install It

PowerToys doesn’t come preinstalled on Windows; you need to download it manually. Microsoft recommends that you download PowerToys directly from GitHub. You should grab the latest version — it’ll always be the one nearest to the top.

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Make sure that you grab the correct version for your PC. Most Windows desktops and laptops out there use 64-bit Intel or AMD processors, so download the installer that has “x64” in the name somewhere. Click the “.exe” file once it has finished downloading and follow the prompts.

ARM-based processors are gradually becoming more common in PC, so it is possible your have one. You can always see what CPU is in your PC, and then look up the model number to be sure. Alternatively, you can just guess — if you try to install the wrong one, you won’t hurt your computer, you’ll just see an error message.

The error message you'll get if you try to install an ARM64 program on an x64 PC.

The other option is to install PowerToys from the Microsoft Store.  Just click “Install” and everything will be handled automatically. The only slight downside is that the version on the Microsoft Store is updated a bit more slowly than the version on GitHub, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer for bug fixes.

Note: If you want you can install PowerToys via a command line as well. Open up Terminal, make sure it is a PowerShell tab, then copy and paste  winget install Microsoft.PowerToys --source winget into the window and hit Enter.

Use PowerToys to Remap Keys or Shortcuts

Launch PowerToys and click on “Keyboard Manager” on the left-hand side.

Ensure that “Enable Keyboard Manager” is toggled to the “On” position — it should be by default. There are two choices: “Remap a Key” and “Remap a Shortcut.”

Make sure the toggle is set to "On."

The names mostly speak for themselves. “Remap a Key” lets you map a key to a different key, a key to a shortcut, or a key to a function.

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As a silly example, you could use “Remap a Key” to map the “T” key to “Ctrl+V” so that pressing “T” would trigger the paste function. You could map the “[” and “]” keys to “Volume Down” and “Volume Up,” respectively.

Tip: You can select a key, shortcut, or function, using the drop-down menus, or you can click “Type.” If you click “Type,” you just need to press the key you want instead of scrolling through the list.

An example mapping the "[" key to volume down and the "]" key to volume up.

You’re mostly constrained by the fact that there aren’t many keys on your keyboard that can reasonably be rebound to other keys, shortcuts, or functions without impinging your ability to use your computer normally.

“Remap a Shortcut” is more useful in that regard. Unlike “Remap a Key,” “Remap a Shortcut” allows you to combine multiple keystrokes and map them to another shortcut or function, and you can even make the remapping application specific. That gives you a ton of flexibility and lets you work around almost any preexisting shortcuts that might cause a conflict.

RELATED: 30 Essential Windows Key Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows 10

Select your new key combination, select the shortcut or function you want to map the new key combination to, and then pick the application you want to use it with.

Leave “Target App” blank to make the remap system-wide. If you want a remap to apply only to a specific program, you need to enter the program’s executable name into the box.

Tip: You can open Terminal and enter the command “tasklist” to get a list of the processes currently running. It will display the name you need to enter into the “Target App” box under the “Image Name” column.

Enter your desired shortcut, select what key, shortcut, or function you want it mapped to, and then select which application you want to use it with .

Now instead of mapping “[” and “]” to “Volume Down” and “Volume Up,” you can map “Ctrl+[” to “Volume Down” and “Ctrl+]” to “Volume Up,” and you don’t need to worry about messing with your ability to insert brackets or curly brackets at all. If you wanted, you could map “Ctrl(Left)+Shift(Right)+T” to “Delete” and make it only apply in GIMP.

An example remapping. "Ctrl+Shift+T" has been mapped to the "Delete" function, but only in GIMP.

Plenty of applications let you remap shortcuts or functions within their settings, but some don’t — they’re ideal candidates for the PowerToys remapping utility. Microsoft specifically warns that it may not work well in games, though, so test it thoroughly before you join a competitive match.

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Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree.
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