Most of us are used to the classic qwerty or azerty layout on our keyboards, but that doesn't mean they're perfect. Default keyboard layouts are meant to apply to a broad range of people, not cater to individual needs. As a result, you may be wondering how to remap keys in Windows 11 and Windows 10 to suit your preferences.
PowerToys: A great key remapper from Microsoft
For this purpose, we'll be using a Microsoft-published tool called PowerToys. PowerToys is an application designed to help you get more out of your PC, and that includes the ability to remap your keyboard.
If you don't have PowerToys already, you can download it from Microsoft's official GitHub page. Follow the installer's instructions and you'll be good to go. So, without further ado, here's how to change keyboard keys in Windows 11 and Windows 10 with PowerToys:
How to Remap your Keyboard in Windows 11 with PowerToys
We chose PowerToys because its publication by Microsoft means that it's safe, effective, and will likely receive years of continued security updates and bug fixes. However, if you'd prefer to use a different tool, you can check the section below this one.
Here's how to remap keys with PowerToys:
- Open PowerToys
Press Start, type “PowerToys”, then click the top result.
- Select “Keyboard Manager” in the sidebar and press “Remap a key” on the main screen
- Press the “+” icon to create a new key remap
- Click the dropdown to select the key you want to remap
Select the key you want to change (Key) and then the key or shortcut you want it to
become (Mapped To).
For example, if you want to press A and get “Ctrl+C”, key “Æ would be your “Key” column and the shortcut “Ctrl+C” would be your “Mapped To” column.
- Select the key from the list or press the “Type” button and type the key
In addition to the standard key names you can also select VK codes from “VK 1” up to “VK 252”, as explained in a comment from contributor arjunbalgovind on GitHub:
“We show VK for any virtual key code which doesn't point to a unicode character using the ToUnicodeEx API, or if it doesn't have a special key name (as per the Virtual key codes docs). The reason for keeping all the key codes is for flexibility for users (some users have mentioned use cases where they map a key to a unused key code and in turn can use it for a specific function in an application which accepts only 1 key), and because the list of “valid” key codes can vary between input languages. For the mouse buttons the name was not added because they wouldn't work (the keyboard hook won't catch events for those codes, but GetAsyncKeyState would still show the state as per the mouse click). It might be better to use hex/both, it wasn't something we thought about when we added it in since it was there primarily for compatibility between languages.”
- Press the dropdown in the “Mapped To:” column
- Select the key you want to remap it to
- Or: click “Type”
- Press the key or keyboard shortcut to remap to
Press “OK” once it shows up in the “Keys Pressed” window.
- Click “OK” in the top-right corner to apply the changes
- Press “Continue Anyway”
You can now try out your new keyboard remapping and use it wherever you like.
The Best Freeware Tools to Move and Remap Keys
If you'd prefer not to install a general-purpose tool like PowerToys, there are several third-party tools to choose from. Popular choices include:
SharpKeys is a simple and easy-to-use tool that has been around for a while. Its interface is nothing fancy but is perhaps more efficient because of it. Once you're done making the changes, SharpKeys lets you easily write them to the registry and then reboot to get started.
Key Remapper is one of the more popular and well-reviewed key remappers for Windows 10. Though you do have to pay for its full version, you can grab a restricted version for free here. The best thing about Key Remapper is its ability to additionally remap mouse buttons. You can therefore add keyboard keys to your mouse for very easy access.
KeyTweak is a good alternative if you're looking for a key remapper with a more visual interface. Rather than lists, it displays a virtual keyboard and allows you to click each button on it to remap them. You can also save different sets of mappings to separate profiles so that you can easily switch between them.
Key Mapper stands out for its flexible interface. Everything works through a drag and drop interface that allows you easily reassign, disable, and activate keys. However, you can also use methods such as double-clicking keys on the keyboard or manually creating a new mapping. Importantly for international or dvorak users, Key Mapper also supports several alternate keyboard layouts.
If you're looking for something small and lightweight, RemapKeyboard does the job. It comes in at just 79KB and consists of simple, three-column list interface that is very easy to navigate. It requires a registry entry to change the keys, so you'll need to log in and out for the changes to take effect.
Extra: How to Enable or Disable the Touchpad on Windows 11
The touchpad, also known as a trackpad, is a pivotal element in laptop design, offering a touch-sensitive interface to control the cursor with finger swipes and gestures. Users often find the need to disable the touchpad, especially when it hinders their workflow, such as accidental cursor movements while typing. In our other guide we show you how to enable or disable the touchpad on Windows 11 using various methods.
How to Make Emoji on Your Keyboard or Start Programs with a Shortcut
If you're looking to get even more out of your keyboard, you can follow some of our existing tutorials. We have a guide on how to start programs with a shortcut which could be helpful, as well as one on how to make emoji on your keyboard.