How to remap the Caps Lock key and avoid future frustration
Toggling on the Caps Lock key by mistake can be annoying, but disabling the key completely is not always possible. A better solution is to remap it.
Image: iStockphoto.com/Murat Ufuk GULER
[Update]: After recently installing the Windows 10 Creators Update, which Microsoft is rolling out to everyone throughout 2017, I realized that my painstakingly implemented keyboard remapping had been changed back to the default settings. Fortunately for me, this tip on remapping the keyboard to change the Caps Lock key location in Windows 10 still works perfectly. Since many TechRepublic readers may find themselves in a similar circumstance, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit this how-to tutorial again. Some tech tips never get old.
The Caps Lock key is a holdover from a time when keyboards were attached to typewriters. For many of us living in the digital world, there is no need for the Caps Lock key at all. In fact, we find ourselves toggling the function accidently and then typing in ALL CAPS way too often—a frustration we would like to eliminate.
Fortunately, the Caps Lock key can be disabled with an edit of the Windows 10 Registry file. However, some of us still use the Caps Lock function from time to time and can't afford to disable the key completely. There is a better way.
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With a free utility available from an obscure set of tools provided by Microsoft, we can remap the Caps Lock key to a different key of our choosing. Here's how.
I have used this remapping technique for many years and have written "How to" articles explaining it before. It still works, even for Windows 10.
The first step is to download the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit. That's right, this remapping tool is old and has not been updated in a long, long time. The reason it still works is that all the application can do is edit the Windows Registry in a specific section related to keyboard mapping. That limited scope means it can't do too much harm as long as it's used responsibly.
Download the Resource Kit and run the installer. If you use the default folder, the remapkey.exe app will be located in C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits\Tools.
This next step is an important step, so don't skip it. Right-click the remapkey.exe executable and run it as administrator. You will not be able to edit the Windows Registry without admin privileges. You should see a screen similar to Figure A.
The Base keyboard (top) represents the default settings, and the Remapped keyboard (bottom) represents the keyboard configuration you want to have after the edit. Click and drag key functions from the top keyboard to the bottom keyboard to perform the remapping.
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In Figure A, you can see that I have remapped the Caps Lock key to be a duplicate of the Shift key. I have also remapped the Right Ctrl key to now be the Caps Lock key, where it will be out of the way during normal typing.
When you click the Save And Exit button of the remapkey app, it will ask you to confirm what you are about to do and warn you that a reboot is required. Once the reboot is complete, your keyboard will be remapped. You can use the remapkey app to change back to default settings or re-edit if desired.
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Since I am certain someone will ask for it, here is how you completely disable the Caps Lock key with a Windows Registry edit. Use this technique at your own risk.
First, start a new text file with Notepad or some other text editor. Then, enter this text, as shown in Figure B:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
Now, click File | Save As and save the file as disable_caps_lock.reg. It is important to save the file as a Registry (.reg) file. Right-click the disable_caps_lock.reg file and navigate to the entry that says Merge.
The Merge function will add the file into your Windows Registry and then require a reboot. When that is complete, the Caps Lock key will be disabled. You will have to edit the Windows Registry and delete the key you just inserted to switch the Caps Lock back to the default, which is one of the reasons why I prefer to use the remapping tool.
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Do you accidentally turn on Caps Lock when you are typing? Have you ever taken steps to disable it? Share your advice with fellow TechRepublic members.