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Chromebook keyboard not working? Here's how to fix it

Get back to typing with these quick fixes.
July 16, 2023

Chromebooks and Chrome OS are excellent affordable alternatives to Windows and MacOS systems that, while not as powerful, are more than capable enough to handle everyday tasks. Chromebooks are worth considering if a browser covers the majority of your usage, and you can save some money along the way. However, like any tech, Chromebooks aren’t free from issues, and quite a few users face keyboard problems. If your Chromebook keyboard is not working, here’s what you can do to fix it.

Enable the on-screen keyboard

Split screen on Chromebook 6
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If your Chromebook keyboard suddenly stops working and you need to use it for something important, the good news is that Chrome OS has the option for an on-screen keyboard built in. The first thing you’ll want to do before going through further troubleshooting is to enable the on-screen keyboard.

Click on the time and go to Settings > Accessibility > Keyboard and text input and enable On-screen keyboard. On some Chromebooks, you’ll have to go to Settings > Advanced > Accessibility > Manage accessibility features and toggle on Enable on-screen keyboard. You can also enable Dictation to enable voice-to-text.

You can also temporarily use a Bluetooth keyboard until the issue is resolved.

Sign in with a guest account

Apps or settings linked to your primary Chromebook user account might cause the keyboard to stop working. To check if that’s the case, go to the sign-in page and click Browse as guest. If the keyboard is working as expected, a faulty app or setting is the likely cause. You might have to delete the user account with the issue and set it up again.

Ensure that the keyboard is working with the new user account. Then sign out, click on the downward arrow next to the name of the old account, and click Remove account. If the keyboard doesn’t work with the guest account or new user account, you’ll have to move on to the troubleshooting steps below.

Keep in mind that some school or work Chromebook laptops may not have the Guest option. You can try the steps below. But the best option is to contact the school or work administrator to report problems with the keyboard not working.

Check if there’s a hardware issue

ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip review 4
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Click on the time and go to Settings. In the search bar, type diagnostics using the on-screen keyboard. In the dropdown, go to Diagnostics > Input > The internal keyboard and select Test. Run the test to see if there is a hardware fault. If there is one, you’ll have to contact the Chromebook manufacturer to send the device in for repair or get a replacement.

Reset the Chromebook hardware (hard reset)

A hardware reset can help fix any problems with the Chromebook keyboard not working. Google says that a hardware reset might delete some files from your Downloads folder (everything else should remain unaffected), so you might want to back up that folder first. Don’t forget to disconnect external hardware like a mouse, monitor, hard disks, flash drives, USB hubs, and more.

To perform a hard reset, turn off the Chromebook, press and hold the refresh button, and press and release the power button while holding the refresh key. Release the refresh button after the Chromebook restarts. If you have a Chrome OS tablet, turn off the device, press and hold the volume up and down keys simultaneously for at least 10 seconds, and release them.

Some Chromebooks have removable batteries that you can hard reset by simply removing the battery and plugging it back in. Similarly, if you have a Chromebox, simply remove the power cable and plug it back in.

On some Chromebooks, you’ll find a dedicated hard reset button at the bottom of the laptop, around the battery. Remove the power adapter and press the button. It’s a small, recessed button, and you’ll need a pin or paper clip to press it. While pressed, reconnect the power adapter and release the button.

Disable function keys and check special key functions

Acer Chromebook Spin 714 keyboard
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The top row of the Chromebook has special keys to control the volume, adjust brightness, take a screenshot, and more. If these keys don’t work as expected, it could be because Chrome OS recognizes them as function keys (F1, F2, etc.). To change the setting, go to Settings > Device > Keyboard, and toggle off Treat top-row keys as function keys.

In the Keyboard settings, also ensure that special keys like Alt, Search, Escape, Backspace, and others are mapped correctly. Click the dropdown and select the corresponding option for the key.

Enable or disable Auto-repeat and Sticky keys

The Auto-repeat feature ensures that the system recognizes a long press as multiple separate inputs when you want to repeat a character. This can be a problem if you don’t want this feature. To disable it, go to Settings > Device > Keyboard and toggle off Enable auto-repeat. If you like the setting but not how it works, you can make some adjustments to settings like “Delay before repeat” and “Repeat rate” to better suit your preference.

Sticky keys are a useful accessibility feature to keep special keys activated to make it easier to use keyboard shortcuts when you can’t press multiple keys simultaneously. This feature might cause some problems with keyboard functionality, though. A software update will fix the problem, but you can disable the feature until then. Go to Settings > Advanced > Accessibility > Manage accessibility features > Keyboard and input and toggle off Sticky keys.

Fix stuck keys

Acer Chromebook Spin 714 backlit keyboard
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

You might notice a key that is stuck or jammed because of dirt or debris building up over time. Check out our guide on how to clean your laptop keyboard to see if you can fix a stuck key yourself before sending it in for repair.

Factory reset the Chromebook

If everything else fails or if the keyboard stops working completely, your only option is to send the laptop in for repair. However, if you’re suffering from glitches and persistent issues, you can try a factory reset as a last resort. You will have to back up any important files and documents because a factory reset will erase everything.

To factory reset your Chromebook, go to Settings > Reset settings and select Reset in the Powerwash section.