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

Get back to typing with these quick fixes.
By

Published onFebruary 3, 2024

Chromebooks 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 most of your usage, and you can save 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.

Editor’s note: We used an ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip running ChromeOS version 120.0.6099.272 to formulate these steps. Some steps may differ depending on your Chromebook and the software version.

Enable the on-screen keyboard

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.

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Go into the Accessibility tab.
  3. Click on Keyboard and text input.
  4. Enable On-screen keyboard. You can also enable Dictation to enable voice-to-text.
  5. A new icon will appear in the lower-right corner. Click on the keyboard icon to pull it out.

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, you can use guest mode.

  1. Turn on the Chromebook. You will be met by the sign-in page.
  2. Select Browse as a Guest.
  3. Check if the keyboard works.

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.

Remember 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

Hardware issues can be hard to physically diagnose. This requires skill and know-how. Thankfully, Chrome OS has a software diagnostics tool that could help you determine if there are issues with any of the hardware, including the keyboard.

  1. Launch the Settings.
  2. Click on About ChromeOS.
  3. Select Diagnostics.
  4. Click on the Keyboard tab.
  5. Select Test.
  6. The test will highlight a key when you press it. Press any key and see if the system recognizes the input.

If this tool doesn’t recognize key presses, the issue is likely a hardware one. If so, you can try to claim the warranty or insurance, if you have one. Otherwise, you can still repair it through the manufacturer or a private repairer for a fee.

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, etc.

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 volume down keys simultaneously for at least 10 seconds, and release them.

Those with a Chromebox can disconnect and plug the power cable 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; 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

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.).

  1. Launch the Settings.
  2. Go into the Device tab.
  3. Select Keyboard.
  4. 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.

  1. Launch the Settings.
  2. Go into the Device tab.
  3. Select Keyboard.
  4. Toggle Press and hold to automatically repeat the key.

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 turn off the feature until then.

  1. Launch the Settings.
  2. Go into the Accessibility tab.
  3. Select Keyboard and text input.
  4. Toggle Sticky keys.

Fix stuck keys

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 critical files and documents because a factory reset will erase everything.

  1. Launch the Settings.
  2. Expand the Advanced tab.
  3. Select Reset settings.
  4. Next to Powerwash, click on Reset.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish the process.
How to Powerwash a Chromebook