How to: Fix random MacBook keys not working

[ 1 ] Wednesday, 4 February 2015 |

I have and regularly use a MacBook Pro that hails from 2010. It feels so long ago, but yet the hardware functions so brilliantly well despite it’s age. This is something I seriously doubt I could say about a Windows-based laptop given that I’ve known friends have three laptops in the time I’ve had this device.

I was very frustrated when my number 6 key stopped working today. I was even more perplexed when I found that the ^ worked fine (that’s shift and 6). Clearly there wasn’t an issue with the physical key itself. This had to be a software issue.

Google is our friend, and the chances are you’ve probably arrived here following a Google search trying to solve a similar problem. A recurring theme out in that vast Internet of ours suggested making sure that Mouse Keys, an OS X feature was turned off.

I checked and Mouse Keys was off. I tried toggling it on, off, on and then off again but my number 6 still refused to work. Clearly it wasn’t that. [Mouse Keys can be turned on / off either in Settings > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad, then use the check box. Or, but tapping both CMD keys at the same time five times. Well, on OS X Yosemite anyway!]

The second suggested resolution was to make sure I’d got the right keyboard type enabled under Input Devices. I couldn’t see how this could have randomly happened, but I’m not one to dismiss a line of enquiry to a possible solution so I checked anyway. I added a British PC keyboard to my language options, tried, turned it back to British normal (I’m British in case you hadn’t guessed!). No difference. [Input Devices is found under Settings > Keyboard > Input Devices]

I’m not a fan of coincidences. I’m more of the school of thought that there must have been something else that led to this problem and therefore racked my brain for a memory of what exactly I’d done of late to the MacBook to perhaps cause this issue.

It was then that I noticed the tiny, but not insignificant bluetooth dongle for my wireless keyboard protruding from one of the MacBook’s USB ports. That was the difference; I’ve used a wireless keyboard the day before and today I wasn’t.

After removing the bluetooth dongle my number 6 key merrily sprung back into life and the fear I’d forever more have to remember the alt code for 6 (54 in case you’re interested) faded away!

TL;DR: Unplug anything you might have plugged into your USB ports as an alternative input device.

Photo credit: .Camilo (Flickr)

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Category: Apple, How To, Mac, OS X, Technology

About the Author ()

Tech meddler, Architect, mental health advocate, founder / editor of, married and father of two.
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