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Two operating systems dominate the PC market; Windows and Mac. However, the transition between both can be challenging. Therefore, many people choose to use a Windows keyboard on a Mac for a little familiarity. However, some configuration needs to be applied before the keyboard works as expected.

It is common for people to switch between Mac and Windows devices, especially. Although some people can overcome the differences with logical thinking and a little experimentation, many people prefer to keep using a Windows keyboard even on a Mac device as some keys are in a different location to the Apple alternative, a factor which can affect touch-typing. Windows keyboards are also available in a much wider variety of styles which are often considered more comfortable than the low-profile Apple keyboards.

Windows keyboards have a slightly different layout to Apple’s variants. The table below illustrates the equivalent position on each.


Position on Windows Keyboard

Position on Mac Keyboard

Above (shift) number 2Above (shift) ‘

Above (Shift) ‘Above (Shift) Number 2

Between the ‘ and Enter KeysOn the Number 3 Key (Press alt)

\ and |
Between the Z and Left Shift KeysBetween the ‘ and Enter Keys

Between the ‘ and Enter KeysBetween the Z and Left Shift Keys

Ctrl / Command
Bottom Left CornerEither Side of the Space Bar

Windows / Control
Between the Ctrl and Alt KeysLeft of the Left Option Key

Alt / Option
Either Side of the Space BarEither side of the Command Keys

When first connecting a Windows keyboard to a Mac, the above keys may not be corresponding to the correct input on screen. This is referred to as ‘mapping’ and can be adjusted in the System Preferences.

Open System Preferences by clicking on the cog icon in the Dock, then open the Keyboard options. From here, click on the Change Keyboard Type… button in the bottom left corner. Follow the on-screen guide to allow your computer to recognise the keyboard layout.

This will correct the position of character keys. However, the modifier keys will still not be configured as expected for a Windows keyboard. Therefore, back on the Keyboard setting window, press the Modifier Keys… button on the right. Now, you can allocate the keys to accurately relate to those on your keyboard. The set-up below will make your keyboard’s keys act as anticipated.

To test whether these changes have taken action, simply open a new text document and press the keys which have changed. Next, highlight some text with the mouse then press the keys simultaneously to copy the text. Use the Ctrl+V keys, and if the keyboard is correctly set up the copied text should then be pasted into the document. If this does not work correctly, double check the settings in the System Preferences window.

These changes will be in place in every programme when logged in to this user. To apply these alterations in a different user login, the same process will need to be completed while logged into their computer profile. However, they will not be applied when logging in. Therefore, if your login password contains one of the characters listed above as being in a different location on a Mac keyboard, you will need to press the key which is in the corresponding position.

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Written by
Fraser S
in Staff Articles.

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