How to fix keyboard typing numbers instead of letters?

March 20, 2020 |

greater than 15 minutes

The design system in certain keyboards allows users to type letters and numbers using the same keys. If you have such a keyboard, then you probably know that you have to press and hold the Function or Alternate key and then hit the appropriate button (usually one with a letter and a number displayed in the top corner of it or by its side) to output the number. Anyway, in this guide, we intend to examine the problem defined by the event where your keyboard refuses to type letters and pushes out numbers only.

What if a keyboard types numbers instead of letters when using some keys?

First, you need to come to terms with the workings of your keyboard. Keyboards, in the first place, are supposed to have a numeric side (for numbers) and an alphanumeric side (for numbers, letters, and symbols). However, over the years, as machine manufacturers sought to minimize space, they came up with keyboards with alphanumeric sides only. Well, this form of keyboard (or button layout) is quite commonly used in laptops, especially in those devices that sacrifice real estate for portability (notebooks, tablets, and so on).

In the keyboard interface in view, the alphanumeric side is typically split into the following: Function keys (F1 to F12), Numeric keys (0-9), and Alphabetic keys (A-Z). Of course, symbols – such as Brackets, Question marks, and so on – still do exist on those keyboards. Meanwhile, cursor keys that alter or modify the cursor position are always standard (in regular positions), and other keys from this list are often included: Backspace, Insert, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Delete, and Tab.

We still have to mention the special buttons – which consist of Shift, Control, Alt, Caps Lock, and others – since they have a solid presence on almost all keyboards. From their name, you might have figured out what the special keys are for or what they do. Well, the special keys are used to activate additional features or functions for the other keys. The Alt, Shift, and Num Lock keys are of great interest to us here.

When your computer pushes out numbers only instead of letters (after you press the relevant keys), then there is a good chance the Num Lock key is set to On. When the Num Lock function is on, your computer gets instructions that you have set the keys to output numbers only. The setup described tends to function seamlessly (without issues or complications) for the most part.

An issue, however, might arise in scenarios where you cannot control the Num Lock function. The Num Lock button might ignore keystrokes; the key might become nonfunctional or refuse to respond to stimuli. It seems a problem with the Num Lock function also manifests itself when users turn on the function while using an external keyboard and the reverse operation (to turn it off) fails to go through for some reason. We saw complaints about a keyboard that types only numbers on ASUS laptops, for example. Other user reports (a good number of them) confirm the existence of the issue we just described or slight variations.

What to do when your keyboard types numbers instead of letters?

Well, you must do whatever you can to put down the Num Lock function – since this attribute is responsible for the output disparity. If the Num Lock function refuses to go off, then you have to turn off the Scroll Lock and Caps Lock buttons to see what results from this move. If all your attempts to put down the Num Lock function end in futility, then you have to try out special procedures to fix the problem.

How to make keyboard type letters again; how to fix the keyboard typing numbers instead of letters problem in Windows 10

We intend to provide full descriptions of all the solutions that users employed to resolve or eliminate the inconsistencies or discrepancies that cause keyboards to output numbers instead of letters. Take our advice here: work your way through the fixes in the order they appear below.

1. Turn off Num Lock from your laptop keyboard:

This procedure is easily the fastest and most straightforward move through which you might be able to disable the Num Lock function, which is forcing your computer to output only numbers. Do this:

  • Check for the Num Lock key on your keyboard. Give it a tap.

Depending on your keyboard setup – which we believe you are familiar with – you might have to press and hold the Function key or Shift key before you give the Num Lock key a tap. If you have never done it before, then you have to search online for information on your computer or keyboard device in your case.

  • Check and confirm that the indicator (light) for Num Lock has gone off. The indicator is usually beside the key or close to the top corner of the button.
  • If nothing changes, then you have to close all your applications and then restart your PC.
  • After Windows boots up and settles down, you have to reattempt the task to turn off the Num Lock function again by pressing the relevant button.

If the Num Lock indicator refuses to go off (even with you pressing the button) or if the Num Lock function remains active (regardless of your efforts), then you have to make do with other methods or procedures to make things right.

2. Try to turn off Num Lock using the Windows on-screen keyboard (built-in system keyboard):

If the Num Lock button on your physical keyboard refuses to do its job for any reason, then it makes sense for you to use the button on the keyboard that Windows provides. You will have to bring up the virtual keyboard interface on your computer and work on it.

These instructions cover everything that you need to do here:

  • First, you have to open the Run program. You can use the Windows logo button + letter R keyboard shortcut to do the job.

Alternatively, you can do a right-click on the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner of your display to see the applications and options that constitute the Power User menu and then choose Run.

  • Assuming you are now on the small Run window, you have to fill the text box on it with the following keyword:
    OSK
  • Click on the OK button on the Run window to force Windows to run the code (or give the Enter button on your keyboard a tap for the same outcome).

Your system is supposed to bring up the on-screen keyboard now. If the Num Lock function is on (currently), then it will be displayed with a different color or background (white), which differs from the colors for the other buttons.

If you do not see the Num Lock button on the on-screen keyboard, then you have to click on Options (to see the Options window), click on the box for Turn on numeric keyboard to get this parameter selected, and then click on the OK button to save the changes you just made to the on-screen keyboard configuration. Num Lock should become visible now.

  • Click on Num Lock to turn it off.
  • Check and confirm that the Num Lock function is no longer active. You should verify things by typing to see what your keyboard outputs this time.

If letters now show up when you press the relevant buttons, then you will know the problem has been resolved.

3. Turn off Num Lock using an external keyboard:

If you cannot get Windows to put down the Num Lock function by pressing the Num Lock key on your keyboard, then you might as well try to do the same thing on an external keyboard. A good number of users confirmed that they managed to resolve the problem where their keyboard pushed out numbers instead of letters by disabling Num Lock on a different keyboard that they connected to their computer.

If you have any spare keyboard lying around, then it is time you picked it up. Perhaps, you can get an external keyboard from a friend or another user to perform the task here – if you do not have the peripheral. After all, once you are done with the job for which you need the external keyboard, you will have no use for it, which means you can return it to its owner.

Follow these instructions:

  • Plug in an external keyboard. Ideally, the connection should be made through one of the ports (USB, for example) on your machine’s body.

We recommend that you use a wired keyboard to do the job here, but if a keyboard that connects wirelessly is the only device you can lay your hands on, you must use it.

  • After you plug in the keyboard in view, you have to wait for your system to install its software. Pay attention to the operations as they progress.
  • Once the external keyboard gets in sync with your computer or becomes active, you have to check and confirm that the indicator for Num Lock on it is on.

The Num Lock light should be visible. The Num Lock function is currently active on your computer, after all, so it is only logical that the external keyboard recognizes this fact.

  • Hit the Num Lock button on the keyboard to turn Num Lock off.

The light or indicator for Num Lock should go off now – if everything goes well.

  • You can unplug the external keyboard now.
  • Check and confirm that you can now type letters instead of numbers using your regular keyboard.

4. Run some troubleshooters:

There are built-in Windows troubleshooters that you can run to diagnose the source or cause of a problem affecting an app, setup, or device and even resolve the issue. Typically, when users encounter an issue or setback that they cannot resolve on their own, they are advised to run troubleshooters.

You must understand that troubleshooters tackle different problems or fix things for different applications. Since you are struggling with an issue that affects your keyboard, then the Keyboard troubleshooter is the troubleshooter most likely to help you in some way. The Hardware and Devices troubleshooter comes next.

These are the instructions you must follow to run the Keyboard troubleshooter (and then the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter – if necessary):

  • First, you have to open the Settings application. You can use the Windows logo button + letter I keyboard shortcut to perform the program launch task here quickly.
  • Once the Settings window gets brought up, you have to click on Update and Security (one of the items on the main menu) to proceed to the next screen.
  • Check the list of entries close to the left border of the window and then click on Troubleshoot.
  • Now, you must look at the pane close to the right border (under the Troubleshoot menu) and then go through the list of troubleshooters available.
  • Locate Keyboard, click on it to get this troubleshooter highlighted, and then click on the Run the troubleshooter button (that only recently appeared).

Windows will bring up the relevant window for the Keyboard troubleshooter now. The utility will start running checks to find or detect problems almost immediately. The results of the scan will be displayed.

  • Apply the fix by clicking on the appropriate button. If the Keyboard troubleshooter advises that you do something, then you must perform the task to make things right.
  • You might have to restart your computer to finish things. Do what you must do.

If you get nowhere with the Keyboard troubleshooter, then you have to try out the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter. The same guidelines apply here too.

5. Reinstall your keyboard driver; update the relevant driver:

Your keyboard driver is the program that defines or controls the interactions between your keyboard (a physical device) and Windows (or code). Without your device driver functioning, you will be unable to use your keyboard. If your keyboard cannot turn off the Num Lock function, then there is a good chance that all is not well with its driver. In other words, the Num Lock button failure or loss of ability might be down to driver problems.

Well, you have to fix the driver problems to get back control of the Num lock function (accessed through the Num Lock button on the keyboard). If everything goes well, you will be able to turn off the Num Lock function so that your computer stops outputting numbers when you want it to push out letters.

Most driver problems are down to inconsistencies or discrepancies in driver code, so you might be able to fix things by reinstalling the driver. Reinstallation (uninstallation and then installation of the same driver) is a process known to force through changes or alterations in driver code to eliminate problems.

Go through these steps to reinstall the driver that your keyboard uses:

  • Give the Windows logo button on your machine’s keyboard a tap to see the Windows Start menu screen programs and options (or click on the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner of your display for the same outcome).
  • Input Device Manager into the text box (that appears the moment you begin to type).
  • Once Device Manager (Control Panel) gets displayed as the main entry on the results list returned, you have to click on it to launch the needed app.

Ø Assuming you are now on the Device Manager window, you have to go through the categories listed there and locate the one housing the driver for your keyboard device.

You must check for the Keyboards category – since this is the category that houses the keyboard and similar input devices on most computers.

  • Once you identify the relevant category, you have to click on the expansion icon beside it to force it to spill its contents.

Your keyboard device should be visible now. You might see more than one driver there. In that case, you will have to perform the reinstallation task on all the keyboard drivers displayed there.

  • Click on the relevant device driver to get it highlighted, right-click on it to see its context menu, and then choose the Uninstall device option.

Windows is supposed to bring up a prompt to get some form of confirmation for the device driver uninstallation operation.

  • Click on the Uninstall device button again (to affirm things) – if this move applies.

Your system will now act to uninstall the device driver in view (as you requested).

  • Now, you must go back to the same Device Manager window to remove the other devices listed under the Keyboard category (or the same category for the device that you just got rid of).
  • Once you are done removing all the device drivers for your keyboard, you have to close the Device Manager app and other programs. Restart your PC.

Once Windows boots up and settles down, your computer will realize that some essential drivers for its keyboard are missing and it will act to find and install the relevant software (without you having to do anything).

  • After your system finishes installing the relevant drivers for your keyboard, you might have to reboot your computer again.
  • Once everything is set as regards the reinstallation operations for your keyboard drivers, you have to test things to confirm that the Num Lock button now functions.
  • Use the Num Lock button to turn off the Num Lock function. Press the troubled keys on your keyboard to see if letters now show up.

If your computer failed (or was unable) to find and install the necessary driver software for your keyboard (after you removed the device drivers) or if the keyboard typing numbers instead of letters problem persists (even after you performed the reinstallation tasks), then you have to install new drivers for your keyboard. In any case, the changes resulting from the installation of the latest driver for your keyboard should deliver the results that you need.

You will do well to download and run Auslogics Driver Updater. You can get this program to run a scan on your computer to find the troubled or problematic drivers (usually the corrupted, old, broken, and outdated drivers) used by devices in your machine. After the identification or detection phase, the application will move on to fetch the newest manufacturer-recommended driver versions, which it will install as replacements for the bad software.

In other words, with the program we recommended, your computer gets to run the needed drivers for your keyboard or even the drivers for all the devices in your PC in no time. Most importantly, you will not have to contend with the risks, complications, and issues that come into play when users try to update drivers on their own (without help).

Well, after you install new drivers for your keyboard, you still have to restart your computer (as you did earlier) to finish the job. The application that we recommended is likely to bring up a prompt to this effect (to remind you), anyway. After Windows starts up and settles down, you have to use your keyboard and test things to confirm that the problem you struggled with has been resolved for good.

6. Do a clean boot:

A clean boot is an advanced troubleshooting technique or procedure through which you get to force Windows to boot up while your computer initiates proceedings for very few drivers and services. Third-party applications, their processes, and services do not get to run. Given the nature of a clean boot, you will end up in an environment where most influence or interference – especially that coming from third-party apps – is a nonfactor.

Since the provided platform is an isolated one, you can easily figure out the source or cause of the problem you are struggling with currently. For one, if the keyboard outputting only numbers instead of letters issue fails to manifest itself in the clean boot environment, then you will have enough reason to conclude that a third-party application has played some role in causing the problem. Furthermore, you get to go a step further to test the apps to determine the culprit.

Anyway, these are the instructions you must follow to do a clean boot on your computer:

  • Hit the Windows logo button on your device’s keyboard to see the apps, options, and objects that make up the Windows Start menu screen (or click on the Windows logo button in the bottom-left corner of your display to achieve the same result).
  • Input Msconfig into the text box (that appears the moment you begin to type) to perform a search task using that keyword as the query.
  • Once System Configuration (App) gets brought up as the main entry on the results list, you have to click on it to launch the needed application.

Windows is supposed to bring up the System Configuration window now.

  • Click on the Services tab (close to the top of the window) to go there. Click on the checkbox for Hide all Microsoft services (close to the bottom of the window) to get this parameter selected.

Some services on the list will disappear now (leaving fewer items than before).

  • Click on the Disable all button.

All the services left on the list will be set to Disabled now.

  • Click on the Startup tab (close to the top of the window) to go there. Click on the Open Task Manager link.

You will be directed to a Task Manager window now.

  • Assuming you are on the Startup tab, you have to go through the list of startup programs. You have to disable your startup applications.

We recommend you disable all the programs on this list – since this is the only move that guarantees the noninvolvement of all apps in causing issues for you. Otherwise – if you cannot take our advice here – then you have to disable only the applications that you suspect to be causing trouble for you.

  • To disable an app, you have to click on it to get it highlighted and then click on the Disable button (that recently appeared close to the bottom of the window).

You might have to repeat the step above on other apps to get them disabled too.

  • Once you are done with your work on the Task Manager window, you have to go back to the System Configuration window.
  • Click on the Apply button and then click on the OK button to save the new boot configuration.

Windows is supposed to bring up a restart prompt now.

  • Click on the Restart button on the dialog or window.

If you cannot restart your computer for any reason now or if the Restart prompt fails to show up, then you will have to initiate a manual reboot from the Power options on the Windows Start menu or screen.

  • Assuming your computer has now restarted into the clean boot environment, then you have to test things there.
  • You will have to disable and enable some applications and see if the same keyboard problems play out when external factors are nonexistent.

You might have to test individual apps or perform the experiment on groups of programs. It all depends on the number of applications you have to work on here.

  • Once you identify the culprit, you must leave it disabled permanently or get rid of it (uninstall it).
  • After you resolve the problem, you will have to make changes to your computer boot configuration to get Windows out of the clean boot environment.
  • Go through the same steps above, restore the old or default options and parameters on the System Configuration window, save the changes, and then restart your PC.

Other things you can try to resolve the keyboard typing numbers when it is supposed to output letters issue on a Windows 10 PC

If you still cannot get your machine’s keyboard to push out letters instead of numbers, then you have to try the procedures and workarounds on our final list of fixes to the problem that brought you to this page.

7. Download and install all the available Windows updates.

8. Run a full/comprehensive/deep scan for viruses and malware using as many security utilities as possible.

9. Get another keyboard (external device) and use it – especially if other peripherals function without issues on your computer.

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