How to Fix Your Keyboard Typing Numbers Instead of Letters

Mystery Hero Image Keyboard

You type on your laptop and suddenly some keys start to register as numbers and symbols instead of letters. What’s going on? Most likely, the answer lies in your Num Lock key. Here’s why – and how to fix it.

What is digital lock?

Num Lock, short for “lock number”, is a feature of PC keyboards dating from the very first IBM PC in 1981. To save space on the keyboard, IBM decided to create keys numeric keypad do the double assignment as number keys and cursor keys. To switch between modes, IBM introduced the Digital lock key.

Here is an example of a typical location of the numeric keyboard on a desktop keyboard.

Numeric keyboard on an IBM Model M keyboardBenj Edwards

When Num Lock is on, the numeric keypad on a desktop computer works like a numeric keypad with numbers and symbols (such as *, / and +) that represent mathematical operations. When Num Lock is disabled, the keyboard registers as cursor keys (such as the up and down arrows) and certain editing keys (such as Home and Insert).

How is digital lock on a laptop different?

Most laptops don’t have dedicated digital keyboards, so Num Lock works differently on them. Instead of changing the cursor keys to numbers, it converts a section of the keyboard’s QWERTY letters to a virtual number pad.

Here is an example of a keyboard made by Acer for a Windows 10 laptop. When you press the Num Lock key (seen here highlighted in a red rectangle), 15 of the keys change modes to a simulated number pad. When you push them, they register as a highlighted symbol in the red circle.

Example of numeric lock keys on a laptop keyboardBenj Edwards

Your laptop will most likely be different from this, but many manufacturers use a variant of using the keys on the right side of the keyboard as a numeric keypad with number lock.

Therefore, if you accidentally hit the Num Lock key on a laptop computer, you might have a problem that looks like this.

Example of digital lock accidentally activated with a laptop

In this case, you enter numbers instead of letters because the Num Lock key is activated. Here’s how to turn it off.

How to Disable Num Lock on a Laptop

The first step to disabling Num Lock is to find the Num Lock key on your laptop keyboard. Its location can vary greatly depending on the laptop manufacturer, but it’s usually located in the upper-right corner of the keyboard.

Look for a small key that indicates some variation of “Num Lock,” “NumLk,” or even a small lock symbol with a number 1 inside.

For example, here is the location of the Num Lock key on an Acer laptop.

An example of a laptop numlock keyBenj Edwards

In this case, the digital lock key is duplicated by the F12 key, and by default it is digital lock.

Some laptops may require you to hold down a function key (commonly known as “Fn”) while pressing Num Lock to turn it on or off.

In addition, some laptop keyboards may have a light indicating whether the digital lock is on or off. For example, this YouTube video shows the location of the Num Lock key and its indicator light on a Sony VAIO laptop keyboard.

Your laptop will vary. If you cannot locate your digital lock key, try to search for a combination of your manufacturer’s name + “laptop” + “digital lock key location” on Googleand you may find a website with instructions specific to your laptop. For example, Google “Location of the Lenovo Lenovo digital lock key” and you will find information about the digital lock key on various ThinkPad laptops.

Prevent future digital lock accidents

Now that you know the number lock key, you can easily disable it if you accidentally find yourself typing numbers. If you want to receive an audible alert when you press the Num Lock key, follow this guide to create your computer play a sound when you hit the number lock key, so you’ll know if you accidentally pressed it. There is also a way to see a notification in your taskbar if you enable digital lock.

Good luck and good typing!

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