Remapping Your Windows Key

Warning: There have been reports that applying this hack can cause certain keys to stop functioning. I recommend using other techniques for remapping your keys which are mentioned in the comments.

I’ve been using Windows for a couple of weeks now, and although I still keep my Powerbook close by, I’ve actually adapted to the Windows world better than I expected to. I’m using a ThinkPad T41 which I like a lot, but for some reason, ThinkPads don’t have "Windows" keys (perhaps to make them more Linux friendly?).

Anyway, I’m the kind of person who makes frequent use of keyboard shortcuts, so I decided to figure out how to remap my right alt key as a Windows key. Fortunately, someone already figured it out, and wrote a tutorial. It involves modifying the registry, but it’s actually very simple to do. The tutorial shows you how to map your left alt key, and doesn’t actually provide a copy-and-pastable version of the patch, so here’s mine (which maps the right alt key, not the left):

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
"00000409"="KBDUS.DLL"
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,5B,E0,38,E0,38,E0,5B,E0

Naturally, I take no responsibility for completely hosing your machine, and I highly recommend testing it on a co-workers computer first while he’s in the copy room or at lunch.

Also, let me know if you have any other cool Windows tips (post them here for everyone to enjoy).

12 Responses to Remapping Your Windows Key

  1. Ryan Guill says:

    Check out the powertoys for xp. Lots of good productivity helpers, especially the alt-tab replacement.http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx

  2. RR-007 says:

    That was great. I also have a thinkpad that doesn’t have the most useful key for XP. Anyhow. Here is another link if you want to use all the keyboard shortcuts.http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q301583#XSLTH3120121122120121120120

  3. Spike says:

    There’s a whole bunch of very powerful key remappers for windows. My favourite is HoeKey (http://dana.ucc.nau.edu/~tsr22/apps/#hoekey) – There’s a whole lot of other useful stuff on that site too.More generalized windows utility software can be found here: http://shsc.info/UsefulWindowsSoftware

  4. Greg says:

    Christian, provided you have a “standard” IBM install of the OS, they provided a tool called “Keyboard Customizer Utility” to do this and more. Check in your Start->Programs->Access IBM folder.:-)

  5. Hmm, I don’t have that app. More fun to hack the registry, anyway. 🙂

  6. Gav says:

    why on earth would you move from OS X to windows?

  7. Gav, two reasons:1. I need to use a couple of apps that are only available on Windows.2. I haven’t used Windows on a regular basis since 2000 was in beta, so I figured it was time to get to know the platform again. I really miss my Mac, but I’m also finding that Windows is much better now than it was when I left it.

  8. Mario Gutierrez says:

    Why hack the registry? Use AutoHotkey, lets you map any windows key and its open source.http://www.autohotkey.com/

  9. Rudy says:

    I just used your hack on my new X40, Christian and it worked great. I chose to make my F8 key be the Windows key, I don’t think I’ve ever used F8 for anything, and I like having my Alt keys live.Then I read down and saw Spike’s comment about the “Keyboard Customizer Utility”. Doh! Well, that utility doesn’t offer the F8 option, and like another reader said, it’s fun to hack the registry.

  10. Christian Gurney says:

    You might also want to check out QuicKeys (http://www.quickeys.com/products/qkw.html), which will do more than simply remap keys for you. Originally developed for the Mac in the 1990s, it’s still going strong on Mac OS and Windows.

  11. Rudy says:

    Oops, a week after I did your hack, a bunch of my keys stopped working. Fortunately I’d done a System save before, and could recover with System Restore.Fugeddaboutit

  12. I also did the backup and I was lucky that I had done it, probably something not so with this link.