How to Fix a Chromebook Keyboard That’s Not Working (Reset)

So, your Chromebook’s keyboard isn’t working and you need to fix it. Fast.

It’s typing the wrong characters. Or certain keys aren’t working. Or maybe it’s locked.

Perhaps it won’t type at all.

Whatever the case, let’s go ahead and fix it.

In this troubleshooting guide, we’ll talk about:

  • Common reasons why your keyboard isn’t working
  • How to unlock the keyboard
  • What to do when the keyboard stops working
  • Shortcuts to unlock, lock and adjust language settings
  • Fixing the keyboards on a specific Chromebook model
  • And more

By the end of this page, you should have everything you need to get your keyboard fixed.

And if not, you can post a comment and I’ll help you out ASAP.

Sound good? Let’s get your keyboard typing again.

Why is my Chromebook’s keyboard not working?

A broken keyboard with no Escape key meme.
(Via Pinterest.)

There are many possibilities of why your Chromebook’s keyboard won’t type and a multitude of potential problems.

Thankfully, it’s not hard to fix the keyboard with some basic steps and process of elimination.

In this guide, we’ll troubleshoot the issue based on the symptoms your Chromebook is showing and resolve the problem so you can get the keyboard working again and start typing away in pleasure.

Okay, so how do I fix it?

There’s a process to it.

Start with the least invasive procedure and work your way to the more complex solutions. Fixing a keyboard doesn’t have to be rocket science and more often than not, it’s a quick fix.

Here’s the game plan:

  • Do an EC reset
  • Clean the keyboard
  • Delete apps or use a Guest account
  • Powerwash your laptop
  • Use an external keyboard (Bluetooth or USB)
  • Fix it under warranty
  • Sell it

That’s how I’d approach this problem. Depending on your situation, feel free to jump around to the step appropriate for you.

How do I reset my Chromebook’s keyboard?

Reset Chromebook keyboard.
Don’t be this guy. (Via memegenerator.)

There are two different approaches to this, depending on the symptoms of your keyboard.

Here’s how to fix your keyboard:

If NONE of the keys are working

The best way to fix an unresponsive keyboard if no keys register is to do a hardware reset.

This will reboot all the hardware components of your Chromebook. It’s also commonly referred to as an “EC reset” for “embedded controller reset.”

The reason why your keyboard doesn’t work even after you restart your device is that there’s still a charge running to the keyboard controller.

So it “saves” the “not working” state- even if you shut down and power up your device. Hitting that power button or using the restart function doesn’t clear this state. The only way to do so is to either do a Powerwash or a hardware reset.

The controller has direct control over all the peripherals connected to the motherboard- touchpad, battery, keyboard, USB connectors, power button, screen, etc. It varies depending on the device, but you get the idea.

Resetting the EC will completely cut all power supply to it- not even trickle charges can seep through to the controller. This will force the EC to reset itself and reboot, which will then “search” for all connected peripherals like your keyboard.

If there’s a glitch or defect that’s preventing your Chromebook from seeing the keyboard, this may be why nothing works when you type.

Of course, you should start with the least invasive approach before you go all out. A Powerwash clears your device and wipes everything on it, which I assume you don’t want to deal with.

So let’s stick with the hardware reset first.

To do an EC reset on Chrome OS, follow these steps:

  • Power down your Chromebook using the “Shut down” function. Do NOT just put it to sleep/hibernate mode. Shut it down completely.
  • Press and hold the Refresh key.
  • Press and hold the Power key while still holding the Refresh key.
  • Hold both keys down for 10 seconds.
  • Release the Refresh key first while still holding down the Power key.
  • Release the Power key.
  • The Chromebook will automatically restart at this point and the EC will be flushed.

Note: If your device doesn’t restart by itself, try hitting the Power button again.

This EC flush process should work with newer Chromebook models, but if yours is older, try following this guide.

Here’s a handy video tutorial to help you out:

Older devices may require you to remove the battery, unplugging the power cable, or even using a special reset button that you push with a paperclip! Talk about old school.

This process doesn’t erase your Chromebook when done correctly.

If SOME of the keys are working

This is likely due to dirt, debris, and other gunk buildups on the keyboard.

As you know, the keys aren’t flush against the keyboard frame, so the tiny millimeter gaps allow dust, sweat, oil, food crumbs, and spills to leak right between the cracks and onto the membrane that covers the actuators.

Over time, this is normal for any laptop keyboard. Most are protected by a rubber cover that prevents any debris from making direct contact with the internal mechanism for each key (this is why most membrane keyboards are waterproof).

But the rubber can rip, wear, or become torn over time, especially if a sharp food crumb gets in there.

This is why you may start noticing the familiar symptoms of debris stuck in the keyboard:

  • Repeating characters
  • Keys that get stuck after you press them
  • Specific keys not working
  • Keys in a certain area of the keyboard malfunctioning
  • Keys not registering unless you press firmly
  • Wrong characters show on screen

When a particle gets into the membrane and affects the delicate mechanism, this disrupts the and key registration and screws up your typing.

The solution is to clean your Chromebook’s keyboard.

(While you’re at it, don’t skip cleaning the screen. Those fingerprints are annoying.)

Depending on how dirty it is, you may be able to do a spot clean on just the affected keys or you can clean the entire board while you’re at it.

The process usually just takes a half hour or so and involves the following:

  • Prying out the dirty keys
  • Putting them into a solution of rubbing alcohol to eat up the debris
  • Dabbing around the dirty keys with a cotton swab soaked with alcohol
  • Doing a check for any damaged parts
  • Putting the keys back on

This should fix the issue if it’s due to debris getting trapped under the keycaps.

But if you’re still having the same problem, they could be badly damaged or destroyed. It’s also possible you have a defective keyboard, which may be covered under warranty by the manufacturer.

At this point, you should opt for the warranty assuming you’ve cleaned as much as possible and tried a hardware reset. And if the warranty period is expired, then take it to a repair shop, put it up for sale locally, or use it as a paperweight.

If you want to prevent dust and dirt from getting into your Chromebook’s keyboard, consider getting a keyboard protector.

Sign on as a Guest

Signs of a PC gamer meme.
Are you guilty of this? (Via Pinterest.)

This option eliminates any possibility that an app may be messing with your keyboard.

Some apps, especially ones that let you use various functions with the keyboard could mess with the way it works. Apps that are broken, poorly coded, or not updated can start making your keyboard fail.

You can eliminate this by using Guest mode. Just log in as a Guest at the login page by clicking on it at the bottom row.

This will sign you in without any apps, such as those from the Chrome Web Store or Play Store.

If your keys suddenly seem to work out of nowhere, then you can be sure it’s an app that’s messing up your system.

Start by disabling them all and enabling them one at a time until you find the culprit. Then delete it and never deal with this nonsense again on your Chromebook.

Some apps that affect keyboard settings are:

  • Language selector apps
  • Keyboard layout apps
  • Apps that allow you to set custom keyboard shortcuts
  • Special macro keys
  • Other apps that modify keyboard behavior

Do a Powerwash

Reset Chromebook keyboard.
Powerwash your Chromeobok to reset it- but make sure you backup your stuff first.

Did you already do a thorough cleaning on each key and you’re still getting the same stuck characters or the same keys don’t type? Tried an EC reset and nothing happened?

There may be something else at work here and we’ll try to clear it by doing a Powerwash. This will restore your Chromebook to default settings and doesn’t matter if your keys don’t work.

You can access this from the Chrome OS settings menu by using your touchpad (which hopefully DOES work).

Be sure to back up your important data because this will wipe everything from your SSD. Here’s a guide if you need one.

To Powerwash without using the keyboard:

  • Launch Chrome
  • Click on Menu > Settings
  • Find the “Powerwash” section
  • Click on “Powerwash” and proceed. This will take a few minutes and your Chromebook will restart.
  • There’s no going back once you start, so be sure that you have nothing else left on your system that you want to keep.
  • After the process finishes, add your primary Google Account and log on to your Chromebook.

Did that fix your keys? Does your keyboard work now?

Use an external keyboard with your Chromebook

Didn’t get your keyboard fixed? Too late to cover under warranty?

Too lazy to pry out the keys to clean it? An external, Bluetooth-powered keyboard is your answer!

You can buy a generic, cheap keyboard and link it up with your Chromebook to bypass the built-in one. This solves pretty much all your keyboard problems.

he only difference is that you’ll have to carry this everywhere you go with your laptop.

But if that doesn’t bother you, then why not?

There are tons of cheap keyboards out there, or you can purchase a name brand one.

Whatever your choice, using an external keyboard will instantly fix problems like a dirt-ridden contact pad, specific keys not registering, or nothing typing at all. Just hook it up to Bluetooth style and you’re set.

Here are some of the best Bluetooth keyboards that are compatible with Chromebooks (from Amazon):

Start from there and do your research. Read reviews. Choose what suits your usage best.

Replace it under warranty

Tried everything and still no dice? Then it may be time to contact the manufacturer and get your system replaced.

Chromebooks come with a non-transferable warranty for the first user to use it. If you bought a used Chromebook, this warranty won’t work for you.

But it may be redeemed from the third party who you bought it from. Check with them.

If you have a legit case, the manufacturer should replace your Chromebook or repair it under warranty.

This is worth a shot if you’ve tried everything you can and you still can’t type or you’re getting a malfunctioning keyboard.

Sell it

Scumbag Steve Chromebook.
Luls.

Out of options?can’t get it fixed? Warranty expired? External keyboard no go?

You can always sell it for parts online and get some of your cash back. There are many ways to sell a used Chromebook – both online and locally near you.

You can get some cash back rather than recycling it and use that money towards another replacement model.

Or if it’s completely bricked, then it makes an excellent paperweight.

How to lock and unlock the keyboard

Your Chromebook’s keyboard may be locked, which prevents any accidental key inputs when you step away from your laptop.

Though, if this happens, it’s quite obvious as the screen will return you to the sign-in page.

If you want to lock your Chromebook, do the following:

Press “CTRL + SHIFT + L” to lock the screen.

This will bring you back to the sign-in page with an active session running in the background. This is nice because it prevents anyone from tampering with your idle session.

You can safely step away from your device without having to log off and shutting down all your apps and current session.

How do you unlock the keyboard on a Chromebook?

After you return, just type in your account password to instantly resume working again.

External keyboard? Check your Num/Scroll Lock

If you have Num Lock enabled, this may affect the functionality of some keys and easily confuse you.

Buttons you press won’t do anything or seemingly type the wrong characters.

Double-checking both the Num Lock key can help. You may have accidentally toggled it on without knowing it and mistakenly think that your keyboard is malfunctioning.

Enabling/Disabling Num Lock

Num Lock is only available for Chromebooks with a 10-key pad, or through an external Bluetooth keyboard attached to your device.

You can turn on or off the Num Lock feature by pressing the “Num Lock” key.

  • When it’s on, your 10-key will register numbers you press.
  • When it’s off, it’ll function accordingly to the app or program you’re using.

For example, if you’re in Google Docs and turn off Num Lock, you’ll be able to shift the cursor to the left and right by hitting 4 and 6.

But if you accidentally hit the key and don’t know how to toggle it back, you may get confused. Double-check your lock keys.

My keyboard types the wrong characters

Keyboard meme.
Don’t let this happen to you because of a crappy keyboard. (Via ImgFlip.)

If your keyboards spits out the wrong characters, symbols, or accent marks you’ve never seen before, but still types, you may have changed the language settings by accident.

You can switch it to your preferred language input by using the keyboard settings page.

Chrome OS comes with built-in language support for all the most commonly used languages.

You can also add special characters, accent marks, symbols, and a whole lot more through the settings page.

Top Chromebooks with keyboard complaints

Some particular Chromebook models seem to have more complaints compared to others.

Here’s a list of the most common ones that suffer from keyboard problems:

  • HP
  • Samsung Chromebook 3
  • HP Chromebook 14
  • ASUS Chromebook Flip
  • Acer Chromebook (11.6, 14, 15)
  • Dell Chromebooks (various models)
  • Lenovo Chromebook (various models)

Regardless of consumer complaints, the issues are likely the same. It just needs an EC to reset or needs to be cleaned.

Perhaps these specific models are more susceptible to debris getting caught in the cracks?

Did you fix your Chromebook’s keyboard?

Keyboard rage.
Don’t be this guy.

You should now be able to troubleshoot your Chromebook’s keyboard when it doesn’t work.

Whether you’re dealing with the wrong keys coming out when typing, no characters registering when you type, or even just unlocking a locked keyboard, you should be able to resolve the issue quite easily.

Assuming a factory reset doesn’t fix the keyboard, it’s likely a dud and the keyboard If you have a defective keyboard, get it replaced under warranty if possible. The keyboard could be shot.

Were you able to fix your keyboard? Do you have any questions? Post them in the comments section below and I’ll try to help you ASAP.

Or if you have any feedback for this guide, let me know as well. Consider sending this page to friends for future reference!

Thanks for reading.

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (platy@platypusplatypus.com).
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