Mac keyboard not working? … We help you solve it!

If your Mac keyboard stops working, it’s almost impossible to do anything useful with your Mac. You can’t type any documents or type in your web browser. And the problem is even worse if your MacBook keyboard doesn’t work because you can’t just replace it with a new one. But there are some common solutions for Mac keyboard problems, which might be exactly what you are looking for.

Here are some common ways to fix Mac keyboard problems

Clean your Mac keyboard

When certain keys on the Mac keyboard don’t work, it could be due to dust and other debris underneath them. This is likely to happen if you are in the habit of eating while using your Mac.

  1. Cleaning under the keys may solve the problem.
  2. Hold your MacBook or Mac keyboard vertically, preferably at a 75º angle
  3. Using a can of compressed air, spray the keyboard or keys that are not working. Then move from left to right
  4. Rotate your MacBook or keyboard to the right side and then to the left. Repeat the action

Update macOS

Your Mac keyboard may not work due to software problems. In that case, updating macOS might help.

1. Open System Preferences
2. Select Software Update

3. If updates are available, install them

Delete preferences

macOS stores settings in files with the extension .plist. Deleting .plist files can help with all kinds of problems, by resetting the settings that may be the cause. However, before deleting any .plist files, you may want to back up your Mac with Time Machine, in case you run into any problems later.

1. From Finder, press Cmd + Shift + G

2. Type ~ / Library / Preferences / and click Go

3. Find and delete com.apple.keyboardtype.plist

4. Restart your Mac

There are many other .plist files on your Mac. Removing this can help with many other problems, including problems with your Mac’s mouse. MacOS will rebuild them when necessary.

Remove recently installed apps

Your Mac keyboard may not work because a new application interferes with it. If the problem started recently, think about the apps you added and try to remove them.

How to view recently installed apps on a Mac:

  1. Open Finder and go to the Applications folder
  2. Using the sorting options at the top of the Finder, select Sort By> Date Added

Reset your SMC

SMC stands for System Management Controller. It controls certain low-end functions of certain Macs, some of which are keyboard-related. So if your Mac keyboard has stopped working, it’s a good idea to reset it. The way to do it depends on several criteria, such as whether it is an Intel Mac or M1, an iMac or MacBook, and whether it has a T2 security chip or not.

How to reset the SMC for MacBooks with T2 chip:

  1. Turn off your MacBook
  2. Hold Ctl + Opt on the left side of your keyboard and Change On the right side
  3. Hold them down for seven seconds, then press and hold the power button as well.
  4. After another seven seconds, release all keys
  5. After a few more seconds, turn on your MacBook again.

How to reset the SMC for MacBooks without the T2 chip:

  1. Turn off your MacBook
  2. press and hold Ctrl + Shift + Opt on the left side of your keyboard
  3. Holding them down, press and hold the power button
  4. After 10 seconds, release all four keys
  5. Turn on your MacBook again

For much older MacBooks, which have removable batteries, see the official guide to resetting the SMC.

To reset the SMC on an Intel iMac or Mac Mini, simply turn it off, unplug it from the mains for 15 seconds, and then turn it on again. Meanwhile, the Mac M1s don’t use an SMC at all, so there’s nothing to reset.

Try another keyboard

When your Mac keyboard isn’t working, trying a different one is a good idea. If a different keyboard works, the problem is probably related to the software or your Mac.

That also applies to MacBooks. Not ideal, but you can plug in an external keyboard and type like that. However, replacing a MacBook keyboard can be difficult, so you may need professional assistance if the keyboard turns out to be broken.

Also, certain MacBook Air and MacBook Pro keyboards have been known to stop working due to their design. All of these MacBooks use what’s known as the ‘butterfly’ keyboard, and yours may be eligible for a free replacement.

Check your USB connection

Sometimes you can fix a Mac USB keyboard problem just by unplugging and plugging it back in. You should also check that your USB ports are working fine. Unplug your keyboard and then plug something else into that port, like your mouse. If it works, the USB port is probably fine.

Check batteries

If your Apple Wireless Keyboard won’t turn on, try replacing the batteries, if possible. But if you’re using something like the newer Apple Magic keyboard, which has a built-in battery, check that it’s charged. Also, try using a different charging cable and a different USB port on your Mac. Any of these things could be the reason why your Mac keyboard won’t turn on.

Check Bluetooth

Do you use a Bluetooth keyboard? The problem could be due to your Mac’s Bluetooth settings. Removing your keyboard from your Mac’s Bluetooth device list and then adding it again might be the solution.

1. In System Preferences, select Bluetooth

2. Check if Bluetooth is activated.

3. If your Bluetooth keyboard is paired with your Mac, it should appear in the Devices list

4. Select your keyboard and click the X to remove it

5. Pair your keyboard with your Mac again

Check your wireless dongle

Some wireless keyboards use a USB dongle to connect to your Mac. Even if the batteries are fully charged in your keyboard, if it can’t connect to the dongle, it won’t work.

Unfortunately, this is a difficult problem to verify. The wireless chips in the dongle or keyboard might be broken and there’s no good way to find out.

However, you can try plugging the dongle into a different USB port, as well as another computer. If it works elsewhere, the keyboard and dongle are fine.

Time for a new keyboard?

Hopefully one of the fixes in this article worked for you. But sometimes Mac keyboards stop working because they are broken beyond repair. They can be permanently damaged by liquids, for example. And they can also wear out over time, especially if you press the keys hard when typing.

Try your keyboard on a different computer, if you can. And try a different keyboard with your Mac. That way, you can eliminate each of them as a problem and solve what is really wrong.

Frequently asked questions

Why are some keys on my keyboard not working?

If only some keys on your Mac keyboard are not working, it could be because they are damaged or dirty. You may also have enabled an option or application that changes the function of certain keys. For example, pressing Num Lock on the numeric keypad will change what those keys do.

How can I make my Apple Wireless Keyboard discoverable?

To put an Apple Magic Keyboard into pairing mode:

  1. Connect it to your Mac with a Lightning to USB cable
  2. Make sure the keyboard power switch is on
  3. Select Bluetooth in System Preferences. Your keyboard will appear there when it’s paired and ready

What should I do if my keyboard backlight does not turn on?

Although it is possible that the LEDs on your keyboard are damaged, it is likely caused by your configuration. In addition to following Apple’s official instructions on how to adjust the keyboard backlight, try resetting your Mac’s SMC and deleting the relevant .plist files.