How to use Windows keyboard on Mac

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Pau Monfort
@paumonfort

There are many keyboards that have been designed and developed for Windows PCs. Just because they were originally designed for Windows, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to use a Windows keyboard on Mac. Most vendors sell keyboards for both Windows and Mac and come with Windows and macOS key covers. that can be exchanged.


But if you want to use a Windows keyboard on MAC, here's how. Before showing you how to use a Windows keyboard with a Mac, let's understand how a Windows keyboard differs from the Mac keyboard.



Windows keyboard vs. MAC keyboard

There are five main key differences between a Windows keyboard and a Mac. The Enter key on Windows works as the Enter key on Mac. Similarly, the Backspace key on Windows will function as Delete on Mac. Problems start when you try to use other keys. Mac functions with a Windows key.

Starting from the left, the Ctrl, Option, and Command keys are swapped with the Ctrl, Windows, and Alt keys on a Windows keyboard. All modifier keys on the Windows keyboard map 1: 1 to the keys on a Mac from a feature point of view. For example, the Ctrl key does the same on the Mac as it works on a Windows keyboard. The Option key works similarly to the Alt key, and the Windows key works identically to the Command key on a Mac.


The problem lies in the order of the buttons. On Windows, you have Control | Windows | Inline Option (Alt) keys instead of Control | Option | Command layout on Mac. Due to muscle memory, you will keep pressing Alt (Option for Mac) instead of Command key and Windows (Command on Mac) instead of Option function.



How to use a Windows keyboard on Mac

Of course, you can continue to use the Windows keyboard with a new key layout, but it can be a headache for anyone who has typed on Mac for years. Thankfully, Apple has a way to fix this.

Remap modifier keys

Here's what you need to do. Instead of the new control | Command | Options layout, you need to go back to Control | Option | Arrangement of controls. Look carefully and note that you just have to ask the system to change the Option and Command keys. Apple has added a built-in option to allow you to change the keys on the keyboard. Here's how to do it.


  1. Connect the keyboard to the Mac and click on the little Apple icon in the upper left corner.
  2. Open the System Preferences menu.
  3. Go to Keyboard> Modifier Keys.
  4. Select the name of the connected USB or Bluetooth keyboard from the drop-down menu.
  5. Keep the CAPS LOCK key and CTRL key as is.
  6. For the Option key, change the action as Command and for the Command key, change the action as Option.
  7. Hit OK on the button and you're good to go.

From now on, the Windows key on the Windows keyboard will function as the Option key and the Alt key next to the space bar will function as the Command key. No more confusion and rush to train your mind.


Use a third party app

The default Apple way is limited in some ways. Using a third-party key customizer, you can customize the keyboard experience to your liking. One such app is Karabiner-Elements.


The app allows you to remap each key on the keyboard. You can also create your own rules or choose from predefined rules. The app is free to download and you can read the tutorials for each feature on the website.



This helps when using a small / minimal mechanical keyboard with no arrow or function keys. You can use key combinations and enable arrow keys for command + hjkl and more keys. Got the idea, right?

The 5 best PC keyboards of 2021

Customize Windows keyboard on MAC

As a Mac user, don't be discouraged there are some great dedicated Windows> MAC keyboards on Amazon. You can easily buy them, change the Option and Command keys, and continue using the Windows keyboard on Mac without any problems.


Further Reading:

  • So you can control the mouse via the keyboard in Windows 10
  • How to fix a flipped screen in Windows 10
  • How to change the background of Gboard
  • How to change keyboard settings Windows 10
  • How to activate the on-screen keyboard on Windows, Mac and Linux?
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