It makes your life f'n easy
Remember hitting the F5 key to refresh on your Windows 95 computer? It was almost obsessive. Back in the day, the F1–F12 keys had just one function each, but modern keyboards often include extra functions that you access with an Fn key (also called the Function key).
How are Fn Keys Helpful?
The Fn key turns the F1–F12 keys into dual-purpose keys. Essentially, it works as a default hotkey, but there’s a slight difference. The combinations differ among manufacturers and models. You’ll mostly find them on laptops (where you can usually change things like screen brightness), but you’ll also find them on some specialty keyboards (like gaming or productivity-centric boards).
For instance, on a Dell XPS15z, Fn + F5 increases the brightness, while on a Lenovo G560, the same combination will display the wireless device settings.
In addition to F-keys, you can also use Fn keys with other keys like PgUp, Insert, and arrow keys. Using a combination of Fn along with one of these keys comes in handy for doing a wide range of things, including adjusting the screen brightness, turning off the display, or controlling the volume, among many other things.
However, sometimes, you find that simply pressing an F-key (without the Fn key) triggers a command like increasing the playback volume. In such cases, you’ll be unable to use F-keys for standard keyboard shortcuts like hitting the F5 key for refreshing.
There’s a simple fix for this. You can tinker with the Fn key settings in several ways, and that’s what we’ll walk you through in this guide.
Disable the Fn Lock
Modern desktop and laptop keyboards have an Fn Lock key (i.e., a key with a lock icon). In most cases, you’ll find a lock icon printed on your Esc key, but it’s also possible that your keyboard has the lock on the Shift key or the Num Lock key.
When you press Fn + Esc (or the key with the lock icon), it toggles the Fn lock.
Once you’ve done this, you won’t need to press the Fn key for performing functions like adjusting the screen brightness or enabling and disabling WiFi or Bluetooth. Simply press the relevant F-key, and that should work. It’s similar to how you use Caps Lock. You won’t need to hold the Shift key for typing caps when Caps Lock is enabled.
If you’re experiencing something similar but want to use your standard F-keys, you’ll need to disable the Fn lock. You can disable it the same way as you’d enable it. Press the key with the lock icon along with the Fn key.
Change Fn Key Settings from Within Windows
You can also change Fn key settings from within your operating system. If you own a Dell laptop that runs Microsoft Windows 10 or 8, you can change function key settings from Windows Mobility Center.
Press Win + X or right-click the Start Menu button on Windows 10 to open the power menu and select Mobility Center. Alternatively, you can go to the Control Panel and navigate to Hardware and Sound > Windows Mobility Center.
Select the drop-down menu under the Function Key Row option under the Customized by Dell Inc. section. You’ll see two options here: Function key and Multimedia key.
Select Function key if you’d like to use the F-keys for standard functions, and Multimedia key if you want to use F-keys for performing functions that would otherwise require you to press the Fn key.
Similarly, on laptops from other manufacturers, you might find the option to change function key options in its system configuration tool. For instance, on Lenovo, you can use the Lenovo Keyboard Manager or the Samsung Settings app on a Samsung laptop to change function key behavior.
Change Fn Key Settings in BIOS
In most cases, the previous two methods should help you change Fn key settings, but on the off chance that they didn’t, you can use the BIOS settings.
Note that you shouldn’t mess around with any settings you don’t fully understand because it can render your computer unbootable.
Many, though not all, laptops will allow you to change Fn key settings from the BIOS or UEFI firmware. You can enter your BIOS setup with a reboot. Press F2, F10, or Delete (the keys differ among manufacturers) at the startup when your computer is still booting. Alternatively, you can use the new way of accessing the BIOS on Windows 10.
At this point, you’ll need to look around a little because UEFI settings are placed under different sections based on the BIOS interface, which differs among manufacturers.
For instance, on my HP laptop, the setting is under the System Configuration tab. Changing the Action Keys Mode to Enabled will make the F-keys function like normal, i.e., you’ll need to use the Fn key along with an F-key to perform a relevant function.
Fn Key Makes Life Easy
If an OS upgrade or an accidental change in settings has caused your Fn key to not work as it should, it can cause you momentary annoyance.
However, the Fn key is still one of the most helpful keys on your keyboard. It eliminates a few clicks for plenty of functions and lets you perform them just by pressing a combination of keys.
Fn key is also available on several Apple keyboards. If it’s not working correctly, you can troubleshoot Fn key problems on Mac OS as well.