How to change the default behavior of the function keys

Updated: 03/13/2021 by Computer Hope

Function keys on laptop and desktop keyboards with an Fn key can serve different purposes. For example, if most of your F1 through F12 function keys have small icons next to them, they can do more than one thing. Some manufacturers set the F1 through F12 keys to their primary functions, while others default to their multimedia functions (e.g., adjusting volume, mute, changing brightness).

This page helps users who don't like the default behavior of their computer function keys and want to change their settings. For example, a MacBook user who utilizes the F1 through F12 keys more often than the multimedia keys and wants to change the key's default behavior.

Change the function keys behavior on Apple computers

To change the default behavior of Apple function keys, follow the steps below.

  1. Click the Apple menu icon in the upper-left corner of the screen.
  2. Select System Preferences... from the drop-down menu.

System preferences selector.

  1. In the System Preferences menu, click the Keyboard icon.

Keyboard icon in System Preferences.

  1. Under the Keyboard tab, check the box next to Use F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys.

F key standard function toggle.

Change the function keys behavior on PCs

On PCs (e.g., Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo), the steps may vary depending on the manufacturer and operating system version.

Windows Mobility Center

Most laptops running Microsoft Windows give you the ability to adjust the function key settings through the Windows Mobility Center. For example, in the following image, you can see that Dell added custom options, including the Fn Key Behavior, to specify what the Fn keys should do. Selecting the Function key option causes the computer to use the F1 through F12 keys by default.

Windows Mobility Center


If you don't use Windows, or the Windows Mobility Center doesn't have the option to change the Fn key behavior, and you have a laptop, look in the computer's BIOS setup. For example, on many Dell computers, you can find this setting by locating the "Function Key Behavior" in the "System Configuration" section.

Desktop keyboard with Fn key

If you're using a desktop keyboard with the Fn key, and want to change its behavior, it's up to the keyboard manufacturer to offer an option. Unfortunately, most keyboard manufacturers do not.