Troubleshooting function key problems on a Mac

  • March 21, 2024
  • 5 min read
Troubleshooting function key problems on a Mac

Troubleshooting function key problems on a Mac

Powerful capabilities and user-friendly design are synonymous with Mac computers. One eature that Mac users often rely on yet overlook is the function keys. These keys are typically located in the top row of the keyboard unless your system has a Touch Bar. From quickly launching Mission Control to adjusting the screen’s brightness, function keys can make your life easier by adding speed and quickness to your workflow. Let’s explore them more deeply and learn how to troubleshoot function key problems.

Function Keys – what are they?

The function keys are a staple of Apple computers, and they must not be confused with the fn button. They are located at the top of the keyboard and are not the most versatile. The Mac function keys come pre-programmed and even have icons printed on them to explain their intended use.

There are twelve function keys on MacBook Pro with a system-integrated function assigned to them, such as:

  • F1 – Reduces screen brightness
  • F2 – Increases screen brightness
  • F3 – Opens Mission Control
  • F4 – Open Launchpad
  • F5 – activates Dictation
  • F6 – Toggles Do Not Disturb or increase keyboard brightness
  • F7 – Skips back audio
  • F8 – plays and pauses audio
  • F9 – Skips audio forward
  • F10 – unmutes or mutes audio/video sound
  • F11 – Decreases the volume
  • F12 – Increases volume

Reasons why the Mac Function Keys are not Working

Generally, the function keys work perfectly fine and can help you with your workflow. Unfortunately, as with everything in life, there comes a time when the function keys encounter a problem, or they simply stop working. They may become unresponsive, or pressing the keys may trigger the wrong action.

The problem might be hardware-related with a faulty key mechanism. But most likely, it is a software-related problem. The configurations might be messed up, or there’s a deeper problem in macOS.

The below troubleshooting guide focuses on fixing software-related problems. But if there is an issue with the key mechanism, it is best to go to your nearest Apple service center.

Fixing Function Key Problems – Troubleshooting Tips

  • Is your Mac up-to-date? No? Update it now!

Updating the macOS software is the first thing you must do, as this can solve several issues, such as temporary keyboard glitches. Sometimes, the function keys may act up because of a bug. This bug can be easily fixed by updating your computer to the latest macOS version.

Head to the System Preferences or System Settings app on your computer and select Software Update. Let your system check for updates. If you see that an update is available, select Restart Now to start installing the update.

Once your system is updated, the function keys should start to function normally.

  • Quickly shut down and start your computer

You would hear IT guys always asking you to restart your computer whenever there’s an issue. You may think the IT professional is trying to evade his responsibility, but in reality, restarting your Mac can solve a lot of problems, including issues with the function keys.

Restarting clears out all the temporary files and even runs checks. So, when the computer starts, it is refreshed, and the temporary issues are solved.

You can also shut down your computer and switch it on after a few seconds. This also works the same way.

  • Scan the keyboard settings

Navigate to System Preferences or Systems and select Keyboard to check the settings. If you expect the function keys to work without a modifier, ensure that the box next to Use F1, F2, etc. as standard function keys is ticked.

  • Ensure your Bluetooth connection is working properly

Are you using a Bluetooth keyboard? If so, the issue might be with your Bluetooth connection. Hence, the function keys are not operating as per your expectations.

You can disconnect the Bluetooth and try reconnecting it. Click on the Bluetooth icon in the Dock, or go to System Preferences or System Settings and click Bluetooth to turn it off and on.

  • Check the Accessibility systems

Are you experiencing inconsistent behavior with your function keys? If this happens right after installing the latest macOS version, it might be related to Accessibility settings.

Go to the Keyboard settings and check whether Enable Slow Keys and Enable Sticky Keys are disabled. If these options are enabled, they can interfere with the behavior of the function keys.

If these don’t work, you can try resetting the NVRAM/PRAM and running Apple Diagnostics to check for hardware issues. Or, the last resort is calling the technician.


No matter why you use function keys on your Mac, they are instrumental. Hence, when they stop working or trigger the wrong actions, it can be frustrating. If you are experiencing issues with function keys, follow the troubleshooting tips mentioned above. The function keys should work again and ensure an interruption-free workflow.

About Author

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an expert web content writer and freelancer who is an expert in writing engaging articles in Business, General, Social Media, Tech, and Marketing and many more other categories. He has been serving our website for a few years. Andrew is a family man. When he isn’t writing, he loves to cook for his kids and spend time with them.

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