Software

How to correct language settings in Windows 10

Windows 10 has many regional versions which can produce keyboard oddities. Here's how to correct these problems.

Being a technologist makes you an informational commodity. I leverage this to my advantage by working as a consultant and I came across an interesting Windows 10 problem on a friend's laptop last week.

The problem

My friend, whom I will call Keith, had downloaded an .iso image of Windows 10 a while back and recently installed it on his Dell Latitude E7250. Keith performed a clean install meaning he wiped the hard drive then put a brand new copy of Windows 10 on it via a USB flash drive containing the .iso image.

Keith uses an external keyboard with his laptop since the built-in one is too prone to typographical errors. Right off the bat he noticed some of the keys were wrong.

Namely:

  • Shift-` produced the ¬ symbol instead of the ~ symbol.
  • Shift-2 produced the " symbol instead of the @ symbol.
  • Shift-3 produced the £ symbol instead of the # symbol.
  • Shift-' produced the @ symbol instead of the " symbol.

As you can imagine, the first one wasn't a terrible issue but the next three were deal breakers.

Not a day goes by that most people don't use the @, # and " characters.

I asked Keith if he had tried using another keyboard, thinking perhaps this one had been reprogrammed somehow. He informed me that was his first step and the second keyboard experienced the same problem. He assumed he somehow chose the wrong option during setup and reinstalled Windows, but the exact same thing happened.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The investigation

That £ symbol referenced above made for an excellent clue. That is the symbol for the British pound. I figured somehow his version of Windows 10 had the wrong keyboard setting.

I clicked Start, Settings, then searched for Keyboard:

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I chose Edit Language and Keyboard options.

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Aha! Somehow Keith's version of Windows 10 was set to use the UK version of English. You can match keyboard settings with your active languages so I decided to switch the existing language to use a United States keyboard to see if that solved the problem.

I selected English (United Kingdom):

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I then clicked Options which brought me to the next screen:

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As you can see, the keyboard option was set to United Kingdom QWERTY. I clicked Add a keyboard, which brought up a list of available keyboard options, listed by country.

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I scrolled down and selected the US Qwerty keyboard, then clicked the Back button (the left arrow in the blue box).

This showed both keyboards associated with the language in use. I selected the United Kingdom version:

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Then I clicked Remove.

We then tested the keyboard and found the problem was solved! The keyboard began operating normally.

I decided it was preferable to change the language option entirely to the United States version of English lest Keith run into any other weirdness.

I navigated to the Region and language screen again:

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You have to have at least one language installed, so I couldn't just change the default language. I clicked Add a language, then searched for and added English (United States).

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I then clicked Set as default to make English (United States) the active language. Then I clicked English (United Kingdom) and chose Remove. This left only the English (United States) language.

SEE: Microsoft Universal Windows Platform Expert Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)

The inquiry and aftermath

After solving any given problem of this nature it's a good idea to try to determine the root cause. I asked Keith whether he accidentally downloaded the United Kingdom English Windows 10 .iso file from Microsoft. He confessed he "may" have downloaded this version of Windows 10 from a random site, and I suspect it was a cracked or pirated torrent; evidently one from someone in the United Kingdom.

It's a bad idea to download software or operating systems from sketchy or unknown sites, and if you've done so I recommend removing it and switching to legitimate versions. Not only is using unauthorized or pirated software unethical, it can subject you to legal or malware risk. Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get, and a "cracked" operating system might end up being un-cracked by a future update, causing headaches and possible expense paying guys like me to fix it (not that I object to the work opportunities for helping out, of course). This should be a special no-brainer at work, since many companies have policies against unauthorized software which can lead to disciplinary action or termination.

Microsoft's official Windows 10 download page is the best resource to upgrade to or reinstall Windows 10. You'll need a product key, but you can install the version at the above link then purchase one later. You can also pay for and download the version you want online.

I strongly advised Keith to use the above link and install a legitimate, official version of Windows 10. Since he was already quickly becoming a pro at reinstalling Windows, he agreed and the matter was concluded.

Also see

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Image: iStock/iTref

About Scott Matteson

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.

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