This blog post is also available in PDF form as a TechRepublic download.Sometimes, depending on the manufacturer and on the particular layout, your keyboard can be a great source of frustration. For TechRepublic reader Frank Reeves, the Caps Lock key is the one that drives him crazy. After seeing the TechRepublic How do I... about how to disable the Insert key in Word, he asked for information on how to similarly disable the Caps Lock key.
There are several ways to accomplish this task. One way is to discover the scan code for the Caps Lock key and for the key you want to map it to and then edit the Windows registry. The folks at Annoyances.org explain this method. However, their explanation is more complicated than it needs to be, and there are easier and safer ways to accomplish the same thing.
Third-party keyboard layout and mapping tools are available that will allow you to change the behavior of the Caps Lock key, but many of these really boil down to a .reg file, which edits the Windows registry for you. In general, these .reg files are fine and come from people and organizations just trying to help make your life easier, but it still involves a stranger editing your Windows registry files. That makes me uncomfortable.
The best way to remap the Caps Lock key or any key on your keyboard is with a free utility from Microsoft called remapkey.exe. This little utility is available in the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools. It is one of many utilities included in the kit and works with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista. This TechRepublic How do I... shows you how to use the remapkey.exe utility to remap the Caps Lock key.
RemappingOnce you download and run the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools file, you will have a long laundry list of utilities located in a single directory. I used the default location (Figure A):
ToolsWhen you start the remapkey utility, it presents a screen displaying two keyboards, as shown in Figure B.
Remapkey utilityThe top keyboard is the standard base keyboard layout. To remap the Caps Lock key, in the top keyboard, left-click on the key you would like the Caps Lock to be remapped to, drag it to the bottom keyboard, and drop it on the Caps Lock key there. In my example, I am remapping the Caps Lock key to the left Shift key. (Note the red key in Figure C.)
Caps Lock is now left ShiftWhen you are satisfied with your remapping choices, click the Save Settings And Exit icon to implement the change (Figure D). A reboot of the operating system will be required for the change to take effect.
Save settings and exitAs you can see in Figure E, the remapkey utility is writing to the Windows registry, just like the methods mentioned earlier were going to do, but this gives you more control over that delicate editing process.
Writing to the Windows registry
Note: For Windows Vista you will have to run the remapkey utility in administrator mode.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.