Why Is My Keyboard Typing Numbers Instead of Letters?

By Tommy Charles

Updated September 28, 2017

If you find that your keyboard is suddenly typing numbers from certain keys instead of letters, you may have inadvertently activated your Num Lock key. By learning about the Num Lock key and why most keyboards feature one, you will learn how you accidentally activated it and how to turn it off.

The Num Lock Key

The Num Lock key is a toggle key that is found on full-size IBM keyboards. The term "toggle key" refers to the fact that when you press it once, you turn it on, and when you press it again, you turn it off. Some keyboards, specifically mini-keyboards and Macintosh keyboards, do not have a Num Lock key. When you press the Num Lock key, the keyboard's number pad activates. Once it is activated, you can use it in conjunction with the "Alt" key to create special characters such as "â" and "æ."

Num Lock on the Laptop

Most laptops have the Num Lock key, even though most laptops do not contain a number pad. If your laptop has a Num Lock key, you will most likely find it as a printed subscript on one of the numeric keys located at the top of the keyboard. In some rare cases, you will find Num Lock as a dedicated key on the right-hand side of the laptop's keyboard. In either case, the key serves the same function on all Windows-powered laptops that feature it.


Once activated, the Num Lock key on your laptop will convert certain keys into number pad keys. That is to say, these keys, once converted, will have the same function as the number pad keys do on a full-sized keyboard. You can create special characters with them using Alt codes, but you will not be able to form normal words. The exact keys affected may vary from laptop to laptop, but the most common configuration finds the letter "J" converted the the number 1, the letter "K" converted to the number 2, the letter "L" converted to the number 3, the letter "U" as 4, the letter "I" as 5 and "P" as 6. These secondary number pad functions are usually indicated by printed subscripts on the particular keys.

Disabling Num Lock on a Laptop

The first thing that you should do is check to see if your laptop has its own dedicated Num Lock key. It would be located on the upper right-hand side of the keyboard. If you find it, press it and then test your keyboard. If simply pressing the Num Lock key didn't work, try pressing "Shift" and "Num Lock" together. If you do not see a Num Lock key on the right-hand side, look for the word "Num Lock" printed in blue on one of your "F" keys. These keys are numbered 1 through 12 and are at the top of the keyboard. If you find it, locate and press the "FN" key at the bottom-left of the keyboard, and then press it. This will return your keyboard to normal.