Dwight Watt - Newspaper Article #162 8/15/2012

Question: What does Num Lock do on the keyboard?


The Num Lock key is a key in the upper right of the keyboard that most people never use and only become aware of it when it has been pressed and causes the keyboard to act differently.

The Num Lock key is a key that is similar to the Caps Lock key. The Caps Lock key people learn about since it is accidentally pressed often for the shift key. The Num Lock key basically causes the keyboard to use numbers when keys in the numeric key pad are pressed. It works a little differently on laptop keyboards that do not have a separate keypad and keyboards that do have the separate number keypad.

On keyboards with a separate numeric keypad (separate section of the keyboard that looks like a calculator or adding machine or ATM keypad) the Num Lock key when engaged causes you to get the characters on the tops of those specialized keys which typically are the numbers, *, + and -. If the Num Lock key is not engaged then when you press those keys you get the actions on the bottom of the keys which are typically controls of how the cursor (the marker where you are on the screen) behaves with home, end and the arrows.

On laptop keyboards without a separate number keypad (some laptops have a separate number keypad) the number keypad is placed over the letters on the right side of the keyboard (basically where you should be using right hand typing). The numbers and other characters are shown on these keys above the letters in a different color which is often blue. If the Num Lock key is engaged then when you press these keys you get what is in the different color above the letter of a number of other characters. On some keyboards some of these keys are scattered across the keyboard. If Num Lock key is not engaged then you get the normal letters.

On almost all keyboards there is a light at the top of the keyboard that tells you if Num Lock is engaged. It has a number (1 or 9 usually) by it. Normally on desktop keyboards you want it engaged and on laptops not engaged.

If you are typing and want letters and are getting numbers, +, *, / then check the Num Lock key status.