Esc Key Not Responding? Here’s How to Get It Working Again

Depending on our primary use of a PC, a malfunctioning key can lead to frustrating issues that waste valuable time until the root cause is identified and resolved. When we talk about the Esc key, we’re discussing a key with various essential functions, including accessing game configuration menus, terminating command-line program execution, closing the Windows search box, exiting application context menus, hiding the mouse cursor, canceling commands, and more.

Given the widespread use of the Esc key within Windows, a malfunction can force us to interact with the operating system differently, potentially creating confusion, especially if we’re not familiar with alternative methods.

esc keyboard

What to Do if the Esc Key Stops Working

The causes of a non-functional Esc key can be diverse and may not always stem from the keyboard itself; other factors can affect its operation. If you encounter this issue, here’s what you should do to resolve it:

  1. Confirm the Problem: Determine whether the issue is with the keyboard or the operating system. Connect the keyboard to another PC to test its functionality. If the Esc key still doesn’t work on a different PC, the problem lies with the keyboard itself.
  2. Update Keyboard Drivers with Device Manager: If the keyboard is functioning correctly on another PC, update its drivers through the Device Manager on your computer. Access Device Manager by right-clicking the Start menu, then navigate to “Keyboards.” Right-click on the HID Keyboard Devices listed and select “Update driver” to update the drivers.
  3. Check Keyboard Software: If your keyboard includes software for managing its functions, inspect the Gaming or Special keys section to ensure that nothing related to the Esc key is inadvertently activated. If any settings affect the Esc key, deactivate them and retest its functionality.
  4. Scan for Viruses: A virus or malware may be responsible for the Esc key’s malfunction. Use your computer’s built-in antivirus software, such as Microsoft Defender, or any trusted third-party antivirus program to scan your system for potential threats. This process may take some time but can identify and eliminate viruses that could be causing the problem.
  5. Disable Filter Keys: Windows offers accessibility options, including Filter Keys, designed to assist individuals with vision and mobility impairments. These filters can alter the behavior of certain keys and key combinations. To eliminate this as a potential cause, disable all filter keys in Windows settings. You can access these settings by pressing Win + I, selecting “Accessibility,” and then “Keyboard.”
  6. Uninstall Recently Installed Applications: If you noticed that the Esc key stopped working after installing a specific application, uninstall that application from your PC. It’s possible that the software made internal changes to the Esc key’s functionality through the Windows registry.
  7. Restore to a Previous Restore Point: If all else fails, consider restoring your system to a previous backup when the Esc key functioned correctly. To do this, search for “Create a restore point” in the Windows search box, select the relevant restore point (sorted by date), and initiate the restoration process.

By following these steps, you can troubleshoot and resolve issues when the Esc key on your keyboard stops working, ensuring that you can continue to use your PC efficiently.