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How to Disable the Built-In “Windows Key” Shortcuts

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Windows uses the “Windows key” for a lot of useful shortcuts. But if they get in your way—or you’d just like to assign them to different functions—there is a way to disable them all in one fell swoop from the Registry or Group Policy Editor.

It’s important to know that the changes we’re going to talk about in this article are per user, meaning that you’ll have to make these changes for each user account where you want to disable the shortcuts. It’s not hard to do, and we’ll walk you through the whole process.

You should also be aware that these steps only disable the default Windows key shortcuts, not the Windows key itself. You’ll still be able to press the Windows key to open the Start menu. If you’re looking for a way to disable the Windows key entirely, we highly recommend using an app like SharpKeys to turn the key off through the use of key mappings. You can also use it to disable your mostly annoying Caps Lock key while you’re at it.

Home Users: Disable the Windows Key Shortcuts by Editing the Registry

If you have the Windows 7, 8, or 10 Home edition, you will have to edit the Windows Registry to make these changes. You can also do it this way if you have Windows Pro or Enterprise, but just feel more comfortable working in the Registry. (If you have Pro or Enterprise, though, we recommend using the easier Local Group Policy Editor, as described in the next section.)

Standard warning: Registry Editor is a powerful tool and misusing it can render your system unstable or even inoperable. This is a pretty simple hack and as long as you stick to the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. That said, if you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading about how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And definitely back up the Registry (and your computer!) before making changes.

Before you get started editing the Registry, you’ll need to log on as the user you want to make changes for, and then edit the Registry while logged in to their account. If you have multiple users for whom you want to changes for, you’ll have to repeat the process for each user.

After logging on, open the Registry Editor by hitting Start and typing “regedit.” Press Enter to open Registry Editor and give it permission to make changes to your PC.

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In the Registry Editor, use the left sidebar to navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer

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Next, you’ll need to create a new value inside the Explorer key. Right-click the Explorer key and choose New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the new value “NoWinKeys.”

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Double-click the new NoWinKeys value to open its properties window. Change the value from 0 to 1 in the “Value data” box and then click “OK.”

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You can now exit Registry Editor. You’ll need to restart Windows (or sign out and back in) for the changes to take place. To reverse the changes, just log on with the account you changed, fire up Registry Editor again, and delete the NoWinKeys value you created. You’ll have to do this for each user for whom you want to restore the Windows key shortcuts.

Download Our One-Click Registry Hack

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If you don’t feel like diving into the Registry yourself, we’ve created two downloadable registry hacks you can use. One hack disables Windows key shortcuts and the other hack enables them, restoring the default setting. Both hacks are included in the following ZIP file. Double-click the one you want to use and click through the prompts. Just remember that you’ll need to sign in with the user account you want to make the changes for first.

Windows Key Shortcut Hacks

These hacks are really just the Explorer  key, stripped down to the NoWinKeys value we described above, and then exported to a .REG file. Running the “Disable Windows Key Shortcuts” hack creates the NoWinKeys value and sets the value to 1 for the currently signed in user. Running the “Enable Windows Key Shortcuts (Default)” hack sets the value back to 0.  And if you enjoy fiddling with the Registry, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make your own Registry hacks.

Pro and Enterprise Users: Disable the Windows Key Shortcuts with Local Group Policy Editor

If you’re using Windows Pro or Enterprise, the easiest way to disable Windows key shortcuts is by using the Local Group Policy Editor. It also gives you a bit more power over which users have this restriction. If you’re turning off the shortcuts for only some user accounts on a PC, you’ll need to do a little extra setup by first creating a policy object for those users. You can read all about that in our guide to applying local Group Policy tweaks to specific users.

You should also be aware that group policy is a pretty powerful tool, so it’s worth taking some time to learn what it can do. And if you’re on a company network, do everyone a favor and check with your admin first. If your work computer is part of a domain, it’s also likely that it’s part of a domain group policy that will supersede the local group policy, anyway.

Start by finding the MSC file you created for controlling policies for those particular users. Double-click to open it and allow it to make changes to your PC. If you just have one user account on your PC, you can open the regular Local Group Policy Editor instead by clicking Start, typing “gpedit.msc,” and then hitting Enter. That’s what we’re going to do in this example, but if you use an MSC file to apply the changes to certain users, the steps are the same.

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In the Group Policy window for those users, on the left-hand side, drill down to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer. If you’re running Windows 7, the “File Explorer” part will be named “Windows Explorer” instead. On the right, find the “Turn off Windows+X hotkeys” setting and double-click it to open its properties window.

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In the setting’s properties window, click the “Enabled” option and then click “OK.”

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You can now exit the Local Group Policy Editor. You’ll need to restart the PC (or sign out and back in) for changes to take place. To reverse the change later, just go back to the same “Turn off Windows+X hotkeys” setting and change it back to “Not Configured.”

Image Credit: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr