I just want to scroll down!
July 16, 2013 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday evening the down arrow key on my laptop computer started behaving strangely.

At first I noticed that my down arrow key wasn't scrolling down--instead, in a lot of applications (Chrome, Adobe Reader, Word) pressing "down" now opens up the help documentation. In Firefox, it's still scrolling down but only a little bit at a time; that is, if I hold it down it doesn't scroll smoothly, it just jumps slightly down the page and stops.

Then, today, I noticed that my backspace key is also acting strange. It will only delete one letter at a time; I can't hold it down for continuous deletion.

I suspect that these keys think they're F1 at least part of the time. The down arrow is acting like the keyboard shortcut for help in Chrome, Adobe Reader, and Word, which is normally F1's role. And when I hold down Fn+down arrow or Fn+backspace it puts the computer to sleep, which is supposed to be what Fn+F1 does.

Additional relevant details:

--I'm on an EEE PC in Windows 7
--I have tried turning it off and on again.

Any ideas about what the heck is going on would be deeply, deeply appreciated. Thank you in advance!
posted by JuliaJellicoe to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
You can delicately pry off the F1 key using a flat tip screwdriver or butter knife, and then clean the crumbs and hairs out from under it. This stuff often causes keys to malfunction.

There are many tutorials online showing how to do so. I've also had good luck rolling tape into a cone, and then flattening the cone and using that to clean under the key.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:52 PM on July 16, 2013

You may want to check a tutorial specific to your model and make of computer.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:12 PM on July 16, 2013

Seconding the suggestion that you should clean under/around your F1 key.

As for what is actually happening:

The scrolling down and/or deleting one letter at a time suggests that the keypress is being interrupted - I suspect you will also see no repeats with other keys such as the up arrow or holding down a letter key to type. To simulate, on a non-broken computer, hold down one key that repeats then press another key briefly. The repeats will stop as soon as the second key is pressed.

The fact that it seems to be 'simulating' F1 suggests that the key that is interrupting is F1. See what happens if you hold down the function key for a while and nothing else - if your computer still goes to sleep, then you've found your culprit.

Other potential culprits: on some keyboards, liquid causing short circuits can have similar results, if you've had a spill recently this could be why. Hair, muck and sticky stuff under the F1 key could all be causing keypresses, but be particularly careful removing keys from laptop keyboards as they can break easily.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:39 PM on July 16, 2013

You can clean the keyboard with the sticky side of a postit and/or canned air and/or cardstock - I use the subscription cards from magazines to get crumbs and pieces of grit and fluff out. If there's any chance that sticky liquids got into the keyboard, it may need to have keys removed to be cleaned carefully.
posted by theora55 at 7:19 PM on July 16, 2013

I've had my keys start acting funny twice. Once it was a virus-type take over from macafee to try and scare me into buying their product. The other time it was an actual virus.
posted by myselfasme at 7:54 PM on July 16, 2013

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