How to Change Default Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows 10

It’s not too complicated to create your own keyboard shortcuts in Windows 10. Just right-click the executable for whatever it is you want to create a shortcut to, click Properties, then enter your command into a box. (More on creating custom shortcuts here.)

But what if you want to change the default keyboard shortcuts that Windows 10 has foisted on you, such as getting Win + S to open your own Search tool instead of the Windows one or to reassign shortcuts to reflect how they work on Mac or Linux? Well, things get a little more complicated at that point but are still perfectly doable.

Here’s how to change the keyboard shortcuts in Windows 10.

So let’s start with the bad news, which is that there is no native way to change the default keyboard shortcuts in Windows. Nope, after all these years, Microsoft still isn’t willing to offer that simple bit of flexibility, presumably for fear that you’ll want to use its shortcuts to access non-Microsoft apps … which is probably the case.

Instead, you’re going to have to create scripts for every shortcut key that you want to replace. Don’t worry, this process is actually made pretty easy thanks to a great tool called AutoHotkey. This is a script creator tool that can be used for all kinds of creative purposes, but today we’ll be looking specifically at how you can use it to change the default Windows shortcuts.

First, download AutoHotKey.

Once you’ve done that, on the Window desktop right-click an empty space, then select “New -> Auto Hotkey script,” and call it something recognisable, followed by the suffix “ahk.” (We’re calling ours “Search.ahk,” as we’ll be replacing the Windows Search shortcut with a shortcut to the far superior search tool, Search Everything.)

change-keyboard-shortcuts-windows-10-new-script

Next, we’ll familiarize you with the basics of the Auto Hotkey syntax you need to know to change Windows shortcuts. Most Windows shortcuts use some combination of the below buttons, so this should be enough to get you started.

AutoHotkey syntaxRepresentation
^Ctrl key
!Alt key
+Shift key
#Win key
Up, Down, Left, RightArrow Keys/Directions
run,Makes your hotkey open a file, folder or program on your PC
send,Redirects the hotkey to your chosen keystrokes

If you want to type a letter, you just literally type that letter, while buttons like Esc and Del and others can also be directly typed into your script. You can find a convenient list of the main Auto Hotkey syntax at this site. 

So let’s say we want to redirect the default Windows Search shortcut Win + S to Search Everywhere. We’d type in the following command:

change-keyboard-shortcuts-windows-10-search-ahk

The :: is what separates the hotkey from the action you want it to perform. The bit before this is the hotkey we’ll be entering (Win+S in this case), and the bit after run is the command to open the Search Everything app.

With all your keyboard shortcut replacements, we recommend adding a second line to the script with the text #NoTrayIcon. This will block the Auto Hotkey tray icon from popping up, ensuring that the whole process stays in the background.

change-keyboard-shortcuts-windows-10-notrayicon

Once your script is ready, close it and save it, then double-click the script to run it, and test your keyboard shortcut to see if it does what it should.

If it does, move the .ahk script to your system startup folder in File Explorer (C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp). Do the same for all your keyboard shortcut replacements. That way they’ll all be working as soon as you boot your PC.

change-keyboard-shortcuts-windows-10-startup-folder

It’s a little bit of effort, but it certainly works, and as a bonus you’ve now learned the absolute basics of Auto Hotkey – an extremely handy tool capable of running scripts much more complex than the ones we mention here.

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