How to Change Default Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows 10

Change Default Windows Shortcuts Featured

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 a much more convenient shortcut instead of Ctrl + Shift + Esc to access the task manager or for Ctrl + S to use an alternative search tool? For this, we need a tool called AutoHotKey.

Here we show you how to change the keyboard shortcuts in Windows 10 using this great tool.

Meet AutoHotKey

So let’s start with the bad news, which is that there is no native way to change the default keyboard shortcuts in Windows. 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 are looking specifically at how you can use it to change the default Windows shortcuts.

First, download AutoHotKey.

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Next, we 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, 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.

Change Default Windows Shortcut

Once you’ve done that, on the Windows desktop, right-click an empty space, then select “New -> Auto Hotkey script,” and call it something recognizable. We’re going to create a better shortcut for getting to the task manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc by default), so we are calling our shortcut “Task Manager.”

Next, right-click the script you just created and click “Edit Script.” Based on the syntax we showed above, the shortcut you should enter here is as follows:

First enter the shortcut you want to use and follow this with ::Send, then a space and the shortcut you want your custom shortcut to replace. Because the Esc key is a command rather than a standard key, we put it in the special brackets.

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 Default Windows Shortcuts Notrayicon2

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.

Change Program Shortcut

Next, let’s try redirecting the default Windows Search shortcut Win + S to an alternative search tool we like called Search Everything. 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 are entering (Win + S in this case), and the bit after run is the command to open the Search Everything app.

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Run Shortcuts at Windows Startup

Your shortcuts work as soon as you boot Windows and move the .ahk script to your system startup folder in File Explorer – C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartUp. 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 to change the default keyboard shortcuts in Windows. As a bonus, you’ve also learned the absolute basics of AutoHotKey – an extremely handy tool capable of running scripts much more complex than the ones we mention here.

If you want to stay knee-deep in Windows, see our list of the best sandbox applications for Windows 10, and how to convert legacy BIOS to UEFI in the OS.

Robert Zak Robert Zak

Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.

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