How to Set Up a Generic USB Keyboard with Your MacBook

A Mac keyboard.

While the MacBook keyboard is a consistent performer and one of the best keyboards on a non-desktop machine, a full-sized keyboard complete with a numeric keypad has its uses. In most cases, you’re able to set up a generic USB keyboard with your MacBook.

In this post, we show you how to set up a generic USB keyboard with your MacBook. We also look at some resolutions if you can’t get things up and running.

How to Set Up a Generic USB Keyboard with Your MacBook

In most cases, keyboards will “plug and play.” In other words, they should just work right out of the box. Note that most modern MacBooks – certainly those released in the last couple of years – will only have USB-C ports. If you’re using an older USB keyboard, you may need an adapter, though the process we outline below will be the same.

Once you plug in your keyboard to the USB port, you’ll see the Keyboard Setup Assistant.

Usb Keyboard Assistant

Click Continue. Your Mac will then map out the rest of your keyboard by asking you to hit the keys beside each Shift key.

Usb Keyboard Identify

The last pop-up will ask you to select your preferred type of keyboard, and in most cases, you can choose the default.

At this point, you’re almost done, though you’ll need to make sure your modifier keys are set correctly.

Setting Up the Modifier Keys

If you skip this step, you could have problems using the shortcut keys you’re accustomed to that use Command – for example, the copy and paste shortcuts.

To begin, head to “System Preferences -> Keyboard.” From this panel, open the “Modifier Keys … ” screen from the bottom-right corner.

Usb Keyboard Modifier Option

The modifier keys on Mac are Shift, Control, Option (Alt), Command, and Caps Lock. From the next dialog, choose your USB keyboard.

Usb Keyboard Keys

Here you can quickly assign Command from the drop-down menu under Control Key.

Usb Keyboard Command

You can leave the rest of the defaults or set more modifier keys, depending on your needs. Once you’re done, click OK to save your settings.

After this, you’re all set. You can detach your USB keyboard at any time and still preserve your settings, though you’ll be prompted to configure your keyboard’s settings if you attach a new one.

How to Fix a Generic USB Keyboard that Isn’t Detected by Your MacBook

In some cases, your generic USB keyboard won’t be detected by your Mac. If this happens to you, Apple has a few tips to get things working again:

  • Get the fundamentals right and ensure the keyboard is plugged in correctly. With USB-C connections, they often don’t run flush to the port like older ones. As such, you may misjudge the connection.
  • If your keyboard needs drivers, you’ll need to make sure they’re installed.
  • If you’re running one USB device into another, check them both individually before continuing.
  • Remove all of your other devices in order to test your keyboard alone.
  • Restart any apps you have open and reboot your computer if necessary.

You may also want to take some advanced action. Resetting the System Management Controller and PRAM could be an option if you’re desperate to get your USB keyboard working.

However, it’s going to be rare for a keyboard not to work on your Mac. We’d suggest getting a professional to give your machine a once-over if you’re encountering any issues.

In Conclusion

In most cases, the default MacBook keyboard does a great job. It could be the best keyboard on the market, although it’s not the best solution in many cases. The good news is you can connect a generic USB keyboard to your MacBook, and most of the time it will work without a hitch.

If you’re looking to become more efficient on macOS, regardless of your keyboard, we’ve published a cheatsheet for all the major macOS keyboard shortcuts. Then, if you’re looking for a little bit of fun, check outt the best Apple Arcade games you can play on the Mac. Will this article help you use a generic USB keyboard with your MacBook? Let us know in the comments section below!

Tom Rankin
Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

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