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PS/2, USB and Bluetooth Computer Keyboards

This page of this website deals with keyboards that use either the PS/2 (the older) or the USB (the current) interface - or built-in Bluetooth technology. The USB interface can be used for a wired or a wireless keyboard, including a wireless Bluetooth dongle. However, some laptop computers provide an inbuilt Bluetooth adapter that works in the same way as a wireless Wi-Fi network adapter, usually to run a keyboard and mouse set. In fact, a wireless Bluetooth adapter is listed under Network adapters in the Device Manager. Some common keyboard problems are dealt with. Although there is quite a bit of information on the keyboard, it is a minor component that seldom goes wrong, but when it does it can cause some strange symptoms that can be attributed to the major components, such as the motherboard, hard disk drive or memory.

An example of an Internet Keyboard

Touch screens and speech-recognition software will eventually replace computer keyboards for most users, but for many years to come you will be able to buy a wireless or wired USB keyboard, or a standard PS/2 keyboard that has a plug that fits into the PS/2 keyboard port of an ATX motherboard.

Note that some motherboards provide two separate PS/2 ports for a mouse and keyboard, but some recent motherboards provide a single PS/2 port that can accommodate a mouse or a keyboard. The current (May 2011) MSI MS-7673 motherboard shown in the image below has a single PS/2 mouse/keyboard port on its ports panel (top port, far left). This is no doubt because most mice and keyboards are now USB devices. That motherboard provides two blue USB 3.0 (Super-Speed USB) and eight USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) ports. USB 2.0 ports are more than adequate to run a keyboard from; USB 3.0 ports are only advantageous to use with an external SSD drive.

Ports panel of an MSI MS-7673 Socket LGA1155 Intel-based motherboard

Most recent laptop PCs allow the use an external keyboard, which cannot usually be a PS/2 keyboard, because most laptops don't provide a PS/2 port. You will have to use a wireless or a wired USB keyboard.

A wireless keyboard could have a radio transmitter that connects to the PS/2 keyboard port itself, or to a USB port, or it can obtain a signal from an infrared (IR) transmitter connected to an IR port on the motherboard.

Most wired and wireless computer mice and keyboards use a USB 2.0 connection. For a wireless mouse or keyboard, the wireless adapter is connected to a USB port on the computer. Bluetooth technology is also used for wireless printers, keyboards and mice. It uses the USB 2.0 interface if an adapter (dongle) is used. However, some desktop computers and most recent laptop computers come with a built-in Bluetooth adapter, which operates in the same way as a wireless 802.11g/n network adapter.

Note that USB 3.0 is now available and all new PC motherboards and laptops provide them.

A USB 3.0 device must be connected to a USB 3.0 port with a USB 3.0 cable, but a USB 3.0 port will run a USB 2.0 device with a USB 2.0 cable, because the port contains all of the USB 2.0 contacts and adds five new contacts that can only be engaged by using a USB 3.0 cable. A wired USB 3.0 keyboard and mouse comes with the cable attached to it. A wireless USB 3.0 dongle connecting a mouse, keyboard or connecting to a wireless router has to use a USB 3.0 port.

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 FAQ -

The following link provides a video showing the differences between PS/2, USB and FireWire cables. The FireWire interface is not currently or ever likely to be used for computer mice and keyboards.

The following page of an article on keyboards provides the technical differences between a PS/2 and a USB keyboard:,review-32205-5.html

Note well that if you have two or more computers in a building or house that use wireless keyboards, the signals from one downstairs (or anywhere within the range of another computer) can be picked up by one upstairs so that all kinds of different windows and dialog boxes open, programs run, folders open - even entire folders with dozens of sub-folders and several thousand files might be copied to another folder on a different drive, depending on what was being done on the other computer(s). The prime suspect is usually a virus or some kind of spyware or malware, but few people ever come to the conclusion that signals from wireless keyboards are to blame.

Although it is very difficult to find AT keyboards or AT motherboards or AT cases, which are no longer manufactured, you should be aware that they exist in case someone tries to sell you an AT component, or you buy them from an Internet auction site. All motherboards are currently of the ATX or, to a much lesser extent, the BTX form factors. The BTX form factor was designed to do so but has not yet taken over from the ATX form factor, and perhaps it never will. See the first Motherboards page on this site for information on motherboard form factors.

An AT keyboard has a larger plug that cannot be fitted to an ATX motherboard unless you buy an AT to ATX conversion plug.

See the USB section of this website for information on that subject. Note that USB keyboards and mice tend to be far more problematic than the PS/2 alternatives. That said, I have never experienced any problems myself with either type other than a few mice that came to the end of their long lives and wireless mice and keyboards that needed new batteries.

The PS/2 standard for mice and keyboards has been in existence since 1987 and is still supported by Windows Vista and Windows 7, which is the latest incarnation of Windows that comes as several different versions. Apple has got rid of PS/2 ports in all of its desktop and laptop PCs but, at the time of writing this (May 2011), most desktop PC motherboard manufacturers still provide one or two PS/2 ports for a mouse and keyboard on their motherboards.

That can be useful, because the other main standard used for mice and keyboards - USB- still has some flaws in its design that make it temperamental. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find that a USB keyboard and mouse don't work, and the only solution is to use a PS/2 alternative, provided that the PC's motherboard has a PS/2 mouse or keyboard port.

Unless the BIOS setup program provides a device driver for a USB keyboard and mouse, you won't be able to use them to navigate the BIOS setup program, because Windows installs the USB device drivers when it starts up, and the BIOS is entered before Windows starts up.

As with all Apple desktop and laptop computers that no longer provide PS/2 ports, many new brand-name desktop PCs, particularly from Gateway and Dell, only provide USB ports. However, there are currently still many new computers, including most new PCs from HP, that also provide PS/2 ports. As can bee seen in the image of the ports panel of an MSI MS-7673 (current in May 2011), MSI still provides a PS/2 port on its motherboards, but has dropped the legacy printer parallel port and serial ports.

Most of the keyboard and mouse manufacturers provide devices that can operate with both PS/2 and USB ports. Adapters are available or come with new mice and keyboards that enable a PS/2 device to plug into a USB port and a USB device to plug into a PS/2 port. Note that these adapters won't work with just any keyboard or mouse. The device has to be designed to work with both types of port.

Installation instructions for these peripherals will be found in the motherboard's user manual, which either came with the computer, was packaged with the motherboard, or can usually be downloaded from the motherboard manufacturer's website.

In a Windows 95/98/Me system, the settings for the keyboard and mouse are found in the Start => Settings => Control Panel under the headings Keyboard and Mouse.

In a Windows XP system, they are also in the Control Panel, which can be accessed directly from the Start button.

For Windows Vista, look under the Hardware and Sound category in the Control Panel. Look for Keyboards and Mice and other pointing devices.

To find the settings for the mouse in Windows 7, which is also in the Control Panel under the Hardware and Sound category when it is viewed by category, just enter the word mouse in the Start => Search programs and files box. The link at the top of the box called Mouse opens the settings window. Note that when you select to View by: large or small icons, the Control Panel items are listed instead of being categorised.

You can experiment with the settings to set the repeat rates that suit you best.

To find out what is in the Control Panel in Windows Vista, read:

Windows Vista - Control Panel -

This video shows you how to use the Control Panel in Windows 7:

Windows 7 Video Guide: The Control Panel -

Below is an illustration of the location of the PS/2 keyboard port on an ATX motherboard from an MSI motherboard manual. All of the ports appear at the back of the PC's case when the motherboard is installed in a tower (vertical) or desktop (horizontal) case. Visit the Motherboards, PC Cases, and Power Supply Units section of this site for information on them.

Two USB ports are shown next to the two PS/2 ports. Most motherboards now provide at least four USB ports (the example shown at the top of the page provides eight - 6 USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0) on the motherboard's ports panel and provide USB headers on the motherboard itself that can be attached to the cables of a USB bracket that contains USB ports. The bracket itself fits into a free slot at the back of the case in the same way as an adapter card.

Additional USB 2.0 ports can be added by attaching an inexpensive USB hub containing them to one of the USB ports on the motherboard.

If the PC's motherboard only provides USB 1.1 ports, you can buy a USB adapter card that adds USB 2.0 ports.

Note that USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed USB) is now available and all new PC motherboards and laptops provide the blue ports.

You can download the manuals for the latest MSI motherboards free of charge from

Showing the location of the PS/2 keyboard port on an ATX motherboard

The port above it is for a PS/2 mouse. On this motherboard, a particular PS/2 port has to be used for a keyboard or a mouse, never for both. (Note that some recent motherboards a single PS/2 port for either a keyboard or mouse is provided.) When connecting the keyboard and mouse make sure that you connect them to the correct ports. Most computers have color-coded PS/2 ports on the motherboard's ports panel. If the computer has coloured ports the mouse usually connects to the green or teal connection, and the keyboard to the blue or purple connection.

The three large ports beside the two USB ports are legacy ports for old-technology devices. The large port on the top of the two smaller ports is a parallel port for parallel devices such as a parallel printer and external disk drive. The two smaller ports below it are for serial devices, such as a serial mouse, keyboard or joystick. Serial mice and keyboards are no longer sold new.

Click here! to view annotated images of ATX motherboards showing where the parallel port and the PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports are located. Click your browser's Back button to return here...

Cleaning a keyboard

The standard type of desktop-PC keyboard can accumulate plenty of dirt quickly down into the spaces between the keys and the keys themselves get dirty. There are plenty of articles on this subject that can be found by using a web-search query such as cleaning a keyboard or cleaning a laptop keyboard. If you have an office computer that is used by many people that gets very dirty, washable keyboards are available, but the keys tend to be spongy due to the waterproof design. A recent example (January 2013) is the Logitech K310 washable keyboard. Others can be found by using the search query: washable keyboards.

A strange web browser problem caused by a faulty keyboard

The following strange browser problem was caused by a faulty keyboard. Pressing the Ctrl-Shift-h key combination brings History up in Firefox and Internet Explorer. One or two of those keys were stuck or defective and only the non-defective key(s) had to be pressed to bring it up.

"All of a sudden the web browser I was using - Firefox 3.6 - developed strange behaviour - started switching between the History toolbar on the side and no toolbar, its normal state. Internet Explorer 8 behaved in the same way.

"Thinking that it must be a virus or worm infection, I ran the usual malware scans using two scanners - AVG and Security Essentials - without success and then uninstalled Firefox, removed its folder and all of its entries in the Registry and installed the latest version in vain. I updated IE8, but the problem remained.

"Next, I got rid of Windows 7 64-bit by wiping the hard drive and installed the latest Ubuntu Linux 64-bit. No success - the same problem with Firefox, which is the browser that comes with Ubuntu. So now I'm of the opinion that it must be some sort of peculiar hardware problem.

"But what kind of hardware problem only affects browsers? Everything works just fine until I start up a browser. Even then, it takes about 10 minutes until the browser starts its strange behaviour."

If the F6 key doesn't work on a desktop PC during the installation of Windows XP...

When Windows XP is installed on a desktop-PC system with an SATA hard disk drive, during the installation process, it asks you to press the F6 key so that you can install the SATA device drivers, which Windows XP does not have in its driver library. However, some keyboards, notably those manufactured by Microsoft and Logitech use the F function keys (F1 to F12) for functions other than system functions, such as to cut, paste, forward, backward, etc. If this is the case, the tops of the F keys have logos or words on them, as on laptop computers that use the F keys to do things like expel a CD/DVD disc, control sound levels and screen settings, etc. Laptops have an Fn key that you press in order to toggle between the standard functions of the F keys and the control keys. Likewise, desktop-PC keyboards with dual-functions have an F Lock key that toggles between the two sets of functions. Therefore, if you cannot use the F6 key during an installation of Windows XP, you just have to press the F lock key.

How to install PS/2, USB and wireless keyboards and mice

Installing a PS/2 and USB keyboard is merely a matter of plugging the plug into the correct PS/2 port or into a USB port, respectively - with the computer switched off in the case of a PS/2 keyboard. You can plug a USB keyboard or mouse into a USB port while the computer is running, because the USB standard allows such hotplugging. You can damage the motherboard is you install a PS/2 device while the PC is running. If the device came with special software, then you install that according to its installation instructions.

A wireless USB keyboard and mouse package set usually contains the following:

  • Wireless keyboard
  • Wireless mouse
  • Wireless receiver(s)
  • Batteries (if not, you will have to supply them)

Set up the keyboard and mouse where you want them in front of the PC, position the wireless receiver that connects to the PC and which provides the radio signal, and install the software that came in the package. Connect the wireless receiver to a USB port on the PC (USB ports can be at the front or back of the PC), with the PC switched on.

If there are no free USB ports, you can purchase a USB hub from a computer shop or online store that provides them. You plug the hub into a single USB port.

With the wireless receiver plugged in, Windows XP or Windows Vista will detect new hardware and install the device drivers. When that is done Windows will produce this message: "Your new hardware is now ready to use."

Now you can test the keyboard and mouse. If they don't work properly, experiment with where the receiver is placed. It shouldn't be placed to close to the case or monitor.

Visit the USB section of this website for information on that subject.

Keyboard device drivers (software)

All computer devices require device-driver software that is supported by the make/version of the operating system in order to be able to function.

If Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 cannot detect the make and model of keyboard and install the device driver from its driver library, when it detects new hardware it will ask you to insert the disc containing the driver. If you don't install a driver, Windows will install its standard device driver for the keyboard. If Windows installs the driver for the make/model of keyboard automatically, or you install the driver when asked to do so, or it installs its standard keyboard driver, you should visit the manufacturer's site for the latest driver (software) for that make/model of keyboard, because the software is continually being updated.

The drivers are available for the different versions of Windows. The driver support depends on the manufacturer. For example, some manufacturers still provide drivers for Windows 98/Me, but others do not. Some manufacturers provide drivers for the Linux operating system; others don't.

The drivers are available for the different versions of Windows. Microsoft now only provides the keyboard drivers for Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The drivers are available for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. If you have a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7, you have to use the matching 32- or 64-bit driver. (Only Windows XP Professional has a 64-bit version.)

Finding out which bit version of Windows you have usually involves only opening System in the Control Panel, where the information is provided, using the Classic view in Vista and the View by: Small icons (or Large icons) in Windows 7.

How to determine whether your computer is running a 32-bit version or a 64-bit version of the Windows operating system -

The device driver information is available in the Device Manager under the heading Keyboards. If the manufacturer's driver is installed, the make and model of keyboard will be shown there.

How to fix the problem of a keyboard that does not print the correct characters onscreen

If your desktop or laptop computer does not print the correct characters onscreen and the Windows Language Bar cannot fix the problem, using the Microsoft keyboard Layout Creator should fix it, because it allows you to create your own customised keyboard layout (to choose which character each key brings to the screen).

HOW TO: Use the Language Bar in Windows XP -

The Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator -

The On-Screen Keyboard in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7

If your keyboard gives up the ghost all of a sudden, you can use the screen keyboard that is part of Windows XP. To access it, enter osk in the Start => Run box, and the screen keyboard that can be operated with the mouse will appear.

In Windows Vista and Windows 7, enter osk in the Start => Search box and click on the link called osk that is presented above it. Alternatively, click Start (button) => Control Panel, click the Ease of Access Center twice and select Start On-Screen Keyboard.

Shortcut keys in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7

List of the keyboard shortcuts that are available in Windows XP -

Keyboard shortcuts - Windows Vista -

Keyboard shortcuts - Windows 7 -

You can enter a search term such as windows 98 keyboard shortcuts in a search engine to find shortcut keys for Windows 98 (suitably altered for Windows Me).

How to change the keyboard to work as/like a foreign keyboard

From Windows XP SP2 Microsoft introduced a new United Kingdom Extended keyboard layout (all of the later versions - Windows XP SP3 and Windows Vista have it). This layout works almost like a standard UK keyboard until you hold down the Alt Gr key. Doing that gives the vowels (a, e, i, o, u) an acute accent. The c is given a cedilla (a squiggle underneath it). The ^, ', and - keys become dead keys where the next letter typed is given the corresponding accent.

To change the keyboard layout In Windows XP/Vista/7, click Start => Control Panel and open Regional and Language Options. Click on the Languages tab in the window that comes up and click on the Details button. You can also set up several different keyboard layouts there and then switch between them.

The following link provides access to information on Windows keyboard layouts.

Windows Keyboard Layouts -

My Windows XP Pro computer with a USB keyboard won't boot into Safe Mode


After I was infected by spyware pop-ups, such as ErrorSafe and DriveCleaner, I was advised in a computer forum to update all of the anti-spyware tools I use and to boot into Safe Mode by pressing the F8 key after the memory count, because the scanners work more effectively in that mode. But, no matter how many times I press the F8 key at startup, my computer just continues to load Windows XP Professional. My computer has a USB Logitech iTouch keyboard. Is there any other way to force Windows to boot into Safe Mode?


The problem is no doubt caused by the fact that the device driver for the USB Logitech keyboard isn't being installed until after Windows XP has started to load, which is normal for USB device drivers, so you can't use it to enter Safe Mode by pressing the F8 key before Windows starts to load. You probably won't be able to enter the BIOS setup program for the same reason. You have to press the BIOS entry key(s) before Windows starts to install. That means that you won't be able to enter the BIOS in order to enable Legacy system support for a USB keyboard and USB mouse, which would install USB keyboard and mouse device drivers before Windows starts to load. To enter the BIOS would therefore require the use of a standard PS/2 keyboard, the device driver for which is installed before Windows starts to load. The motherboards of all standard desktop PCs have PS/2 ports for a mouse and a keyboard. You have to use the PS/2 keyboard port for a keyboard and the PS/2 mouse port for a mouse. Fortunately, most motherboards indicate in writing which motherboard port is for the keyboard and which port is for the mouse.

If you don't have a PS/2 keyboard, you can use the following method to force Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7 to boot into Safe Mode.

Open the System Configuration utility by entering msconfig in the Start => Run box. (In Windows Vista and Windows 7, enter msconfig in the Start => Search box.) Open the BOOT.INI tab by clicking on it with the mouse. There is a setting called SAFEBOOT under the Boot Options heading. Place a check mark in its box with the mouse pointer. The MINIMAL radio button is enabled by default. You can enable the NETWORK radio button if you want to boot into Safe Mode with network support. Windows will now boot into Safe Mode the next time Windows is booted. You can run your spyware scanners and then open the System Configuration utility (while still in Safe Mode) in order to disable the SAFEBOOT setting so that Windows boots into normal mode when the system is restarted.

Additional information on keyboards

Keyboards range in price from as low as £6 to £50 for a standard PS/2 keyboard to £50 and more for keyboards with fancy ergonomic designs that have all kinds of keys for working the system that an ordinary keyboard does not provide. But a standard 101/102 key keyboard will give you all of the functionality needed to work the system.

Remember that wireless keyboards are powered by batteries, which can be a nuisance to replace or recharge.

The Optical Desktop with Fingerprint Reader is a keyboard and mouse set. The keyboard is wired and the mouse is wireless. The fingerprint reader can be used so that only users that have fingerprint profiles can gain access to the computer. You should be aware that if your fingerprint is not recognised for any reason, you won't be able to gain access to the computer. This can happen for no apparent reason, so think twice before you use fingerprint-recognition devices.

Note that unless they have an alternative mains power connector and adapter, all wireless devices are powered by batteries.

When the keyboard driver has been installed, and the keyboard is attached to the computer, it will be listed as successfully installed in the Windows Device Manager under the heading Keyboard in Windows 95/98/Me and under Keyboards in Windows XP/Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Only USB and FireWire keyboards can be hotplugged, hot docked (hot docking), which means that the device can be connected to the computer while it is running. If your version of Windows supports USB, the USB driver will be loaded automatically. See the USB page on this site for more information on the standard. Other (non-serial, non-USB/FireWire) devices should never be hotplugged, since doing so could damage or destroy the motherboard. Note that a serial ATA (SATA) drive is a serial device and therefore it can be hot docked to a computer.

How parallel ports and keyboards work

If you want to find out how parallel ports and keyboards work, read these articles.

How Keyboards Work -

How Parallel Ports Work -

If you want to learn what all of the keys on a keyboard do, click the following link to a keyboard tutorial page that shows an image of a keyboard. You click on a key to bring up information on the purpose of that key. -

Wireless Bluetooth technology

Bluetooth wireless technology has been in development for some time.

A small USB Bluetooth transceiver is bundled with the wireless keyboard and mouse. Simply plug it into a USB port. Windows will detect new hardware and install the drivers, or, if it doesn't have the drivers in its library, will ask for the driver CD to be inserted, and then you'll be able to use both of the devices.

How Bluetooth Works -

KVM switches

How to use two or more computers with one keyboard, monitor, and mouse

If you want to access more than one computer but don't need to network them, there is a little-known device called a KVM switch that allows the operation of two or more computers from one set of keyboard - monitor - and mouse. The letters KVM stand for keyboard video and mouse, I suppose because KVM sounds better than KMM. Some of these switches can allow thousands of computers to be accessed in this way, and some of them even allow the use of one sound card and one set of speakers. The computers and the one set of keyboard, monitor and mouse are linked to the KVM switch, and key toggles are used to switch from one computer to another. All of the computers are tricked into thinking that they have sole use of the keyboard, monitor, and mouse. This is an invaluable aid if you need to use more than one computer but you don't need to have them networked.You can purchase KVM switches from all of the larger online electronics and computer businesses. A four-computer model is typically priced from £36/$60 to £75/$125, and a two-computer unit is about half that price. Note that the more expensive units usually have superior cables and shielding from electronic interference than the less expensive make a good line of KVM Switches that make use of the PS/2 or USB computer ports.

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