How to Use a Windows PC Keyboard on Mac by Remapping Command & Option Keys
Macs can use nearly all keyboards built for Windows PC, whether they are USB or Bluetooth, but you may notice that the layout of some of the modifier keys are different on a Mac keyboard from the layout of a Windows keyboard. Specifically, the WINDOWS and ALT key of a Windows keyboard are switched compared to the Mac keyboard layout of OPTION/ALT and COMMAND keys. This can lead to erroneous keyboard shortcuts or other unexpected key press behavior when using a PC keyboard with a Mac.
A simple solution to this problem is to remap the Windows and ALT key and the command and option/alt keys on the Windows PC keyboard connected to the Mac, so that the keyboard layouts will mimic expectations based on the standard Apple modifier key layout, rather than what it says on the PC keyboard. For most Mac users who connect a PC keyboard to their Mac, this will dramatically improve their typing experience when using a PC keyboard.
Using a Windows PC Keyboard on Mac with Remapped Windows & ALT Keys
This trick works the same with all Windows and PC keyboard with the standard CTRL / Windows / ALT key layout, and all versions of Mac OS:
- Connect the Windows PC keyboard to the Mac as usual, either by USB or Bluetooth
- Pull down the Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
- Click on “Keyboard”
- Choose the “Keyboard” tab and then click on the “Modifier Keys” button in the lower right corner of the preference panel
- Choose the PC keyboard from the “Select Keyboard” dropdown menu at the top of the Modifier keys screen to insure you are modifying the proper keyboard connected to the Mac
- Click the dropdown next to “OPTION Key” and select “Command”
- Click the dropdown next to “COMMAND Key” and select “Option”
- Click “OK” and test out the newly remapped keyboard keys *
Once finished you will have a new digital layout of the Windows PC keyboard keys when used on the Mac:
- WINDOWS key becomes the ALT / OPTION key on Mac OS
- ALT key becomes the COMMAND key on Mac OS
* NOTE: Some PC keyboards also have the “CNTRL” and “ALT” keys switched too, compared to a standard Mac key layout. If applicable, go ahead and switch those with the same Modifier Key trick outlined above.
A simple way to confirm the keyboard modifier keys are switched as expected is to issue a keyboard shortcut, like a screen capture (Command Shift 3) or a Close Window command (Command + W). It should work as you’d expect based on the Mac keyboard layout.
Obviously this isn’t going to change the actual physical keyboard appearance, so you’ll have to get used to the appearance of the keys saying one thing, but doing something else. But if you are mostly a touch-typer and never look at your hands when typing this shouldn’t be an issue.
Essentially you are reversing the Windows PC keyboard Windows and ALT keys (which become the Command and Option/ALT keys when connected to the Mac), which puts them in line with the default Mac and Apple keyboard layout of those buttons. Thus, the Windows PC keyboard Windows key becomes the new ALT / OPTION key on the Mac, and the Windows PC keyboard ALT key becomes the new COMMAND key on the Mac, just like it would be on an Apple keyboard.
For example, here’s a Windows PC keyboard with a different modifier key layout than the Apple keyboard layout:
And here’s a Apple keyboard with different modifier key layout than the Windows PC keyboard:
Thus you can see why switching the modifier key behavior when the PC keyboard is connected to the Mac can be helpful.
This trick should be particularly useful to Mac users who have a favorite PC keyboard laying around they want to use, or perhaps prefer a particular Windows PC keyboard for one reason or another. And yes this tip works the same regardless of the Windows PC keyboard connected to the Mac, and regardless of the Mac operating system or the Mac itself. You can switch the modifier keys in any release and with any keyboard this way.
By the way if you’re coming to the Mac from the Windows world, which is perhaps why you have a Windows PC keyboard in use on a Mac in the first place, you’ll probably appreciate learning the Home and END button equivalents on a Mac keyboard, what the Print Screen button equivalent is on a Mac, potentially using the Delete key as a Forward DEL on a Mac, or discovering how to use Page Up and Page Down on a Mac keyboard, and understanding what and where the OPTION or ALT key is on a Mac too.
So, try this out if you have a Windows keyboard you want to use with a Mac, or if you want to try an external PC keyboard on a Mac then go ahead and don’t be shy, because simply swapping those two modifier keys can remedy one of the biggest annoyances when using a Windows PC keyboard on a Mac.
If you have any other helpful tips for using a Windows or PC keyboard on a Mac, then share them with us in the comments below!
THANK YOU, THIS IS GREAT!
I hope you are still reading these messages. This is genius. Thank you so much.
Cutting and pasting on a USB keyboard was killing me.
Tks a lot sir, perfect solution. I was trying for copy and paste, after switching the keys it’s working as expected. You saved me money, no need to take apple compatible keyboard…tks once again.
I got a mechanical keyboard and just switched the keycaps. As well as remap. This is a better way to go.
Does anyone else have an issue with being able to click on anything with the PC keyboard plugged in? Does anyone have a fix for this? Thanks!
As ‘control’ is a common key in mac & windows keyboard.
So in Mac ‘Command’ as commanding & ‘Ctrl’ has its another function whereas in windows keyboard “Ctrl’ as commanding & There is no Extra “Command” key.
so as given above only needs to assign ‘Ctrl’ as a command.
You are the best! Thanks a million
i am not able to click on select keyboard
Thank you so much for this site. My Mac keyboard unexpectedly die. I had a wired window keyboard and it worked but not in the expect way. But I followed your instruction and so far it’s working great
You’re very welcome, glad this was helpful for you to get the Windows keyboard working on your Mac!
I was about to get a software to remap keys, and the solution was so simple!
Thanks, time saver
Is there an option to change the entire keyboard layout on MacBook??
I’m a writer in Pashto language, the traditional keyboard is so hard to master, so I have modified my own keyboard for windows 10 or boot camp, I want to migrate completely to Mac, but the only obstacle that prevents me is the option to modify the keyboard layout.. So, is there an option?
I believe you can find some third-party app to create a custom layout, if that’s what you’re asking
HOW TO USE Window+ R on mac system for run command
Thank you, great tip, very useful
This is very helpful! Thank you!
Thank you so much for taking some time to post this. I completely forgot about this capability. So simple yet, this puts my brain at ease now as I switch all day long between the two!
Can the function keys on a PC keyboard control volume, screen brightness, etc, as an Apple keyboard does?
I know that this isn’t timely as I just found this website as I was search for the best way to change keyboards. I hate the mouse and keyboard that come with my Mac as they are small and I type by touch and could never get my fingers on the home keys.
I have attached the same keyboard and mouse (actually trackball as I don’t like moving the mouse, I like moving my fingers — I have 4 PC’s and a Mac all 5 of them are similar as they have a trackball.)
What I found that I like is a Logitech Wireless K800 Illuminated Keyboard and Logitech M570 Trackball. The keyboard has on it volume control keys that does work with the Mac and the Scroll Lock key and the pause/break key control the brightness of the screen. Logitech does provide software to do modifications on keys both for the trackball and keyboard.
Late to the party, my experience is that I plugged an old Logitech PC keyboard and everything sort of worked. No brightness control on this keyboard, but the media keys do work (no action on my part, it just worked). There’s also a “home” key that does nothing, perhaps can be remapped. I’m still getting mad with keyboard shortcuts being so different from what I’m used to in Windows and Linux, cursor movement is brain dead, home/end/page keys don’t work, there’s no “fn” key, documentation refers to keys with their Mac “icons” (those funny arrows)… I’ll play around for a while but I’ll probably end up buying a Mac keyboard anyways.
Do you know if it is possible to change the comma key on the numeric keypad by a period? I have a Matias keyboard connected to a MacBook. I know there is software that allows to do, but I would like to know if it is possible to change it natively (I would not mind applying a command via cli if that was the solution).
Useful tip but I’ve discovered some keyboards do this automatically now. Think it’s the luck of the draw
the real question for me was ‘How to use an Apple Keyboard on a PC.
Got to use UAWK (with AutoHotKey) to switch CTRL/Windows keys and create a customed keyboard to remap the other Keys…..
But UAWK not that stable….