Mapping Caps Lock to Control without Admin Access

Somewhere along the line, I picked up the habit of mapping the otherwise utterly useless caps lock key to act as another control key.  If you’re an Emacs user, this is sort of critical to avoid the wrist strain of constant pinky-stretches to the lower-left corner of the keyboard.  Its become second nature now, so when I recently found myself working on a Windows-based lab computer where caps lock actually performed as-advertised, the result was a lot of code THAT lOOKED LIKE thIS.  Unpleasant, to be sure.

Linux and Mac OS X make remapping this key extremely easy.  System Preferences on the Mac and the GNOME keyboard control panel on Linux include a simple option to enable.  Tada!  No more wasted space west of ‘A’.  Windows, of course, is a different beast.

The good news: there’s a very simple registry hack to remap caps to control.  Seriously, it’s floating all over the internet.  Except, there’s a wrinkle–you need administrative access to edit the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry tree, which is what all of these hacks do.  For whatever reason, our school has decided computer science graduate students aren’t to be trusted with administrative access to their own computers [another rant for another time], so what’s a wrist-strained user to do?

Muck around in the Windows registry, of course!  It turned out to be pretty straight forward.  There’s a duplicate of the keyboard mapping registry key under HKEY_CURRENT_USER, which non-administrators can modify, and it appears to behave exactly like the key under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.  So, for anyone in a similar position, here’s the registry key to modify:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER→Keyboard Layout→Scancode Map =

You can download a registry update file here.  Save it to your computer, double-click it to update your registry, then reboot and enjoy your vastly-improved keyboard.

10 thoughts on “Mapping Caps Lock to Control without Admin Access

  1. The control key being the lower left never really bothered me too much, although it not being there is a little annoying… For some reason Gateway decided to switch the control and function keys so they are different from basically any other laptop made… I am almost temped to change that, but I am not sure how it would affect other programs or games. It may be worth trying to find a way to switch those keys back to where they should be though..

  2. Yeah it took me a while to figure out that is what you did to your machine when I took it over. Along with a few other specific tweaks that I figured out along the way. It was just last week I noticed there was a bunch of odd music left on that computer as well, I had been wondering what was just eating like 8GB of space.

  3. Thanks for the tip!

    Just FYI: Rebooting should be unnecessary; you can simply log out/log in and your settings should be applied. 🙂 (This worked for me anyway.. let me know if you have different results.)

  4. I had a Tektronix 4105 keyboard that was just right, but never saw one of the MIT AI lab keyboards RMS used to create emacs. Anyway, caps-lock x hurts on my current keyboard. I’ve assigned the evil window button as control. Thank you Todd.

  5. Pingback: CAPS LOCK disable on Windows without admin rights | Darren Goossens

  6. Pingback: Remap Caps Lock to Ctrl in Windows 10 without administrator privileges? – Mags Forum Technology

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