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.