Mac Keyboard Not Working But Making Sounds: 10 Fixes to Try

Mac Keyboard Not Working But Making Sounds - featured

Are you unable to type on your Mac? Here’s what to try if you’re having problems with your Mac keyboard not working but making sounds.

There are some components on your computer that you never truly appreciate until they stop working. Your keyboard, for example, takes a regular pound when you type, and probably enjoys frequent flurries of crumbs when you’re eating at your computer. It’s only when it stops working that you truly appreciate what you have. Sometimes you may find that your keyboard is clearly responding since it’s making a sound on your Mac when you press the keys, but the keys aren’t doing what you’d expect them to. Here’s what to try if you’re having issues with your Mac keyboard not working but making sounds.

Check for Open Dialog Boxes

A common reason why nothing is happening other than a beeping sound when you press any key on your Mac keyboard is because there is an open dialog box that is waiting for some kind of action. If this is the case, your Mac will beep when you press a key but won’t do anything else.

Try maximizing any of the apps you’re currently using to see if any dialog boxes require your action. If there are, once you’ve performed the required actions, your keyboard should start working as normal again.

Turn Off Slow Keys

Your Mac has a lot of useful accessibility settings. However, some of these settings will change the behavior of your keyboard. If you have some of these settings turned on, it may be the cause of your keyboard troubles.

One such setting is Slow Keys. This setting requires you to hold down a key for longer before it registers, ensuring that if you have limited dexterity, you don’t accidentally type keys you did not intend to press. With this setting on, however, tapping a key quickly may have no obvious effect. You can turn this setting off to see if your problem is resolved.

  1. Click the Apple icon in the menu bar.
    mac apple icon
  2. Select System Settings.
    mac system settings
  3. In the left-hand menu, click Accessibility.
    mac accessibility
  4. Scroll down to the Motor section and click Keyboard.
    mac keyboard settings
  5. Toggle Slow Keys off.
    mac slow keys toggle

Turn Off Mouse Keys

Another accessibility setting that can affect your keyboard is the Mouse Keys feature. This allows you to use the number pad or other keyboard keys to control the pointer on your Mac. If this feature is on, pressing certain keys may move the mouse rather than perform the expected action. Turning this feature off may solve your keyboard issues.

  1. Click the Apple icon.
    mac apple icon
  2. Select System Settings.
    mac system settings
  3. Select Accessibility from the left-hand menu.
    mac accessibility
  4. In the Motor section, click Pointer Control.
    mac pointer control
  5. Toggle Mouse Keys off.
    mac mouse keys toggle

Select the Correct Keyboard Layout

If you’ve selected the incorrect keyboard layout for your keyboard, you may find that some of the keys don’t work as expected. You can use the Input menu to view your current keyboard layout and ensure that it matches the keyboard you’re using.

  1. In the menu bar, click the Apple icon.
    mac apple icon
  2. Select System Settings.
    mac system settings
  3. Click Keyboard in the left-hand menu.
    mac keyboard settings
  4. Next to Input Sources, click Edit.
    mac keyboard edit
  5. Toggle Show Input Menu in Menu Bar on.
    mac show input menu in menu bar
  6. Click the Input Menu icon in the menu bar.
    mac input menu
  7. Select Show Keyboard Viewer.
    mac show keyboard viewer
  8. Ensure that the on-screen keyboard matches your physical keyboard.
  9. If it doesn’t, return to the Input Sources page and click the Plus (+) icon to add a different input source.
    mac add keyboard

Reset SMC

The system management controller is a component in Intel-based Macs that has a hand in running physical hardware such as the power button, cooling system, and keyboard. If there is an issue with this component, it can affect the behavior of your keyboard.

If you have a newer Mac with Apple Silicon, there is no SMC. Instead, try restarting your Mac to see if this helps. If you are using an Intel-based Mac, however,  you can try resetting the SMC to see if this helps.

  1. If your Mac has a T2 security chip (probably a model from 2018 to 2020), try pressing and holding the power button for 10 seconds, and then restarting your Mac.
  2. You can also try powering off the Mac and holding the Shift key on the right of the keyboard, the Option key on the left of the keyboard, and the Ctrl key on the left of the keyboard for seven seconds.
  3. Release all the keys and then restart.
  4. If your Mac has a non-removable battery (probably 2017 or older) then hold down the Power button as well as Shift+Ctrl+Option, ensuring that use the keys on the left-hand side of your keyboard.
  5. Keep the keys depressed for at least 10 seconds, then release and restart your Mac.
  6. For older Macs with removable batteries, shut down, remove the battery, and hold the Power button for five seconds.
  7. Insert the battery and restart your Mac.

Start Your Mac in Safe Mode

Sometimes keyboard issues can be caused by the software installed on your Mac. A quick way to check without uninstalling all of your apps is to start your Mac in Safe Mode. Safe mode is a commonly used feature on Windows, but you may be unaware of it on Mac. When you’re in Safe Mode, if your keyboard works as expected, then this issue is probably software-based, and you can try removing apps as explained in the next section.

The method for starting your Mac in Safe Mode is a little different depending on your model of Mac.

  1. For Apple Silicon Macs, shut down your Mac.
  2. Press and hold the power button until the Loading Startup Options screen appears.
  3. Choose the volume to boot from.
  4. Press and hold Shift and click Continue in Safe Mode.
  5. For Intel Macs, shut down your Mac.
  6. Power your Mac back on and hold down the Shift key as soon as it starts to boot up.
  7. Once the login screen appears, you can release the Shift
  8. Sign in to your account.
  9. Once your Mac has started in Safe Mode, try using the keyboard again to see if the issue still occurs.

Remove Recently Installed Apps

If your keyboard works as expected in Safe Mode, then the issue is probably caused by software. You can try removing any recently installed apps to see if this fixes the problem.

  1. Find an app that you want to remove in Finder.
  2. Right-click and select Move to Trash.
  3. Alternatively, drag the app to the Trash icon in the dock.
  4. Once the app is deleted, try using your keyboard again.

Delete the Keyboard PLIST file

Your Mac uses Property List files to store configuration data, preferences, and other application data. If these files get corrupted, then can cause a whole range of issues. If this happens, you can delete the PLIST file. When you restart your Mac, a new PLIST file is created with the default configuration. Removing the keyboard PLIST file may fix your issues.

  1. Open Finder.
  2. In the menu bar, click Go > Go To Folder.
    mac go to folder
  3. Enter ~/Library/Preferences and click Go.
    mac preferences
  4. Delete the apple.keyboardtype.plist file.
  5. Restart your Mac.
  6. Try your keyboard again.

Update macOS

If macOS is out of date, this can often be the cause of things not working as expected. Try updating your Mac to see if this fixes your keyboard issues.

  1. Click the Apple icon in the menu bar.
    mac apple icon
  2. Select System Settings.
    mac system settings
  3. In the left-hand menu, select General.
    mac general settings
  4. Click Software Update.
    mac software update
  5. If an update is available, click the Update button.
  6. Once the update has been applied, try your keyboard again.

Clean Your Keyboard

Another possible cause of your keyboard issues is that you have some debris stuck under your keys. You can try cleaning your keyboard to see if this fixes the issue. Turn your Mac off and try blowing around the keys. You can also use a can of compressed air to see if you can dislodge any debris that way.

Once you’ve given your keyboard a good clean, try it again to see if it is working as expected.

Fixing Your Mac Keyboard

If you’re having problems with your Mac keyboard not working but making sounds, then hopefully one of the fixes above has helped. If you find any other useful solutions, please be sure to let us know in the comments.

Your Mac keyboard is a key component of your Mac, and if it’s not working properly, your Mac may be completely useless. If you can’t fix the issue, you can always try using an external USB or wireless keyboard as a temporary solution. If the issue isn’t fixable, and you have other computers, you may be able to use apps that share your keyboard across devices. For example, since a key broke on an old Mac, I have used it as an additional screen by using an app to share my mouse and keyboard with that device.

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