From backlit keys that won’t light up to RGB keyboards that won’t glow, it can be frustrating when your keyboard lights aren’t working.
In this article, I’ll go over the most common fixes for a keyboard that won’t light up.
Fix #1: Check Your Function And Brightness Keys
Many laptops actually have a button designated for key brightness and for toggling your keyboard’s backlighting on/off.
For example, my Surface Laptop has a key with a backlit icon that, when pressed, cycles through 4 settings for my keyboard’s backlighting–off, low, medium, and bright.
As obvious as it sounds, now is also a good time to double check that your keyboard should light up. If you are using an external keyboard, do a quick Google search of the model to make sure that it’s a backlit keyboard.
If you know it should light up as you’ve seen it light up before, then your keyboard most definitely has a brightness key somewhere.
Usually, the keyboard backlight key is located at the top of the keyboard, either integrated with your F-keys or as a standalone button. Sometimes, the backlight key is integrated with your spacebar.
The key’s symbol will probably look like a Sun or some kind of lightbulb.
If you are using a regular (non-gaming) keyboard, then take a look at the F keys for a key brightness icon (Sun, bulb, etc).
If you have a laptop, check the F keys themselves. They may have a brightness icon along with the F number (ie F10 + a sun icon).
If this is the case, hold the FN button and press the F key with the brightness icon.
If you are on a laptop, your Screen Brightness settings may also be directly related to your keyboard brightness. So turning up your screen brightness may make your keyboard light up.
Take a hard look all over your keyboard. If you find a keyboard brightness key, that’s good! If not, then double check that the keyboard can light up.
If it can, but pressing the keyboard backlight key has no effect, then there are some other things we can try.
Fix #2: Try Another USB Port And A New Computer
If your keyboard should light up but lacks a key for controlling the keyboard brightness, then you should try another computer if at all possible.
I know not everyone has an extra computer laying around, but if you do it can actually be a huge help. If you plug your keyboard into another computer, a few things might happen:
- Your keyboard may install drivers on that computer that it didn’t on yours for some reason
- The other computer may not have extra programs interfering with your keyboard’s software
- Your USB port may have a poor connection with your keyboard so it is unable to send / receive the signal for the brightness
Usually all of the logic and information for your keyboard’s brightness will be handled on the keyboard itself, so it’s not likely that your USB port will be the problem.
If it was the problem, then your keyboard probably just wouldn’t work. However, this isn’t always the case, and especially with gaming keyboards and other external keyboards, installed software may control the backlight.
In this case, the USB port will be very important, so you should try as many as possible. If you have a USB 3.0 (blue port), then make sure you plug your keyboard into it.
If you try all of your USB ports and your keyboard’s backlight still doesn’t come on, then try to get your hands on another computer. Maybe a friend’s, coworker’s, old computer, etc.
You don’t even need to plug in a monitor if you have an old tower laying around. Just plug the keyboard in and turn the computer on to see if it works.
If your keyboard lights up with a different computer, but not your own, then it is likely a driver issue and you can try updating your keyboard’s drivers (covered further down).
You can also try starting your computer in Safe Mode (also covered further down), which will ensure that no other program is interfering with your keyboard’s software.
Fix #3: Windows Keyboard Settings
Depending on your keyboard/setup, there may actually be settings for your keyboard in Windows itself. This is more likely to be the case if you are on a laptop, but it’s worth a check if you’re on a desktop PC.
- On Windows 10+, press Windows Key + X to open up a list of buttons in the bottom-left corner
- Search for keyboard settings here, or click “Settings”
- If you clicked “Settings”, search for Keyboard in the search bar at the top and look for keyboard brightness or keyboard settings
- Adjust the brightness from keyboard settings if you find the option
- Not every computer will have keyboard settings like this. In fact, if you’re on a desktop it’s unlikely that you will have these settings. If you’re on a laptop though, there’s a much better chance of them appearing.
If you’re on a Mac laptop or desktop, your hot keys are going to be different. There still isn’t a huge likelihood that your keyboard settings will be in the operating system.
It doesn’t hurt to check though, so I recommend opening your search bar and searching for “Keyboard” just like the Windows users did.
If something pops up, great! Otherwise, we’re going to have to play with the Power Settings.
Fix #4: Power Settings
If you’ve plugged your laptop in and the keyboard lit up, but it doesn’t light up when it isn’t plugged in then we have to check out the Power settings.
Even if your keyboard doesn’t light up at all, this may still fix the issue if your computer is in power saving mode for whatever reason. To change your power settings (in Windows):
- Press Start (Aka Windows Key or Bottom Left Windows icon)
- Type “Settings” and click the blue gear icon that says “Settings”
- On the left side, look for “System” then look for “Power & battery”
- Change your Power Mode to something that is not “Power Saving”
Believe it or not, your Power Settings may actually play a huge role in your Keyboard’s brightness.
This is especially true if you have a Windows or Mac laptop because they typically try to conserve power as optimally as possible.
The keyboard lighting is usually the first thing to go when a laptop switches into power saving mode.
If you are on a laptop, I recommend plugging it into a charger. This may immediately fix your issue and make your keyboard light up.
If this does happen, then this means your laptop switches to a power saving mode when it isn’t plugged in. The good news is that you can probably change these settings or even turn off power saving mode.
Now is also a good chance to mess with your screen brightness before we dive into the settings. Try turning your screen brightness up / down.
Your keyboard’s light may be directly tied to your screen’s brightness. If you turn your brightness down, your keyboard’s light may shut off completely. This is common in Macs and Windows laptops alike.
5. Update Keyboard Drivers
Drivers are one of the main reasons for peripherals not functioning correctly.
When you initially plugged in your keyboard, a dialog box probably popped up in the bottom right corner informing you that drivers were being installed.
Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen and in some cases we have to go through and manually update them. To update your keyboard’s drivers (Windows):
- Press Start (Windows Key or bottom left Windows icon)
- Type in “Device manager” and select Device Manager
- Click the arrow next to “Keyboards” and find your Keyboard in the list
- Right Click on your Keyboard and click “Update driver”
- If you do not see your Keyboard under “Keyboards”, check under “Universal Serial Bus controllers”
- Click “Search Automatically for drivers”
If you get a pop up saying the best driver for your device is already found, then your drivers are likely up to date.
You can manually download the drivers from your Keyboard’s manufacturer’s website, but this is usually a lot of work and not worth the effort.
It can also be dangerous if you are not careful, as there are many scam websites pretending to have drivers.
Only download drivers from official manufacturer websites.
Fix #6: The Keyboard Troubleshooter
If you’ve tried to update your keyboard’s drivers, or you are sure that they’re not the answer, the Troubleshooter is up next.
Usually the Windows Troubleshooter won’t do much, but every now and then it can suss out the issue. To run the Troubleshooter on your keyboard:
- Press the Windows Key or open up the start menu with the bottom left Windows Icon and search “Settings”. Alternatively press Windows Key + i
- Click Update & Security
- On the left side click “Troubleshoot”
- Click the blue text saying “Additional troubleshooters”
- Scroll down to “Find and fix other problems” and click on Keyboard
- Click “Run the Troubleshooter”
If a dialog box pops up saying that no updates were necessary then the Troubleshooting didn’t work and likely isn’t the answer to your problem.
Troubleshooting will probably just look for any extra drivers online, but occasionally it will find something wrong and fix it. However, don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t. There’s one last thing we can try.
Fix #7: Restart Your Computer In Safe Mode
Restarting your computer in Safe Mode is the best way to check whether other programs are interfering with your Keyboard’s software.
Some programs (games, tools, etc) may change the settings of your keyboard and turn off its backlight. This can be on purpose or even due to bugs. To restart your computer in safe mode (on Windows 10):
- Click the Windows icon in the bottom left corner or press your Windows Key
- Hold Shift and click on the Power Icon
- Select “Restart”
- Your computer will restart and then a blue screen will pop up
- Select “Troubleshoot” then “Advanced Options”
- Click “Startup” then select “Restart”
- When your computer comes back on, there will be a list of numbers. Press the number that enables Safe Mode (This is usually 4)
You will now be in Safe Mode and can check whether your keyboard lights up. Restart your computer the normal way in order to get back into regular, non-safe mode Windows
Safe Mode is just a way to start Windows with nothing but the basics. This will make sure applications installed on your PC are not interfering with your keyboard’s drivers / software.
If you don’t have Windows 10, then you may have to research how to start it in Safe Mode. Every modern Windows PC will be able to start in Safe Mode and it’s usually quite easy.
Can Keyboard Lights Burn Out?
Keyboard lights can burn out but it takes a very long time and does not happen very often. It’s very unlikely for every light in a keyboard to burn out, but for keyboards with individual LED lights under each key, there is a good chance that one key will burn out eventually but not the whole keyboard.
Most backlit keyboards are lit up by many individual LED lights. This is true whether the keyboard is RGB or just plain white.
LEDs have a pretty low failure rate, and they last a long time. They last much longer than conventional light bulbs, but they still do not last forever.
This means that eventually, yes your keyboard lights will burn out and die.
What is much more common than an entire keyboard burning out, though, is individual keys burning out randomly. It’s pretty common to see keyboards with random burnt out keys.
So while the entire keyboard isn’t likely to go dark, you may notice one or two keys that randomly stop lighting up like they used to.
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