Troubleshooting Guide: What to Do When Arrow Keys are Not Working in Excel

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The convenience of manipulating data and navigating through Microsoft Excel using arrow keys cannot be underrated. As a primary tool, it greatly enhances efficiency, easing movement through cells and spreadsheets. However, you may occasionally face issues where the arrow keys are not functioning in Excel. Understanding this problem, its causes, and viable solutions are crucial in minimizing disruptions to your workflow.

Understanding the Problem

When arrow keys become non-responsive in Excel, it brings about discomfort and inefficiency. You cannot easily navigate or switch between cells, thus hindering high productivity. This problem might be due to several reasons such as activated scroll-lock, Excel mode issues, hardware problems, or software updates. In some cases, Excel users could ignore these signs and eventually lose valuable data. Hence, understanding why your arrow keys are not working in excel is key to addressing this problem.

Common Reasons Why Arrow Keys are not Working in Excel

It is essential to appreciate the causes of this problem in order to provide an effective remedy. The reasons may vary from simple things like the activation of scroll lock, Excel mode issues, keyboard hardware problems, to complex scenarios like software updates.

Scrolllock Issue

Scroll Lock, a legacy function synonymous with older software programs, might still remain active in your Excel, leading to arrow keys not working in Excel. Here’s how to confirm and resolve the issue.

Check for Scroll Lock

If the status bar at the bottom of your Excel window shows ‘SCRL LOCK’, it means Scroll Lock is turned on. You can simply press the ‘Scroll Lock’ key on your keyboard to deactivate it.

Turning Off Scroll Lock

If the problem persists after disengaging the Scroll Lock key, it may be that the function key (Fn) is needed to be applied with the Scroll Lock. In that case, you press ‘Fn’ + ‘Scroll Lock’ simultaneously to turn it off.

Excel Mode Issue

The operation mode of Excel plays a part in the functionality of the arrow keys. Excel modes like Edit mode and Cell selection mode could hinder the response of the arrow keys.

Identifying The Excel Mode

If you find the arrow keys not working in Excel, it might be because Excel is in Edit mode, wherein you cannot move to another cell using arrow keys until quitting the mode. Check if you’re in the Edit mode or escape the mode by pressing ‘Enter’ or ‘ESC’ keys.

Solving the Excel Mode Problem

Exiting from ‘Edit mode’ solves this problem effortlessly. Press the ‘Enter’ key to complete the edit or ‘ESC’ to exit without saving any changes.

Keyboard Hardware Problem

Arrow keys issues in Excel can also result from keyboard-related problems. This can be confirmed using a different software application or checking the hardware.

Check For Hardware Problem

By simply typing with your keyboard on another software, you can verify whether the problem is from the keyboard or not. If you observe abnormalities with the arrow keys in the other application too, it implies a hardware problem.

Resolving Keyboard-Related Issues

If a hardware problem is confirmed, consider replacing the keyboard or contacting your computer manufacturer for tech support.

Software or Excel Update

Occasionally, updates to the Excel application or your computer software can interfere with the functionality of your arrow keys.

Confirming The Update Problem

If you recently updated your Excel or operating system and the problem started afterwards, it is likely that the update is the problem.

Fixing the Update Problem

To fix this, you can revert to the previous version of the software or seek help from Microsoft support to help with a bug fix if the problem is related to an Excel update.

Other Solutions

If you’ve tried all the above-mentioned methods and your arrow keys not working in Excel situation persists, other resolutions can be applied.

Different Fixes

Other fixes may include restarting your computer, updating your device drivers, or performing a system restore.

Step-by-Step Guides

Detailed instructions for performing these additional fixes can be found in online tutorials or through Microsoft support.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Similar Problems in the Future

By maintaining your keyboard in good condition, you can prevent future problems related to keys not working in Excel. Regularly checking for software updates is also beneficial.


In conclusion, arrow keys not working in Excel can be due to various reasons. It is important to diagnose these problems correctly and implement the appropriate fixes to maximize productivity. Keep in mind, seeking assistance from Microsoft Support can oftentimes resolve issues more efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What should I do if my arrow keys are still not working in Excel?

You should consider reinstalling Excel or contact Microsoft Support.

Are there any known issues in Excel that can cause this problem?

Definitely, issues like the activation of Scroll Lock, Excel being in Edit mode, and recent software updates can cause this problem.

What can I do to prevent this problem in the future?

Always keep your software and Excel application up-to-date, and ensure your keyboard is in good condition.

Can a broken or malfunctioning keyboard cause this problem?

Yes, a broken or malfunctioning keyboard may interfere with the functionality of the arrow keys in Excel.

How can I check if it’s a hardware issue?

You can test the arrow keys on different software. If the same issue persists, it may be a hardware problem.

Do I need to contact Microsoft Support if my arrow keys are not working in Excel?

Yes, particularly if the problem persists after applying the suggested solutions, it is best to contact Microsoft Support for further assistance.