What Does Scroll Lock Do?

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Deyan Georgiev
Written by
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Aug 02, 2023

Deyan Georgiev
Website Manager | Joined October 2021 | LinkedIn
Deyan Georgiev

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Have you ever found yourself staring at the keyboard, wondering about the purpose of that key labeled “Scroll Lock”?

In this article, discover how this seemingly mysterious key can enhance your computing experience.

Key Takeaways


The scroll lock key controls the behavior of arrow keys and scrolling in specific applications.


Turning the scroll lock on/off involves pressing the key once.


You can make the scroll lock key more useful by assigning custom functions or launching programs.


Choose a comfortable and easy-to-remember key combination when assigning functions or launching programs with the scroll lock key.


Scroll lock key still finds relevance in specialized software like spreadsheets and particular programming environments like JavaScript.

How Does Scroll Lock Work?

The scroll lock key is designed to control the behavior of the arrow keys and scrolling within specific applications.

It is usually located in the upper-right corner of the keyboard.

In its early days, scroll lock served as a toggle for the scrolling feature on text-based displays.

However, as graphical interfaces became prevalent, their overall relevance declined and became more application-specific.

Turning the Scroll Lock On/Off

Turning the scroll lock on or off may vary slightly depending on your device or operating system.

Here are the steps you can follow on different devices:

On Windows

1. Locate the scroll lock key on your keyboard.

scroll lock on keyboard

2. Press the scroll lock key once to enable it.

3. Press the ‘scroll lock’ button again to turn off the scroll lock.

On Mac

1. Press the “Fn” (Function) key together with the “Shift” key and the “F12” key to enable the scroll lock.

Scroll lock on Mac computer

2. Repeat the same key combination to turn off the scroll lock (Fn + Shift + F12).

On Linux

1. Open a terminal window.

2. Simultaneously press the “Ctrl” key, the “Alt” key, and the “F12” key to enable the scroll lock.

You may need to refer to your device’s documentation or settings if your keyboard does not have a scroll lock key. It will determine if a scroll lock is available and how to enable it.

Common Use Cases Of  Scroll Lock Key

While its name suggests a single function, the scroll lock key offers diverse uses beyond simply locking the scrolling feature.

For instance, Microsoft Excel responds to scroll lock in two ways:

  • Disabling it changes the selected cell.
  • Enabling it allows scrolling in the direction of the arrow key pressed.

Keyboard scroll lock in excel

Here are some other common scenarios where the scroll lock key comes into play:



Spreadsheet Navigation

In Microsoft Excel, enabling scroll lock allows you to navigate through large worksheets without changing the active cell.

Text Editors and Word Processors

Scroll lock enables you to navigate through the text, allowing you to read or edit without the screen scrolling.

This includes Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, Vim, and Emacs.


In some video games, the scroll lock key can change the behavior of the arrow keys within its interface.

Examples include toggling mouse look mode in flight simulators or locking the camera movement in strategy games.

Screen Capture:

Some screen capture software programs use the scroll lock key as a hotkey to initiate or stop capturing the screen.

Keyboard Lighting Control

The scroll lock key may be used to toggle or adjust the keyboard backlighting on certain keyboards with customizable lighting.

Remote Desktop Control

In remote desktop applications, the scroll lock key may have special functions like locking the mouse cursor within the window.

Accessibility Features

In some accessibility software, the scroll lock key can enable specific features such as mouse emulation or on-screen keyboard control.

While the scroll lock key may seem insignificant on your keyboard, it has many ways to be useful. 

Making Your Scroll Lock Key More Useful

The scroll lock key may have lost some significance in mainstream applications. However, you can still unlock its potential by assigning functions to it.

Simplify your workflow by configuring the scroll lock key for quick program launches.

This customization allows you to tailor the key’s behavior to suit your specific needs better.

Assigning Functions to Your Scroll Lock Key

1. Install key-mapping software such as AutoHotkey, which provides a flexible platform for remapping keys.

2. Create a script that assigns a desired function to the scroll lock key.

For example, you can map it to launch a frequently used application or execute a specific command.

3. Save the script and run it.

From now on, pressing the scroll lock key will trigger the assigned function. It will provide a quick and convenient way to access your chosen action. 

Launching a Program With Your Scroll Lock Key

In addition to assigning functions, you can configure the scroll lock key to launch a specific program or shortcut.

Incorporating the Scroll Lock key into a customized key combination can enhance efficiency and streamline workflow.

Doing so will allow quick access to your frequently used applications or specific functionalities within programs.

Follow these steps:

1. Right-click on the program or shortcut you wish to associate with the scroll lock key.

Right-click menu

2. Select “Properties” from the context menu that appears.

Properties option

3. In the “Shortcut” tab of the properties window, locate the “Shortcut key” field.

Shortcut key

4. Press the scroll lock key on your keyboard.

The field should automatically update to display “Scroll lock + [assigned key]”.

Shortcut Key

5. Click “Apply” and then “OK” to save the changes.

Applying changes

6. The program or shortcut will launch when you press the scroll lock, followed by the assigned key.

By harnessing the potential of Scroll Lock as a hotkey modifier, you can expand your keyboard's capabilities and optimize your productivity.

You can also save time and effort navigating through menus using the scroll lock key as a program launcher.

Quick Tip!

To avoid accidentally triggering the scroll lock, you can permanently deactivate it by pressing 'Fn' along with the key.

Summing It Up

The scroll lock key, once a prominent feature on keyboards, still exists in specific applications.

It can be repurposed to enhance your productivity.

Although its usage has evolved, understanding its functions can make the most of this often overlooked key.

So go ahead, unlock the potential of your scroll lock key, and enjoy a more personalized computing experience.


Why is the Scroll Lock key not available on some keyboards?

The Scroll Lock key may be omitted from specific keyboard designs to conserve space, particularly compact or laptop keyboards.

What happens if you accidentally press Scroll Lock?

Accidentally pressing Scroll Lock usually has no noticeable effect unless you use an application that relies on its functionality.

Can you ramp other keys on a keyboard?q

Yes, you can ramp keys on your keyboard using software tools or operating system settings to customize your keyboard experience.

What does Scroll Lock really do?

The Scroll Lock button on a PC keyboard toggles between a scrolling and non-scrolling mode. When engaged, the Arrow keys scroll the screen regardless of the current cursor location. 

And if still wondering what does Scroll Lock do, then consider reading this article in full.  


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