How to Fix When the Arrow Keys Stop Working in Microsoft Excel

Key Takeaways

  • The most common reason for arrow keys not working in Excel is the accidental activation of the Scroll Lock feature
  • Disabling Scroll Lock, enabling Sticky Keys, or disabling add-ins can often resolve the issue
  • If the problem persists, try restarting Excel, updating keyboard drivers, or checking for conflicting software

Microsoft Excel is a powerful spreadsheet application that allows users to perform various data analysis tasks efficiently. One of the essential features of Excel is the ability to navigate through cells using the arrow keys on the keyboard. However, sometimes users may encounter a frustrating issue where the arrow keys stop working, making it difficult to move around the spreadsheet.

This article will explore the potential causes of this problem and provide step-by-step solutions to help you fix the arrow keys not working in Excel.

Cause 1: Scroll Lock is Enabled

The most common reason for arrow keys not working in Excel is the accidental activation of the Scroll Lock feature. When Scroll Lock is enabled, the arrow keys are used to scroll the worksheet instead of moving the cell cursor.

To check if Scroll Lock is enabled, look for the Scroll Lock indicator light on your keyboard. If it’s illuminated, the Scroll Lock is on. Alternatively, you can check the status bar at the bottom of the Excel window. If you see the “Scroll Lock” text, it means the feature is enabled.

Disabling Scroll Lock in Excel

Here are the steps to disable Scroll Lock in Excel:

  1. For keyboards with a dedicated Scroll Lock key:
  • Locate the Scroll Lock key on your keyboard, usually near the Pause/Break or Print Screen keys.
  • Press the Scroll Lock key once to turn it off. The indicator light should turn off, and the “Scroll Lock” text should disappear from the status bar.
  1. For keyboards without a dedicated Scroll Lock key:
  • Open the on-screen keyboard by pressing the Windows key + R, typing osk, and pressing Enter.
  • In the on-screen keyboard, click the “ScrLk” button to turn off Scroll Lock.
  • Close the on-screen keyboard.

After disabling Scroll Lock, try using the arrow keys again. They should now work as expected, allowing you to navigate through cells in your Excel worksheet.

Cause 2: Sticky Keys is Enabled

Sticky Keys is an accessibility feature in Windows that allows users to press one key at a time instead of having to press multiple keys simultaneously. While this feature can be helpful for some users, it can also cause issues with the arrow keys in Excel.

To check if Sticky Keys is enabled, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run dialog box.
  2. Type control and press Enter to open the Control Panel.
  3. Navigate to “Ease of Access” > “Ease of Access Center” > “Make the keyboard easier to use.”
  4. Check if the “Turn on Sticky Keys” option is selected.

Disabling Sticky Keys

If Sticky Keys is enabled, you can disable it by following these steps:

  1. Press the Shift key five times to open the Sticky Keys dialog box.
  2. Uncheck the “Turn on Sticky Keys” option.
  3. Click “OK” to save the changes and close the dialog box.

After disabling Sticky Keys, try using the arrow keys in Excel again. They should now work correctly.

Cause 3: Conflicting Add-ins or Software

Sometimes, third-party add-ins or software installed on your computer can interfere with the functionality of Excel, including the arrow keys. If the previous solutions didn’t work, you may want to check for conflicting add-ins or software.

Disabling Add-ins in Excel

To disable add-ins in Excel, follow these steps:

  1. Open Excel and go to the “File” menu.
  2. Click on “Options” in the left sidebar.
  3. In the Excel Options window, click on “Add-Ins” in the navigation pane on the left.
  4. In the “Manage” drop-down menu, select “Excel Add-ins” and click “Go.”
  5. In the Add-Ins dialog box, uncheck all the add-ins listed, and click “OK.”

After disabling the add-ins, try using the arrow keys again. If they work correctly, you can re-enable the add-ins one by one to identify the conflicting one.

Checking for Conflicting Software

If disabling add-ins didn’t resolve the issue, you may want to check for conflicting software installed on your computer. Some applications or utilities may interfere with Excel’s functionality, including the arrow keys.

To identify and resolve conflicting software, follow these steps:

  1. Restart your computer in Safe Mode. This will load only the essential Windows components and drivers, eliminating any potential conflicts with third-party software.
  2. Open Excel in Safe Mode and try using the arrow keys.
  • If the arrow keys work correctly in Safe Mode, it indicates that a third-party application or utility is causing the conflict.
  • If the arrow keys still don’t work in Safe Mode, the issue may be related to a system file or driver, and you may need to perform further troubleshooting.
  1. If the arrow keys work in Safe Mode, restart your computer in normal mode and start uninstalling any recently installed software or utilities one by one.
  2. After uninstalling each application, check if the arrow keys in Excel are working correctly.
  3. Once you’ve identified the conflicting software, you can either remove it or contact the software vendor for further assistance.

Additional Troubleshooting Steps

If none of the above solutions work, you can try the following additional troubleshooting steps:

  • Restart Excel: Sometimes, a simple restart of the Excel application can resolve temporary glitches or conflicts.
  • Update keyboard drivers: Outdated or corrupted keyboard drivers can cause issues with keyboard functionality. Update your keyboard drivers to the latest version from the manufacturer’s website.
  • Repair or reinstall Office: If the issue persists, you may need to repair or reinstall Microsoft Office to resolve any underlying issues with the Excel installation.


Arrow keys are essential for efficient navigation in Excel, and when they stop working, it can be frustrating and disrupt your workflow. By following the solutions outlined in this article, you should be able to resolve the issue and get your arrow keys working again in Excel.

Remember, the most common causes are the accidental activation of Scroll Lock or Sticky Keys, conflicting add-ins or software, or temporary glitches that can be resolved by restarting Excel or updating drivers.

If you’ve tried all the solutions and the arrow keys still don’t work, it’s recommended to seek further assistance from Microsoft Support or consult with an IT professional to identify and resolve any underlying system issues.