What Does Scroll Lock Do on a Keyboard in 2024? Explained

Key Takeaways
  • Scroll Lock was designed for early text-based computing, altering arrow keys' behavior to scroll content without moving cursor, useful in long document navigation.
  • It is now mostly obsolete, but still functional in applications like Excel for scrolling without changing active cell; activated by pressing labeled "Scroll Lock" or "Scrlk" key on keyboard.
  • Mac lacks a dedicated key, uses Control + F14 on external keyboards; Windows users can use the on-screen keyboard to activate Scroll Lock if no physical key is present.

In this modern fast-moving world of computing, certain features often need to be noticed or be more understood. One such feature is the Scroll Lock key on keyboards. In this post, let’s delve into what Scroll Lock is, its functions, its relevance on Mac computers, and how to activate it.

What is Scroll Lock?

Scroll Lock is a key found on most older external keyboards, identifiable as “Scroll Lock” or “Scrlk“. Its origin traces back to the early keyboards used in computing, where it played a more pivotal role.

Initially, the Scroll Lock key was designed to alter the behavior of the arrow keys. In its active state, instead of moving the cursor, the arrow keys would scroll the content of a text window or a terminal interface. This feature was particularly useful in the era of text-based computing environments, where graphical interfaces were not yet prevalent.

Scroll Lock key on the Keyboard
Scroll Lock key on a modern keyboard (QK80) | markerchun

Early computer systems often relied on text-based output, and the ability to scroll through information without altering the position of the typed text was crucial. This made Scroll Lock an essential feature for navigating through long documents on a screen.

READ MORE: How to Enable and Disable the Windows Key ➜

What Does Scroll Lock Do in a Keyboard?

In modern computing, the role of the Scroll Lock key has largely diminished. The introduction of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and the evolution of computer hardware and software have rendered the original function of the Scroll Lock key obsolete for most users.

However, it still retains functionality in certain specific applications and environments. One notable example is its use in Microsoft Excel. When Scroll Lock is active in Excel, pressing the arrow keys causes the worksheet to scroll in the direction of the arrow key pressed, instead of moving the active cell.

This can be particularly useful for navigating large spreadsheets without shifting the focus from a particular cell or set of cells.

Scroll Lock
Scroll Lock can be useful in scrolling through large spreadsheets

Another area where Scroll Lock finds its use is in some programming and database environments. In these contexts, activating Scroll Lock can allow users to scroll through logs or code without moving the cursor, similar to its original purpose in early computing.

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Scroll Lock on Mac

Apple’s design philosophy for Mac computers centers around minimalism and enhancing the user experience by streamlining functionalities. This approach is clearly reflected in their keyboard design, where there is a notable absence of a dedicated Scroll Lock key on their laptops.

Missing Scroll Lock Key on macOS Laptops
Missing Scroll Lock Key on macOS Laptops

Unlike traditional PC keyboards, macOS-based laptop keyboards omit this less frequently used key, aligning with Apple’s focus on a cleaner, more modern keyboard layout.

However, you might discover that an external full-sized keyboard offered by Apple includes the Scroll Lock functionality. To activate it, press the Control + F14 keys. In some cases, you may need to press and hold the Fn key before using this combination.

Scroll Lock on Apple's External Full-Sized Keyboard
Scroll Lock on Apple’s External Full-Sized Keyboard
It’s important to check that this key combination does not conflict with other shortcuts on your system, as such conflicts could prevent you from taking advantage of the Scroll Lock functionality.

How to Activate Scroll Lock

Activating Scroll Lock on a Windows-based keyboard is typically straightforward. The key is usually labeled “Scroll Lock or “Scrlk” and is often found in the top right section of the keyboard. This key, when pressed, toggles the Scroll Lock function on or off. However, the location and method of activation can vary depending on the type of keyboard or laptop you are using.

Scroll Lock Key on Full Sized Keyboards
Scroll Lock Key on Full Sized Keyboards

On most full-size keyboards, the Scroll Lock key is directly accessible and clearly marked. Simply pressing this key will activate or deactivate the Scroll Lock function. On laptops or smaller keyboards where space is at a premium, the Scroll Lock function might be part of a multi-function key.

Commonly, this involves holding down the “Fn(Function) key and then pressing the key that has the Scroll Lock function, which might be shared with another key. The exact key combination can vary, so it’s advisable to refer to the laptop’s or keyboard’s manual for the specific combination.

READ MORE: Filter Keys: What Are They & How to Enable Them? ➜

How to Activate Scroll Lock on Windows using On-Screen Keyboard

In instances where your Windows laptop lacks a physical Scroll Lock key, you can still access this function through the built-in on-screen keyboard. Here’s a step-by-step guide to do this:

  1. Click the Windows icon on your taskbar or press the Windows key on your keyboard. This action opens the Start Search Box.

    Start Menu > On Screen Keyboard
    Start Menu > On Screen Keyboard
  2. In the search box, type On-screen keyboard and select the main listed result. This action will open a new floating window on your screen, displaying a virtual keyboard.

  3. Locate the ScrLk key on the on-screen keyboard. It’s typically found near the right-hand side of the virtual keyboard. Use your cursor to hover over the key and click it once. This will activate the Scroll Lock function.

    Scroll Lock Key on On-Screen Keyboard
    Scroll Lock Key on On-Screen Keyboard
  4. To turn off Scroll Lock, simply click on the ScrLk key again using your cursor. This will deactivate the Scroll Lock function.

READ MORE: Dell Keyboard Unresponsive? 8 Steps to Get Back on Track ➜


In conclusion, while Scroll Lock might seem like an ancient functionality from an earlier computing era, it still has its niche uses. Understanding its function and knowing how to activate it can enhance your efficiency in specific scenarios, particularly in spreadsheet applications.


How can I tell if Scroll Lock is enabled on my computer?

On some keyboards, an indicator light usually shows when the Scroll Lock is active. If your keyboard lacks an indicator light, you might have to open the on-screen keyboard to see an indicator or need to check within specific applications, like Excel, to see if Scroll Lock is affecting their behavior.

Is the Scroll Lock feature available on all keyboards?

No, some modern keyboards, especially compact and laptop keyboards, do not include a Scroll Lock key due to space constraints and the key’s reduced relevance in modern day computing.

How do I deactivate Scroll Lock?

To deactivate Scroll Lock, simply press the Scroll Lock key again. On laptops or keyboards that require a function key combination to activate Scroll Lock, use the same combination to deactivate it.

What should I do if my keyboard does not have a Scroll Lock key and I need it for a specific application?

If your keyboard lacks a Scroll Lock key, you can use an on-screen keyboard, remap another key to function as a Scroll Lock, or connect an external keyboard that includes the key.


Kamil Anwar

Kamil is a certified MCITP, CCNA (W), CCNA (S) and a former British Computer Society Member with over 9 years of experience Configuring, Deploying and Managing Switches, Firewalls and Domain Controllers also an old-school still active on FreeNode.