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Arrow keys not working in Excel? 5 ways to troubleshoot

You may need to try multiple potential fixes when your arrow keys aren’t working in Excel.


  • If your arrow keys are not working in Excel, there are a few simple ways to troubleshoot and solve this problem. 
  • The most common solution is to turn off Scroll Lock. 
  • If you don’t have a Scroll Lock key, you can use the on-screen keyboard in Windows or create an AppleScript on your Mac.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Microsoft Excel is one of those programs that encourages you to make frequent use of the keyboard. Even if you’re mostly a mouse user, you probably use the keyboard’s arrow keys, for example, to quickly zoom around spreadsheets, going from cell to cell by pressing the up, down, left, and right arrow keys.

Sometimes, though, you might notice that the arrow keys don’t behave the way you expect. If the arrow keys aren’t working in Excel — or at least not working the way they usually do — here are a few troubleshooting steps to get them working correctly again. 

Turn off Scroll Lock on your keyboard

Scroll Lock key on keyboardIf your keyboard has a Scroll Lock key, make sure it’s not enabled.

Dave Johnson

Most of the time, if your arrow keys aren’t moving the cursor from cell to cell, the fix is as simple as disabling the Scroll Lock key on your keyboard. This key — an artifact of an earlier time in personal computing — is rarely, if ever, used anymore, and it’s little more than an attractive nuisance that gets enabled by accident and makes your computer behave in unexpected ways. 

The fix? Look at your keyboard and see if you can find a Scroll Lock key (which might be abbreviated, such as SCRLK). If it has an illuminated status light, press the key to turn off the light. Then try Excel again. With luck, this solved your problem. 

Disable Scroll Lock with the On-Screen Windows keyboard

If you have a relatively modern keyboard, or a keyboard with fewer than about 104 keys, you might not have a Scroll Lock key. But your Scroll Lock might still be enabled. The solution? Turn it off with the Windows on-screen keyboard.

1. Click Start and type “on screen keyboard.”

2. When you see On-Screen Keyboard appear in search results, click it. The on-screen keyboard will pop up on your display. 

3. On the right side of the keyboard, you should see ScrLk. If it’s enabled, the key will be highlighted. 

4. Click the key to disable it. 

The Windows on-screen keyboard.You can also use the on-screen Windows keyboard to disable Scroll Lock.

Dave Johnson

Solve the Scroll Lock problem on a Mac with AppleScript

If you have a Mac, you want have a Scroll Lock key on your keyboard or the ability to disable such a key from an on-screen keyboard. To force your Mac to work around the Scroll Lock issue, you can create an AppleScript and run it when you use Excel. 

1. Start Finder.

2. Click Applications and then type “Script Editor.” When you see Script Editor appear, double-click it. 

3. Copy the text into the blank document exactly as it appears below. 

4. Press Command + S to save the file and name it FixExcelKeys.

5. Start Excel.

6. Click the Play button at the top of the Script Editor window and then click OK.

applescript excel arrow keysCreate an AppleScript to solve the Scroll Lock problem.

Dave Johnson

Here is the AppleScript text to copy into the TextEdit window:

set returnedItems to (display dialog “Press OK to send scroll lock keypress to Microsoft Excel or press Quit” with title “Excel Scroll-lock Fix” buttons {“Quit”, “OK”} default button 2)

set buttonPressed to the button returned of returnedItems

if buttonPressed is “OK” then

tell application “Microsoft Excel”


end tell

tell application “System Events”

key code 107 using {shift down}

end tell


display dialog “Scroll Lock key sent to Microsoft Excel” with title “Mac Excel Scroll-lock Fix” buttons {“OK”}

end if

In most cases, that should solve your problem.

Disable Excel Add-Ins

In some cases, a bug or glitch in an Excel add-in might cause the arrow keys to not work properly. To test this possibility, you can disable all add-ins. If this solves your problem, you can enable them again one by one until you find the culprit that’s causing the problem. You can leave that one disabled but use the others as usual.

1. Start Excel.

2. Click File and then choose Options from the pane on the left. 

3. In the Excel Options window, click Add-Ins in the navigation pane on the left. 

4. Make sure the Manage menu has Excel Add-ins selected, and then click Go…

5. Clear the checkbox for each add-in in the list and then click OK

Excel Options window in Excel for Windows.Disable your Excel Add-Ins to restore your arrow keys.

Dave Johnson

Test Excel. If the arrow keys are working, you can try re-enabling add-ins to locate the one that is causing the problem. 

Enable Sticky keys in Windows

While this is a relatively uncommon solution, it’s possible that you can fix the problem by turning on Windows’ Sticky Keys. You can enable this in the Control Panel.

1. Click Start and then type “Control Panel.” When you see Control Panel appear in search results, click it. 

2. Click Ease of Access.

3. Under Ease of Access, click Change how your keyboard works

4. In the Make it easier to type section, turn on Sticky Keys by checking the box next to Turn on Sticky Keys and then click OK

Ease of access controls in WindowsEnabling Sticky Keys might help your arrow keys function in Excel again.

Dave Johnson

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