Scroll lock is an obscure key that has mostly outlived its usefulness. Size-constrained laptops often omit the key, layering it with some other key combination that you generate by pressing the FN key plus a second key that varies. Here’s how to get scroll lock on a laptop when your keyboard doesn’t have the key.
Usually to get scroll lock to toggle, use the FN key and a combination of a second key, often C, K, S, or even F12. You can also use the Windows on screen keyboard.
Scroll lock on standard keyboards
If your keyboard has a scroll lock key, it could be labeled several ways. It is often abbreviated SCRLK, SCR LK, or sometimes just Scroll. But if your keyboard doesn’t have one, it is usually layered with the FN key and some other key combination. Scroll lock has the effect of disabling limiting the use of, or changing the behavior of the arrow keys and the scroll wheel in Microsoft Excel. Its original design functioned as a pause key on IBM PCs running MS-DOS. But that means it’s been a vestigial organ for about 25 years now. The scrlk key may be the most reviled key on the keyboard, even more than the caps lock key. So when designing for a smaller keyboard, it’s one of the first to go.
For some people it may be useful. But most people I know find it confusing. And I honestly cannot remember the last time I deliberately used the key. I accidentally use it a couple of times a year though. Sound familiar? The way you know you accidentally pressed it is when you see the Scroll Lock status light up on your Excel status bar.
Most other software flat out ignores it, but if your Excel won’t scroll, scroll lock is probably involved.
Using the Windows on-screen keyboard
You can click start or press the Windows button on your laptop, type on screen keyboard (or you can even just use the abbreviation OSK) in the search box, and open the app that comes up. Windows then brings up a virtual keyboard that works like a real one, but with more keys. The virtual ScrLk button on the right, second row from the bottom, will work to toggle scroll lock in lieu of using a key. Click the X button in the upper right when you’re done.
Scroll lock on Lenovo Thinkpad laptops
On a Lenovo laptop such as a Thinkpad, use the FN-K combination to toggle scroll lock. The FN key is in the lower left, on the far left, left of the CTRL key. This can be confusing if you’re used to another brand. Or if you’re used to Lenovo, it makes the other brands confusing.
Scroll lock on HP Elitebook laptops
On HP laptops such as an Elitebook, use the FN-C combination to toggle scroll lock. The FN key is in the lower left, next to the Windows key.
Scroll lock on Dell laptops
On a Dell laptop, use the FN-S combination to toggle scroll lock. Of the major laptop brands, I think Dell gets the award for choosing the easiest-to-remember key combination for scroll lock. The FN key is in the lower left, next to the Windows key.
Scroll lock on Acer laptops
On an Acer laptop, use the FN-F12 key combination to toggle scroll lock. It’s usually labeled in blue text on the lower half of the F12 key on Acer keyboards, but the combination is so obscure it’s easy to miss. It’s a frequent point of confusion for Acer laptop owners. The FN key is in the lower left, next to the Windows key.
Scroll lock on Macbook laptops
To get scroll lock on a Macbook or any other Mac, hit shift along with the F14 key. Note you need an extended keyboard for this.
Using a plug-in USB keyboard
When all else fails, you can also just plug in a USB keyboard that has the scroll lock key. Whether this is a faster or easier option depends. But even if it seems like a cop out, it’s an option.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.