How to change the keyboard settings in Mac OS X

This page explains step-by-step how to change the keyboard settings in Mac OS X. By adjusting the speed with which the keyboard responds, you can control the pace of repeated keystrokes and slow down the acceptance of keystrokes (if required), helping you to avoid accidental keystrokes.

Areas in this guide:

Note: The following abbreviations for keys on the Mac are used: Ctrl is used for the Control key, Apple is used for the Command key, and Alt is used for the Option key. For keyboard access, make sure 'Full keyboard access' is turned on - you can turn it on or off by pressing Ctrl + F1 at any time.

Change your computer's delay rate and repeat rate

There are two keyboard settings you can adjust to help you with your typing, so you can set one length of time for how long the computer waits before repeating a keystroke for the first time, different to further keystrokes. By setting the repeat rate to a higher speed than the delay rate, the keyboard will accelerate when a key is held beyond the first repeated keystroke. This is important for tasks such as backspacing over an entire word, so you don't have to wait as long for every single keystroke.

Step 1: Open the 'Keyboard & Mouse' window

Make sure you are in 'Finder'. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to 'Finder'.

Click on the 'Apple' icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.

Click on 'System Preferences', as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

Fig 1'Apple' drop-down menu

In the 'System Preferences' window (shown in Fig 2), click on the 'Keyboard & Mouse' icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the 'Keyboard & Mouse' icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 2'System Preferences' window

In the 'Keyboard & Mouse' window (shown in Fig 3), make sure the 'Keyboard' tab is selected. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.

Step 2: Adjust the repeat rate

To change the rate at which a key repeats when it is held down, click on the 'Key Repeat Rate' slider as shown in Fig 3 to select a more comfortable repeat rate, or press Tab until the slider is highlighted and use the left and right arrow keys to select your speed.

Fig 3'Keyboard & Mouse' window showing 'Key Repeat Rate' slider

To test the new setting, click in the 'Type here to test settings' box, or press Tab until the text in the box is highlighted, and then type something to test the key repeat rate.

Step 3: Adjust the delay rate

To change the delay before a key starts repeating when it is held down, click on the 'Delay Until Repeat' slider as shown in Fig 4 to select a more comfortable delay rate, or press Tab until the slider is highlighted and use the left and right arrow keys to select your speed.

Fig 4Keyboard & Mouse' window showing 'Delay Until Repeat' slider

To test the new setting, click in the 'Type here to test settings' box, or press Tab until the text in the box is highlighted, and then type something to test the key repeat rate.

When you are finished, click on the window's red close button or press Apple + W.

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help.

Set up Slow Keys

Slow Keys enables you to adjust the amount of time the computer waits after you press a key before it accepts it. This means that you can press hundreds of keys by accident but they will be ignored unless a key is held down for a specific length of time.

Step 1: Open the 'Universal Access' window

Make sure you are in 'Finder'. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to 'Finder'.

Click on the 'Apple' icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.

Click on 'System Preferences', as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

Fig 1'Apple' drop-down menu

In the 'System Preferences' window (shown in Fig 2), click on the 'Universal Access' icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the 'Universal Access' icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 2'System Preferences' window

In the 'Universal Access' window (shown in Fig 3), make sure the 'Keyboard' tab is selected. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.

Step 2: Turn on and customise Slow Keys

Click the 'On' radio button next to 'Slow Keys', as shown in Fig 3, or press Tab to highlight the 'Off' radio button and press the left arrow key to switch Slow Keys on.

Fig 3'Universal Access' window showing 'Keyboard' tab

By default, a click sound is made when you hold down a key. If you want to turn off this warning, untick the box next to 'Use click key sounds' by clicking on it, or press Tab to highlight it and then press the Spacebar to untick it.

You can also adjust how long the computer waits after you press a key before it recognises it. To do this, click on the 'Acceptance Delay' slider to lengthen or shorten the delay, or press Tab until the slider is highlighted and then press the left and right arrow keys to adjust the delay.

When you are finished, click on the window's red close button or press Apple + W.

Note: If this does not work it could be because your computer settings cannot be changed due to local IT policies - contact your local IT support for further help.

Back to How to guides - I find a keyboard or mouse hard to use

More ways to: Make your keyboard easier to use

Use the keyboard with one hand

Set it so you don't have to hold down multiple keys at once

Turn on and customise the on-screen keyboard

Use a mouse or other pointing device instead of a keyboard

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