[Updated April 2023] Alt-tab Not Working? Here’s the Fix

[Updated April 2023] Alt-tab Not Working? Here’s the Fix

/ Sed Galope

The Alt-Tab keyboard shortcut allows users of Windows devices to switch between numerous applications in a single seamless motion. Because we utilize this function so frequently to make the management of our jobs and tools more straightforward and practical, we are aware of this fact. But what options do we have in cases where the Alt-Tab switching functions are not operational?

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If you’ve never encountered this problem before, you’ll discover that you have no idea how to solve the Alt-Tab shortcut keys issue, which implies that a good guide will come in handy.

You can use the methods below to learn how to fix the Alt-Tab switching feature in Windows effortlessly, and they are available to you whenever you need them.

Alt-Tab is one of the essential keyboard shortcuts that users almost always utilize. It can be a significant issue if you are unable to use the Alt key and Tab key combination, and in this article, we are going to discuss the best methods to follow to fix alt-tab issues such as the following problems:

  • Windows Alt-Tab does not transition between windows – Users have reported that Alt-Tab doesn’t work on their Windows PCs when they press the buttons. This can be unpleasant, but our solutions should help.
  • Alt-Tab isn’t working right — The Alt-Tab shortcut may sometimes not operate correctly on your computer.
  • The Alt-Tab key doesn’t work in Excel – Other software, such as Microsoft Excel, may be affected by this problem. It’s worth noting that this issue impacts other third-party applications as well.
  • Aero Peek on Alt-Tab isn’t working — Users have reported that the Aero Peek feature on their PC does not work. However, you can quickly resolve the issue by reactivating Aero Peek on your computer.
  • Alt-Tab does not offer a preview on the desktop – Several users have complained that the Alt-Tab keys do not display window previews on the desktop.
  • Alt-Tab vanishes abruptly – Another problem with the shortcut is that it vanishes abruptly. The Alt-Tab menu comes and quickly disappears, according to a few users.

Potential Causes of Malfunctioning Alt-tab Keyboard Shortcut

Problems with keyboard shortcuts are typically caused by system errors, making them computer-specific. Here are some typical reasons shortcuts don’t work in Windows 10:

  • Misconfigured registry settings – Under the hood, the Windows Registry controls several aspects of your system. When some apps are installed, they create new registry entries, which can cause conflicts with existing ones. As a result, your system may fail to recognize Alt-Tab as an app-switching shortcut.
  • Override of a shortcut – There is a good chance that a program you installed changed the behavior of the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut by performing an “override.” This means that the shortcut has a different purpose for your operating system.
  • Error in Windows Explorer – Windows Explorer is just one of several components that make up the framework of your system. If it runs into a mistake, it could mess up your system’s work, including your keyboard shortcuts.
  • An issue with your peripherals – The Alt-Tab shortcut may stop working due to problems with your peripherals, such as headphones, mice, or a USB keyboard device.
  • Drivers issues –  Drivers enable the majority of your devices to function. In addition to causing a wide variety of additional problems, the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut may stop working correctly if the drivers on your system are corrupt, out of date, or incompatible with one another.

Other issues on your PC could be causing the Alt-Tab keys not to work as they should. We’ve compiled a list of solutions below to assist you in resolving this frustrating problem, regardless of its source.

To keep you as productive as possible while using your device, we will assist you in repairing any issues with the keyboard shortcut for Alt-Tab that may exist on your Windows computer. Some of these troubleshooting tips are more general approaches to troubleshooting, but most of the steps target problems associated with this shortcut.

Troubleshooting Methods to Fix the Alt-Tab Shortcut Not Working Correctly Issue

Before making any changes to the system, you must confirm that your keyboard is functioning correctly.

Plug your keyboard into a different computer and check that the Alt-tab key functions correctly. If you don’t have access to another computer, you can test your Alt and Tab keys by visiting a webpage that automatically recognizes and displays the keys you hit, and Key-Test is a good option.

The tester can’t tell the difference between identical keys, like Alt. Be sure to test both of them and pay attention to whether or not the virtual keyboard highlights the Alt key when you hit either.

This is how the on-screen keyboard should appear if your Alt and Tab keys operate as intended. Do you observe that only one of the keys is highlighted? This is a sign that there is a problem with your keyboard. Consider cleaning it or switching to a new keyboard to see if the Alt-Tab function still works.

First Method – Enable the Windows App Switching Feature

  1. Press Windows and I keys at the same time.
windows i keyboard shortcut
  1. Click on the “System” settings app.
system information
  1. On the next window, click on the “Multitasking” settings on the left.
  2. Under the Virtual Desktop option, “Pressing Alt+Tab shows windows that are open,” select “Only the desktop I’m using.”
virtual desktop setting
  1. Now check if this step could fix the alt+tab not working problem.

Second Method – Restart Windows Explorer Process

Windows Explorer is primarily a visual interface for browsing your files. It’s commonly referred to as your system’s foundation, as most of us wouldn’t be able to browse our computers without it.

Restarting Windows Explorer always seems to resolve problems with the Alt-Tab keys not working as they should. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. On your keyboard, press the following keys “CTRL + Shift + Esc.”
ctrl shift esc
  1. On the “Processes” tab on the Task Manager and locate “Windows Explorer,” right-click on it, and select “Restart.”
restart windows
  1. Wait for Windows Explorer to complete its restart process. You may see your taskbar and file explorer disappear for a few seconds, but they will return once the restart process is complete.
  2. Once the restart is complete, check whether the alt-tab works properly.

Third Method – Enable Peek Option in the Advanced System Settings

  1. Hold down the “Windows” key and press “R,” type “sysdm.cpl” in the run command line, and press enter.
sysdm cpl
  1. In the System Properties window, click on the “Advanced Tab” and “Settings” under Performance.
advanced performance settings
  1. Check the “Enable Peek” option to enable the feature. Click “Apply” and “OK” and check if this fixes the alt+tab problem.
enable peek

Fourth Method – Update Your Keyboard Driver

Even if you’ve gone through the first method and double-checked your keyboard, there could be a problem with your keyboard’s driver. This piece of technology lets your hardware and operating system communicate properly. If your keyboard’s driver is out-of-date, it may start acting up and causing problems.

  1. Press the “Windows” and “R” keys and type in “devmgmt.msc” in the run command line, and press enter to open Device Manager.
device manager
  1. In the list of devices in the Device Manager, double-click “Keyboards” to expand it, right-click on your keyboard, and click “Update Drivers.”
update keyboard driver
  1. Select “Search Automatically for Drivers” and follow the subsequent prompts to install the new network adapter driver completely. Close the Device Manager window, restart your computer, and check this fixed the Alt-Tab not working issue.

Fifth Method – Reconfigure Registry Values

  1. Press Windows on your keyboard, type regedit, then right-click on regedit result and click Run as administrator.
regedit run as administrator
  1. Click Yes when prompted to confirm.
  2. Once you open the Registry editor window, navigate to the following path:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER \Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer
  1. Double-click on the “Explorer” folder and check if you can see the “AltTabSettings” Double-click on it and set the Value Data to 1.
  2. If you don’t see the “AltTabSettings” file, right-click on a space in the right pane and click “New,” and select DWORD (32-bit) Value.
alttabsettings new dword
  1. Name the new file “AltTabSettings” and set its value data to 1.
  2. Restart your computer and check if this method fixed the problem with the Alt-Tab shortcut.

Sixth Method – Enable the Turn Off Windows Key Hotkeys Feature

  1. On your keyboard, press Windows + R, and type in the following command “gpedit.msc” in the Run dialog. Press Enter to open Group Policy on Windows 10.
gpedit msc
  1. In the left pane of the Group Policy Editor, expand “User Configuration> Administrative Templates> Windows Components> File Explorer.
  2. Look for the “Turn off Windows Key hotkeys” and double-click on it.
disable windows hotkeys
  1. On the next window, click “Enabled,” click Apply, and then OK.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the primary and secondary Alt keys, and how do they relate to the Alt-Tab?

The primary Alt key is typically located on the left side of the keyboard, while the secondary alt key is on the right side. Both Alt keys can be used to execute the command, which allows users to switch between open windows and applications quickly.

How can I access and modify keyboard settings in Windows to troubleshoot Alt-Tab not working correctly?

To access keyboard settings, go to Windows Settings, navigate to the Devices section, then click on “Keyboard.” Here, you can adjust various settings related to your keyboard, including the behavior of the Alt-Tab buttons. Ensuring the settings are configured correctly can help resolve issues with the Alt-Tab not working as expected.

Can third-party keyboard apps interfere with the Alt-Tab buttons, and how can I enable or disable the feature if needed?

Third-party keyboard apps can sometimes cause conflicts with the Alt-Tab feature, especially if they have their own shortcut key configurations. To enable or disable the command, you can either adjust settings within the keyboard app or temporarily uninstall the device to determine if it’s causing the issue.

What are some temporary solutions for fixing the Alt-Tab not working issue, such as using the other key or selecting Task Manager?

If the command is not working correctly, you can try using the other Alt key (primary or secondary) to see if the issue is specific to one key. Additionally, you can open the Task Manager (by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc) to manually switch between open applications as a temporary workaround while troubleshooting the Alt-Tab issue.

How can restarting Windows Explorer help resolve the Alt-Tab not working issue?

Restarting Windows Explorer can often resolve issues with the Alt-Tab command, as it resets the desktop environment and refreshes the system. To do this, open the Task Manager (by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc), find “Windows Explorer” in the list of processes, right-click on it, and choose “Restart.” Although this can be a quick fix, it may be just a temporary solution, and further troubleshooting might be necessary if the issue persists.

How can I use the Task Manager to enable Alt-Tab and uninstall devices that may be causing conflicts?

To enable Alt-Tab through the Task Manager, you can try restarting Windows Explorer, as mentioned in the previous FAQ. If you suspect a device is causing conflicts with the Alt-Tab feature, you can uninstall it through the Device Manager. Press the Windows key + X, then select “Device Manager” from the menu. Locate the device in question, right-click on it, and choose “Uninstall device.” After this, restart your computer to check if the Alt-Tab command is working correctly.

Conclusion: Resolving the Alt-Tab Not Working Correctly Issue

Issues with the Alt-Tab command not working correctly can often be resolved by checking keyboard settings within Windows, trying the other Alt key, or using the Task Manager as a temporary solution.

If you suspect third-party keyboard apps are causing conflicts, adjusting their settings or uninstalling the device can help identify and resolve the problem. By following these steps, you can restore the functionality of the Alt-Tab feature and efficiently switch between open windows and applications.

Sed Galope
Meet the author

Sedfrey is an experienced writer and editor. He's also a PC hardware and gaming enthusiast. In his spare time, he enjoys reading about the latest innovations in the PC market and finding fixes to hardware and software errors.