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Windows XP supports USB keyboards, but before it boots there's a period where your USB keyboard may, or may not, work.

Will my XP computer work with a USB keyboard?

Yes, and possibly no.

It really depends on exactly what you're asking.

Windows XP supports USB keyboards regardless of what machine you are on. If your machine has USB ports, they're working and Windows has the appropriate drivers installed (which it should by default), and your USB keyboard works, then absolutely - Windows should work with that keyboard.

"Before Windows is loaded it's your computer, or rather your computer's BIOS, that determines whether or not a USB keyboard can be used."

Seems simple enough, right?

The problem is what happens before Windows XP loads.

Before Windows XP boots, whether or not your keyboard will work has nothing to do with Windows.

Before Windows is loaded it's your computer, or rather your computer's BIOS, that determines whether or not a USB keyboard can be used. And even then, that's only for as long as the BIOS is in control.

The most common example is a machine such as my old desktop machine. Its BIOS did not support USB keyboards. That means that I could not access the BIOS settings or interrupt the boot process with a key press. However, once Windows was loaded, the keyboard worked just fine.

If I needed to access the BIOS settings my only recourse was to get a standard PS2 keyboard, power down the machine, plug it in, and reboot. The machine, or again more correctly that machine's BIOS, recognized the PS2 keyboard and I could manipulate all the BIOS settings I wanted. Once I was done, I would once again power down, unplug the PS2 keyboard, and reboot into Windows where the USB keyboard would once again work.

The BIOS installed on most recent machines support USB keyboards from the very beginning. But most older machines do not, and you have to resort to the same tricks I had to if you want to play with BIOS settings or other things available before Windows boots up and enables its more extensive USB support.

Article C3417 - June 15, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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8 Comments
Ben
June 17, 2008 5:21 AM

Shortly after reading your article, I came across a question posted on Yahoo! Answers. The asker said he was using XP and had 3 accounts. His USB keyboard worked with 2 of the accounts but not with the 3rd (which is apparently a limited account.) So that got me thinking... does the type of account have a bearing on whether or not a USB keyboard - or any other USB device - will work? Is this a problem with only XP or could it be a problem with Vista?

The link to the question on Yahoo! Answers was almost 200 characters long so I created this Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/5t4dj6

If it doesn't work, could you search on Yahoo! Answers for the question: "Very moody keyboard" and offer your expert opinion? Thanks.

vincent
June 17, 2008 11:57 AM

what then is the advantage of having a usb keyboard on an older machine, I wonder? Why not simply use a ps2 keyboard for all your work? unless you want all the fancy multimedia buttons etc...

Leo
June 18, 2008 1:35 PM

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Hash: SHA1

In my case, the USB keyboard was wireless.

Frequently people get nice new USB keyboards with form
factors or features they prefer, and put the old dusty
crusty PS2 keyboard aside.

Leo


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Lie
June 19, 2008 9:31 AM

The advantage of using USB keyboard/Mouse is it's hot pluggable. With a PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse, you've got to restart the computer before the keyboard would work, with USB keyboard, you just plug it and it'll work instantly.

This might seem silly reason, unless you're using a laptop and you have some apps that you just can't work with a touchpad (most fast-paced game, image editing software, 3D Modelling, etc)

Doug Hagan
June 20, 2008 2:33 AM

My wireless USB keyboard would NOT allow SpinRite to function; I had to return to the PS2. GRC staff did suggest altering the BIOS, but this machine is only about 4 years old (Dell Dimension 4550) so I figured it ought to work. Nope. I found it easier to use the wired, non-USB keyboard, do Spin Rite, then go back to my wireless USB (although I haven't gone back....still plugging along with my wired PS2---out of laziness I suppose). GRC staff’s actual response to my problem may be of interest:

QUOTE SpinRite normally uses the built-in motherboard BIOS to handle all its keystrokes. But in order to get the "on-the-fly" screen switching and the multi-tasking effect under DOS -- while SpinRite is actually running -- SpinRite accesses the system's keyboard hardware directly instead of through the BIOS.

Frankly, what's amazing is that you're a part of a very small few who is having any trouble like this. SpinRite has always worked this way . . . so it must be that MOST systems are able to "simulate" the operation of the keyboard's hardware, even though it's a USB keyboard and NOTHING like an original serial keyboard. CLOSE QUOTES

Cheers from the Nation's Heartland, now a very wet heart.

Bonie Sevilleno
July 14, 2008 4:50 AM

I could not use my ps2 for both my keyboard and mouse but if I use usb keyboard and mouse it work okay. What's y problem?

Julius Oliver Honor
May 19, 2009 5:35 PM

Here's my annoying problem,
The ports of Keyboard and Mouse are not working so I have to use USB-PS/2 converter and it worked but a problem occur with my keyboard. It's just that when I play games like racing games which require me to press a key while holding another key but when doing so the key which is on hold stops from being on hold while in fact Im holding it.??????
Confusing? Actual game sample, while accelerating need to turn left but when i turn left my car stops accelerating even if i am still holding the accelerator key... pls help me with this. thank you in advance^_^

Ankur Timothy
October 9, 2009 7:19 AM

I have recently bought a new PC with DP45SG motherboard. My keyboard behaves in the same manner as indicated by "Julius Oliver Honor" in the previous post. If any solution is acheived, please post it to me also.

Previous post by "Julius Oliver Honor "
-----
Here's my annoying problem,
The ports of Keyboard and Mouse are not working so I have to use USB-PS/2 converter and it worked but a problem occur with my keyboard. It's just that when I play games like racing games which require me to press a key while holding another key but when doing so the key which is on hold stops from being on hold while in fact Im holding it.??????
Confusing? Actual game sample, while accelerating need to turn left but when i turn left my car stops accelerating even if i am still holding the accelerator key... pls help me with this. thank you in advance^_^

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