The arrow keys are some of the most commonly used keys when working in an Excel spreadsheet, especially for navigating between cells. However, if the arrow keys are not working properly, it can be very annoying and time-consuming.

If your arrows keys are stopped working or not responding in Excel, it can be caused by several reasons such as scroll lock enabled, sticky keys glitches, corrupted or conflicting add-ins, frozen panes, protected worksheets, etc. In this post, we’ll show you how to fix when arrow keys are not working properly in Excel.

Disable Scroll Lock

When the arrow keys are not working in Excel, most of the time it’s due to the scroll lock being enabled. When the scroll lock is turned on, you won’t be able to move around from cell to cell, instead, the whole spreadsheet will move when you press the arrow keys.

If you want to know whether the scroll lock is enabled or not, look for a light named Scroll Lock on your keyboard. If the light is On, the Scroll lock is turned on. To turn it off, simply press the Scroll Lock key on your keyboard.

But most modern keyboards and laptop keyboards don’t have a dedicated scroll lock button. In that case, check your Excel Status bar. If the “Scroll Lock” is shown in the Status Bar, it means the Scroll Lock is enabled on your computer.

Displaying the Scroll Lock message in the status bar is enabled by default in Excel. In case, it’s not enabled, do this:

To enable scroll lock display on the status bar, right-click on the Status Bar and click on the ‘Scroll Lock’ option from the context menu. 

If the Scroll Lock option is tick marked, the status bar will show the Scroll Lock message.

Use the On-screen Keyboard to Disable Scroll Lock

However, Excel doesn’t have an option to turn off the scroll lock. And if your keyboard doesn’t have a Scroll Lock key either, you can turn it off using the On-screen keyboard tool. To do this, follow the below steps:

Open the Start menu and type ‘On-screen keyboard’ in the search box. Then, select the On-Screen Keyboard app to open it.

When the On-Screen Lock keyboard opens, you will see a key named ‘ScrLk’ on the right side. If it is enabled, it will be in blue color.

To disable scroll lock, simply click on the ‘ScrLk’ key to turn it off. If the scroll lock is disabled, the key will return to the color of the rest of the keys.

Enable and Disable Sticky Keys

Sticky keys is a Microsoft accessibility feature that allows users (especially people with disabilities) to enter keyboard shortcuts or key combinations by typing one key at a time rather than having to press all the keys simultaneously. It keeps the pressed keys active even after when you’re not pressing them. 

While sticky are not directly related to arrows or Excel, however, sometimes if the sticky keys functionality is stuck in a limbo state or if they are glitches with the Sticky Keys, it may lead to arrow keys failing in Excel.

Many users have claimed that toggling the Sticky Keys feature may fix the issue. To enable Stickly and disable it if it is already enabled, follow these steps:

Click the Start menu and select ‘Settings’. 

In the Settings app, go to the ‘Accessibility’ tab on the left panel. Then, scroll down the right pane and click ‘Keyboard’ under the Interaction section.

On the Keyboard settings page, enable the ‘Keyboard shortcut for Sticky Keys’ toggle.

Alternatively, you can also press the Shift key five times continuously (quickly) to enable the sticky keys. From the pop-up dialog box, clickYes’.

After enabling the sticky keys, go back to the Excel program and check whether the arrow keys working or not.

If the Sticky Keys feature is already enabled, try disabling it and see if it fixes the problem.

Disable Excel Add-Ins

A corrupted or malicious add-in from a third-party source could cause a number of issues in your Excel including arrows keys malfunction. Sometimes, even add-ins from a trusted source could cause conflicts. To resolve this, you need to find the add-in that conflicts with the arrow keys and disable it. To disable Excel Add-ins, follow these steps:

Open the Excel program and click the ‘File’ menu on the top. And then, select ‘Options’ from the left sidebar.

In the Word Options dialog box, click on ‘Add-ins’ in the left panel to view the Excel add-in settings.

At the bottom of the right pane, choose ‘Excel Add-ins’ from the Manage drop-down and click the ‘Go’ button.

Now, deselect all the add-ins available and click ‘OK’.

If the arrows keys started working again, you can follow the same steps and re-enable the add-ins in the Add-ins dialog box.

Unfreeze Excel Rows and Columns

If the cells you are working with are inside the group of frozen columns or rows, it may the reason that the arrow keys are not working in the visible area of the sheet. In that case, you can unfreeze the columns and rows to fix the problem.

To unfreeze rows or columns, first, open the spreadsheet where you have frozen cells, then click on the ‘Unfreeze Panes’ option from the ‘Freeze Panes’ menu of the ‘View’ tab.

In case you want to keep the frozen cells, you can use the magnifier to zoom out and use the arrows keys on the cells in the unlocked/unfrozen areas.

Exit Formula Entry mode

If you typed a ‘=’ symbol and then start entering the formula in a cell, Excel will enter into the Formula Entry Mode. If your Excel sheet is in Formula Entry Mode, the arrow keys will only change the selected cell in the formula but they will not control the cursor in the worksheet.

Also, if you are editing a cell in the Formula Bar above, the arrow keys will only allow you to move left and right within the cell.

To make your arrow keys work again, complete the formula and then press Enter or just press Enter and then Ctrl+Z to undo the current formula.

Unprotect the Excel Sheet

Similar to the frozen panes, if your entire worksheet is protected or locked, you won’t be able to select or move between cells as well as use arrow keys in the entire sheet. In such cases, you must unprotect the Excel sheet to use arrow keys on the sheet.

Update the Keyboard Drivers

Another reason your arrow keys are not working is due to outdated keyboard drivers. So keeping your drivers to the latest version may fix the problem. 

To update your keyboard drivers, open the Run command, type devmgmt.msc, and press Enter.

In the Device Manager control panel, expand the ‘Keyboards’ tree. Then, right-click on the ‘HID Keyboard Device’ and select ‘Update driver’.

After that, click the ‘Search automatically for updated driver software’ option and wait for the update to finish.

You can also download the latest drivers from the device manufacturer’s website and install them.

That’s it.