Windows Keyboard Equivalents for the Mac’s Special Keys

Both newcomers and seasoned pros use Windows keyboards on Macs. It is not a reason to throw away a perfectly functional keyboard because you have switched platforms. Some people prefer the way the keys feel to those provided by Apple. A Mac will work with any Bluetooth-based or wired USB keyboard.

Apple sells the Mac Mini even without a keyboard and mouse. The only problem with using non-Apple keyboards is the difficulty of finding keyboard alternatives.

Keyboard differences between Windows and Mac

There are at least five keys that have names or symbols different on a Windows keyboard from those on a Mac keyboard. This can make it more difficult to follow Mac-related instructions. A software manual might tell you to hold the command key ( ) while using Windows. It’s still there, it just looks different.

These are the most frequently used special keys on a Mac, as well as their equivalents on Windows.

These can be used to control many Mac functions, including Mac OS X startup shortcuts.

A helpful tip for Mac new users is to be able to identify which key symbols correspond with which keys on your keyboard. For those who are not familiar with the Mac’s menus, and for those who have been using it for a while, the symbols can seem a little confusing.

The Command and Option Key Swap

Windows and Mac keyboards have slightly different names. They also swap the positions for two commonly-used modifier keys, the Command and Option keys.

If you are a long-time Mac user who is transitioning to Windows, the Windows key (which is equivalent to the Mac’s Command key) may be in the same physical place as the Option key. The Alt key on the Windows keyboard is the place you would expect to find Mac’s Command key. You may have trouble remembering the key locations if you are used to using modifier keys on your old Mac keyboard.

How to Reassign Key Locations in a Mac

Instead of learning key locations again, you can use System Preferences’ Keyboard pane to assign modifier keys.

  1. Click the icon to launch System Preferences or click the Apple menu at the left side menu bar, then select System Preferences.


  2. Select the Keyboard preference panel in the System Preferences window.

  3. Click on the ModifierKeys button.

  4. To select the action that you want the modifier keys perform, use the pop-up menu located next to the Options and Command keys. You will need the Option key (the Alt key in a Windows keyboard), to execute the Command action and the Command key to perform the Option act.

    If this seems a little confusing, don’t worry. It will be easier to understand when you have the drop-down panel in front of your eyes. To restore everything to its original state, click on the Restore defaults button.

  5. After making your changes, click the OK icon. Close System Preferences.

You shouldn’t have any trouble using any Windows keyboard on your Mac once you have the modifier keys remapped.

How to use a Mac Magic Keyboard with a Windows PC

Keyboard Shortcuts

The Mac’s menu system uses notation to indicate when a keyboard shortcut is available for people who are new to the Mac, but are already proficient in using them.

If there is a keyboard shortcut for a menu item you will see the shortcut next to the item using the following notation

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