Windows Key

What Does Windows Key Mean?

The Windows key is a keyboard key labeled with the Microsoft Windows logo. It was introduced on the Microsoft Natural keyboard before Windows 95 OS was released then quickly became a standard for PC keyboards and other IBM-compatible keyboards that run on the Windows operating system. Normally the key is located on the lower left side in between the ctrl and alt keys, but this may differ depending on the model and manufacturer of the keyboard. Pressing the key opens operating system’s start menu, if it has one present. This key can also invoke other functions in combination with other keys.


The Windows key can also be utilized in UNIX and Unix-like operating systems. It is often referred to as the Meta key or Super key. However it may be necessary to configure its functionality after installation.

The Windows key is also known as the start key or winkey.

Techopedia Explains Windows Key

The Windows key in combination with other keys allows the user to perform common tasks quickly. The following lists some of the commonly used combinations per Windows version:

Windows 95:

  • Win + Tab — Cycles through taskbar buttons
  • Win + F1 — Windows Help
  • Win + U — Utility Manager
  • Win + F — Find files and folders
  • Win + M — Minimizes all windows
  • Win + Shift + M — Restores windows that were minimized with Win + M
  • Win + D — Shows the desktop or restores hidden programs when pressed twice
  • Win + E — Opens Windows Explorer

Windows XP:

  • Win + L — Locks the desktop
  • Win + Ctrl + Alt + Enter — Toggles full screen in Internet Explorer. Replaced by F11

Windows XP Media Center Edition:

  • Win + Alt + Enter — Starts the Windows Media Center

Windows Vista:

  • Win + Tab — Switches active applications using Aero Flip 3D
  • Win + 1 through Win + 9, Win+0 — Starts the corresponding Quick Launch Bar program

Windows 7:

  • Win + P — Toggles between the devices that receive video card’s output
  • Win + Space bar — Activates Aero Peek (reassigned in Windows 8)
  • Win + Esc — Exits zoom
  • Win + Home — Minimizes or restores all windows other than the active window, otherwise minimizes the active window
  • Win + T — Iterates through items on the taskbar

Windows 8

  • Win + X — Opens the Quick Links menu and allows access to several frequently used features of Windows. With Windows 8.1 update, it incorporated shortcut to shutdown or restart computer.
  • Win + Z — Activates the command bar for Metro-style applications
  • Win + Tab — Calls the applications switcher and shifts between Metro-style applications
  • Win + PrtScr or Win + Volume up — Saves a screenshot in the “Screenshots” folder located in the “Pictures” library

Windows 8.1

  • Win + U — Activates the Ease of Access Center control panel applet
  • Win + S — Activates the Search Everywhere charm, opening a sidebar
  • Win + O — Locks device orientation
  • Win + V — Cycles through notifications

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…