How to Disable Keyboard on Macbooks

In the past disabling your Mac’s keyboard was fairly simple but with Big Sur, the latest macOS, it is no longer that easy. Many websites indicate that using the Control + F1 key sequence will do the job but after some extensive research, I have found that this is not the case.

If you’re looking for an easy way to do this, your best option is to find a good keyboard utility app that will do this for you.

Hi, my name is Eric. I have years of experience with both hardware and software. Just like most of you, I am still learning new features and shortcuts all the time. Whenever I get a chance to learn something new, I enjoy passing it on to others who may be interested.

In this article, I’m going to explain why the old methods of disabling your keyboard do not work. We will also have some discussion of the Control+F1 key combination and what I have discovered that it really does. 

Then we will talk about how you can disable your keyboard and why anyone would need to do this in the first place. 

I have found that this is a source of frustration for many, so keep reading along if you would like to know more.

Past Methods

With previous versions of macOS, the best way to disable your keyboard was to enable a setting called Mouse Keys. You could simply go to System Preferences, then Universal Access, click on the Mouse and Trackpad tab and then select the On option for Mouse Keys.

Mouse Keys Setting in Older Versions of macOS.

There were variations of this method such as setting up the Option key so that you could press it 5 times to enable the Mouse Keys as well as disabling the Trackpad. This may sound a bit strange but it did work well. 

By enabling the Mouse Keys, it made certain keys available to move the mouse pointer around the screen while disabling the rest of the keyboard. So the overall effect was to keep any keys from being pressed and entering characters. 

Moving the mouse pointer around was about the only possible ill effect and that doesn’t cause any problems for most of the cases in which a person would want the keys disabled. It was then easy to turn the keyboard back on using the option key.

With macOS Big Sur, the Mouse Key setting is still available, but it no longer disables the rest of the keyboard. Keys that are not used to move the mouse around, still function as normal. So, this method is no longer a solution but it can be used to disable your Mouse Trackpad.

Mouse Keys Setting in Big Sur.

I have also seen some methods in which you can disable it from the command line. You simply type a command in a Terminal window. I have gotten this to work on the previous versions of macOS but I tried this on my new Mac and it did not work.

The Control+F1 Method

If you do an internet search on how to disable your keyboard, you get a number of results that indicate you can do this by simply pressing the Control and F1 keys at the same time. You will also see many responses from people saying that this does not work. 

After messing around with my settings for a good period of time, I was not able to get this to work either and from what I have seen, it will not work. My conclusion is that the setting’s text is poorly worded and in fact is not intended to completely disable the keyboard.

You can take a look at the setting below which is found under User Preferences, then Keyboard and Shortcuts. With the setting selected as shown below, pressing the Control+F1 keys does not disable my keyboard.

Keyboard shortcut settings.

What I did find, is that pressing the Control+F1 keys disables all of the other Function key settings. See the image below.

Keys Are Disabled After Pressing ^F1.

So, using the Control+F1 does not produce the results I was looking for. I’m not sure if this worked on previous macOS versions, but as far as I can tell it does not disable the entire keyboard, only the Function keys.

How Can I Disable My Keyboard?

Since most of the possible methods of disabling the keyboard seem to no longer work, the next best thing is to find a third-party application that can do this. There are some free ones available in the App Store and elsewhere.

Karabiner-Elements is one that comes up often when searching. It is a free open-source app that allows you to make all kinds of modifications to your keyboard. This is great but I downloaded it, installed and was never able to figure out how to disable the keyboard with it.

I’m sure there is some way to use it to do this but it may just take a little more effort. On the other hand, KeyboardLocker is an app that is solely dedicated to locking your keyboard. I was able to get this one to work fairly easily and it does lock your keyboard but it’s a little quirky.

I found that it will lock the keyboard for whatever window I have open, but if I open another window or app, the keyboard will work for that new window and remain locked for the original. Not a big deal as long as you leave the window open once you want the keyboard locked.

There’s also one called Keyboard Clean and others which I have not yet had a chance to try and they may possibly perform better. I will be going back to figure out how to use Karabiner as well as some of these others to find out how they work.

Why Would I Need to Disable My Keyboard?

If you came to this page in search of a way to disable your keyboard, then you probably have a very good reason for it. If you came across this article for some other reason, you may be wondering why anyone would need to do this.

There are many different reasons that someone might have. One of the most common is that you want to use an external keyboard. While you can have both active at the same time, it creates the possibility that you might hit the built-in keys by mistake.

There may also be times when you want to prevent children or pets from accidentally pressing keys. Inadvertently pressing keys can interfere with whatever you are working on and possibly cause data loss or corruption.

Another good reason to disable them is if your keyboard is broken, or damaged from a spill. This can cause it to malfunction and prevent you from using your Macbook. Disabling the keyboard may resolve the issue until you can connect an external one.

Final Words

No matter what your reason for disabling your keyboard may be, it is something that you may need to do periodically. Although it is now a little tougher to do this, we hope that this article has helped you to understand why and know that you may need to use a good application to do this.

Please let us know if you have found better ways to do this. We would love to have your input.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • DeusExMachina

    Full Keyboard Access was never designed to do this, nor would that even make any sense. Full Keyboard Access is in Accessibility because it is designed for people with limited ability to control a mouse or trackpad to use their keyboards to control GUI interface elements, using the Tab and other keys.

    • Eric

      Hi DuesExMachina,

      Thank you for the comments, I appreciate the feedback. I agree with the reason that this is in Accessibility. The intent here was to explore the different methods out there that people have said would work to disable the keyboard. It was not really concerned with whether that was the original intent or design of the functionality or not. For me, this method did not work as others out there have said that it would and it looks like the best route for doing this is to use a third-party application. Some of the apps I have tried did work and produced the results I was looking for. Thanks again for the feedback, it was great to hear from you.

  • Claws

    Karabiner-Elements caused very strange input mappings for my Goldtouch ergo keyboard. Most punctuation and symbols were dramatically wrong at first. I’d originally planned to come up with complex mappings to fix each one but then tried two things. I’m not sure which fixed it but it seems to be consistently fixed.
     > System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard > “Use F1, F2, etc….”
     > System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources > Show Input menu in menu bar

    With both settings on, the external keyboard now functioned perfectly. The strangest part is that the fix seems to persist even when the settings are unchecked and across reboots.

    Now, my cat can sit on the warm laptop all day. 🙂

  • Dio Gratia

    I gave Karabiner-Elements 14.4.0 a try and had a bit of difficulty initially on MacOS 12.4.2. Once I got the Input Monitoring squared away (Hint use the allow button to give the Application all it wants in System Preferences => Security & Privacy, the author is terribly good at scripts) I could disable the internal keyboard (Macbook M1 2020) using an external Apple keyboard (A1242 USB) leaving the Touch ID and Trackpad functional with a single checkbox under => Karabiner-Elements Preferences => Devices => Advanced.

    The reason for disabling the internal keyboard is key damage that also prevents Shutdown from being persistent.

    I may try the kextunload method show in Nick’s linked Stack Exchange SuperUser link to see if I can get powerdown to stick (after carefully documenting so I can get a replacement keyboard to work).

    • Eric

      Thanks for the great information. I appreciate the tips and feedback and am glad that this is working for you.

  • Mike Draught

    I place my external keyboard over top of my MacBook built-in keyboard to enable “industrial strength” typing. Unfortunately, the external keyboard tends to shift around and its legs tend to touch parts of the built-in kb, creating some unwanted results. I’d like to put the build-in kb to sleep EXCEPT for its power/touchID key [far right top row]. Do you see any solution? Even a hard, flat partial cover would probably work, but I can’t find one that suits.

    • Eric Winkler

      Hi Mike,

      Sounds like your worry is not from other things touching the keyboard and creating issues, but just the external keyboard being on top and it may inadvertently hit the keys or even the touchpad.

      It’s possible you may not really need to disable the keyboard but you could put something on each side of the built-in keyboard that is just a bit thicker than the laptop and then lay the external keyboard across so that it is just above the built-in keyboard but not touching it. You could try using some books, DVD cases, or something like that of equal thickness.

      See my example here:

      • Mike Draught

        My son just built an ingenious, 4-legged, rectangular stand out of wood with two long and two short legs. the bottom tips of the legs are rubberized to prevent slippage. It sits just above the laptop’s built-in keyboard and rests on the desk surface, Works great and retains access to the power/fingerprint button.

  • Ary

    I have an external keyboard and I wanted to find a way to turn off my computer keyboard so I could use my external keyboard. Control F1 worked perfectly for me! I wanted to pass this along in case anyone else was frustrated like me lol. Thanks for the help!

    • Jerry Romero

      Thanks for sharing this great tip!

    • Jerry Romero

      Thanks for sharing, Nick. Will give it a try and see how it works.