Learn To Navigate Windows Without A Mouse, Keyboard Or Screen

Christian Cawley 12-11-2014

Your mouse has failed, and banging it on your desk won’t help, any more than thumping your keyboard might when that fails. Similarly, don’t bang the side of your monitor, as that is unlikely to repair it.


Without the ability to see what you’re doing or interact with your computer, the first thing you will need to do is consider how you’re going to save your work. Why?

Well, in the moments that follow, some unplugging may be required. Something might get knocked and unplugged in error; besides, why wouldn’t you want to save your work?

Man Biting Keyboard

Windows computers can suffer from issues with the mouse, keyboard, touchscreen display, monitors failing and laptop touchpads not responding. We’re going to show you how to work around these issues, with steps outlining how to save your work, exit programs and shut down your computer while you prepare alternative methods to interact.

Each of the following explanations assumes that the interface device has stopped working while the computer is running, and provides steps for overcoming this with an alternative controller.


No Mouse Or Touchpad Input? Use The Keyboard

Over the years, computer use has morphed from a keyboard-centric task to one that relies on the mouse or touchpad Discover The Hidden Features Of Your Touchpad [Windows] With the rise of laptops and netbooks, the touchpad has become a key input device. Yet, in the Windows environment, working with the touchpad has been a drag more than a delight. While the hardware... Read More much of the time. As such, we tend to engage with our computers with a point and a click when often a keyboard shortcut can be quicker.


Such shortcuts are certainly of vital use when it comes to dealing with a mouse- or touchpad-free scenario.

If your mouse or touchpad has stopped working, you may want to save your work before proceeding. In most cases, this is achieved by holding CTRL+S. Should this not work, or you want to access other options from the app menus, tap Alt and use the arrow keys to navigate through each menu. On older applications, Alt + [the first letter of the desired menu] should open that list of options. Additionally, in Office 2013/365 you can use Alt and then the displayed numbers and letters to use the menus and functions that are shown.


On the Windows desktop (which you can reach with WIN+D) you’ll find that using the arrow keys will help you move around your icons, while Tab can be used to switch focus between icons, the taskbar and any already open apps. Holding the Windows key and a number 1-0 will switch to the open application that corresponds with the number. It will also open the corresponding application that is pinned to the taskbar.

These are really just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re not already up-to-speed with keyboard shortcuts, see our guide to every Windows 8 keyboard shortcut Every Windows 8 Shortcut - Gestures, Desktop, Command Line Windows 8 is all about shortcuts. People with touch-enabled PCs use touch gestures, users without touch devices must learn the mouse shortcuts, power users use keyboard shortcuts on the desktop and novel command-line shortcuts, and... Read More (which also includes some gestures).

No Keyboard For Windows? How To Get Typing, Fast

If your keyboard fails, you might think that you’re getting off easy… until it comes to having to enter text.

Mouse works, but no keyboard. What do you do?



On a tablet or touch-enabled laptop, it’s simply a case of clicking the keyboard icon in the system tray, but with other devices, you’ll need to launch the on-screen keyboard. This is easily done by pressing WIN+U if your keyboard is working, but for mouse-only circumstances, find your way to Settings > Ease of Access > Ease of Access Center > Start On-Screen Keyboard.

From here, you can begin clicking the letters and keyboard combinations you need.



To log into a computer with no keyboard connected or working in Windows 8 and 8.1, click the Ease of Access icon in the lower-left corner and select On-Screen Keyboard. You can then use this virtual keyboard to input your username and password.

A faulty keyboard is usually either due to drivers or damaged hardware. Try a different keyboard, or plug it into a different USB port. You may also spend some time investigating whether the USB port is in fact dead USB Ports Not Working? Here's How to Diagnose and Fix It USB ports not working? This article explains how to quickly identify the problem and fix it as fast as possible. Read More .

In the rare circumstances that you’re using a PS/2 keyboard, shutdown your PC, then reconnect the device before restarting.

Lights Gone Out? Navigating Windows With No Display

Should your monitor switch off for no apparent reason, things can get hairy. While a failed keyboard or mouse will leave you with a desktop that you can see and be able to confirm that your work is saved (for instance you should really have autosave in use for office documents) having no window on Windows will leave you virtually blind.


Coping with this really isn’t as difficult as you might think.

As long as the monitor doesn’t suddenly switch back on when you wiggle your mouse or tap your keyboard a few times (there’s a chance it might have switched off due to inactivity thanks to your power settings Save Energy & Extend Your Battery Life With Custom Windows Power Plans Read More ), you will need to take the following steps. Also, consider whether the display has been properly calibrated Monitor Calibration Made Easy With These 5 Online Tools You should calibrate your monitor regularly so your screen displays colors correctly. These are the best sites for monitor calibration. Read More before proceeding.

The first thing to consider is: did you save your work? While Microsoft Office and other suites have autorecovery tools, it’s best not to rely on these unless you really have to. As long as the app you were using was the active window and you haven’t clicked any mouse buttons, press CTRL+S on your keyboard to save (there is a chance that the file hasn’t yet been saved, in which case you may be asked to enter a file name under normal circumstances. If this is likely, follow CTRL+S with Enter).

Your computer should now be ready to restart, best achieved by pressing the hardware reset button on your tower. For laptops, hold the power button.

With your computer rebooted, hopefully the monitor should power on and display your login screen. If not, it’s time to use a different monitor. You might consider connecting to your HDMI TV, perhaps, until a new monitor is available.

Laptop users can also connect their device to an external monitor, using F8 to detect and connect.

Windows 8 Tablets: Well, Use Your Finger!

Desktop and laptop owners running Windows 8 can use the solutions above to regain control of their devices, at least until driver reinstallation or replacement devices can be connected.

For tablet owners, the situation is a little different.

Text entry and pointing can both be achieved with just a finger, and as long as the hardware detecting touch interaction isn’t damaged, you should be able to find the solution you need.

For instance, if you’re using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with your Windows 8 tablet and they disconnect for some reason, switch them off and on, and check the battery strength of each device.


You should also open the Settings > Change PC Settings > PC and Devices > Bluetooth screen to ensure that Bluetooth is active. I’ve used the Acer Iconia W700 Acer Iconia W7 Windows 8 Tablet PC Review and Giveaway Slimline, sleek, sexy and silver - but you can’t have everything. The Acer Iconia W7 is a Windows 8 tablet priced between $799 and $999 (depending on the chosen model) that looks as though it... Read More and Surface Pro (first generation) and found that Bluetooth can crash more often than it might in Windows 7, and while it usually sorts itself out, you’ll find that if the Bluetooth drivers have crashed the Bluetooth entry doesn’t appear in the menu.

In this situation, you’ll need to restart the device.

For tablets with no visible display, use a suitable HDMI cable or VGA adaptor to see if there is any output to an external monitor. Devices with display issues will probably need repairing or replacing by the manufacturer.

Using A Windows Laptop or Tablet? Plug Something In!

Problems with your laptop keyboard or touchpad, or your tablet keyboard (probably a Bluetooth device, unless your tablet is a hybrid) or mouse are frustrating, but initial solutions are obvious – you need a USB keyboard and mouse.



This doesn’t have to be a long-term fix; you might just use the devices to sort out just what you need to do to fix the issue that is causing your original interface peripherals to fail.

After all, you can’t easily repair and reinstall Windows devices and their drivers without a keyboard and mouse, can you?

Don’t Let A Broken Peripheral Stop You Using Windows

Long term use of your Windows computer will not be possible without the usual trio of display, keyboard and mouse. The tips above are provided to help you get your work saved and your computer safely shutdown so that you can effect repairs, which may range from trying the broken keyboard or mouse in a different USB port to spending money on brand new hardware.

Do you have any alternative suggestions for solutions? Share your tech support wisdom How to Test Your PC for Failing Hardware: Tips and Tools to Know We show you computer hardware and PC diagnostic tests to help you scan your system and spot failing hardware before it's too late. Read More in the comments below.

Image Credit: Broken Computer Mouse Via Shutterstock, Broken Computer Keyboard Via Shutterstock, Man Biting KeyboardBroken Computer Mouse on White Background, business woman holding a broken keyboard, Old computer monitors, USB cable connected into a laptop all via Shutterstock

Related topics: Computer Monitor, Computer Mouse Tips, Keyboard.

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  1. Dwayne
    May 13, 2016 at 2:18 am

    Windows 10 update last night an now mouse and keyboard no longer work. Can't get into my computer

  2. mary lee
    March 21, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    can someone tell me how to copy my files to a thumbdrive. the monitor on my windows 7 laptop got damaged at the (cut) wiring and is absolutely white having no connection to the motherboard.

    i don't know keyboarding but i can follow directions for dummies. i already bought a new laptop and the old computer is working okay except for the monitor.

    so, my question to i keyboard those instructions to the old laptop, so i can copy downloads, pictures, and videos to a flashdrive using only the keyboard.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 21, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      The only way to do this would be to first connect a monitor. There's no way to talk you through it really.

  3. abde
    March 13, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    i cant type my password on window 7 i see it when use back door to reset my password and it works internally. but after that when i come to remove password using cmd it turnout that the keyboard is crumbled, i mean external key and what it enter is different.
    what can i do ??? please help me i am locked out of my computer

    • Christian Cawley
      March 13, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      I'm not totally sure what you can do, as some of what you describe is a little tough to follow "keyboard is crumbled" for instance.

      Have you tried a standard recovery process?

  4. Restin Pees
    May 23, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Ounce of prevention: I love remote desktop in Windows, but remember: by default it is set up to NOT work. Then there's all the questions of setting up the appropriate security and integrating your Android with Windows security. IMHO VNC is just faster, lighter and easier to use. I generally use RDP only for a Windows to Windows connection supporting clients, friends and family.

    In the past I have been excited by LogMeIn, TeamViewer and Splashtop, but all of these started putting emails in my inbox asking for money if I wanted to take advantage of their advanced features. I remember when the Splashtop catalog only included two APKs. Now a search on Google Play returns 10 flavors.

    Still, if you're going to be doing some prolonged, intense, high bandwidth screen sharing I couldn't find anything that beat Splashtop. It was the first way I streamed audio/SDvideo from my desktop to my phone/tablet in the early days (and avoided the "Premium" fees for Spotify, MOG and others who provided free desktop apps, but wanted a subscription to use their portable apps.

    If you want to keep it simple RealVNC will run on just about everything you have, but since my Windows computers are also my workstations I install TightVNC . It seems to be lighter and it has never interfered with anything else fighting for holes in the firewall. It is part of my standard install of any Windows computer. It seems to know how to stay out of the way and avoid CPU cycles. When I need it I get reliable connections, I don't have to fight prolonged battles with screen sizing, refresh, input devices and I can do file transfers without upgrading to a premium version and it is quick and intuitive. The client runs wonderfully on my 8 year old laptop where RDP is impossible.

    I always set it up with security, but not heavy security. Like many things, if you don't define basic security it can be problematic when it subsequently asks for a user code or password. And I configure it to autostart. Of course, OS X includes a free VNC server, but it too must be configured to autostart.

    But I guess the real point in this article was seeing what wasn't on the screen while navigating without your mouse and typing without your keyboard. Like many, I just never could find time to learn the keyboard shortcuts. But, over time, I had to pick up a few to breeze through work more efficiently. Then one day, I bit the bullet and studied the full set of KB shortcuts. This was probably more in fear that I wouldn't pass my MS certification without knowing them, but I had once mastered the gnarled fingerings of WordPerfect and Windows shortcuts were simple, few and intuitive to the old function key template. People are fascinated when they see your work for extended periods without touching the mouse...and it is much, much faster!

    • Christian Cawley
      May 31, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Excellent comment, Restin, thanks for sharing. Very rare to see such a long comment that actually makes sense :)

  5. Kieran
    November 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    The title is slightly misleading. I read "Learn To Navigate Windows Without A Mouse, Keyboard Or Screen" and I thought you were explaining how to navigate without all three at the same time (which would be fairly impressive). Maybe it should be "Learn To Navigate Windows Without A Mouse, or Without a Keyboard, or Without a Screen" :-P

    • Luc
      November 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      I was wondering the same thing - first impression: "Mission Impossible"

    • Christian Cawley
      November 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      As Harizone points out above - not "Mission Impossible"...

    • Kieran
      November 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      That's assuming you've installed teamviewer etc *before* the mouse/keyboard/screen packed it in though

  6. Harizone
    November 13, 2014 at 2:34 am

    A remote session from any other device(computer tablets or smartphone) can help. For instance, you may install and activate teamviewer on the laptop and access it remotely when mouse and keyboard dont work :)

    • Christian Cawley
      November 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Good suggestion, Harizone. I worked through this from the POV of a second line IT support tech who has been sent to resolve such an issue because of the lack of connectivity (rather than a desk based technician being able to fix remotely).

      But you're absolutely right, in many cases, a remote session is a great solution!