Fix: Alt-Tab Shortcut Not Working On Windows 10 & 11

Did the Alt + Tab shortcut suddenly stop working? In this guide, we'll explain the possible causes and ways to fix it.

The ability to quickly switch from one focused window to another while working on your computer has numerous benefits, such as efficiency and convenience. Once you get used to working with useful Windows keyboard shortcuts, it’s difficult to go back to navigating with your mouse only.

One of those useful Windows shortcuts is the Alt + Tab key combination used by many users on a daily, but it sometimes stops working for no apparent reason.

If you’ve recently encountered this problem and are now looking to fix it, keep on reading as that’s exactly what we’ll help you solve in the guide below.

Let’s get started.

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Why Is Alt-Tab Not Working?

Alt + Tab Shortcut Key

To answer the question of why alt tab doesn’t work on your computer all of a sudden, we first need to take a look at the possible causes and identify what’s closest to your specific case.

The alt tab not working problem may arise because of the following reasons:

  • The user has gaming mode enabled within one of the programs responsible for controlling their peripherals
  • A change within the system’s registry disabled the shortcut or performed an overwrite with a different function
  • The Windows Explorer function is not working as intended and/or recently crashed while the user was performing a specific action on their system
  • A third-party app/software is controlling the shortcut (and likely others too) and has to be disabled before the user can regain control of the alt-tab feature.

These are the most common causes for the Windows 10 alt tab not working issue, but there are other, rarer situations where the root of the problem is something else.

However, we recommend crossing everything off the list above by applying our fixes before searching further, as these are some of the most common reasons users experience the alt-tab problem on Windows, and you’ll likely solve it quickly using them.

Fix 1: Ensure Gaming Mode Is Not Enabled

Gaming Mode

With gaming becoming so popular, many computer users are already equipped with gaming gear, and that’s perfectly understandable, as these products are simply of higher quality compared to the ones considered office-tier.

But, we also shouldn’t forget that gaming peripherals are meant for exactly that, gaming, therefore come packed with features that ensure the user doesn’t get interrupted while trying to focus on performing better.

If you do own a gaming keyboard and you have the software for it installed on your system, it’s possible that your device automatically goes into gaming mode, therefore locking the most common Windows functions, such as Alt + Tab, Windows + D, the Windows key by itself, and more.

This is to ensure the user doesn’t accidentally press any of these buttons while playing and minimize their game or switch to a different window.

So, the first thing we recommend is navigating into the software responsible for configuring your keyboard, and checking if the gaming mode option is on.

Some keyboards don’t have this option available within the software, but instead, feature physical buttons that allow the users to quickly toggle the gaming mode on or off.

If there’s a dedicated button on your keyboard for gaming mode, you can use that to disable it, and the alt-tab function will work normally again. If there isn’t a dedicated button, it could be the Fn + Windows key combination, which is most common amongst gaming keyboards.

Other known combinations are Fn + F8 (specifically for Logitech keyboards) and Fn + F10 or Fn + U for Razer keyboards, but it’s best to read the product’s user manual as you’ll find the most accurate information in there for your specific device.

Fix 2: Change The Value Of “ForegroundLockTimeout” In The Registry Editor

PC Window

If you can’t alt tab in Windows 10, one of the possible causes can be a misconfiguration in the system’s registry.

To fix this issue, you’ll need to navigate to the Registry Editor section in Windows and modify one specific value. This may sound daunting at first if you’ve never done it before but worry not, as we’ll show you exactly how to make it happen, step-by-step.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Press Windows + S on your keyboard simultaneously. This will open the Windows Search Box function.
  2. In the search box, type in Regedit and press Enter on your keyboard. This will open the Windows Registry Editor panel.
  3. Now, you need to expand the HKEY_CURRENT_USER folder, then expand the Control Panel folder, and then click on the Desktop folder, but don’t expand it as you did to the others.
  4. You’ll now see the contents within the Desktop folder that you selected, so search for ForegroundLockTimeout on the list and double-click on it.
  5. On the right side, you’ll see two options, Hexadecimal and Decimal. Make sure Decimal is selected, and then in the “Value data:” field on the left, delete everything, type in 0,and press the OK at the bottom of the window as shown in the image below.
    Windows ForegroundLockTimeout
  6. Restart your computer as the final step of this process.

Now your problem should be fixed. This method helped many users, and it should work for your specific situation as well.

However, if the problem persists, there’s still one more thing you can try within the Registry Editor.

The following method has a drawback, though, as it makes your alt-tab function look like it did in the previous versions of Windows, which may be a bit outdated. However, it helped users regain access to this much-needed function, so for many, this isn’t a drawback at all.

Here’s what to do if you wish to give this method a try:

  1. Press Windows + S on your keyboard simultaneously. This will open the Windows Search Box function.
  2. In the search box, type in Regedit and press Enter on your keyboard. This will open the Windows Registry Editor panel.
  3. Expand the following folders in this order: HKEY_CURRENT USER SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Explorer by clicking the small arrow on the left side of each one.
    Windows Registry Editor
  4. Check the folder that’s currently open on your screen (the Explorer one) for a value named AltTabSettings. If you can’t find it, you’ll need to manually create it. To do this, click on an empty area under the last item within the Explorer folder, then select New, and then click DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the value AltTabSettings.
  5. Open the AltTabSettings value you just created, then select Hexadecimal on the right side, and in the “Value data:” field, type in 1. Press the OK button at the bottom of the window to confirm the changes.

Now you can exit the Registry Editor window and restart your computer. This should fix the problem with the drawback of having the older-looking alt-tab view.

If this didn’t work, there are still other things you can try.

Fix 3: Restart The Windows Explorer Process

Restart

Another possible fix for the alt+tab not working on Windows 10 issue could be the Windows Explorer process not working as intended.

The quickest way to try and make it work again is by restarting the process through the Windows Task Manager.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Right-click on an empty area anywhere on your taskbar, then choose Task Manager.
  2. Once the Task Manager is open on your screen, navigate to the Processes tab.
  3. On the list of active processes, locate Windows Explorer, then right-click it and select Restart.

This may last a few seconds and some of the items may disappear from your screen temporarily. Don’t panic, this is normal as Windows Explorer is responsible for many functions, and therefore those functions will be briefly gone until the process is up and running again.

Now, the alt-tab issue should no longer trouble you.

Fix 4: Ensure The Issue Is Not Related To Your Keyboard

Keyboard

It may be the last thing we want to hear, but sometimes our rather-expensive computer peripherals stop working, either partly or completely.

To ensure you’re not trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist, we recommend testing the buttons used in the alt-tab combination in software that has a function assigned to them, such as any text-based program on Windows.

If some of the buttons are not working, then that might be the main problem.

Note: Remember to also make sure that gaming mode is not enabled while testing if the buttons on your keyboard are working, as they could simply be disabled and not faulty.  

Conclusion

If your alt tab stopped working on Windows, the points listed in the guide above should successfully guide you toward the possible causes, and help you solve the problem quickly and efficiently.

This specific Windows feature is used daily by many users, and we hope you were able to regain access to it using the tips we provided.  

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Bojan Veselinovikj
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Bojan is a video-game developer and a tech enthusiast. Combining these two passions allow him to keep you informed on everything that's new in this fast-paced digital world.