Windows Custom Shortcut Keys Not Working

Written by Nilpo in Windows XP | 16 Comments

On any shortcut, if you right-click, you can set the properties for a shortcut key. Type Shift+Alt+anyletter and assign that shortcut. But when you type Shift+Alt+thatkey it does nothing. What am I missing?– Greg N.

Greg, it sounds like you created your shortcut in the wrong place. Shortcut keys can only be assigned to shortcuts that exist on your desktop.

Furthermore, they will quit working if you move the shortcut from the desktop after creating them.

You should also note that creating a shortcut key combination before moving a shortcut to the desktop will also result in failure.

Finally, if you create an invalid shortcut key combination, be sure to clear it before attempting to recreate it correctly.

If you still have problems, it could be a problem with your Start menu settings.

  1. Right-click your Start menu and choose Properties… to open the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box.
  2. On the Start Menu tab, be sure that the Start menu radio button is selected and then click the Customize… button to open the Customize Start Menu dialog.
  3. At the bottom of the Advanced tab, be sure that the List my most recently opened documents option is enabled.

The same issue can arise if you have set the Remove Frequently-Used Programs List from Start Menu Policy Setting.

This occurs as the result of a code dependency between shortcut keys and the Start menu MRUs. This is a known issue and a support fix was included in Service Pack 2. Be sure that you have the latest service packs installed to avoid this problem.


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  • i’ve always wondered why this is. there should have been a LOT MORE documentation and help information regarding shortcuts. MS fails yet again.

  • That’s pretty typical of Microsoft. They’ve got their hands in so many different areas that they never have enough time to thoroughly document everything.

    Not to worry though. That’s why there’s

  • Tried all that you have said Greg. Have SP3 installed. Still not able to get those shortcut keys working! Help!

  • Hi Vj,

    Are you having trouble with custom shortcut keys not working or the built-in Windows shortcuts? Can you provide an example?


  • If you receive other links related to this could you post them for me?

  • I usually do not comment on blog posts but I found this quite interesting, so here goes. Thanks! Regards, P.

  • There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.

  • u guys ever heard of the PATH environment variable…. any shortcut in mine works fine with the key combination

    right click my computer
    environment vars
    add whatever you need

  • Adding a shortcut’s working path to the PATH environmental variable has no effect on its shortcut key. It only allows you to execute a program on the command line without typing the full path. And might I add, at the expense of system resources. Windows will scan every path in the PATH variable before attempting to launch any program from the command line. This adds to the launch time considerably.

  • Your posts are the best! Always helpful!

  • Thanks, Tim. I appreciate your kind words.

  • Up-to-the-minute word, Windows 8 should be released in two years. One of Microsofts subsidiaries leaked the anticipated release date over the last few days. Lets trust it observes the Windows 7 development procedure.We do not want to have another Vista fiasco

  • Great comment, helped me even in 2011 🙂

  • My build-in shortcut keys are not working…Its saying my shortcut keys have been move or deleted..How is that and what do I do to get it back working??


  • Thank you so much.

    For me this to ‘clear the current shortcut key before reassigning again’ worked! Clear it no “none”, press “OK”, then assign a key again.

    I have always had the “Store & display recently opened programs in start menu”, Unchecked & “number of recent programs to display” set to zero, but my shortcut keys have always worked, both from desktop & start menu. Right now they are on the same settings & shortcut keys start working again. Just cleared & recreated the key!

    Thank you very much!

  • Neda,

    I’m glad you found this post useful. Thanks for stopping by!


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