Help! My keyboard is mapping itself!

Twice this week my keyboard has begun shifting characters.
Here’s what I typed in Word and saved when it last happened:

there’s s60eth5ng wr6ng w5th the5 2eyb6ard

I was typing an email message in AOL when it started, but it continued when I shifted to Word. Both times I shut down and rebooted and everything is OK.

Any clue?

Everything’s OK now? Or it’s still doing it but then it’s OK when you reboot? And then it starts doing it again? We need more info.

Try another keyboard (borrow one). Does it still do it?

Otherwise, I’d say you’re looking at a clear case of Alien Coffee Keyboard Syndrome. Aliens from outer space come into your home and pour coffee (white, 2 sugars) all over your keyboard so as to disrupt its normal Earthling functions. Nobody knows why they do this. Alien jollies, I guess.

Buy a new keyboard.

Thanks, DDG. In times of great stress I’ve often coveted walking around in those duckbill slippers…

Guess I forgot to mention an important feature - it’s a Dell laptop and not quite so easy to switch keyboards!

Assuming your laptop has a PS/2 port, and most all of them do, you might try using another keyboard to rule out the controller in the chipset. That (mainboard replacement) would probably be a far more expensive fix than a keyboard replacement. IIRC, most laptop keyboards run $75-100, plus labor, which should be about 1 hour.

If your laptop has USB a port, a USB keyboard might also solve your problem temporarily.

Unfortunately, an intermittent problem like you describe will not be easy to diagnose.

Hmmm: i becomes 5, o becomes 6, k becomes 2, m becomes 0. I bet if you typed mjkluio it would come out 0123456. This means your keyboard is in a funny “fake 10-key” mode.

This is common on laptops or compact keyboards that save space by leaving the number pad off. I have one here, for example, which has a “fn” key, and if I hit fn-numlock, the keyboard flops over into a mode just like the one you describe.

So look for some key combination which would enable that. It’s usually hard to find on laptops, because they try to get cute and make an “intuitive” icon for “whack out my keyboard” which is impossible to comprehend. For example, I think the icon for this on an old toshiba laptop I had was nine dots arranged in a square.

That’s gotta be it.

My keyboard doesn’t have a 10-key pad, so if I hit “Num Lock” mine does the same thing.

Alternatively, it could be a virus. Some virii (viruses? Whatever.) produce similar symptoms (make you type in l33t speak, etc.).

But it’s probably the pseudo-numlock problem.