Why did On Screen keyboard magically "fix" a "broken" keyboard that did not work

rberke used Ask the Experts™
I am not looking for a long discussion here, I just want to know if anybody ever seen this kind of weirdness before? As a side benefit, perhaps this question will help somebody in the future.

One week ago I installed my coworker's new Dell Inspiron computer onto our Server 2016 domain. The computer has windows 10 pro and Office 365, and several apps that our business has been using for years.  

Things have worked very well until this morning when her keyboard stopped working. NONE of the keys did anything even though the shift lock and other lights worked normally.

I tried moving the keyboard to a different USB port, then I replaced the keyboard with a similar model. Still nothing.

The mouse still worked so I used it to close everything on the desk top, which did not help. Task manager also did not show anything unusual.

I opened on screen keyboard ( Start Icon > Settings gear > Ease of Access > Keyboard (near bottom) >  turn on top option ("Use the On-Screen Keyboard")

I used the mouse to open MS word, and used OSK to type the letter X into the word document which worked fine.  To my surprise, the physical keyboard started working.

I closed OSK and things have been normal for an hour.

This is a very simple solution which I have added to my bag of tricks.

But, I wonder if anyone has ever seen this weirdness before, and if they know what happened.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

One possible thought:  The physical keyboard has a built-in driver not normally updateable. The On Screen Keyboard will have a driver and it may have updated itself. Windows 10 does lots of behind the scenes updates (Reliability History) and that may be the reason.
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But, I wonder if anyone has ever seen this weirdness before, and if they know what happened.
Or, not related at all and it was just a coincidence ;)
Robert RComputer Service Technician

I think it is just a coincidence that the keyboard all of a sudden started working, when you plug in a device such as a keyboard, mouse or usb memory stick windows has to install drivers for this particular usb port. This takes time, the fact you ran the on-screen keyboard app gave the system time to install the keyboard drivers associated with the new port that the keyboard is plugged into. When ever you plug a keyboard into a new port wait at least a minute for windows to install drivers tied to that keyboard. The more special function keys that your keyboard has the longer it will take for windows to install drivers compared to standard keyboard with no special function keys. Remember the keyboard drivers are always tied to the usb port that keyboard was plugged into. I ran into this issue dozens of times when a customer has plugged a keyboard into their usb port expecting it to automatically detect and they say they cant log into their computer and so they plugged it into another usb port and it still did not work then they try a totally different keyboard that has different function keys and they say it is still not working and then try another port. Then tell me the second keyboard is not working. But the time I walk to their work station and try using the keyboard it is all of a sudden working and they praise me for having the magical touch.  If the only waited a minute or two they would have found that the keyboard is working fine and they are able to log into their computer.
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I can easily believe that the OSK "fix" was entirely coincidental, but I doubt if the coincidence was related to drivers.

The coworker leaves her computer on all the time, so the driver should have been installed a week ago when she got the new computer.

She had been working all morning when the keyboard quit while she was editing a Word document. When I arrived 10 minutes later it still did not work. I immediatly checked for loose wires and found none.

So a "normal" driver installation cannot explain the first failure.

But, the second keyboard was inoperative for a full 10 minutes before I launched OSK. I might have attached a thousand keyboards in 40 years of tech support, and I have never seen a driver take 10 minutes to install.

So clearly something went wrong, and somehow it got fixed, and we will never know more than that. (She continues to use the second keyboard and I have put aside the first keyboard for now.)

Thanks for everyone's feedback. I am closing the problem.

I have seen this hundreds of times.

The dell keyboards do that ALL the time, especially when connected to non-dell machines. PS2 or USB style does not matter. I dont have an answer as to why- reloading or updating drivers never helps- but i generally end up swapping the keyboard out of frustration if a reboot doesnt fix it.

Thay is my biggest complaint about dell components. Well, cd-roms too....
Top Expert 2013

may there's something in event viewer


I also dislike Dell keyboards - mainly because they don't allow ctrl Break.  (No "Break" key.)

That is why most of our office has other kinds of keyboards.

But in this case the failing keyboard was Microsoft.  The 2nd keyboard was a Dell (not a "similar model" as I incorrectly stated earlier.)

I will check the event viewer later, and will report back if I find anything interesting.

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