Alt Gr Key Doesn’t Work on Windows 7 Anymore — A Solution

A few days ago on my German keyboard the Alt Gr key didn’t work anymore. When I tried to enter special characters such as ~, @ and | I used the typical German key combinations [Alt Gr] + [+], [Alt Gr] + [q] and [Alt Gr] + [<]. I was supprised that Windows 7 returned me +, q and < as I did not pressed Alt Gr at all. I was shocked because how should I live with a system that cannot provide @ for email addresses or | for piping in SSH sessions to Unix and Linux any more?

I was searching the Internet for possible solutions. There were many people with German, Swiss and French keyboards who encountered the same problem. There were several discussions but none provided a solution to my problem. Alt Gr still remained to be dead on my keyboard.

After a while of testing. The good old solution on a Windows system seemed to solve my problem: Reboot. When my PC came up again my beloved Alt Gr worked again and provided the essential characters ~, @ and |. I was angry about Windows but happy that everything worked again.

Yesterday the problem suddenly occured again. What did I change? What was the event that trigged that malfunction?

I quitted application by application and — surprise (!!) — after quitting VirtualBox my Alt Gr key worked again! I appologize to Windows 7. It didn’t cause the problem. I started playing with my VirtualBox and finally figured out when the Alt Gr key stopped working.

Reason and Solution

With installed Virtual Box Guest Additions your virtual machine will loose capture of your mouse pointer if  you move the mouse out of your VirtualBox. You won’t need to press the host key to return to your host operting system (Windows 7). A very comfortable feature.

I figured out that this comfort is the reason for my problem. Whenever VirtualBox captured mouse and keyboard the Alt Gr key of Windows 7 did not work any more. If I released mouse and keyboard explicitly by pressing VirtualBox’s hostkey the Alt Gr key of Windows 7 worked as expected. So it is not only enough to move the mouse pointer out of the virtual machine but to release the capture explicitly by pressing the hostkey.

[Update 2013/04/26] This problem shall be fixed in future 4.2.x and later releases of VirtualBox. The current release 4.2.12 is still affected by this bug. The next one shouldn’t be any more. See VirtualBox bug #2613. Thanks to Michael Thayer (Oracle) for this information.

[Update 2014/04/16] Situation has become much more better since release of 4.2.12. Unfortunately the problem is not fixed at all. From time to time I encounter this problem with Alt Gr key again. Currently I use VirtualBox 4.3.10. Meanwhile the bug #2613 was reopened.

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45 Responses to Alt Gr Key Doesn’t Work on Windows 7 Anymore — A Solution

  1. Christian says:


  2. So many thanks, you saved my marriage!

    Incidentally, that means I can’t type “Alt Gr” combinations within a VirtualBox terminal session…

    • Nice to hear that my blog post was useful. 🙂

      Inside the VirtualBox I had no problems using “Alt Gr” combinations. Outside my VirtualBox — on my Windows 7 host system — I had problems with my “Alt Gr” key. As soon as I released mouse and keyboard from my VirtualBox guest my “Alt Gr” combinations worked again as usual on my Windows 7 host.

  3. Darko Guštak says:

    Thank you very much for this revelation. Occasionally, I woud have the same problem. I have noticed that sometimes it misteriously goes away by itself after a while. Now I understand that it happens after I close the virtual PC. Interesting detail: it takes a few seconds after closing it to regain Alt Gr capability.

  4. Chalda says:

    Thank you very much!

  5. Tony says:

    Thank you so much!
    It wasn’t virtualbox for me but my gpu monitor

  6. This should now be fixed for any future 4.2 series or later releases (4.2.12 does not contain the fix). See VirtualBox bug 2613[1].


  7. Kjetil S. says:

    Seems to be a problem sometimes with VMware Player also. Pressing Ctrl-Alt made AltGr work again in the host system (Win7). I closed VMwarePlayer first, but not sure if that was necessary.

  8. Pat says:

    Had the same problem on Windows 8.
    After closing one by one the applications, it appeared that it was due to Remote desktop connections. After closing them all it worked again.
    Making new connections seem to not reproduce the problem immediately, fingers crossed.

  9. John says:

    thanks a lot! In my case VisionApp Remote Desktop had an RDP session active, as long as that one was active, Alt Gr did not work!

  10. JF says:

    The problem also occurs with Hyper-V console on 2008 R2. Thank you.

  11. none says:

    Thanks for the hint.
    The same is true for Virtual-PC (XP-Mode). I just hit the AltGr key once while having the focus on Virtual-PC and then AltGr worked in W7 again.

  12. Baldo says:

    I got same problem, I could not type @ (alt-gr + V). So after check everything I found that software “Evernote” made problems. Then I switch off Options “key shortcuts” and solve problem.
    Try to find which software made your problems.
    Good luck

  13. Lisa says:

    thank you so much!!! It drove me crazy!! I didn’t find the solution too. And funny Zend Studio always painted me a heart instead of an @.
    Oh yeah, it feels good to know the reason and never have to reboot when this stupid problem will occur 🙂 (I’m one of the German people 😉 )

  14. Roman says:

    I am using 4.2.16 of virtualbox under windows 7 64bit a still have this bug.

    • I upgraded to 4.2.16 r86992, too. My hosting system is still a Windows 7 64-bit.

      I recognized that whenever I am inside a virtual machine and I click outside into a window of my hosting system, VirtualBox releases the captured keyboard and mouse automatically. So it seemed to me that this bug was fixed.

      Can you elaborate how this bug still occurs on your system, please?

      Can you describe a sequence of actions that might reproduce it, please?

    • Mateng says:

      On my Win7 64 / Vbox 4.2.18 r88780 the bug persists.

  15. Giorgiolino says:

    Kudos to you guy. In this day, you ended a long time of frustration for me. I had even ended up aliasing special caracters in my bash terminal. This is now history.

  16. Filip says:

    Fantastic! This has been bugging me for a while now. I used to reboot to get rid of the problem but this saves me a lot of frustration and reboot time! In my case, I think it’s an RDP session that’s causing it.

    Thanks a lot!

  17. Seb says:

    I never took the time to Google this issue…
    I always blamed Logitech and their useless “game mode”…

    Now I know! Thanks a lot for sharing!

  18. Yasin says:

    It happens when you use Windows XP mode too. And when you close it (suspend or shut down) it starts working again. By this solution, I guess;
    a) Windows XP mode works on VirtualBox based software;
    b) This is an issue of Windows7 / Vista instead of VirtualBox because XP mode is not VirtualBox but still the problem happens.

  19. Mateng says:

    Thanks a million. I am using Netbeans & Virtualbox for web develeopment on Win7 and I was struggeling to find the culprit. I thought that Netbeans or ClipX had messed up my hotkey settings.

  20. woo says:

    I have this problem in the Guest, Virtualbox 4.3.0 r89960, Windows 7 64bit Host, Swiss German Keyboard, Guest Ubuntu 13.10 accessed over Windows RDP. If I hit a Alt Gr combination I get nothing. If I hold down Alt GR then tap the host key (R-Ctrl) once, then while still keeping the Alt Gr key down, I hit my combinator key, it works.
    This only occurs over RDP, so I have to do this 3 key “dance” to get braces and pipes. A bit annoying to say the least. Not sure whether this is a RDP problem, a VBox problem or Ubuntu problem or all of them combined.

  21. Karol says:

    THANK YOU!!!! I use to reboot my PC so many times as I use Polish letters very often and they use to just stop working for no reason. Now I know how to get them back.

  22. Soulblazer says:

    I don’t have that “VirtualBox” software and my AltGr is not working anyway. Help.

    • Seems that this problem is not only related to “VirtualBox”. Henning Uhle writes here that it seems that this problem comes from another software.

      BTW: You can always substitute the AltGr key by Alt + Ctrl. (Thanks to Mr. Uhle for this great hint!)

  23. N-Rico says:

    Thanks, this is working, so the bug is still not fixed in 4.3.x 🙁

  24. Bernd says:

    Seriously, thanks! rebooting when connected to two machines via SSH and editing some config file, is pretty annoying.
    I have the same problem and same version as woo, only difference is that I am using Win7 as host system, and a simple tap on the host key fixes everything again.

    PS: Sorry for being so late and posting a comment after almost a half year 🙂 but thanks again

  25. Oliver Ücker says:

    dam’n good hint ! virtualbox is the cause.
    thank you so much.

  26. Marcus says:

    Same with mRemote.

  27. Pingback: Windows 7 und AltGr-Kombinationen | Henning Uhle

  28. mark says:

    I’ve the same problem as the one described by woo, with virtualbox 4.3.14 r95030, wint 64bit host and both xubuntu and kubuntu 14. Same laptop with win7 32bit and previous versions of virtualbox never showed the same problem.
    Thanks woo for the workaround.

  29. Chris says:

    Basically a VirtualBox issue
    Problem seems to be definitely fixed in unofficial but stable release 4.3.17 (4.3.17-96232)
    Have a look at
    Worked for me (french keyboard) ultimately after several days of headaches…

  30. Chris says:

    VirtualBox pure issue fixed definitely by 4.3.17 unofficial but stable release
    Check on VirtualBox ticket n°13216

    And for download this special release

  31. says:


  32. marcel baumann says:

    Hi Oliver, thanks for sharing your solution.
    On my PC i do not have virtual box installed.
    I have Remote Desktop open and after i closed it, my @ key worked again.
    This problem suprisingly also occurs with Remote Desktop with Client Windows 7 and Windows 2008 Server R2.
    Greetings Marcel

  33. Poulpos says:

    Thanks to your post and some others, we can now state that this problem can be due to :

    – local Program using HotKeys shortcuts : remove HotKeys from their options or close program.
    – Virtualisation programs (VirtualBox, VmWare, VirtualPC, XPMode, etc) might cause it if you got out of their focus without using their specific hostkey mouse & keyboard release.
    – Remote Desktop sessions (mstsc, citrix…) also might produce it (most often if not configured to use extended ascii in “full screen only”, but sometimes even in that case)
    – and of course the classic language keyboard layout.

    And that’s all things I use all-day long for job, that bloated bug keeps on occurring everyday, so doing a little research helped a lot, I can now solve it without interrupting my sessions wich is a real pain when connected to sensible devices
    (routers/servers -> editing conf files -> bug occurs, ARRRRRGH must kill session and do it again ! -> Not anymore, saved my day.)

    Thx 😀

    • Eduardo Oliveira says:

      Hi all,
      It’s seems to be related with Win 7, Win8 and Win10 since 2 year ago, after the release of MSRDP v6, when ever you native keyboard is not equal to native operative system language. For my case my Win10 is native English (hp) with regional support (PT-Portuguese).
      To workaround just press right ALTGR+CTRL and numeric key (p.ex 2=@)


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