I use the accessibility feature called sticky keys in OS X, what it does is that if you press a command modifier key (Ctrl, Cmd, Alt, Shift, Fn), it stays "pressed" until you press another key. This is very useful if you often use your keyboard with one hand, and actually quite convenient even when you use two hands.

The thing is that if you press a modifier key twice it stays "pressed" until you press it again. While it is sometimes handy, for me it would be preferable if this aspect of the functionality could be disabled, since I trigger it accidentally every now and then.

I realize that if this is at all possible it probably means fiddling with some system file somewhere, that's fine. I just want to see if someone out there might know where to look? :)

  • 3
    Did you ever solve this issue? I was really wondering about this post from 2011. There was some change on how the modifier keys get handled in sticky keys around 2016, in Sierra, maybe even El Capitan. Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 2:04
  • 3
    Check discussions.apple.com/thread/7687205 (already locked thread) and discussions.apple.com/thread/250060393 (trying to inform people). My bug report (ID39265185) got closed. Apple doesn't care and they won't fix it ever. Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 2:06
  • Sadly it seems like there's no real solution for this now. Sticky keys are great for ergonomics and reducing fatigue, but the "tap twice to lock" functionality is invoked on accident 90% of the time. (Though for some people, it's certainly a critical feature, just wish it had a toggle)
    – Chris
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 6:06

5 Answers 5


You can't turn off the "key lock" functionality (last checked on OS X 10.8.2). You can however install KeyRemap4MacBook, which allows you to make modifier keys sticky without this "key lock".

2023 update: KeyRemap4MacBook functionality has been rolled into Karabiner-Elements by the same developer.

  • Thanks for the tip, I'll see if it's usable for me though. It's such a pity that there's no option for this, because sticky keys is such a convenient feature!
    – Erika
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 7:22
  • Ended up not using KeyRemap4MacBook, didn't feel comfortable with it.
    – Erika
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 8:56
  • 2
    just fyi, i added this setting to KeyRemap4MacBook yesterday. it's available in version 8.0.33; it's called 'Enable Sticky Modifier Keys (without lock feature)'. @Devon, i've been using it with lots of combined shortcuts like you mention, and it's pretty reliable.
    – ryan
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 17:15
  • @ryan, The problem with KeyRemap still exists, but I've created a proper bug report for it now. Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 21:58
  • 2
    It's 2023 but this question still comes up pretty high on Google. I also am frustrated by the un-disable-able "press twice to lock" behavior of the built in macOS Sticky Keys. KeyRemap4MacBook seems to have become or has been rolled into Karabiner-Elements from the same developer and it supports non-locking sticky keys out of the box: karabiner-elements.pqrs.org
    – Chris
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 0:21

You can get this behavior by using a third-party program called "Karabiner-Elements"

Leave Enable Sticky Keys unchecked in System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Hardware.

Instead, open "Karabiner-Elements" and click Simple modifications. Then select Add item > From key > left_shift and under To key > sticky left_shift. Repeat for right_shift and optionally Option, Command, Control.

You might also want to investigate the function "sticky left_shift (pressing and holding down is disabled)."

I've noticed problems with Apple's sticky keys feature ever since upgrading to Mac OS 12.2. And a discussion about it on support.apple.com indicates Apple is unwilling to fix it.


I've seen this behavior even when "sticky keys" is turned off in system settings, by unchecking the "enable sticky keys" checkbox. I was seeing shift stuck "on" only for OS actions (not for normal typing) after coming back from a lock screen.

To resolve this, I turned sticky keys on (Mac Settings) and then toggled them off again using the shortcuts above.

  • I had the same problem! It was impossible to google, produced some strange behavior before I figured out it was as if I were holding Shift down. Yes, if your password includes capital letters, then Shift might get forced "on" after the lock screen. Just discovered that toggling sticky keys off and on solves the problem.
    – Luke Davis
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 16:21

I believe you have to press it 3 times to release it.

  • First Press - Locks the modifier key, and unlocks it after the next key press
  • Second Press - Locks the modifier key for multiple other key presses.
  • Third Press - Unlocks the modifier.


Pressing Shift twice while sticky keys is on would be the same result as turning on CAPS lock.

  • 2
    Sorry, but I'm asking for a way to disable the "locked" state altogether. I think it's pretty clear from the wording of my question. :)
    – Erika
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 18:35
  • Ah yes, sorry I misunderstood. I don't know of a way to do that.
    – maclema
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 13:10

go in to system pref, accessibility, keybord (left column) sticky keys, options, then "press shift five times to toggle sticky keys"

  • This disables the functionality altogether, the asker only wants to disable the "lock" part you get by pressing a modifier twice (but still use the single press functionality).
    – nohillside
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 5:36
  • my apologies, i misunderstood the question then
    – Macmaniman
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .