For people who type with many fingers, are Macintosh keyboards are multi-key rollover?

Bonus points for explaining how to test this on any Mac or listing which models are 3 key rollover or higher.


Current Apple keyboards (this answer is from 2012, but I've re-tested in 2020) are not N-Key rollover and as far as I know no recent keyboard they have ever made is. I think some of the really old ones were N-key rollover, but can't confirm it.

You can use this website to test your keyboard.

Beware that every keyboard has a different electronic layout and will fail in different key combinations. On my Apple Aluminium keyboard if I hold down the W and E keys, then press the D key, the third key press does not register. But there are other key combinations where as many as six keys will register at once.

It is commonly said that true N-Key rollover can only be achieved using a PS/2 keyboard, and that USB keyboards can only achieve 6-key rollover. As far as I know, this limitation only applies to Microsoft Windows.

My mechanical keyboard's spec sheet claims "6-key rollover with USB, N-key rollover with USB to PS/2 adapter". When using it with USB on my Mac, I've confirmed that is in fact 20-key rollover.

| improve this answer | |
  • I couldn't get that website to work. This worked : gadzikowski.com/nkeyrollover.html – nevster Sep 10 at 12:57
  • @nevster thanks - i've updated my answer to use that page, also tested a current keyboard. – Abhi Beckert Sep 16 at 4:18
  • Can you confirm a keyboard that’s advertised N of 9 or anti-ghosting work well on macOS? matias.ca/tactilepro3 – bmike Sep 16 at 10:20
  • @bmike I stick to Apple keyboards now - I tried others but found it too disruptive to have a totally different key "feel" on my desktop and laptop and iPad. But as far as I know nearly all "good" mechanical keyboards don't have the problem this question is about and they all work perfectly on MacOS. – Abhi Beckert Sep 19 at 7:30
  • It is expensive to make a circuit board that individually monitors the pressed state of each key. Much cheaper/easier wiring if a single set of wires monitors several keys - but this leads to being unable to detect more than a certain number of keys. They pick the key groups to make sure that keys commonly held down together will be detected reliably. – Abhi Beckert Sep 19 at 7:34

My Apple Wireless Keyboard and the keyboard on my MacBook Air seem to allow pressing all combinations of two keys at the same time, but not some combinations of three keys. So I guess they are 2-key rollover.

Another way to test it is to open the keyboard viewer from the input menu or with open -a KeyboardViewer.

| improve this answer | |

Apple Macbook Pro's are 6 Key Rollover, looks like limitation of USB

Hold keys 1 2 3 4 5 6 and then 7, 7 does not register

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    That's not correct, 6-key rollover means any 6 keys can be detected independently, which is not the case for W, D and E on my keyboard (MacBook Pro, late 2011). But it is apparently 2-key rollover. – Jan Segre Sep 13 '15 at 20:27
  • It depends which keys you press. I have a late 2016 Macbook Pro. I can press a maximum of 6 keys but like you, W, D and E isn't a combination that can be pressed together. – nevster Sep 10 at 12:59
  • Yep, MBPs are pretty much "2-to-6" rollover, depending on specific key combinations and/or rows/columns. Try pressing one key in each of the six rows of a (non Touch Bar) MBP. Works. Try pressing two adjacent number/letter keys (Q, W) within a row. This blocks everything in the same "column" (1 and 2, A and S etc., this is the reason why W, E and D don't work). Pretty weird. – Gummibando Sep 16 at 10:22

As someone who has built a Hackintosh (a computer that is made of standard, off the shelf PC components, but runs Mac OS), I can confirm that Apple's laptops use a PS2 interface. Among the many .kext files that the custom boot loader can install are PS2 drivers. These allow the use of PS2 keyboards and mice with Mac OS, but are derived from .kexts that are used by Apple's laptops.

| improve this answer | |

I was surprised to see that the keyboard on the Macbook Pro can pass my quick keyboard test. However, Apple's external USB keyboards miss keypresses doing my simple test below.

I typed out "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" while holding down both SHIFT keys. Perhaps the internal keyboard has a fancy hook up that isn't USB.

| improve this answer | |
  • The shift key is not relevant to n-key rollover. You have to press multiple letters at once to test this. – Navin Apr 18 at 13:50

You must log in to answer this question.

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