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.


7 Answers 7


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.

  • I couldn't get that website to work. This worked : gadzikowski.com/nkeyrollover.html
    – nevster
    Sep 10, 2020 at 12:57
  • @nevster thanks - i've updated my answer to use that page, also tested a current keyboard. Sep 16, 2020 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, 2020 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. Sep 19, 2020 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. Sep 19, 2020 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.

  • Unable to find application named 'KeyboardViewer' on macOS 13.2.1
    – user98513
    Mar 16 at 19:04

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

  • 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, 2015 at 20:27
  • 1
    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, 2020 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, 2020 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.


I just wanted to add on some information as to why certain combinations of keys don't register on Apple keyboards. I don't remember in which technical paper I read it in, it would have been at least 10 years ago now, but when Apple unveiled their keyboard (I think the one in 2003?) they said it contained certain protections in case a pet walked over it.

This is what's happening. There is a special rule built-in that ignores input in the name of pet-detection. If you press at least two keys in the same column, additional keypresses in the whole row of those keys are ignored. And if you press keys that would activate this blocking mechanism while you have keys already pressed, they are ignored too. This means you can press "1QAZ" and not be able to input anything else while holding those keys down.

In conclusion Apple keyboards have a 4-key rollover on columns (not counting spacebar and function keys), and 6-key on rows, if a row is not locked by another key, which technically makes it 2-key rollover. Thank the Apple engineers. Oh and since the keyboards use a PS/2 interface this limitation is completely arbitrary and the modifier keys do not affect this keyboard locking at all, so you can press 10 keys at once just fine (shift, ctrl, alt, cmd, and any six keys on the same row).

Hope this helps someone in the future.


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.

  • The shift key is not relevant to n-key rollover. You have to press multiple letters at once to test this.
    – Navin
    Apr 18, 2020 at 13:50

Sometimes it is not enough to simply ask yes-or-no about a complex feature like NKRO. Often the answer is, "It depends..." Several above commenters suggested holding down w, then e, then d, to see if the d key registers. On the built-in keyboard of my MacBookPro 2015, that "fails." But what succeeds is a more common 3-key sequence: shift + D + E (arguably a more commonly-typed sequence, e.g. in the word DEBUG :) ) BUT, my "cheapo" (MacAlly) external USB keyboard fails to register the E if I already have shift + D held down. My "expensive/gaming" (CoolerMaster) can register all characters in "DEBUG" held down simultaneously.

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