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Windows keeps automatically adding EN-US keyboard layout (2016) (microsoft.com)
64 points by punnerud on June 30, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments

I've always enjoyed that the most common response on just about any Windows support question is something along the lines of

> If you would like too you can do system restore to restore some settings on your PC.

It really frustrates me when I have a specific technical problem with windows (I only use it for gaming) and search results are full of psuedo mystical tech advice from community experts advising a system restore or changing registry values.

The worst part is that the system restore (or reinstall) advice is often from some official Microsoft support drone. Microsoft's official stance is "it's too fucking complicated to even know where to begin, so start over". How is it that we put up with this bullshit?

If a a proper diagnosis of a configuration screwed up in some weird way is expected to take longer than a reinstall, then it's not worth to try and diagnose.

In a similar manner, nobody ever suggests "just removing" interesting malware - since properly checking if a system is actually clean takes so much more time and effort than a reinstall, you have to have a really good reason to not simply nuke the system from orbit just to be sure. (possibly before taking an image for future forensics/attribution).

The issue is that a reinstall of the OS is pretty quick, but getting all the other applications downloaded, installed, activated, and having settings configured takes an incredibly long time.

The other issue is that if you try to dive in deep and fix the problem by trying out various things and running diagnostics etc, you may in the end still need to reinstall.

A lot of us have stopped putting up with it by switching to linux

You presume Linux support is any better. You can't lie to me, I've seen it, I've tried to use it, it is at least as bad. From completely ignoring users when a canned answer doesn't work (how Microsoft of them) to condescendingly asking the user "why would you want to do that?" instead of answering their question, to just plain giving them the wrong fucking answer because it is outdated or based on some other distro's config.

The thing is that indeed one of the very valid benefits is that with open source the solution is almost never "just reinstall". Because at least you have the tools to investigate and fix the problem right to the deepest level.

E.g. I have an issue where Thunderbolt ports suddenly stop working -- the symptom is that I hear the device connected chime immediately followed by the device unconnected chime. Event log is empty. Impossible to debug -- there's nothing else to tinker with. System restore worked.

Linux -- there is a kernel flag that forces the BIOS to power on the controller and whatever. Ohmygosh I had to open a terminal, but at least I didn't had to reinstall.

And please don't come with "given the choice of opening a shell and digging in or just reinstall, I would choose reinstalling 100% of the time", because then it answers the question of the OP.

In a similar example that is closer to the topic at hand, I recently had an issue where if I turned on a certain setting it would cause my ç key to become a ć instead, as an unwanted side-effect. Since everything on Linux is free and open source, I was able to find and read the source code that was responsible for my problem, which allowed me to figure out how to workaround the issue for now, and to file a bug report with the upstream developers.

That's a lot of effort when you just. Need. To. Send. An. Email...

This bug only affects a very very small number of people so I went through the effort because if I didn't I doubt anyone else would even notice it:)

That piques my interest. Care to share the ticket?

Good job! Kudos

In my experience, the documentation of how any given system in a Linux Desktop is actually put together and actually gets anything done is so lacking that you've spent hours pulling apart a tangled mess of awful before you can even begin to see what the issue really is.

I'll grant, however, that modern Windows often manages to be even more convoluted than that.

I don't disagree, but the point is that you can. With closed source, it's not about convoluted or not. There's a point in which you just cannot proceed debugging.

The other gem is suggesting you pull the repo and code up a fix/feature for the problem yourself ... I can't see my mum getting very far with that when trying to print out a recipe for sponge cake!

Has it already been the year of Linux on the desktop, or is that "next" year - I forget?

</sarcasm> ;)

Having used Linux in various roles for nearly 20 years, I have to agree. Supporting Windows is hard enough when you have to tell the customer over the phone to click on the circle or flag thingy in the bottom left corner, because they haven't heard of the "start" menu, and have to hunt through Windows 10's old and new control panels. This is nothing compared to the differences between two contemporary distributions of Linux, with a choice of package managers, system init, and window managers. The dimensions of brokenness possible on Linux are generally unseen on Windows.

yeah, the "switch to linux" crowd aren't helpful, either. linux is the right tool for many jobs, but at this point, all (edit: mainstream) desktop OS' are going to be extremely complicated and complex. although i personally prefer it, macOS is no different in this regard, example in [0].

[0] https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/136248/disable-sto...

I think I would have to disagree. It seems like most issues I have, someone else has already had them, and the probability that they are knowledgeable enough to have worked it out and posted the solution already is higher.

I have also often had issues that turn out to be driver issues, where a bug was already opened for the issue on some bug tracker, and the driver developers have already provided solutions in the comments. That kind of thing doesn't really happen on Windows.

Which paid distro/paid support are you talking about?

Yeah, right. I applied the "just reinstall" method many more times to Linux than to Windows because frankly, Linux is much more fragile and likes to break in absurd ways. Things got better over the last decade - there's still something broken on every single Linux install I have or had in that decade, but usually those things are non-critical and tolerable. E.g. on my current Linux desktop the GPU has randomly broken shaders, nmcli doesn't show any networks beyond the one connected to (unlike in the past), and every other restart, X randomly crashes within 2 minutes of startup, but only once. At least it's nothing like the "let's randomly overwrite MBR with a broken bootloader on install", or "today ALSA won't work", or "today your USB modem won't work" stuff I remember from my teenage years, so there's progress.

Linux, of course, being noted for its simple configuration

I remember reading on HN that pros always store their data on a different linux partition so they can reinstall from scratch easily if they end up borking the OS.

Yes, one can quite simply nuke the root partition, reinstall the system on it, and if they choose the same location for the user home, they'll also find the old user configurations ready.

User configurations are only half of the total (with the method above, the system configurations are lost), however, it's considerably less work to do.

This doesn't only apply to system corruption scenarios - upgrades also can use the same workflow (of course, the compatibility of the configuration files with new package versions is a separate matter).

I don't know about pros, but I do that. Sometimes you don't want to waste time figuring it out, and you were thinking about upgrading or switching distros anyway.

I think the point though was, "Why are people doing this if reinstalling the OS so so much less a thing in Linux land?"

I like btrfs. It's made subvolumes (/ and /home) and snapshots (which I religiously take before any major updates) ridiculously easy.

You might really enjoy Solaris's boot environments, then ;-)

This is true, I backups for all my stuff and have scripts that auto configures my system according to my backed up configs.

Microsoft's own tech support forums are filled with this non-advice. Either system restore is brought up, or SFC /scannow which rarely fixes anything. Often it really is more time efficient just to do a system reset or start completely from scratch, but if you do have time and the skill to understand the underlying problem it's preferable to learn how to fix it. Reset/re-install teaches nothing.

Any of the mainstream operating systems are tremendously complicated, so free support is probably worth what you pay for it.

It feels like most answers on this site come from robots or from moderators who barely know anything. I still have to see a good, on point, answer there from someone who really knows things.

I have, but they never come from Microsoft employees. Story time:

Let's say you administer an Exchange server and need to make a configuration change to a mailbox. Normally, the Information Store will cache mailbox state for up to 20 minutes and you'll have to wait for your change to take effect. But let's say you really really need that change to happen right fucking now, then what?

Well, Microsoft support has your back: restart the Information Store service. While effective, this will also boot everyone's MAPI connections from the server and consequently pop up a giant scary warning dialog to all your Outlook users. Good job there guys.

Fortunately, there are knowledgeable wizards casually dropping in to these support threads every once in a while who can give you a real solution. In this case, it's running `Update-StoreMailboxState -Database <dbname> -Identity <mailbox GUID>`. Yeah, Microsoft actually made a fucking powershell commandlet that does exactly the thing you need, but support has no idea it exists and just throws up their hands and tells you to interrupt the workflow of the entire organization and generate a bunch of calls to the help desk.

If I ever meet the person who posted that answer, I owe them a few beers.

Does MS still have the MVP programme? Some of those people used to post useful information to the MS usenet groups.

Yes, but it’s been essentially gutted and turned into ”who can gush about MS the hardest”, instead of evaluating people based on tech chops

Try superuser.com for solving specific problems.

Also, when searching, it's usually possible to find better search keywords. Searching for event log entry source + event ID helps more often than searching symptoms in a natural language.

These kinds of support forums are the blind leading the blind - same thing is happening over at Apple’s support communities and it’s depressing to read because most people just believe the BS copy/pasted answer and don’t bother thinking about how absurd it is or doing some more research.

I wonder why companies even bother running these - it’s not like they attract any kind of useful knowledge. It would be best if they disappear and clean up search results so communities with real, knowledgeable enthusiasts can rank higher.

Or "here run this powershell script/registry key that does nothing to solve your problem and/or I don't even understand what it does"

This is like when you have an issue with Firefox.

Disable all your addons and create a new profile...

Windows’ complexity was designed to create jobs for MSCE and the like.

I have had this problem as well.

In my case, I correctly removed EN-US, but it turns out that most times when I connected via RDP Windows automatically readded the layout since it was available on the connected station.

It's possible to a registry key to disable this behaviour:

Goto HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout and add a new DWORD Key "IgnoreRemoteKeyboardLayout" with value "1".

This solved the issue for me, Windows stopped adding EN-US.

I would like to state that this behavior is completely and utterly insane. Who would want this?

I'm no RDP expert at all, but I suspect it's a way of dealing with the RDP protocol.

As far as I know, RDP doesn't send the letters to the server, but the keyboard event. So if both sides are using incompatible layouts, you could send "A" from your client but see a "B" on the RDP server.

I switched en-US for another en layout so it's not a serious problem for me there, but on non-English languages it can be an issue when the other side doesn't match at all, and maybe it's a little easier when Windows installs the layout automatically for the user.

This behaviour would be defencible if only Windows had informed the user, and allowed the remote desktop client to control it in advance...

If you are sending keyboard events, but you really want the typed characters to match, the solution of course is to send the typed characters instead.

That's the 99% right solution IMHO, the one that covers the main use case where the other side doesn't have your layout AND you are fine with your layout, you just want the other side to receive it correctly.

There's also the case when the other side has a layout which you do want to use but do not have installed. I guess that's rather a rare case - if it's a desired layout, why wasn't it installed in the first place?

Perhaps MS can't update RDP so trivially, and is stuck with the wrong architecture for a good while. But at least they could ask before adding a keyboard layout. Or allow enabling/disabling this as an option on the RDP client rather than a registry change.

I want this. If I am connecting remotely, I want to use the keyboard layouts present on my remote station, since they are likely a good match for the physical keyboard I am actually sitting behind. Remember that keyboard layouts are not just different letters, they also define different sets of physical keys.

So let the computer the keyboard is connected to do the translation. It already has the proper maps.

I posted both, hoping to get someone at Microsoft’s attention. I live with this problem every day at work.

Windows can syncronize settings across devices. Physically, the settings come from from MS cloud servers. Are you using a local user account, or widnows live account?

Another source of such issues is settings for default user account. There's a GUI deep inside control panel to copy profile settings to both default accounts: https://www.ilovefreesoftware.com/26/windows-10/copy-current... Try to configure these languages, and copy to both.

Also, if you're on a corporate network, it can be a group policy, or some other enterprise feature. When a PC joined a domain, domain admins can change all settings from the central location.

As a programmer dvorak [0] user, I find that I regularly have to get an admin to reinstall after a windows update. When all your coders only use en-us and you don't do solid internationalization testing, this is what happens.

[0] https://www.kaufmann.no/roland/dvorak/

If this happens often enough to be a nuisance, you could try to install it as a preload substitute for an official layout (for instance en-US), or have the admin guys put the Registry settings in an AD group policy.

Windows syncs keyboard layouts automatically between installations linked to the same microsoft account. Why anyone would ever want this behavior is beyond me, but this sounds like the cause of this issue.


Working in Windows I found that there are two magic localizations: non localized is a default failsafe that is a copy of EN-US. The other fun one is “pseudo-loc” which is used in testing; it replaces letters with similar ones that have accents or diacritics to detect hard coded English strings.

I wonder if the EN-US keyboard is actually a fall-through to the non-localized version when the localized keyboard fails to load.

I had this problems for years and I thought it was because of some to-me-unknown combination of keys I was pressing. I don't know now how to feel

Hitting ctrl-shift switches keyboard layout. It also happens to be by far the easiest shortcut in windows to hit accidentally.

Note that the keyboard cannot be removed from the GUI - it does not show up. In the region and keyboard settings I mean, it shows up as configured keyboard though. What worked for me - and that was the only thing that worked - was to follow the registry-editing answer here (only the top part of the answer, not the update):


I had to look through the entire registry for the key mentioned there though, I had to delete about 4 or 5 before the hidden US keyboard finally disappeared.

Note that that thread is from 2015. Maybe US based Microsoft would find the issue more urgent if it was a different keyboard than a US one, so that they themselves notice it (I guess right now they would not?).

As a Dvorak user, ive had this problem (or similar ones) for years. I basically gave up typing in Dvorak on my windows machines (thankfully my primary desktop is Linux)

As a Dvorak user as well, I've found that as of Windows 10 (and perhaps 8 but I've not used that extensively), they've finally fixed their multiple layouts issue. You can disable the nonsense that is "different layouts for different windows" and get rid of the awful alt-shift abd ctrl-shift shortcuts and just switch layouts with win-space. I keep qwerty as a layout for when others need to use my laptop but the OS never unexpectedly switches me anymore. They finally caught up with classic MacOS lol

Same, I had this from years. Strange to see it here.

Omg, lol. I'm both humored and slightly annoyed by this. Why is this even enabled as a default.

I had this problem as well. However, it only appeared when using the English language pack together with a German keyboard layout. When installing the German language pack parallel to the English one (and using the German keyboard layout from that language pack while still having the English language pack selected for language/region/date), the problem went away.

I also have this problem and to make thing worse my windows not cannot install upgrades anymore. There's one bad upgrade that fails to install and rollback just to try again in the next boot, entering a reboot loop.

I had to disable upgrades and I don't really want to format my already configured OS soon.

Yup. It's like wasd and qwerty. I gave up using the french layout and my own binding (vbn + right click to move) because I got so tired to fight the machine's default.

I am quite happy about the layout though :).

Yea, it's been pissing me off for a long time so I've ended up creating my custom keyboard layout so i don't have to switch between the two

In fairness, this happens to me in ubuntu from time to time, too. Never been able to figure out why, but it happens so rarely that I've never really tried.

Title needs (2016), yeah?

Still relevant in 2019, though.

Yeah. Added.

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