Changing the Behavior of My Function Keys and Accessing My BIOS

I have a Dell Inspiron 7537 laptop I use for programming when I’m not at my desk.  Overall its great – very speedy, plenty of memory, touch screen, small enough to carry but with a big enough screen I don’t have to squint (15 inches).

I really only have two complaints – the first is the touchpad.  For some reason Dell decided to make the touchpad buttons part of the touch pad itself – so in order to use the left or right “buttons” you press down on the left or right bottom section of the touchpad.

At the time, I’m sure it seemed clever, but in practice it took a long time for me to adjust.  Basically, I have a pretty heavy touch and I consistently end up tripping the button when moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen.

My second issue is that the function keys by default are set to their multimedia functions instead of the keyboard keys F1-F12.  To access the keyboard keys you need to press the “fn” key in the lower left while pressing the desired function key.

While convenient for things like adjusting the volume of your speakers, if you do a lot of development and debugging, it is unusable.  Guess which of those activities I do more frequently?

Fortunately, there is an easy solution.

Accessing the BIOS

To change the function key behavior, the first thing you need to do is access the BIOS.  This sounds simple, but remember when I mentioned how fast this laptop is?  Well, running Windows 8.1, it also boots extremely fast.

So fast in fact, that the first few times I tried to access the BIOS (by pressing F2 during startup), I failed because I missed the setup window.

After a bit of trial and error, I finally found a consistent method to access it.  First, I shut down my computer entirely.  It was just too easy to miss the setup screen while doing a restart.

Once the computer was fully shut-down, I pressed the power button followed immediately by the F2 key (you do not need to also press the “fn” key).  I continued pressing the F2 key several more times until the Dell logo appeared.

This seemed to eliminate all my issues accessing the BIOS.

Changing the Behavior of the Function Keys

Once you manage to get into the BIOS, changing the default behavior of the Function Keys is easy. Simply navigate to the “Advanced Settings” tab, and look for the “Function Key Behavior” setting.  There are two options: “Function Key” and “Multimedia Key”.  The options change the keys to do exactly what they indicate.  Change it to whichever behavior you prefer (obviously “Function Key”) and save your changes. 

Reboot and enjoy your functioning Function Keys.