Virtual PC in Europe – Fix for the Dreaded Sticky Ctrl Key Bug!

I know many developers who rely on Virtual PC 2004 these days, both for application compatibility testing purposes and also for beta testing releases of Visual Studio 2005 ("Whidbey") and SQL Server 2005 ("Yukon"). A few colleagues and I have been trying to track down a little issue for some time, and I wanted to share it more broadly outside of Microsoft to see if anyone else has had the same problem.

The problem is this: when you toggle a Virtual PC guest into full screen mode with [Alt Gr]+[Enter], the [Ctrl] key often gets "stuck" down. If you start typing in the guest, you often see funny things happen: the taskbar goes into multi-select mode; some characters don't appear etc. Hitting the [Ctrl] key once resets it and brings you back to normal.

A few of us raised this as a bug with the Virtual PC team, and it turns out to be a problem specific to UK keyboards (and possibly others in Europe). The [Alt Gr] key is effectively the same as pressing [Ctrl] + [Alt] together; when you release it, VPC only toggles off the [Alt] portion of the keystroke, leaving [Ctrl] held down as far as the guest is concerned.

The solution: change the host key to something else on a UK Virtual PC machine. I can recommend [Right Ctrl], since it's not used for anything else. Once you make this change, you'll never again have this problem - toggling to and from full screen works just fine. The bug has been fixed moving forwards too, which is good news.

Comments (34)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much!!!!

    I had this problem a lot of times with my Italian Keyboard!

    Thanks a lot!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is also a problem with VPC and Swedish keyboards.

    A similar problem seems to exist on the Remote Desktop client. I can only use ALT GR characters if I press CTRL+ALT instead.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Jason, Alt Gr is by default reserved as the host key of course. But are you still unable to use this key in the guest even if you’ve changed the host key to something else?

  4. Anonymous says:

    SMART Workflow enhances the approval workflow for SPS / WSS …

  5. Anonymous says:

    "The bug has been fixed moving forwards too" what about when the bug is moving backwards?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Tim, in VPC I am able to use ALT GR when the host key is changed to right CTRL.

    But I know of no solution in the Remote Desktop client.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Jason, that’s odd, because it works for me.

    From Windows XP, I created a Remote Desktop Connection to my Windows Server 2003 machine. I could type symbols like € (AltGr+4 on a British keyboard) without problems. You might need to call Product Support if you’re not content to use Ctrl+Alt – they might be able to help you further.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I too am having the same problem við Remote Desktop (like many others here in Iceland). 🙁

    So if somebody know of a fix for that… that would be just great 🙂

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have had problems using other keys than modifiers (i.e. Shift, Control, Alt, Windows) as host keys: E.g. You can use Pause as a host key, but you won’t be able to toggle full screen mode using Pause+Enter. Have anyone else experienced this problem?

    (As a curiosity, this also applies to Right Windows on my Dell laptop where I have to press Fn+Windows since there is only one of them).

  10. Anonymous says:


    This has been driving me nuts for months.

    I much appreciate the work around.

    I hope there’s an SP for VPC soon with a real fix.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Tim and AtliB,

    I just checked with Remote Desktop (to a Windows 2000 Server and a Windows Server 2003) again and now it works… Hmmm…

    I’m sure I’ve had problems with this before since I remember getting annoyed when trying to write a backslash (ALT GR + "+" on a Swedish keyboard).

  12. Anonymous says:

    I had the problem with a FR keyboard and the remote desktop client in full screen mode.

    Here is the SOLUTION:

    I translate from french so… try to guess if the words are not exactly the same.

    Show options in the remote desktop client;

    Select the local ressources tab;

    in the keybord part, select the line ‘keep the alt+tab combination to local machine’… well something like that.

    That should help a bit…

  13. Anonymous says:

    As stated in this thread there are often problems with ALT GR key combinations and the Remote Desktop client (mstsc.exe).

    On my PC I was able to make the "Alt Gr" work as expected again very easily (for XP), but hard to find out:

    Open Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options -> Languages Tab -> Details Button

    In the Dialog "Text Services and Input Languages" press the Button "Key Settings". If that button is disabled, just add another language with the "Add" button.

    In the "Advanced Key Settings" dialog press "Change Key Sequence" for "Switch between input languages". Now you are close:

    In the "Change Key Sequence" Dialog uncheck "Switch keyboard layout" and confirm the change through the series of dialogs.

    You may remove the extra language if you like.

    In my test, however, I found that the problem does not occur with more than one language/keyboard configured.

    I hope, that’s it. What are your results?

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’ve also had problems with the <TAB> and <ESC> keys not working on the guest machine… and I’m using a US Keyboard.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Verdens mest ligegyldige blog &raquo; Remote Desktop og AltGr

  16. Anonymous says:

    same problem in WIN2003 terminal server with some RDP clients, (not all)

    Right ctrl+ALT works fine

    Alt Gr key not working with some clients ?

    is there a fix from MS ?

  17. Anonymous says:

    This fix did not work for me. I have an IBM laptop. I have heard of other people have problems with US IBM laptops (which do not have a Windows key) running Virtual PC. The problem isn’t necessarily just a keyboard problem. I have seen cases where the keyboard input is not displayed, but Right Alt-P (pause) shows the input in the paused window. The Ctrl key theory doesn’t seem to fit.

    If you can’t get your keyboard working during a demo, use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to your virtual machine.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thanx, this helped me out!!

    I am happy now.

  19. Anonymous says:

    THX very much – the annoying problem has vanished !

    I had the problem that the ALT-GR did not work in my RDP-Sessions (LEFTALT + Scancode on the numeric pad i.e LEFTALT+64 for @ worked. Also a double hit of the ALTGR worked @ = { Hit ALTGR then hold ALTGR and press "q"} but I had to double hit ALTGR again to access normal chars afterwards). Deactivation of the second language and thus the hot-key did not work either. Finally switching the hot-key in double language mode (on the local machine !)to STRG+SHIFT helped !

  20. Anonymous says:

    My problem is another:

    I can’t use ALT-GR in the guest OSes.

    My Host-Key is the Windows or the right control-key. Using VPC2004-SP1.

    ALT-GR combinations like or @ only work this way:


    PRESS+RELEASE left Control-Key

    Hit the or @ key


    Is this problem also known? Or is there a fix or workaround?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Another problem I get with DOS:

    Sometimes the Shift-Key seems to change to pressed state. This occurs when moving around with the cursor (cursor-key is held down).

    A very annoying thing, you just want to scroll trhough a text, and are suddenly marking it! And the Shift-State will remain then!!

    But now I have a solution for this, and I’m posting here for other people that are searching about their VPC-Keyboard-problems.


    The Key-Repeat-Rate of the host-OS is too fast. Don’t know how that affects VPC and the guest-OS in detail, but if you make the key-repeat-rate slower in your host-windows, the problem dissappears!

  22. Anonymous says:

    The fix supplied with KB 889677 made my sticky key problem dissapear:

  23. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t have this problem when I was running English Windows XP on both my machines (client and server) but when we changed to Swedish Windows XP on both machines the [AltGr] problem started (as described above).

  24. Anonymous says:

    I tried to set right CTRL as host key. ALT GR didn’t work. But then I set HOME as the host key. ALT GR worked…

  25. Anonymous says:

    Many thank’s. This solved the problem.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this solution,  I had to reinstall one of our machines just because the admin password set during the install all of a sudden did not work when connecting with remote desktop client. This made my day

  27. Anonymous says:

    My name is David Bucher. I am using Virtural PC and here is the problem I am having.

    When ever I start this program and begin typing it repeats characters almost uncontrollably. Example: if I try to type in a password i.e. password it does this passsssssssssss when I only depressed three keys. I have looked to make sure my keyboard  is not configured to do this. I would be forever in debt to you if you could help with this solution.

    Please email a response to me at:

    thanks for any assistance, it would be greatly appreciated.

  28. Anonymous says:

    To get rid of the Sticky Keys.

    If you press the Shift key 5 times consecutively in Windows(R) 2000 or

    Windows(R) XP the following message should appear:

    "Pressing the SHIFT key 5 times turns on StickyKeys.  StickyKeys lets you use

    the SHIFT, CTL, ALT, or Windows Logo keys by pressing one key at a time.

    To Keep StickyKeys on, click OK.

    To cancel StickyKeys, click Cancel.

    To deactivate the key combination for StickyKeys, click Settings."

    To avoid this happening in the future, click the settings button on the window

    referenced above. When the accessibility options screen appears, click the

    "Settings" button in the "Sticky Keys" portion of the window. On the next

    window (should be labeled "Settings For Sticky Keys"), uncheck the box that

    says "Use shortcut", then click on "ok".  Then, click on apply and close the

    window. The problem should not occur once the shortcut has been disabled.

    Give creidt to

  29. Anonymous says:

    I had problems with Alt Gr using Remote Desktop Connection.

    Thanks to Alex my problem is now solved:

    In the RDC client before connecting, you expand "Options>>".

    Then switch to "Local Resources" and set "Apply Windows key combinations" to "On the local computer".

  30. Anonymous says:

    I&#39;ve been using Microsoft Virtual PC product for many years, posting separate VPCs for each client&#39;s

  31. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been using Microsoft Virtual PC product for many years, posting separate VPCs for each client’s

  32. Anonymous says:

    I&#39;ve been using Microsoft Virtual PC product for many years, posting separate VPCs for each client&#39;s

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