The Windows logo key—also known as the Windows key, the start key or the flag key (sometimes shortened to flag)—is a keyboard key which was originally introduced on the Microsoft Natural keyboard before the release of Windows 95. This key became a standard key on PC keyboards. On keyboards lacking a Windows key, Ctrl+Esc can be used instead in Windows, though some functionality is lacking. When using Windows, tapping this key without pressing any other keys toggles the Start menu or Start screen.
Historically, the addition of two Windows keys and a menu key marked the change from the 101/102-key to 104/105-key layout for PC keyboards: compared to the former layout, a Windows key was placed between the left Ctrl and the left Alt; another Windows key and—immediately to its right—a menu key were placed between the AltGr (or right Alt key on keyboards that lack AltGr) and the right control key. In laptop and other compact keyboards it is common to have just one Windows key (usually on the left). Also, on Microsoft's Entertainment Desktop sets (designed for Windows Vista), the Windows key is in the middle of the keyboard, below all other keys (where the user's thumbs rest).
Left Windows key has keycode 115 (0x73) and the right Windows key has keycode 116 (0x74).
Microsoft regulates the appearance of the Windows key logo picture with a specially crafted license for keyboard manufacturers ("Microsoft Windows Logo Key Logo License Agreement for Keyboard Manufacturers"). With the introduction of a new Microsoft Windows logo, first used with Windows XP, the agreement was updated to require that the new design be adopted for all keyboards manufactured after September 1, 2003. However, with the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft published guidelines for a new Windows Logo key that incorporates the Windows logo recessed in a chamfered lowered circle with a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 with respect to background that the key is applied to.
On Windows 8 tablet computers, hardware certification requirements dictate that the Windows key is centered on the bezel below the screen, except on a convertible laptop, where the button is allowed to be off-center in a tablet configuration.
Use with Microsoft Windows 
Pressing the key in combination with other keys allows invoking many common functions through the keyboard. What Windows key combinations ("shortcuts") are available and active in a given Windows session depends on many factors, such as accessibility options, the type of the session (regular or Terminal Services), the Windows version, the presence of specific software such as IntelliType and Group Policy if applicable.
Below is a list of notable shortcuts.
Windows XP 
The following shortcuts are valid in Windows XP:
- ⊞ Win+B to select the first icon in the Notification Area.
- ⊞ Win+D to show the desktop, or restore hidden programs when pressed a second time.
- ⊞ Win+E to open Windows Explorer.
- ⊞ Win+F to open Windows Search.
- ⊞ Win+CTRL+F to open Search for Computers. Requires Active Directory Domain Services.
- ⊞ Win+CTRL+ALT+↵ Enter toggles full screen in Internet Explorer. This shortcut has been discontinued, replaced by F11.[when?]
- ⊞ Win+F1 to open Windows Help.
- ⊞ Win+L to lock the desktop or switch users.
- ⊞ Win+M to minimize all windows.
- ⊞ Win+⇧ Shift+M to restore windows that were minimized with ⊞ Win+M.
- ⊞ Win+R to open the Run dialog.
- ⊞ Win+U to run Utility Manager, replaced by Ease of Access in later versions of Windows.
- ⊞ Win+Pause or ⊞ Win+Break to open System Properties.
Windows XP Media Center Edition 
Windows Vista 
Windows Vista adds the following shortcuts:
- ⊞ Win+G selects next Windows Sidebar gadget item and bring all gadgets to the foreground.
- ⊞ Win+SPACEBAR toggles Windows Sidebar. Windows Sidebar was discontinued in Windows 7.
- ⊞ Win+X invokes Windows Mobility Center. Works only if portable computer features are installed.
- ⊞ Win+Tab ↹ switches active app using Aero Flip 3D. Requires desktop composition, a feature of Windows Aero.
- ⊞ Win+CTRL+Tab ↹ similar to above but Aero Flip 3D remains even when this key combination is released. Arrow keys or mouse may be used to navigate between windows.
- ⊞ Win+1 through ⊞ Win+9, ⊞ Win+0 to start the corresponding Quicklaunch program. ⊞ Win+0 runs the tenth item.
Windows 7 
Windows 7 introduces the following:
- ⊞ Win+SPACEBAR to activate Aero Peek. Replaced a previous shortcut introduced in Windows Vista.
- ⊞ Win+P to open the display and projector toggle (to switch between projection modes when multiple monitors are present). Monitors can be cloned, "extended" from the primary monitor, or deactivated altogether.
- ⊞ Win+↑ to maximize the active window.
- ⊞ Win+↓ to restore (default window size, not maximized nor in taskbar) the active window.
- ⊞ Win+← or → to align the window to the respective side of the screen, maximizing it vertically.
- ⊞ Win+⇧ Shift+← or → to move the window to the next or previous monitor, if multiple monitors are used
- ⊞ Win+T to iterate through items on the taskbar.
- ⊞ Win++ or ⊞ Win to zoom into the screen at the mouse cursor position using the Magnifier Utility.
- ⊞ Win+- to zoom out if the Magnifier Utility is running.
Windows 8 
Windows 8 introduces the following:
- ⊞ Win+C opens the charms.
- ⊞ Win+F opens file search screen to search for computer files.
- ⊞ Win+I opens Settings sidebar, where app-specific settings, network options and shutdown button is located.
- ⊞ Win+Q opens app search screen to search for app shortcuts and executable files. Does not work in settings search or file search screens.
- ⊞ Win+W opens setting search screen to search for Control Panel applets.
- ⊞ Win+X to open a menu of advanced system functions. Replaced shortcut to the Windows Mobility Center introduced in Windows Vista.
- ⊞ Win+SPACEBAR to change input method. Replaced a previous shortcut introduced in Windows 7.
- ⊞ Win+Z opens the command bar for applications running in the Metro interface.
- ⊞ Win+Prt Scr instantly saves a screenshot to the "Screenshots" folder under the "Pictures" library. All screenshots are saved as PNG files.
Third party 
- ⊞ Win+S to take a screenshot for OneNote.
- ⊞ Win+N to open a new side note in OneNote.
- ⊞ Win+⇧ Shift+N to open OneNote.
Use with non-Microsoft operating systems 
The Windows key can also be used under other operating systems.
The X window system usually treats this key as modifier MOD4.
Desktop environments such as KDE and GNOME usually support the key, though it may be necessary to configure its functionality after installation. GNOME Shell uses it as its default keyboard shortcut for bringing up the Activities Overview.
In the Compiz window manager the Windows key can by default be used in conjunction with the scroll wheel to zoom in or out of any part of the desktop.
Apple's OS X uses the Windows key as a replacement for the Command key if a third-party keyboard is used that does not include the latter. This sometimes leads to placement issues for users used to Apple keyboards however, as the Command key is usually placed where the Alt key is on most keyboards (next to the Space bar)
When using a keyboard on the Xbox 360 console, pressing the Windows key performs the same action as the Guide button on the Xbox 360 controller or remote controls, opening the Xbox Guide in game play. Additionally, holding down the Windows key and pressing M opens a pop up conversation window over game play if an Instant Message conversation is in progress.
See also 
- Initially, 104-key keyboards were frequently called "Windows keyboards" but this denomination has become less and less used with time.
- Amendment to the Windows Key Logo License Agreement (page no longer accessible)
- Windows Vista Hardware Start Button
- "Windows Hardware Certification Requirements for Client and Server Systems". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
- [dead link]
- Video demonstration of the Windows Key shortcuts in Windows XP
- Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts
- Windows Vista keyboard shortcuts
- Windows XP keyboard shortcuts
- Windows 95, 98, Me keyboard shortcuts
- Overriding or Disabling Default WinKey Keyboard Shortcuts