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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Keyboards | Keyboard Key Groupings ]

Special Keys

There are a few additional keys in the standard keyboard design that are used for special purposes on the keyboard, and don't really fit into the other categories. So I have labeled them "special" and dumped them here. ;^) These are the following:

  • <Esc>: This is the "Escape" key, and is the most important key on the keyboard. Why? Because if you press it, it will let you escape from any problem you might encounter when using your PC! ;^) Heh, if only that were true. In fact, the Escape key is usually used as an "exit" key of sorts by programs, to cancel commands or get out of something. It is also used in some contexts to change the meaning of subsequent characters.
  • <Print Screen / Sys Rq>: When pressed from DOS, this key causes the contents of the current screen of text to be sent to an attached printer. From within Windows, it copies the contents of the screen, in graphical format, to the Windows clipboard. The alternate use of this key is for the "system request" function. This is a historical command originally based on older IBM terminal designs, and is not really used any more.
  • <Pause / Break>: When pressed by itself, pauses the display or operation of some software programs. When pressed in combination with the <Ctrl> key, sends a "break" command that will interrupt some software programs or DOS commands. (You can do the same thing with <Ctrl>+C). Note that this key differs from others in that the secondary character is activated by using the key in combination with <Ctrl> instead of the usual <Shift> key.

Here are the scan codes for these three strange keys. Notice the long scan codes, as two of them are actually sending more than one code in a long string. Also, the <Pause> key is the only one that does not have a "break" code:

Key #



Make Code

Break Code







<Print Screen>

<System Request>

E0 2A E0 37

E0 B7 E0 AA




E1 1D 45 E1 9D C5


Next: Windows Keys

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