Keyboard Shortcuts for System Administrators

I have been in the IT business since the early days of DOS.  In order to navigate the archaic operating systems back in the day, you had to learn a lot of keyboard shortcuts.  Most people these days are content to use a mouse to navigate, but there are still many valuable shortcuts that can save you time.

How many times have you seen someone type in their login password and then reach for the mouse to click in the password box?  Pressing Tab to get to the Password box is quicker and you save a calorie by not having to move your hand from the keyboard to the mouse.  I recently watched a seasoned system administrator use the mouse to click Start / All Programs / then scroll down to find Accessories / Windows PowerShell /  Windows PowerShell, just to launch the PowerShell program.  I recommend letting go of the mouse and using keyboard shortcuts to more quickly get things done.

The Winkey in conjunction with other keyboard characters will help you to perform many functions.  To launch PowerShell, you can press Winkey+R to launch the Run Command and then type PowerShell.  I even made a copy of Powershell.exe and named it PS.exe so I don’t have to type the entire word.  To launch Remote Desktop Connection, you can press Winkey+R and then type Mstsc.  I know this may seem crazy to those who aren’t that concerned with saving a few seconds or for those who are addicted to the mouse, but I encourage you to give it a try.

If you need to ping a device on your network, there is no need to go to a command prompt or PowerShell, you can type Ping in the Run Command.  Granted, the display will go away after the command is complete, but if you are just looking for a response, that is a quicker way of doing it.  To prevent the ping display from going away, you can always at a –t switch to the ping command to continue the ping until Ctrl + C is pressed.

There are close to a hundred different shortcuts that can be used in Windows.  Some of the shortcuts I use most often are listed in the table below.  I highly encourage you to let go of the mouse, keep your hands on the keyboard and try a few shortcuts; it will save you time.

Shortcut Description
WinKey + D Shows the Desktop
WinKey + Tab Cycles through open Applications
WinKey + E Launch Windows Explorer Window
WinKey + L Lock PC and go to lock screen
WinKey + M Minimize all Windows
WinKey + Shift + M Restore all minimized Windows
WinKey + R Opens Run dialog box
Ctrl + Shift + Escape Opens Task Manager
WinKey  + B  Focuses on System Tray
Shift + Delete Permanently deletes selected files
WinKey + Home Minimizes all programs except current window
Alt + F Opens file menu
Shift + CTRL + N Creates new folder
Left Alt+left Shift+Num Lock Turns mouse keys on or off
Left Alt+left Shift+Print Screen Turns high contrast on or off
WinKey + U Opens the ease of access center


Troy has worked in network administration for over 25 years, serving as a network engineer and Microsoft Exchange administration in Department of Defense, writing technology articles, tutorials, and white papers and technical edits. Troy is a Cisco Certified Academy Instructor (CCAI), and has numerous other certifications including CCNA, MSCE+I, Network+, A+ and Security+.