You definitely want to upgrade from the Apple Magic Keyboard (ew!), but can mechanical keyboards be used on Mac?
As a long-time MacOS guy and keyboard nerd (I own dozens of mechanical keyboards), I totally get it!
Yes, mechanical keyboards can be used on Macs. In fact, almost all mechanical keyboards will work with a Mac without any extra software or drivers. However, you might need to adjust a few settings on your Mac in order to get the best experience.
But of course, some mechanical keyboards will work with Macs right out of the box (and I’ll share my recommendations below).
Keep reading to learn how to make ANY mechanical keyboard work with your Mac.
Or if you’d like, you can check out our specific keyboard guides for Mac here 👇
What is a mechanical keyboard?
First, let’s be clear about what we’re talking about.
A mechanical keyboard is a type of keyboard that uses physical, spring-loaded switches beneath the keys to register each key press.
This contrasts with the cheaper, more common “membrane” or “rubber dome” keyboards, which use a layer of rubber to detect keystrokes.
“Mechanical” has nothing to do with a specific operating system, Windows or Mac! There AREN’T really “windows keyboards” or “apple keyboards.”
How to Set Up Virtually Any Keyboard on Mac
If you want to use a mechanical keyboard on your Mac, this section will show you how to set it up.
The Biggest Difference Between Windows and Mac (When It Comes to Keyboards):
It comes down to 3 things:
- The “modifier” keys like Control, Command, and Option. (On Windows, the modifier keys are in a different order than they are on Mac.)
- Mac-specific keys (like the Launcher, Dashboard, and Mission Control keys).
- The keycaps (the plastic part of your keyboard that your finger contacts.)
Before we talk about changing settings, however…
First, Check to See if Your Specific Keyboard Has a Windows/Mac “Toggle”
Mini mechanical keyboards will actually make this process even easier for you–with a “toggle” switch that will automatically switch modifier keys (like Control -> Command).
There are 2 types of toggles:
- A physical toggle switch on the side of the keyboard
- A “hotkey” shortcut, or key command, that is built into the actual firmware of your keyboard (example: Function + A)
All of Keychron’s keyboards have a physical toggle switch on the back or side of the keyboard, which will let you swap between Windows and Mac.
But even without a physical toggle, many keyboards have a “hotkey” shortcut that will do the same thing.
For example, on my RK84 keyboard, I can toggle to Mac-friendly modifier keys by pressing “Function + A.”
So first things first, refer to YOUR SPECIFIC KEYBOARD’S website and documentation! There’s often a handy shortcut that makes your life easier.
Modifier Keys – the First Adjustment You Should Try
When you first plug in a mechanical keyboard, you might notice that the Command, Option, and Control keys are switched around.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to switch modifiers in MacOS:
- Go to “System Preferences”
- Go to “Keyboard”
- Go to “modifier keys”
- Swap “Option” and “Command.”
For 99% of keyboards, simply swapping those two modifier options will fix the issue.
Using via (Or QMK) to Change Your Keybinds
Via is a simple and free program where you can change just about EVERYTHING that happens when you press any key on your keyboard.
- Change modifiers
- Create macros
- way more
But not all mechanical keyboards are Via compatible, so you will have to check that depending on what keyboard you’re purchasing!
Check out the embedded video above to see how to use VIA to change your mechanical keyboard to macOS.
Related: QMK Tutorial: Our complete guide!
Using Logitech or Other 3rd Party Software
This will also depend on what type of keyboard you’re purchasing, but there are often third-party tools from the keyboard manufacturer.
You can generally use these to change key binds, including modifier keys for Mac-specific commands.
Again, refer to your keyboard’s documentation for more information.
Using Keyboard Maestro (Mac-Only Keyboard Software)
I LOVE Keyboard Maestro! It’s a game-changer for shortcuts, keybinds, etc.
It does cost about $30-40, but if you do a lot of shortcuts or customizations, it might be worth the investment.
You can use Keyboard Maestro to change modifier keys, create macros, and SO. MUCH. MORE.
Mechanical Keyboard Buying Guide for Mac Users
👉 Click here to see our FULL recommendations list: The The 7 Best Mechanical Keyboards For Mac 
Here are the basic features that you would look for when buying any mechanical keyboard:
|Size and layout||Do you need your numberpad? If not, you might check out an 80% TKL sized keyboard, or maybe even a 60% size|
|Wireless or wired||Do you mind having a cable (or want a custom cable?), or would you prefer a Bluetooth connection?|
|Switches||What type of switches do you want? Clicky? Linear? Tactile? There are tons of options here. This guide goes into more detail about mechanical keyboard switches|
|Hot-swappable or not||Would you like to be able to easily change your switches without soldering? A hot-swap keyboard allows for easy switch-swapping!|
|Backlighting||Do you want your keyboard to light up? RGB backlighting is pretty much standard these days, but there are some keyboards that don’t have any backlighting at all|
|Price||Mechanical keyboards can range from $50-200+. It really depends on what features you’re looking for.|
But if you’re using a Mac, here are a few purchasing tips IN ADDITION to the standard features…
|A physical toggle switch||Some keyboard will have a physical switch that you can toggle between Windows and Mac. This is the simplest way to use a mechanical keyboard on a Mac since there’s no software required.|
|Mac-specific keycaps||You can find special keycaps that have the Mac symbols on them–but many keyboards come with these (see our recommendations below)|
|A “hotkey” toggle||Like we mentioned before, some keyboards will have a “hotkey” that you can press to toggle between Windows and Mac. This is often times done with the Fn key + a specific key|
Our Favorite Mechanical Keyboards for Mac:
In general, you really can’t go wrong with the Keychron brand!
They are the only mechanical keyboard brand that is really “Mac first,” meaning they ALL come with a physical toggle switch, Mac keycaps, and great compatibility right out of the box!
And Keychron keyboards come in all shapes and sizes to!
PRO TIP: Search the keyboard description for the word “Mac.”
Honestly, pretty much all mechanical keyboards will work with Macs, but it can be useful to search the Amazon description for the keyboard you’re looking at to get a sense of how well it will work.
For example, if you’re looking to grab the Anne Pro 2 (one of our favorite 60% keyboards), you can simply search the page for “Mac” and see several user reviews who are using the Anne Pro on MacOS!
Think of this as a safety check before you make a purchase.
Mac Mechanical Keyboard F.A.Q.s
Can you use a mechanical keyboard on a Macbook Pro?
Yes! You can use a mechanical keyboard on any laptop, including a Macbook Pro. almost all mechanical keyboards were great with Macs, but you might have to tweak one or two settings in order to properly configure the modifier keys (this depends on your keyboard).
Do Gaming keyboards work on Mac?
Yes, gaming keyboards will work on Macs. In fact, most mechanical keyboards will work with MacOS with very minimal configuration (if any at all). We recommend searching the Amazon description or user reviews for the keyboard you’re interested in to get a sense of how well it will work with your Mac.
Where can I find Mac keycaps?
Although some mechanical keyboards will come with Mac keycaps, you can also buy takeout from third-party sellers. Mac keycaps are easy to find on Amazon–just search “Mac keycaps” and you’ll find plenty of options!
Final thoughts: mechanical keyboards are Mac-friendly!
We hope this guide has been helpful in determining whether or not you can use a mechanical keyboard with your Mac. As you can see, the answer is a resounding YES! With a little bit of knowledge about the right features to look for, you’ll be able to find the perfect mechanical keyboard for your needs.
Happy clacking, Mac friends!