We often hear from agitated users having issues with their keyboard media keys not working in desktop apps when the Chrome browser is running.

So what’s going on? Well, their batteries have not run out, and there’s not a kink in their system.

Global Shortcuts in Chrome

Google Chrome introduced Global Keyboard Shortcut control back in 2014.

The feature allows Chrome Apps and extensions, be they media players or toolbar add-ons, to have a specific keyboard shortcut or button assigned to them. Tap the shortcut and the extension appears or the window opens or the track plays, even when Chrome isn’t in focus.

It’s a great feature on the whole, one that makes the new Google Play Music Player so handy. It puts album art and controls on the Windows, Mac, Linux and Chrome OS desktop. But it doesn’t need to be visible to respond to presses of media/F7-F9 keys.

According to the Chrome Web Store listing more than half a million people use this one app alone — so that’s a lot of people who may find themselves wondering why iTunes or Spotify don’t respond to media key presses when Chrome is running.

Thankfully there are a few ways to solve it if the behaviour isn’t one you want.

You can set to the keyboard shortcuts to work only when Chrome is in focus:

  • Open the Chrome app menu
  • Select Tools > Extensions
  • Click the ‘Keyboard Shortcuts’ link in the sidebar/menu
  • Find the Google Play Music section
  • Change any specified media key options from ‘Global’ to ‘In Chrome’

Fix Media Key Hijacking in Chrome

You can disable/remove the app/extension from Chrome entirely too:

  • Open the Chrome app menu
  • Select More Tools > Extensions
  • Find ‘Google Play Music’
  • Uncheck the ‘Enabled’ box OR click the trash can to remove

google chrome media key fix

If you don’t find Google Play Music in the list it might be a different extension or web app that’s hijacking your keys, so go through each one in turn to


  • Chrome apps and extensions can be assigned shortcuts
  • Some are assigned global shortcuts, meaning they work when Chrome isn’t ‘in focus’
  • Global shortcuts can interfere with regular desktop app shortcuts
  • With Google Chrome set to run ‘in the background’ it can be confusing
  • You can manually change app shortcuts yourself through the Extensions page

This post is part of our Handy Helpers series, covering small tips and fixes for common problems in Chrome.

How To
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