Razer BlackWidow keyboard with Mac OS X

Use Razer BlackWidow (PC Edition) on a Mac

This is probably useful only to a few people – but if you are one of the mac users who bought a Razer BlackWidow keyboard (PC), this should be helpful. “BlackWidow” is a mechanical keyboard for a reasonable price, lightyears better than the default apple keyboard. It’s called a “gaming keyboard”, so after unpacking you’re official member of the “Cult of Razer” .. well, then.

PC vs. Mac edition confusion

The BlackWidow keyboard has a PC layout (which I’ll call “PC edition”). There is also a “Mac edition” – but it wasn’t available in Germany and costs about 50€ more than the standard edition, just for having USB ports and illuminated keys.

That’s where things get confusing aka annoying:

  • There are OS X drivers from Razer, but only for the “Mac edition”
  • According to the FAQ they absolutely don’t work with the “PC edition”
  • But: The OS X drivers work flawlessly with the “PC edition”
  • The firmware updater is only available as Windows software

Layout

This is a standard PC keyboard layout, so..

  • Instead of option (alt) keys a “windows key” on the left and the “application key” on the right.
  • To the right of the 12 function keys (F1-12) there are the typical 80s IBM keys: “Print”, “Scroll Lock” and “Pause/Break”
  • Additionally there are 5 Macro keys (M1-M5) to the left and an FN-key at the bottom to modify volume, record macros – and

Setup in OS X

If you install the keyboard the first time, OS X asks you to press one key in order to identify the keyboard (For a German layout that’s the “<“-key) – now you can use the standard functions.

The next step is to open Keyboard settings in the control panel, click “modifier keys” and swap option and command key. I also disable Caps Lock here. Now you have control, alt and command keys like a mac keyboard – except the right “application key” doesn’t work.. We’ll fix this later.

Remap modifier keys

Mapping “application key” to option

To fix the “application key” we have to do a little bit more. The best (and free) tool is: “KeyRemap4Macbook” (works with all Macs, the name is a bit misleading). Download here and install.

Now open the KeyRemap control panel, click on “Misc & Uninstall” and click “Open private.xml”. Now double-click the file “private.xml” and replace its contents with the xml below, save it and go back to the KeyRemap panel.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<root>
  <list>
    <item>
      <name>Razer Win_Key to Alt_R</name>
      <identifier>private.razer.winalt</identifier>
      <autogen>--KeyToKey-- KeyCode::PC_APPLICATION, KeyCode::OPTION_R</autogen>
    </item>
</list>
</root>

Then choose “Change Key”, click “Reload XML” and if you copied the XML correctly you see a new entry “Razer Win_key to Alt_R”.

KeyRemap after loading custom XML

 

As soon as you enable it, the “application key” now finally works as option key..

Special keys

  • Volume and media keys work like labelled on the keys: FN + F1 toggles Mute, etc. If these don’t work, see below for a solution
  • To access the shutdown menu (usually Control + Eject), you can use FN + F15 (“Sleep mode”), this works nicely.
  • The Gaming Mode switch which disables the Windows and Application keys is of course completely useless on the mac.,

Razer drivers?

Now you could install the Mac drivers from razerzone.com – even if their FAQ states they don’t work. You get an application for remapping keys, creating macros and profiles. This works quite good.

But…

If you DON’T install the razer drivers, the function keys work perfectly – but the five macro keys are without function. The media keys (volume etc.) also don’t work out of the box, but this can be fixed with KeyRemap (see below). Even “macro recording on the fly” doesn’t work – for whatever reasons the driver needs to be installed..

If you DO install the razer drivers, you can use the macro recording function and the media keys (volume, track fwd. etc). But the disadvantage is that the function keys don’t work correctly… Until now it wasn’t possible for me to access F5, F6 and F7.

The driver can be uninstalled without problems, so you can try it out. And maybe, one day, Razer will support the “PC” keyboard at a Mac, who knows…

If you installed the Razer drivers: Macro & Function keys

The “Print”, “Scroll lock”..keys work as function keys (F13 – F15), so ignore the labels and you’ve got 15 some function keys, which can be mapped to Expose, Spaces etc. as you like. Until now I didn’t get all function keys to work.

But the M1-M5 macro keys also work as function keys (F13 – F17) – argh! To fix: Just assign a macro to each of the five keys (either via on-the-fly macro creation or with the Razer software) – and the macro keys work as they should.

BTW: The layout shown in the Razer app isn’t correct (of course, that would be too easy): F18 and F19 do not exist..

Razer configuration utility, ignore F18 and F19..

No Razer driver installed: Enabling media keys

With KeyRemap4Macbook it’s no problem to enable the media keys (FN+F1 Mute, FN+F2 Volume down etc.). This is only necessary if you didn’t install the Razer driver. Therefore you have to open the private.xml file like above and replace its contents with this XML:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<root>
  <list>
    <item>
      <name>Razer Win_Key to Alt_R</name>
      <identifier>private.razer.winalt</identifier>
      <autogen>--KeyToKey-- KeyCode::PC_APPLICATION, KeyCode::OPTION_R</autogen>
    </item>
    <item>
      <name>Razer Fix Media Keys</name>
      <identifier>private.razer.fixmedia</identifier>
      <autogen>--KeyToConsumer-- KeyCode::F1, ModifierFlag::FN, ConsumerKeyCode::VOLUME_MUTE</autogen>
      <autogen>--KeyToConsumer-- KeyCode::F2, ModifierFlag::FN, ConsumerKeyCode::VOLUME_DOWN</autogen>
      <autogen>--KeyToConsumer-- KeyCode::F3, ModifierFlag::FN, ConsumerKeyCode::VOLUME_UP</autogen>

      <autogen>--KeyToConsumer-- KeyCode::F5, ModifierFlag::FN, ConsumerKeyCode::MUSIC_PLAY</autogen>
      <autogen>--KeyToConsumer-- KeyCode::F6, ModifierFlag::FN, ConsumerKeyCode::MUSIC_PLAY</autogen>
      <autogen>--KeyToConsumer-- KeyCode::F7, ModifierFlag::FN, ConsumerKeyCode::MUSIC_PREV</autogen>
      <autogen>--KeyToConsumer-- KeyCode::F8, ModifierFlag::FN, ConsumerKeyCode::MUSIC_NEXT</autogen>
    </item>
  </list>
</root>

That’s it for now

For using this keyboard in OS X this means either

… use it without drivers (Macros: NO, Special keys: MOST, Function keys: YES)
… or use it with the incompatible Mac drivers (Macros: YES, Special keys: YES, Function keys: ONLY SOME)

As soon as Razer improves its Mac support I’ll update this post (or if there are workarounds for the missing function).

58 Replies to “Razer BlackWidow keyboard with Mac OS X”

  1. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on macOS Sierra, because Karabiner doesn’t work. Instead, there is very limited Karabiner-Elements, which is able to remap simple keypresses, e.g. “windows” -> “left_option”, etc.

  2. i was trying to play some minecraft, but if i use left CTRL key, it will true to right click, also if i click crtl and left click in the same time, it also will change to right clicks, why??? how i can fix it??

  3. Hi, I stuck on the xml replace step. Not sure if I properly edit the file.
    Can anyone explain if the point is to “fully” replace the original content of xml with the provided one and how exactly should it look like.
    I mean if the original parts should be presented there as well:

    Many thanks for any info here.

  4. Does anyone know if the Razor Black Widow Ultimate edition 2016 works with Mac OS 10.11.6 El Capitan. On the Box it says that it is compatible with MacOS 10.8-10.10 and online I found that it should be compatible with Mac OS 10.8-10.11. I just need it for my work (basic typing, a lot) and not so much for all the gaming options.

  5. Hi,
    Not that it would be hard to find, but “KeyRemap4Macbook” is now “Karabiner”.

    https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/ (not yet working on the unreleased Sierra 10.12.0)

    I came here seeking help for my Razer Anansi keyboard on a Mac. It’s having similar issues with the M1-M5 keys, among others.

    I haven’t tried remapping the keys I care about with Karabiner yet, that’s my next step. It’s not looking promising, M1-M5 get reported as: =, -, 0, 9, 8

  6. The Razer Synapse driver is somewhat buggy and it has some issues with OSX. I’m trying to use my Blackwidow Ultimate 2014 (PC) only with OS drivers and seems to be more stable, especially when you set the swap with ALT/COMMAND keys (the confusion is: if you set with OSX control panel, you’ve to set ALSO on Synapse?). The lack of Macro keys is not (for me) important, and thanks to the modifications described above, I was able to configure the right ALT key, the Application, PRT SCR, SCR LCK and PAUSE keys. The multimedia function keys works flawless without any third part tools.
    Strange but in this case it seems that the simple OS’s approach to the problem (use a PC keyboard with a Mac) is more reliable than the vendor’s one.

  7. Hi, i bought a pc blackwidow by mistake to a mac. First i was disappointed but then i installed synapse 2.0! Every thing worked perfectly 1 day… But then I shut the computer off. So when i started every thing again my macro keys and my volume keys didn’t work! And when i tried to fix it again i couldn’t go in to synapse 2.0 anymore… Help please!

  8. Am using the PC version on a mac right now. Has anyone else on a mac had issues with keys repeating when pressed?

    It might just be my keyboard, but when I’m typing I’ll randomly get one or two keys that will repeat themselves without me actually pressing them again.

    I’ve tried all of the Razor software, including the newer software and the drivers but the issue persists.

    Just wondering if anyone else had the same problem.

    Thanks

    1. Yeah dude I had the exact same problem, then it went away for a day. In my ignorance I decided to try to reinstall Synapse2.0 and my keyboard went from perfectly usable to a giant pile of Mac/Razer hate.

      Now whenever I plug the keyboard into the iMac random characters stream out of it. If a text box or something is in focus it will get filled with exotic useless streams of characters until it’s unplugged.

      It does this regardless of whether or not Synapse2.0 is installed…

  9. Thanks for the great and useful article!
    I’m having real problems getting into Target Display Mode, connecting my MacBook to my iMac. It seems that the usual command to do this (CMD-F2) isn’t correctly sent by the Black Widow keyboard. I tried a workaround using “Keyboard Maestro” (see this blog post: http://pxldot.com/blog/24841650952), which is far to expensive to purchase though, just to get this working. And apart from that, it does not work reliably either :(

    Does anybody have another hint on how to get this working with the Black Widow (PC version)? I would really like to keep the keyboard but having to attach my Mac aluminum keyboard just to enter Target Display Mode seems stupid.

    1. I have the same problem! I bought today a Razer keyboard and I can’t figure out how it works the CMD+F2 :/

  10. Is there any way to use M1-5 keys without installing synapse ? I installed synapse but its a total mess :| so want to remove synapse. I just want to run favorite 5 apps with 5 M keys.

  11. I just bought razer blackwidow 2013, standart edition (for pc, without illuminating). My macro on the fly recording does not wanted to work, so I decided to install razer synapse 2.0 drivers.

    After it I’ve encountered problems with not properly working function keys etc. But I’ve tried to “remap” for example f9 to.. f9 in the synapse settings. After few attempts it was “remapped” and now I have: working funtction keys, installed drivers and working macros with on the fly recording. Not sure how exactly I remapped keys because on the first attempts it doesn’t worked. But you should try to “walk around” remapping and try different functions and after some attempts it should work fine. Try to remap f9 to f12 and then back to f9 etc. Hope it will help someone.

  12. My blackwidow’s macro keys don’t seem to work. When I do the OTF Macro recording key command, the light illuminates and blinks, then shuts off automatically after only a second or so. any ideas?

  13. Is it possible to make the right CMD key into the Option key? I use French multilingual in Canada and it helps to perform the forward slash and others. Currently, the option seems mapped to the key next to FN on the keyboard.

  14. Can anyone tell me how to do on the fly macro setting for the m1-m5 keys on the razor black widow. I’d like to be able to set them using the keyboard. Is this possible?

  15. Thanks for the help, but I still have a problem: I use the “pc” keyboard on mac and I installed the drivers because I want to use the macros wich all works except the m2! when I press it it reduces the brightness of my screen :(

  16. Hi, my macro buttons dosent work anymore, and im not sure why? they have worked for quite some time but i think since i turned my computer off they havent worked i think (i ussaly just put my mac in sleeping mode) Do you know how i can make the macro buttons work again? i really need them :D

    1. It’s probably that OS X recognizes the keyboard only as normal keyboard, so my best guess would be to reinstall the razer drivers.

  17. I’m stuck, on the razor black widow keyboard .trying to reboot into windows and on the mac I just hold in the option key, on this keyboard using your instructions I’m not sure which one to hold. I’ve tried the three buttons on the left, still not working. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong?. Thanks in advance.

    1. While booting it should be the Windows-Key. You could also try the “Alt Gr” key on the right side. But sometimes it’s just that one presses or releases the key too early. Best is to try again, push the windows-key down directly after the boot chime and hold it until the boot device menu appears.

      1. ok, I’ve checked the private.xml and settings are as per your instructions (see below). I’ve tried rebooting with just the crtl key on the left side of this keyboard, the windows key left side of keyboard and the alt key on the left side. I’ve also tried your suggestion of holding down the alt and GR key-(I used the alt key on the right side of the keyboard this time).
        I’ve reset the keyboard-the blue lights now flash again (was missing that). my settings in system preferences: caps lock, control, command, option,
        Just so you know this is the windows keyboard for the razer blackwidow ultimate.
        anything else I can try?

        Razer Win_Key to Alt_R
        private.razer.winalt
        –KeyToKey– KeyCode::PC_APPLICATION, KeyCode::OPTION_R

        1. To be honest.. no idea currently.

          All the changes in private.xml etc. apply only *after* OS X has booted. So it seems when booting up OS X the keyboard alt-key isn’t correctly recognized. As workaround I would try using another keyboard, probably an old apple keyboard.

          1. Thanks for trying! I’ve got an email into them. It just could be that the windows version of the keyboard won’t work on a mac. (that one key). I do plug in the mac keyboard only to boot into windows… ;-) thanks again for everything. Appreciated!

  18. Hey thx a lot for this guide. It helped a lot. Isn’t it possible to enable the M1-M5 with the xml file?

  19. Can I use this keyboard on my duel boot custom pc?
    Can I use it to switch between my softwares?
    I’m gonna get the mac layout so can I use it for windows?

    1. If you mean booting windows via boot camp and mac os x: Yes, you can use it without problems. I was talking about the windows version but I assume you can use the mac version for windows either – but I can’t say anything about this for sure..

        1. Ah I see.. well to be honest: No real idea :) But since it’s a usual USB-Keyboard the basic functions should work without any problems. You could only have problems with the special keys.

  20. Hey buddy, this seemed to work ok, but I decided to remove the drivers and return to the stock keyboard layout because I use the stand F5, F6, F7 and F8 keys constantly when using Reason. However, now none of these F keys work like they used to prior to installing the drivers. Do you know where the drivers are located so they can be removed? There appeared to be no official uninstaller for the drivers, so I just sent the razer utility to the trash, but the keyboard F keys are still broken…

    1. Actually just worked it out – you HAVE to use the uninstaller located under utilities. I didn’t know this existed – only found it when doing a search for “razer” in spotlight. Ran it and everything is as if the driver download never happened.

  21. Thank you for posting this, a friend of mine got me the (PC Edition) on accident. I could go through the hassle of returning it to get the Mac Edition or I could just use this as is for the time being. I intend on getting a Gaming PC built in the near future anyways. I don’t think I will be using any macros so I will avoid downloading the driver for now but your guide to set up the Mac specific keys will be helpful for me.

  22. hi! i really loved this write up! however i encounter this problem
    1) whenever i restart the mac, the cmd and opt keys on the left are reseted.

    2) at modifier keys, i have Razer Blackwidow and Razer Blackwidow 1. Have i installed the keyboards twice? Can I remove it?

    1. to remove attach a standard Apple keyboard, reboot the Mac, then reboot again and attach the razer afterwards.if you installed the razer software, uninstall it before.

  23. Any tips on how to do the exact opposite? Got the mac edition by mistake but im on PC so 1-6 only work on numpad and macro keys do nothing even when binded in their program. Any tips?

    1. Since I don’t have the mac version – I’ve got no idea, but I assume there should be some keyboard remapping tools for Windows also. Also simply try out the Windows driver, it shouldn’t do any harm..

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