I wonder why both backspace and delete keys exist on so many keyboards. For example, the commonly used 104-key PC US English QWERTY keyboard:

enter image description here

Personally I prefer backspace, and would only use delete in special cases such as invoking Windows Task Manager. Why do we need two keys whose functionality is almost identical?

3 Answers 3


The functionality is not the same. The delete key keeps the cursor position in the same place. Backspace moves the cursor as it deletes. Without both keys, one would need to position the cursor to one end before starting deletion.


First of all they perform slightly different functions. The delete key erases text to the right of the cursor and the backspace key erases text to the left of the cursor. Also the delete key is capable of deleting icons, files, and folders. Pressing backspace when a file or other object is highlighted does nothing.

But the real reason why we have two keys that perform similar functions, is backward compatibility. Initially the computer keyboards replicated the typewriter keyboard which had a backspace function. New generation computer keyboards could not change the function of the original backspace key because people had already learned its behavior, so they had to add a new key. The behavior of the new key is more computer oriented and can be seen as an evolution of the backspace key.


"Delete" is required for the Windows Secure Attention Sequence, Ctrl-Alt-Delete.


  • 2
    that's not the reason keyboards have the key, most probably it would use some other key had the "delete" not been there first.
    – Luciano
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 12:29
  • This is like saying gravity exists and the reason for that is to make us fall.
    – FaranAiki
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 10:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.