rebooted the laptop
opened up notepad and typed every character possible to ensure no other keys are malfunctioning.
ensured the language is set to english
deleted and reinstalled the keyboard drivers
ran ccleaner to clean up errors in the registry
initiated a backup to a known time the keyboard was working
removed the shift keys to ensure there is no debris under them
i'm about to take this computer with me on a deployment. no shift keys = no @ = no emailing home = this laptop is useless to me
speaking of deployments, this thing did endure 6 months of heat and sandstorms. not outside mind you, but there was just no way of getting away from the sand, dust, and heat.