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Howto: Laptop Keyboard Repair

July 19, 2006 on 4:32 pm | In How-To | 54 Comments

As most of you already know, not all notebook keyboards are made the same, and the keyboard you get when buying one of those “budget notebooks” isn’t always a high durability keyboard, especially if you are a heavy typist.

So, I got an Averatec 3250 which had a few keys that died after about two years of usage. After looking on eBay for a replacement keyboard, I decided that I wasn’t going to pay $60-80 for a used replacement keyboard and overpriced shipping, since I lived in Europe. So, I set myself on a quest to find a way to repair the keyboard I already had.

After disassembling the defective keyboard, I noticed that the silicon membranes that provided the support for each key where independent, unlike their desktop counterparts, where there is usually one big membrane covering the entire keyboard.

Notebook keyboard membranes

Slim desktop keyboard silicone membrane

So, I thought maybe I could use the membrane of one of those slim desktop keyboards that are cheaply available everywhere. I found a cheap Labtec keyboard that I got for 15 Euros.

Labtec USB slim keyboard

The first thing to do after getting your brand new slim keyboard is take it apart

Disassembling the Labtec keyboard

The hardest part was taking apart the metal plate that held the silicone membrane to the plastic frame that formed the backbone of the keyboard. The backplate was attached to the plastic frame through many plastic pins coming from the back of the frame through the silicone membrane and the backplate. The ends of those pins are melted flat so they hold the backplate firmly in place. After cutting the flattened tips of those plastic pins where cut with a paper cutter.

Back of the keyboard frame showing the backplate after cutting the holding pins

Back of keyboard frame after removing the plate

And the silicon membrane which we will cannibalize

Now that we got our silicone membrane, its time to start repairing our notebook keyboard.

Now I forgot to take pics of this step, but its quite easy. Just peal off the remains of the silicon cup from the defective key of the notebook keyboard.

Next, cut one key cup from the new keyboard’s membrane with your favorite cutting tool

Cutting a cup from the membrane

A close up of our new cup

As you can see in the close up, the new cup has a rather long neck when compared to the neck of the cups of the notebook keyboard. Cut the neck with your favorite scissors to the appropriate length

Cup with adjusted neck

Next, cut the excess silicone around the cup to have a nice small round cup

Cutting the excess silicone

This next part is a bit delicate, as you may break the bracket that holds the key to the keyboard. Just be gentle when doing this, and all should be fine. First, if you haven’t done so already, get yourself a tweezers with a fine tip, and use it to raise the key bracket and have a good look at it, to get an idea of how the bracket is attached to the keyboard frame.

Bracket close up

To take out the bracket without breaking it, first insert the tweezers on one of the sides of the bracket, between the two pieces of the bracket as shown in the image, and tilt sidewise

Disassembling the bracket

Next, repeat the same move on the other side of the inner piece of the bracket

Releasing the other side

And, if you didn’t use excessive force, you should have released the inner piece of the bracket

Inner piece of the bracket released

Now, using the tweezers again, push the side pin of the inner piece under the outer piece of the bracket

Pushing the side pin under

And then push the other side pin, so the inner bracket piece is under the outer piece

Inner piece under

After that, you should be able to take the bracket pieces from the keyboard. you may need to twist one of the pieces to release the pins that attach it to the keyboard

Side view of the bracket disassembled

Twisting the bracket piece to release its pins

Now, take the silicone cup we have previously prepared, hold it upside down with your hand, apply some super glue to the underside edges of the cup (be careful not to flood the cup), and place it carefully centered in place of the old cup.

Applying super glue to the cup

Let the cup sit for a few minutes without any movement so the super glue cures. After about 10-15 minutes, start reassembling the bracket.

First step in reassembling the bracket is to re-attach the outer piece of the bracket to the keyboard frame. Hold the bracket piece in your hand perpendicular to the keyboard, and gently push it back until its pins are inserted into the keyboard frame.

Next, lift up the re-attached outer bracket piece so its perpendicular to the keyboard frame with one hand, and insert the pin of one side of the inner piece in its place with the other hand (in the picture I am using the tweezers to better show how its inserted from the under side of the outer piece)

Inserting the inner piece from the back of the outer piece

Then, using your hand, and probably with the help of the tweezers in the other hand, to slide back in place the attachment of the inner piece to the keyboard frame

Sliding the inner piece back

Inner piece back in its keyboard mount

Finally, using the same move we used to release the pins that connect the inner piece to the outer piece of the bracket, only in the other direction, to get the second pin back in.

Second pin back in place

That’s it!!! you just replaced the silicone cup of one key with a new one. Repeat this procedure for each defective key that you want to repair.

EDIT: There are some people who are doubting the usefulness of such a repair stating that if you already have some of the keys failing, then chances are that the entire keyboard is worn out. While I can’t comment on the general condition of the keyboard you might try to repair, I’ll state a simple statistical fact. If you type in English most of the time, then around 20% of your keystrokes will be the A and E letters. Thats 1 in every 5 keystrokes. The same rationale applies if you type in any other language, including programming languages.

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