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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.

54 Comments »

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  1. Fixing a laptop keyboard

    Hack a Day  has a link to an article on fixing a broken laptop keyboard . 
    Very detailed article with lots of photos.  Nice! If you have a laptop keyboard that’s a bit rough, this could bring new life to it!

    Trackback by The PC Doctor — 21 July 2006 #

  2. Nice Job, and better than expend 60 euros.
    Very detailed.

    thanks

    Comment by MaXiMoF — 21 July 2006 #

  3. Does that key feel any different if pressed? Good hack, may find useful in future.

    Comment by Josh — 21 July 2006 #

  4. nice close up shots, the macro function works well !!
    Nice work, 15 euros instead of 60-80 + shipping is good !

    Comment by g3n3tiX — 22 July 2006 #

  5. Great repair tip, congratulations!!! Hope you post more clever repairs like that. For people that doesn’t live in USA, repairing broken and old appliances is a way of life ;oD

    Comment by Tabajara, the man who does everything but works nothing :o) — 22 July 2006 #

  6. I did this a lot working for a tech guy at my local middle school. We usually chose a couple crap keyboards from the iBooks the schools uses and hack them apart. Except we didn’t use superglue – just let the brackets hold the cups in place. You definitely were more delicate about it; we just used our fingers and pried the brackets out ^_^ It’s a good thing to learn if you have a laptop though. Thanks for posting.

    Comment by Scythe — 23 July 2006 #

  7. very helpful indeed – thank you

    Comment by mojo — 27 July 2006 #

  8. Seems like you have spilled something on the keyboard. If the membrane isn’t worn out, then its something short circuiting the contact inside the keyboard film that houses the traces.

    Comment by IraqiGeek — 9 August 2006 #

  9. Very nice hack, and very practical. However, I got this similar problem with Jeff. My HP Pavilion laptop also Beeps on boot-up and deletes the text I am typing. Its something like my back key is held down. When I clean up the keyboard, it stop and totally unusable key. Do you think this will help to my problem? Thanks…

    Comment by MJO — 11 August 2006 #

  10. I have a IBM ThinkPad 560X, and the B,N,AltGR and spacebar are worn out. I dunno how to fix it. The little rubber things like above do not appear to be swapable. Can anyone suggest a solution so that I can continue to use NetBSD?

    Comment by Segin — 21 August 2006 #

  11. ok do you know how to get a bracket my T is broke

    Comment by Josh — 24 August 2006 #

  12. Thank you dear IraqiGeek you have inspired me to repair my own keyboard, keep up the good work.

    Zappy!

    Comment by Zappy! — 26 August 2006 #

  13. Great info. The picture were very helpful. Several users @ my company had keys pop off thier notebooks. With the instructions and pictures I was able to fix them. Thanks

    Comment by Kazador — 31 August 2006 #

  14. how do you get the letter ket in?

    Comment by jose — 3 September 2006 #

  15. Thank u very much Dear. I fixed the problem with ur valuable info.

    Comment by Senthil — 2 October 2006 #

  16. Many thanks! This was really helpful when my husband found out that one of our cats popped off one of the keys on my laptop he had left open overnight. (the cat regularly walks on the desk to avoid the dog) By just messing with the pieces I waws able to get the ineer plastic pieces together and attached to the back of the key, before I realized it needed to be attached to the keyboard. :D Since this was the first time I had seen the back of my laptop keys, all the pictures you gave really were helpful for skipping to just the part I needed to know.

    For those of us that don’t know how to do this type of repair regularly a last step could be added: Center the key over the brackets and press down to snap the key in place. I had to do that a couple of times before the ke was secure and flat again.

    Thank you! And my husband thanks you as well, it saved him from getting into a lot of trouble. :D

    Comment by Corsetcrush — 8 October 2006 #

  17. i repeat the question asked on 2nd by jose..

    how do you get the letter key in?

    i am struggling on that.. the bracket gets attached to the letter key but then it just comes out.. may be the bracket has gone loose…

    Comment by deep — 21 October 2006 #

  18. yea on my laptop the N key has popped off with the bracket so i have to use that little rubber thing to type and its very annoying but i cant get both parts of the bracket to hook on…should i remove the bracket from the plastic square thing? or what lol i need help! =)

    Comment by Sig — 23 October 2006 #

  19. Hi, my spacebar key doesnot work. Any tips to fix that will be appreciated.

    Comment by Ahsan — 26 October 2006 #

  20. Hi there,
    Thank you for a nice guide. I run a Toshiba laptop disassembly website (http://www.irisvistra.com/tech/) and people often ask me how to repair laptop keyboards. I do not repair keyboards, I usually replace them so I had no answer to those people. Now I can link them to your site.
    Thanks again,
    Good luck!

    Comment by Laptop Freak — 26 October 2006 #

  21. vvvvvvvvv!! Hah! vvv! Thanks for the tips! I fixed my v key!

    Comment by Ed — 27 October 2006 #

  22. Ahsan, I simply got the spacebar key out ant then in and it started to work again. Ihopethishelps ;-)

    —– Original message ——-
    Hi, my spacebar key doesnot work. Any tips to fix that will be appreciated.

    Comment by jose antonio — 1 November 2006 #

  23. your a really smart guy, but those steps above do they work on a hp laptop beacuase my friend put a needle in my keyboard so i took it off but i saw your insturctions and i dont think it works so if you want or can, can you explain or show me pics on how to do it thx

    Comment by someguywhoyoudontknow — 30 December 2006 #

  24. above my comment I meant I took off the needle.

    Comment by someguywhoyoudontknow — 30 December 2006 #

  25. thanks so much for the advice, i now fixed my up and down keys, but how do you get the keys to clip back on again?

    Comment by Emna — 30 December 2006 #

  26. I fixed it by looking the one of the keys. But one of the sides of the outer piece/part of the bracket was broken. My daughter just hit the key while I was working. Now it is fixed, but the key is placed with little angle(b’cos that side support which sits the key hook was broken). I will try to get if any of bracket available to make it straight. But thanks for the Blog. Want to check whether I can purchase the bracket or can use any of laptop’s key.

    Comment by shah — 14 January 2007 #

  27. [...] on the subject of laptop repair, IraqiGeek has an article on how to fix a laptop keyboard. It’s a pretty hard core guide though, so not for the faint-hearted. Also, here’s an [...]

    Pingback by Ugh!!’s Greymatter Honeypot » Fix your broken laptop — 1 February 2007 #

  28. [...] If you ever needed to fix your laptop keyboard, you know how pricey it can get. This site will guide you, step by step, getting that keyboard fixed. Fix It. [...]

    Pingback by Fix My Own Computer - Computers & Networking Fix My Own Computer - Computers & Networking — 5 February 2007 #

  29. I have the same Averatec, and the space bar is sticking. Any tips for removing it? I’m a bit wary of just pulling it off for fear of breaking the clips. Thanks.

    Comment by tylera — 16 April 2007 #

  30. Hi Iraqi Geek! I have registered and publicly admitted to being a geek just so that I can say thanks a million for this tip. The pictures really helped and now I can type DDDDDDDDD as much as I want! :D

    Comment by IrishGirlGeek — 24 April 2007 #

  31. thanks for taking the time to put the instructions up – my son pulled off the v – never seen under the keys before! Thanks

    Comment by cinnamonminx — 1 May 2007 #

  32. Hi, I have a Toshiba Tecra A8. I spilled coke on the keyboard and many of the left hand side keys got sticky. I cleaned the keys using hot water and dried using the hair dryer. When I connected the keyboard, it started without any problem but then it is giving “Check System. Press F1 to enter BIOS” error. When I go to BIOS settings and save it, the system restarts and again I get one beep and “Check System.. ” error. If I remove the keyboard, the system restarts normally but as soon as I connect it either I get the “Check System” error or keyboard is not recognized or some keys works some other don’t. Please help. Is it keyboard related problem or some other thing ? Should I buy a new keyboard ?
    Thanks

    Comment by firozl — 8 May 2007 #

  33. I signed up for your blog, just to say thank you for helping me fix my D key on my HP ZV5280us. It’s not completely flawless… still misses a beat every now and then, but it’s a good temporary fix until my new keyboard comes in. I figure if one flew off, the rest are soon to follow.
    Thanks!!
    DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDICANTYPEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD lol

    Comment by DanielDaly — 6 June 2007 #

  34. Thanks! This was very helpful, fixed mine F after a cat’s nail… If you still want that Joost invite, drop me a line…

    Comment by ViC — 21 June 2007 #

  35. Very helpful, thanks so much. My 3-year-old just mangled my keyboard, pulled off a couple of keys, which is no big deal, but disassembled one of the brackets, which I didn’t know how to fix. With your help I have it fixed now. I think you just saved my son from a really, really bad day with Mommy. Thanks.

    Comment by doctorgrrl — 27 August 2007 #

  36. Thanks a lot dude!

    I popped out my Esc key in a moment of insanity and misaligned the F1 key. (Actually I spilled some water on the keyboard)

    This guide really helped me understand how to put everything back together!

    Thanks a lot!

    Comment by happycamper — 7 October 2007 #

  37. Great article, but my question is much simpler…
    Once you’ve got the keyboard all put back together, how do you replace the key-caps? I’ve had one pop off my keyboard and can’t figure out how to get it back on.

    Thanks!

    Comment by averatecuser — 1 November 2007 #

  38. Which key kaps?

    If you’re talking about the plastic key that has a letter imprinted on it, then usually all you have to do is put back on top of the bracket and push it in until it locked with the bracket.

    BUT, as I recently learned, if you have an IBM keyboard, this is a much trickier job.

    Heck, I might write another how-to just to show how its done on IBM keyboards.

    Comment by IraqiGeek — 1 November 2007 #

  39. Thanks for the input. I’ve tired that, but with no luck. This is the same keyboard discussed in the article above; that funky Averatec double-lever thing.

    Any additional insights would be much appreciated.

    Comment by averatecuser — 2 November 2007 #

  40. if you mounted the brackets correctly, the key should snap on without problems. unless you have brocken the tiny pins that hold the key or mounted the bracket incorrectly, you should have no troubles at all in fitting the key back on.

    Comment by IraqiGeek — 2 November 2007 #

  41. I have noticed on the rubber boot that is in the spot for the ey i am missing, yes it’s the ey that you don’t see me typing from the eyboard. There seems to be a small metal piece that is attached to it that is required to contact the lower part of the board to get the character to input. Is this true for all the laptop eyboards out there?

    Comment by ALTURIAN — 29 November 2007 #

  42. ALTURIAN,

    never seen such a piece. I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Do you have pics to show what you are talking about???

    Comment by IraqiGeek — 29 November 2007 #

  43. [...]  http://www.iraqigeek.com/?p=45 [...]

    Pingback by How to fix a laptop keyboard | Deltas Blog — 13 December 2007 #

  44. Hey,

    Thanks for the informative article.

    My S key popped off my Toshiba Satellite keyboard, and I popped it back on no problem. However, it now always pops off at the top left when I hit it too far to the bottom right. None of the bracket pieces/keyboard clips seem broken, however. Do you think I should try putting a tiny bead of superglue between the cap and the soft plastic teat, so that the cap can’t pop off any more? I tried taking off my D key and it was a lot harder to get off (but looked the same inside). I’m wondering if they treat these keys with adhesive?

    Thanks,

    Jek

    Comment by Jekteir — 13 January 2008 #

  45. Thanks a lot…. I accidently poped out my ‘C’ while cleaning and was tensed abt replacing the keyboard !

    Thanks again ! You made my day !

    Comment by sazwqa — 25 February 2008 #

  46. [...] This guide will show you how to fix dead laptop keyboard keys. [...]

    Pingback by Fixing dead laptop keyboard keys >> Inside my laptop — 10 May 2008 #

  47. Worked beautifully and quickly without tweezers. Thanks for posting this.

    Comment by akutger — 30 May 2008 #

  48. Thank’s IraqiGeek for laying this out so well. I had lost the ‘B’ key on my HP Pavilion laptop and found your site. While the plastic bits are a tad different, your closeup shots gave me the insight to piece mine back together. I didn’t use tweezers, but just assembled the two plastic parts away from the keyboard by snapping in the pivot pins with my fingers. Then it was pretty easy to hook the large outer plastic bit to the keyboard hooks, then press down and click the smaller tab to the front of the keyboard. Then you mash down the key cap and click it on. Now I can type bbbbbbbbb all I want.
    Sorry about the whole invasion thing. Hopefully it will be fixed in a couple days.

    Comment by MassGeek — 2 November 2008 #

  49. Thank you very much for creating this guide.
    My youngest son ( 2.5 years old ) had fun with my laptop while i was away for a few seconds and when i came back – several letters were scattered on my computertable ( and missing from my keyboard ).

    I was so frustrated because the “buy new keyboard” option is somewhat harder with a laptop than with a stationary, but after reading your guide i fixed my keyboard in a few mintues!

    Comment by compugeek — 16 December 2008 #

  50. Okay, I’m leaving this message in hopes that my problem can be fixed.
    I found this guide helpful, as I’m a very heavy typist. My keys have been wearing out lately since my PC is nearing its first birthday.
    Last night my space bar stopped working.
    It appears that the spring on the right side, the side where I type, is a bit worn down.
    The only thing I wish this guide had was a description on how to take the keys off without breaking the bracket off.
    I tried to repair an acer key once, and I broke the bracket while taking it off. Luckily that was my f5 key.
    Now, I’m confident that if I can just get the key off I can fix the problem.
    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Comment by KyubiNoKitsune — 30 May 2009 #

  51. wow, thanks for perfect manual of keyboard repairs!

    Comment by pahan — 20 June 2009 #

  52. Very handy guide, especially for delicate keyboards

    Comment by Londonlaptops — 8 July 2009 #

  53. Very good guide dude, but when you hjave 1 or 2 keys missing, then your left with no choice but to replace the keyboard.

    I’m yet to find a company which sells individual keys for laptop keyboards.

    Comment by LondonLaptopRepairs — 16 January 2010 #

  54. This is such a brilliant idea! thanks for the detailed photos and explaination. I have thrown away a few cheap keyboards, but from now on I will keep some parts back for this kind of laptop repair. thanks again

    Comment by control-escape-laptop-fix — 14 September 2011 #

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