Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Repost: keyboard maintenance

Originally titled, “My “e” key doesn’t “e”, and other keyboard tips”, this post appeared 08/06/07. I have added a tip in this republication.

There seems to be some weird alignment of the planets that is causing a spate of keyboard problems recently — accounting for about a third of my support calls this week. So today I’m going to tell you some basic keyboard maintenance and repair techniques, just in case your “e” key decides to start rebelling too.

Tip of the day: Cleanliness is the “key” to happy keyboards. Aside from your hard drive, your ‘input devices’ are the most (physically) hard-working things on your computer. And unlike the platters, motors, and read/write heads inside your HD, keyboards do all of their work by getting touched by oily, sweaty, dirty, jelly-covered human hands. And they get sneezed on too.
Yes, we humans (even the cleanest of us) manage to do rude things to our keyboards. Smokers drop ashes, and nibblers drop crumbs. We give them Diet Coke baths. We spit on them when we cough, or laugh too hard at YouTube videos. And some of us take our laptops to the beach.

Almost two-thirds of the keyboard-related calls I took at Aplus Computer Aid were concerning laptops, and all but one was cured by cleaning (the sole exception required replacement, it was age related). Laptops, for various reasons, require more frequent cleaning than desktop models. The first thing to do when you have a quirky and misbehaving keyboard is blow the collected dust and debris out from under the keys.

Tip your laptop or desk keyboard on its side, so that gravity can help us. Then use a can of compressed air (like DustOff), or blow through a straw, along all the gaps and depressions around the edges of the keys. Start at the top and work your way down, vary your angles a few times. Now turn your laptop/keyboard upside-down and give it a a couple of gentle taps. Then lay it flat in its normal position and repeat a quick gaps blow. It may surprise you how much stuff has collected under your keys.

Next we go after the more stubborn dirt and oils with a vacuum. A canister vacuum with a brush attachment is the best tool here. If you don’t have a vacuum cleaner that has a hose with a brush, you can try a paint brush (or a basting brush), and brush out as much as you can that way. I have also used a bent piece of insulated wire to go ‘fishing’ under misbehaving keys. It was this method that recently cured a “stuck” key (it wouldn’t depress) on a laptop — fishing around under there produced a grain of uncooked rice. (The laptop’s owner was baffled by this discovery…)

In some cases, you may need to pop the keycaps (or keys) off. This is a somewhat tricky undertaking, usually accomplished with gentle prying pressure with a small screwdriver. Each manufacturer and type of keyboard has its own methodology for keycap removal, and I strongly advise you to look at the manufacturer’s documentation before you start removing caps. (If your laptop is still under warranty, removing keycaps may void your support — look before you leap.) With the keycap off, use a Q-tip and isopropyl alcohol (or water with a smidgeon of liquid dishsoap) to clean the exposed area. Use gentle pressure to ‘snap’ the keycaps back into place. As a final step, use a lint-free cloth moistened with water and mild dishsoap to gently wipe the tops of the keys to remove finger oils and grime.

[addenda: If you have a keyboard you dearly love, and want to keep it functioning for many more weeks and months and years, you may want to consider applying the advice above to the whole board, and not just the problem keys, and give it a real thorough cleaning.
I suggest taking a polaroid or digital picture (or pictures) to document exact key placement to assist you in replacing the keys in their proper places. Remove all the key caps, and if possible, lay them out on a tabletop in the same pattern as they are on the board itself. Start at the bottom and work your way up.
Once all the caps are removed, really do a good job of cleaning out the recesses as described in the prior paragraph. Clean the undersides of the caps before replacing them, as well.
Sometimes, this will “reserrect” dead keyboards.]

For really problematic desktop keyboards there is one more thing to try before going out and purchasing a replacement: soak the keyboard overnight in your bathtub, occasionally swirling the water a little to create current-motion (not much, just a little). Hard to reach oils and other grime will loosen and float away. Let the keyboard air-dry thoroughly (another 24 hours) before plugging it back in.
If all of these methods fail to produce results, good desktop keyboards can be found for as little as $10. Most, if not all, laptops can have the keyboard unit replaced as well: the manufacturer being the source for these parts.

Today’s free link: I don’t want you to think that I’m a boring and all-business geek, so today’s link is the place to get started building your digital music collection … for free. The music department at download.com is an entirely free collection of music of all genres. Check it out. Have fun, and relax … it’s completely legal, and doesn’t use any of that questionable “file sharing”.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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September 20, 2007 - Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, keyboards and mice, PC, tech, Windows

37 Comments »

  1. can u teach me;
    how two use computer?
    tell me what are the gadgetes of computer?
    the name of all the persons that built the computer?

    Like

    Comment by vanes | December 10, 2008 | Reply

  2. actually three keys are not working on my desktop keyboard ie space, enter nd backspace. so sud I try to put it in my bath tub before trying buying a new one ??? may be I can stretch it for a few more weeks…

    Like

    Comment by Anonymous | December 23, 2009 | Reply

    • Sir or Ms,
      If you have tried the other steps, why not? Sounds like time for a new keyboard…

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | December 23, 2009 | Reply

  3. Six of tabs on my laptopskeyboard are not functioning.what should i try?

    Like

    Comment by temeche tefera | November 10, 2010 | Reply

    • temeche tefera,
      If you have already tried the methods above, and the keys on your laptop still won’t work, then the odds are good they have worn out mechanically and you need to replace the keyboard module (or hire a technician).

      Another option is to “attach” another keyboard (wireless or USB) and use that.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | November 10, 2010 | Reply

  4. I have a different problem. When I first turn my notebook on, numbers 5, 6 and 0 don’t work at all. They suddenly start working after around 2 hours. This has happened every day this week and it’s so annoying. Any ideas? thanks :)

    Like

    Comment by Rachelle | November 12, 2010 | Reply

    • Rachelle,
      While you may think your problem is different, I have the same advice for you (and 99% of laptop owners with these questions) as I stated in the comment directly above yours.

      (For you specifically, I suspect a heat-related issue: after your laptop warms up [and things inside expand].. the keys work. But it is [most likely] a mechanical issue, and a tech should look — such as the manufacturer, if it’s still under warranty.)

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | November 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. I thought I should change is good.

    Like

    Comment by jielg97 | June 1, 2011 | Reply

  6. Techpaul I have an e-machines e620. The problem is that when I turn my laptop on(i really mean on not login) it keeps on pressing f10 and some other keys while some keys doesnt work. Well my hdd os is corrupted so i use Mini Xp(in hirens cd). So i remove my hdd and it is still not working properly. Im using a phone rigth now thats why i comment like this.

    Like

    Comment by Zpc | July 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Zpc,
      From what I can interpret from your question (I am assuming you already tried keyboard cleaning procedures) I suspect a mechanical defect has developed in the keyboard component, which is typically cured by disassembly and replacement. I would have to look at your machine to be more helpful to you. Perhaps you could have a tech look at it?

      On an older, budget machine, I don’t know to what extent you want to invest in repair (a keyboard is about $45) or whether you want to take this as an omen to get a new laptop.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by techpaul | July 10, 2012 | Reply

  7. Im only 12, and that laptop is only a gift from my father. And I only know a few things in laptops. So sad :(. But thanks for answering back. Well that laptop is old anway. My father gave it to me when I was 8 or 7… Thanks again for your reply.

    Like

    Comment by Zpc | July 12, 2012 | Reply

    • Zpc,
      In my reply I stated that I had to assume you had done cleaning procedures.. maybe I should have been more specific. If you have not done so already, you might have luck by getting a Q-tip, a pair of tweezers, and e can of air (DustOff) and then go through and remove each keycap, and clean any hair/dirt/etc. out from there. Do one cap at a time. (If you don’t have access to a can of air, you might carefully use a canister vacuum [the kind with a hose].)

      Also, many technicians, such as myself, would look at your machine and tell you what needed to be done, and give you an estimate, at no charge. Good luck.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | July 12, 2012 | Reply

      • Uh i have a problem my self when i press D it goes onto my url bar and it happened but is now gone when i press like nvm its back when i press zero it brings up this 04 and some of my letters repeated like i press s it typed sscseescdcscse

        Like

        Comment by Anonymous | February 11, 2016 | Reply

        • Sir or Ms,
          Please read my previous answers, given in the comments above yours.

          Like

          Comment by techpaul | February 12, 2016 | Reply

  8. My son accidentally poured water on my notebook. Now some of the keys are not working fine. Pressing ‘i’ or ‘c’ types ‘ci’ and ‘s’ or ‘g’ types ‘sg’. The right arrow key also types a complete time stamp when a notepad is open and goes to the address bar when a browser is open. Also the space bar types a space with an additional ‘m’. Sobasically, the keyboard has gone bonkers. Any idea how to fix it?

    Like

    Comment by Ronald | September 6, 2012 | Reply

  9. I think my problem is different. A couple of my keys on my Lenovo laptop dont work (one does happen to be the apostrophe key). The Delete doesnt work, but the numlock(secondary function) does, as does . I see no gunk under the key and am thinking the delete function got somehow remapped? Other thoughts? Thanks!

    Like

    Comment by Krista | March 22, 2013 | Reply

  10. as does the shift delete. Apparently that got converted when I posted :-)

    Like

    Comment by Krista | March 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Krista,
      Remapping is a possible cause, but I couldn’t say one way or the other without looking at your machine.

      In my other comment replies, above, I have posted further suggestions. You might try the uninstall trick, for example. And make sure of your keyboard language…
      But it could also be mechanical, and the past replaced. A tech could tell you.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | March 22, 2013 | Reply

  11. i silled water on my lap to ,now im using an on screen key board as my real one is actin strange .some keys work others bring up computer jargon i dont understand some adjust volume what do i do? im up for gettin inside it an re wiring if i have to im planning on learnin bout tech an iv been thru a lot with this crappy notebook saved her from the dump many times its now held together with gaffa tape so where do i start?

    Like

    Comment by Mlmraa | May 12, 2013 | Reply

    • Mlmraa,
      There are additional answers in the comments above, and you might also have some luck with the second method descibed in this article: What To Do When Your Mouse Plays Dead (Or Your Keyboard)..

      But you probably are not going to have luck “rewiring” a laptop keyboard, but you may need to replace the (whole) keyboard (use a search engine for the term “replacement keyboard” and your laptop make and model. For example: HP dv7 replacement keyboard). You will find disassembly instructions in the technical manual, on the manufacturer’s support page (online).

      … but if the thing is being held together by tape, and has already been rescued from the dump a few times.. maybe it’s past time to replace the whole thing.. if possible. Good luck!

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | May 12, 2013 | Reply

  12. Hi — I cleaned my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard last night by prying off the keys, then using Q-tips moistened with Isopropyl alcohol. Everything went fine, as it usually does, except when trying to put the keys back on. The number one key doesn’t snap back into place, although it sits on the designated spot at the correct height and works — but if I blow on the keyboard hard, as if to dislodge dirt, the key goes flying off.

    The bigger problem is the number two key. I can’t even type it now without it getting stuck and typing row upon row of the numeral two. I keep searching for advice on how to fix this, but everything on the net says ‘not physically stuck’. Mine IS physically stuck down, the key won’t lock back on either, and if I set it on top, and press it down really hard to get it to work, that’s when I get the rows of two’s.

    Any advice? Thanks.

    Like

    Comment by Julie | August 24, 2014 | Reply

    • Julie,
      Buy a new keyboard.

      Why do I advise that? Keyboards are cheap. And, both those issues are mechanical – typically, once you resolve them (by fiddling, and futzing with tweezers and little screwdrivers, and retrying) it is only a matter of time before they recur.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 24, 2014 | Reply

  13. When I type the number 1 a period is also there, I have to deleate the period. 1.1.1. I just typed the 1. and did not hit the period key. How did this happen?? Thanks for any help you can give… Fran

    Like

    Comment by Fran | August 30, 2014 | Reply

    • Fran,
      Well, that’s one I haven’t seen before.. It almost sounds like a ‘macro’ has been set.
      All I can suggest is that you read my answers in the comments above, (yes, there’s a lot of them) and try the remedies I’ve supplied already. (I’d start with the one in the other [linked] article.)

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | August 30, 2014 | Reply

  14. Hi Sir,

    When i start something to type numeric 1 is automtically getting typied and repeated ,this has irritated me to type anything.Need your help however after sometime the problem do not exist i need solution as i face this issue many times.I m using lenovo G500s windows 8.1.

    Like

    Comment by Rinish | October 29, 2014 | Reply

    • Rinish,
      If you use my search widget with the keyword “keyboard”, you’ll be taken to to my two repair articles; which, combined with the additional answers in the comments sections below the articles, provide my complete ‘How To Repair’ answers.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | October 29, 2014 | Reply

  15. I spilled water on my HP Windows 8.1 Laptop, and immediately got a towel, and turned my laptop upside down, and open on top of the towel, and let it dry for about 40 hours. I turned it on, and it was fully functional, however I cannot hold “W” and press ANY of the keys in the same row, besides “T”, and “Y” while holding “W”. This greatly interferes with my gaming. Can I get any help?

    Like

    Comment by ChaotikDawg | November 28, 2014 | Reply

    • ChaotikDawg,
      Amazing. You got very lucky. I suspect you’ll need to replace the keyboard (or plug in an external) if the answers I’ve already given (see previous comments, above) make no improvement. You might also look at

      .

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | November 28, 2014 | Reply

      • Alright, thank you. I spilled like 2/3 of an average glass of water on it. But i’m understanding that “W” is a damaged key? I’ve also noticed that I can’t make a Capital x. I have to hold shift, than let go of shift, while holding onto x, than let go of it. That might sound a bit confusing. But thank you very much for your help. I know you might not answer this, but do you have skype? xD

        Like

        Comment by ChaotikDawg | November 29, 2014 | Reply

        • ChaotikDawg,
          I actually suspect a ‘short’ in the wiring inside the keyboard, and the fix for that is replacing the keyboard assembly.

          Fortunately, laptop keyboard replacement units are not terribly expensive, and most people can replace them themselves. (There’s probably a How To video for your model HP on YouTube.)

          I only Skype with select friends and family. If you’d like to communicate with me in a less public manner, people can email me using the ‘Contact Tech Paul’ form.

          Like

          Comment by techpaul | November 29, 2014 | Reply

  16. hey…. i have a query…. that if i am typing something anywhere like in google search box or composing e mail or etc. whenever i directly press enter key after typing it converts into a link – http://www.websitename.com……….. like that. plz help….?????????

    Like

    Comment by Rishav | July 19, 2015 | Reply

    • Rishav,
      That is an auto-feature built into many products (such as Microsoft’s Office), but if it’s happening everywhere.. well, that’s a new one for me. (Microsoft says if you don’t want the conversion, press Ctrl+Z immediately after it converts.) All I can suggest is to read my replies to previous questions (above) for some troubleshooting techniques; and maybe check back here to see if a reader has replied with a suggestion they know.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | July 19, 2015 | Reply

  17. My coolermaster keyboard keys keep blinking and repeating themselves even this just happened today

    Like

    Comment by Khai | November 23, 2017 | Reply

  18. All of a sudden all the button on the keyboard is not responding except cap lock space bar and back space

    Like

    Comment by Adebayo | December 28, 2017 | Reply


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