Mechanical keyboards are not only instrumental in improving the overall computing experience, but they also safeguard your long-term health and well-being by being significantly more ergonomic and comfortable compared to regular membrane keyboards. However, this level of comfort and pleasant typing experience comes at a cost. Most branded mechanical keyboards are more expensive than the ubiquitous Logitech or Microsoft membrane keyboards.
To make matters worse, the cheap membrane keyboards are virtually indestructible due to their uncomplicated design and the lack of moving parts. Mechanical keyboards, however, contain switches bearing many tiny components and metal contacts that are prone to mechanical failure. In fact, it isn't uncommon for some mechanical switches to fail prematurely, even though their MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) rating ranges from 10 million to 50 million actuations.
The chances of encountering premature switch failure isn't uncommon considering how the average mechanical keyboard has 101 switches. This is also more likely to happen outside of the typical one-year warranty. Without warranty coverage, even one non-functional key could render your entire keyboard practically useless. However, you don't have to surrender your expensive out-of-warranty mechanical keyboard for recycling. Follow this guide to learn how to replace faulty switches yourself.
What You Will Need
Unlike what was evident in our mouse repair guide, tearing down a mechanical keyboard is fairly easy. But we must first take stock of all the tools and supplies needed before embarking on this intrepid self-repair journey.
Just like the mouse guide, our recommended soldering tools amount to well over $100, but you can opt for this entry-level soldering kit that costs a mere $17. If you choose the cheaper soldering kit, feel free to skip items from 7 through 10. Replacement switches are easy to source once you look up the keyboard specifications sheet to figure out the type you need.
- Keyboard with faulty switches
- Phillips head screwdriver with tips/bits in PH1 size
- Flat-head screwdriver with a thin-edged tip
- Spare credit card or a plastic spudger tool
- Keyboard switch puller
- Keycap puller
- Soldering iron
- Desoldering pump (solder sucker)
- 67/33 rosin core solder
- Solder flux
- Replacement switches. Click to buy genuine Cherry MX Red, MX Blue, MX Brown switches.
How to Replace Faulty Keyboard Switches
1. Clear the workspace and keep a Phillips head screwdriver handy along with a magnetic tray to hold screws. You don't want to lose them.
2. The keyboard we are working with is the Corsair K65 Lux RGB, which utilises the simple integrated plate design that is commonly found on most gaming mechanical keyboards. The great part about this design is that there's no need to hunt down hidden screws (for the most part) under rubber feet and compliance stickers.
Most importantly, such keyboard chassis designs do not rely on snap-in plastic retention clips. Usually, Razer and Logitech keyboards with all-plastic chassis employ the aforementioned design, so you might want to refer to our mouse repair guide for tips on safe disassembly.
3. Use a keycap puller to gently and safely remove keycaps without causing damage. Be extra gentle when removing long-stabilised keycaps such as the ones on the spacebar, Shift, Enter, and Backspace switches.
Non-standard keycaps such as these media keys can be pried off with a small flat-headed screwdriver or, more preferably, a plastic spudger/pry tool.
4. In this particular keyboard, all screws are on the integrated-plate-side of the keyboard. Use a Phillips head screwdriver to remove all of them. Other keyboards might have screws on the bottom of the chassis, with some hidden under rubber feet and compliance labels. However, a quick search on YouTube should throw up a helpful teardown video relevant to your particular mechanical keyboard model.
5. We aren't done just yet. Corsair has sneakily hidden a screw just behind the company logo. That brings us to this rule of the thumb: if the keyboard chassis seems too hard to open, there might be a hidden screw standing in your way, waiting for you to apply enough force and break things.
That's one way to discourage self-repair. However, it is quite easy to locate these hidden screws. They are generally located in the general area where the chassis refuses to come apart.
6. With the final hidden screw out of the way, the Corsair K65 Lux RGB keyboard comes apart quite easily.
7. This particular keyboard has a faulty spacebar switch. Be sure to clean solder joints of every switch you intend to replace with isopropyl alcohol applied with lint-free wipes. Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate completely. This is especially true if you are using lower concentrations of alcohol; generally, avoid using less than 90 percent isopropyl alcohol.
8. Applying solder flux onto the solder joints is necessary to remove extant oxidation or contaminants present on the surface. This not only cleans the joints but also speeds up the process of desoldering by allowing the solder joints to melt quicker.
9. Set the soldering iron to heat up to 350 degrees Celsius or approximately 660 degrees Fahrenheit. Wait for it to reach at least 300°C. The iron tip must be properly tinned before we can proceed. Please refer to step 14 of our mouse repair guide, where this process has been explained in detail.
The entire tinning process has also been illustrated in the images below for easy reference.
10. Desolder the faulty switches. Refer to steps 15 through 20 of the mouse repair guide for a detailed breakdown of the process.
11. Repeat this process for all faulty switches that need to be replaced.
12. That was the tough part. Soldering fresh switches onto the PCB is relatively much easier. Orient the replacement switch in the correct position that you have hopefully made a note of beforehand and press into place. The switch will snap securely into the plate.
13. Flip the PCB over to the other side where you can see the replacement switch legs poke out. Clean the pad and switch legs with isopropyl alcohol, just like you did prior to desoldering the faulty switches. Apply flux to the pad and legs after the alcohol has evaporated.
14. As explained earlier, it is important to keep your soldering iron tip tinned prior to soldering every joint. The secret to a good solder joint is making sure the iron tip simultaneously touches both the pad on the PCB and switch leg.
That's when you introduce solder between the joint and the iron tip. The molten solder should flow effortlessly into the joint. Only flow enough solder to form a concave solder fillet on the joint. Remove the iron tip by gently flicking it upwards. It's easier to add more solder later than it is to pump out excess and redo the joint.
15. What you see here is the perfect joint, where the fillet is concave and shiny. A convex fillet with excess solder bulging out is either a sign of excessive solder or a cold joint. If you end up with just that, simply desolder the joint and solder it again until you have nailed it.
16. That is all you have to do in order to replace faulty keyboard switches. Follow steps 6 through 1 in reverse to reassemble the keyboard. You can then use a handy utility like Switch Hitter to verify if the replacement switches are functional again.
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