How to Repair a Broken Laptop Keyboard

Broken or unresponsive laptop keyboards aren’t fun to deal with – trust me, I know. I recently had the joy of dealing with one, and although stuck or unresponsive keys will try their best to convince you that you need to pay a visit to the local computer repair person, it’s possible to fix most of the keyboard problems you’re plagued with yourself. (Shocking, right?)

Keep reading to find out how you can put a pesky keyboard back in its place and keep the money you’d fork out for a repair bill in your pocket.

First things first: you need to identify the problem. If you can identify what the problem is, you can fix your keyboard and save yourself $100 (or more). Let’s go over some basics first:

  • Is your keyboard still powered on?
  • How many of the keys are not functioning properly?

If some keys are working while others aren’t, you could be dealing with a mechanical problem (which we will address shortly).

  • Are none of the keys functioning?

repairkeyboard-mechanical

If all of the keys on your keyboard are refusing to respond, press CAPS LOCK to see if that key’s indicator light goes off/comes on. If the lights on your keys aren’t turning on and off when you press them, the first things you need to try doing is restarting your laptop. If rebooting your laptop doesn’t take care of the problem, there are some other tricks you can try.

If one or more of your keys has quit working, check and make sure nothing has gotten stuck underneath them. We’re all guilty of eating at our desk, so it’s no big deal if there are a couple of cookie crumbs in there. You’d also be surprised at how much dust and debris can build up over time if you don’t clean your keyboard regularly.

You can try turning your laptop upside down to shake loose bigger pieces of debris if they’re not lodged in your keyboard too tight, but I would suggest buying a couple of cans of compressed air. (DO NOT SHAKE CANS OF COMPRESSED AIR)

repairkeyboard-dustoff-compressed-air

The slender straw on the can is perfect for blowing as much air as possible between the keys to eliminate any debris that may be in your keyboard and hindering the keys from functioning correctly. It doesn’t take much to keep a keyboard from working like it should, so even if you think you don’t see much in there, using a can of compressed air could save you a trip to the repair shop.

If you’re still having problems even after trying the compressed air trick, you have another option left. Many laptop keyboards can be removed, and I’ll be honest, it’s an aggravating task. However, you may reach a point where it’s necessary to remove the keyboard, so we’ll discuss how to do this in just a little bit.

If you already tried cleaning your keyboard, using a can of compressed air, and troubleshooting for mechanical issues without any success, your problems may be software related. The problem could lie with your OS or any of your keyboard’s drivers. An out of date, corrupted, or missing driver can cause the keyboard to cease functioning.

In Windows laptops, you can go to “Control Panel -> Device Manager -> Keyboards” to help you figure out the problem. If you see a red circle or yellow triangle on top of the keyboard icon, it means the driver is corrupt or not working. Right-click the keyboard and then select “Update driver software.”

Go to Control Panel > Device Manager > Keyboards.

Right click the keyboard, select Update driver software.

Windows will look for a new driver, and if it finds one, Windows will begin the installation process. You can also use Windows update to check for new keyboard drivers.

“None of this is working. Now what?” You can try replacing your keyboard. This is a time-consuming task, so clear your schedule (especially if you’ve never done this before). Steps can vary greatly depending on the make and model of your laptop, and there are a lot of teeny tiny screws involved, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with you attempting to replace your keyboard.

For Windows laptops, your best bet for pulling this off is to search for a guide based on the manufacturer’s brand and model number. You’ll most likely find the information you need for the search on a label on the bottom of your laptop.

repairkeyboard-laptop-label

With the manufacturer’s brand and model number in hand, you have three options for finding precise instructions on how to replace your specific keyboard.

  1. Check the manufacturer’s website to see if they offer specific instructions for DIY repair.
  2. Run a search on the Web for “how to replace keyboard” with your laptop’s model number.
  3. Search iFixit to see if they have the guide you need.

If none of these options offer the solution and information you need to properly replace your keyboard, it’s time to bite the bullet and seek help from that repair store you’ve been avoiding like the plague. Sorry, folks. So drop that sucker off, go enjoy a hot cup of joe for your efforts, and tell your buddies “I could have fixed it myself but I’d hate to see that shop close down.”

Photo Credit: ricardoduplos, Kurayba

9 comments

  1. You can also add a USB keyboard to your desktop. It will not be as movable as before, but probably make it possible to make your working position more comfortable and ergonomic anyway.

    (I have even used a Bluetooth Keyboard when my mobile phones digitizer stoped detecting me clicking and dragging on the screen)

  2. All readers of this very useful mails from Make Tech Easier:
    – Missing a single broken key at our laptop keyboard is a “Mechanical problem” shortening our laptop’s life substantially. Like the keyboard needing a dentist for all to see and touch, including our finger in question.
    – We saved it, again “brand new”, by searching with “Any Single Key & Clip” at ebay.com with exellent results. Please check postage, which may be prohibitive.
    This experience may even deserve one line under Mecanical Problems above.
    Ole-Erik (sign)

  3. I have a Dell laptop, and the key top of the letter T has popped off. I have tried to snap if back on, but have had no luck. How can I get it to snap back on?

  4. Hi Janet,

    Reattaching keys that have popped off can be a real pain. This is probably going to sound a little silly, but have you tried wiggling your finger when you’re pressing down on the key? Keys don’t always snap right back in and you may need to work one corner at a time. As long as none of the clips on the bottom of your key are damaged (if you haven’t checked to make sure none of the clips are damaged make sure you do so before trying to snap the key on again) it should snap back on with a little persuasion.

    Most keys have 3 to 4 clip points, often 2 on top and 1 at the bottom, or 2 on top and 2 on bottom. If any of the clip points are broken or damaged it’s not going to snap back into place and you’ll need to purchase a new key.

    If you determine a broken clip is the root of your problem I would recommend visiting http://www.laptop-keys.com/ . They’re a reliable source for single keys and they normally get you the part(s) you need pretty quick.

    Hope this helps! Good luck and let us know if this works (or if none of the clips are broken and you’re still having trouble).

  5. I had a Dell with the “fn” key missing…my IT guy was not impressed when i asked him to replace the “fn” key on my laptop.;

  6. These are some great tips for keyboard fixes, and I especially appreciate your suggestion to check for debris underneath the keys. This would be an easy fix, and it would be a shame if you sent your laptop in for repairs if this was the only problem. It’s always a good thing to check for first, just in case!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this advice on repairing a broken laptop keyboard! Right now, I actually have like 5 keys that aren’t working too well, so I’ll be sure to check and see if there is any debris under them. However, if a can of compressed air can’t get them to work again, I’ll check the driver next!

  8. This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to use compressed air to get debris out of your laptop’s keyboard. A couple of my keys stopped working a few days ago, and I thought it was a complicated problem, but it was just some crumbs stuck underneath. I’ll definitely get some compressed air to dislodge them and get the keys working again. Thanks for the great post!

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