What Is Keyboard Ghosting and Why Should You Care?

Keyboard Ghosting Featured

The term “keyboard ghosting” is a lot less scary than it sounds. Despite this, it can definitely “haunt” certain keyboard users and cause undesirable results. You’ll find many anti-ghosting keyboards on the market to solve this problem, but the question remains: what is ghosting, and why should you care about it?

What Is Keyboard Ghosting?

Keyboard ghosting is when a keyboard doesn’t register a key being pressed even though the user has pressed it correctly. This is typically due to the keyboard’s manufacturer trying to keep costs down by using cheaper parts.

Keyboard Ghosting Ghosts

When you’re typing on a keyboard like normal, you may never suffer from keyboard ghosting. Very rarely do you hold down more than three keys, which most keyboards today can support. As such, if you use your keyboard to do work or post on social media, ghosting may never be an issue.

Things change in a gaming environment, however. Let’s say someone is playing a first-person shooter online and using a keyboard that supports at least three keys. They’re running across a battlefield, which means holding down W to go forward and Shift to turn the walk into a run. They’re currently using two of the three keys in their “budget” just by moving forward!

They then spot an enemy ahead, so they hold down the Ctrl key to crouch below some cover ahead of them. Now we have the W, Shift, and Ctrl keys held, meaning the keyboard’s budget is filled up.

If this player suddenly notices a landmine ahead of them and quickly presses Space to jump over it, this SPACE keypress is “over budget.” As such, the keyboard doesn’t register the SPACE press, and the player runs right into the landmine – much to their annoyance!

Preventing Ghosting

So if you’re in the market for a new keyboard and don’t want ghosting to occur, what can you do?

Keyboard Ghosting Typing

First, you can take a look for “anti-ghosting” keyboards. These will typically list the number of keys on the keyboard that support this feature, such as “25-key anti-ghosting.” This won’t cover the entire keyboard for anti-ghosting, but it will individually target keys that tend to be held down alongside other keys.

Another option is to look for keyboards designed to support up to a certain number of keys pressed. These are advertised using the term “[number]-key rollover.” For example, a keyboard that lets you hold down 4 keys at once is called a 4-key rollover keyboard.

The best of all, however, are n-key rollovers. This term has nothing to do with the physical “N” key on the keyboard; instead,  it’s the mathematical letter for a set of numbers that go on forever. This is a relevant name, as an n-key rollover keyboard has no upper key limit. Every single keypress is registered separately, which means no ghosting at all!

Ghost Busters

Keyboard ghosting doesn’t affect everyone, but to those who are affected, it can be a major annoyance. If you want an anti-ghosting keyboard, be sure to prioritize n-key rollover keyboards to eliminate the issue.

Does keyboard ghosting affect you? Do you think an anti-ghosting keyboard is a good investment? Let us know below.

Simon Batt
Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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