I think most of us can agree that laptop keyboards aren’t quite as resilient as we would like. This is an almost unavoidable problem when we consider how laptops are manufactured and what the consumer is looking for.
We want smaller, light, laptops. This means the keyboard component needs to be slim and light – which is ultimately where a lot of our problems come from.
A laptop keyboard is nowhere near as accessible as our standard desktop one. How are we going to get in and have a look at what’s going on without taking the laptop apart? Imagine if whenever you had keyboard troubles with your desktop you had to take apart your PC first. What a nightmare.
It’s not always easy to fix a laptop keyboard. Luckily, not all laptop keyboards were designed to be so completely inaccessible. There are lots of little fixes that can be done easily without opening up your laptop; some don’t even require you to touch the keyboard at all, we can simply run some diagnostics from the command prompt, etc.
If you are having trouble with your laptop keyboard trying to get to the bottom of it isn’t always easy, that’s why we have created this handy little guide.
Here you will find a rough breakdown of some of the most common problems and simple fixes that everyone should be aware of. As well as some helpful tips for avoiding future problems and deciding whether or not the problems can be solved by you or if you are better off simply seeking the help of a professional.
Table of Contents
What you Need to Know About Laptop Keyboards
Laptop keyboards have some very different priorities to regular, desktop, keyboards. They aren’t designed to be as bulky or resilient, for one. They aren’t designed to be easily accessible, getting to internal components is as simple as taking out a few screws for your desktop keyboard. Your laptop keyboard requires you to open the entire laptop and start moving important internal components out of the way.
Hard to Fix for a Couple Reasons
For the average Joe, laptop keyboards are also far more difficult to fix for a few reasons. The first being that they aren’t often mechanical, they are regularly membrane or other such pressure pad-based systems. Which means you won’t find it quite as easy to swap out and switch for another.
Firstly because it’s not as immediately obvious how to do so, secondly because most laptop keyboards work off of one solid board with all the pressure plates mounted rather than individual switches sitting on top of the PCB.
This is a sort of double-edged sword, on one hand, it’s good that there are less tiny finicky bits inside that we need to work with or that are at risk of being damaged. But, it also means if one part does get damaged, it’s all damaged, and you may need to make major and expensive replacements.
Very Exposed to the Elements
Laptop keyboards are also very exposed to the elements, they are so compact and slim that if you get dust in the gaps between keys it makes its way down to the PCB itself and can start to cake itself on to important components of the board.
It also means that if you end up spilling something on the keyboard it soaks through and the liquid can not only damage the keyboard mechanisms but the laptops computer itself.
Spilling water is bad enough, but as someone who has spilled beer into their laptop keyboard, I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty – neither the keyboard nor the CPU like beer as much as you do. Or at all, for that matter. It will well and truly ruin your whole laptop; often beyond repair.
What Are Some Common Problems with Laptop Keyboards?
Check the Keys
The first problem we should look at is very simple – the keys. Keys get stuck, they break, they jam, they lose responsiveness all the time. With a laptop keyboard, this is a little more problematic than it would be with a regular one. For the same reason that will crop up several more times in this article, all the keys are attached to one solid set of switches and often can’t be removed without taking the keyboard apart.
If you find that your A key, for example, just doesn’t work properly anymore you are going to be fairly sure it’s a problem with just one key – not the whole set. Unfortunately, this means you will need to open up the laptop and its keyboard to have a look at what’s going on down there.
Is it water damage, did you spill something sticky down there like soda? Is the keycap offset from some rough usage and doesn’t have the room to glide up and down smoothly? That’s what you are going to have to try and identify. While you’re in there, you might as well check all of the other keys and do a little spring cleaning. Just wiping the dust out with a dry rag is a very useful preventative measure you can take.
Check the Software
Another problem that we often run into is that there are some unidentifiable software bugs. These come about every so often without warning and can be absolutely headache-inducing. What’s the problem, why is it happening, what is the solution? Honestly, a good amount of the time you have no idea and you never will.
Sometimes it’s from using outdated software, sometimes you run a program that affects your keyboard input, sometimes it just feels like bad luck. Of course, there is a reason for the problem. We just can’t always identify what that reason is.
This can be frustrating but ultimately isn’t often a problem because the fixes we can use are pretty universal and almost always work. Trying to restore your laptop off of a previous software update might be a good solution in many cases. It’s easy and has a high chance of success.
Check for Malware
Less common, but still entirely possible, is that you have downloaded some type of malware. Malware or viruses are designed to be malicious, most people think of virus and they imagine it does something huge like corrupting your computer or wiping all of your files or something invasive like steals your private data or makes use of some sort of key logger.
But this isn’t always the case. Some viruses don’t try to achieve anything other than frustrate or annoy you, sabotaging the way your computer interprets keystrokes is a good example of a virus that doesn’t do any major harm but is a real pain in the ass!
What are some quick fixes everyone should be aware of?
If you are having mechanical issues let me tell you now, things probably aren’t that bad. Dust, dirt, grime, bits of food, etc, will end up in your keyboard eventually. Unless you use a cover and are an absolute clean freak it’s just an inevitability that you must learn to accept. Luckily, you can often solve the problem without ever taking the keyboard apart.
Clean the Keyboard (Give it a Shake)
The first step and this must be done very carefully, is to open your laptop, hold it upside down so the keys face the ground, and give it a firm shake. Any loose debris should fall out now which may be enough to solve the problem all on its own. If that doesn’t work, using a canister of compressed air and spraying along each key divide to loosen any dirt and grime in there before trying to shake it again is a good idea.
If you spilled liquids down there, it’s best to let it dry first otherwise you are basically just dispersing the water around the inside of your laptop even more. Which isn’t ideal. It’s best to do these things when your laptop is turned off, especially spraying compressed air. Your chances of doing damage to the keyboard are minute, but still, why take the risk when it can be so easily avoided?
Related Article: How to Clean a Keyboard
Update and Restart the Laptop
Another very quick and easy fix that most people are probably already aware of is simply restarting your laptop. “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” is a common IT joke but it does genuinely resolve so many problems. The best way to go about doing this is to actually update the laptop first so you are running the most recent version of your operating system and then restarting to both implement the new OS and ensure that your laptop rebooted correctly.
This will oftentimes be the only thing you need to try to get your keyboard working again. This doesn’t just work with keyboard errors if you are having computer troubles update and restart is a pretty safe bet. This is only worth doing if the problem is very clearly not a hardware issue, restarting your laptop won’t unstick your key.
Enter Bios to Check if it’s a Problem with Windows or the Computer
When you restart your computer, enter the BIOS by pressing either the delete or escape keys. Once in the BIOS, you will be able to easily tell if the software problem is coming from windows Itself or the PC. If the problem keys work in the BIOS but not when your laptop is up and running, then the problems are with windows.
You may need a fresh install but oftentimes you will be able to solve the problem with an update/restart combination and running diagnostics. It’s best to exit the BIOS without making any changes when you are prompted to save your changes always say no. You didn’t make any changes, hopefully, but you never know. It’s safer to just say no – you can do some pretty hefty damage to your laptop by playing around with the BIOS aimlessly.
How to Ensure my Laptop Keyboard Doesn’t Have These Problems Again?
There are some simple preventative measures that you can take to avoid future problems. A big one is to remember to be careful. This sounds so obvious but people take pretty poor care of their keyboards by default.
Don’t drink or eat over it, don’t leave a glass of water next to the laptop in case you knock it over, don’t use the keyboard if your hands are dirty and grimey, etc.
Keep it Clean
Some more proactive steps you can take are cleaning it often and cleaning it well. Compressed air works better when the dust and grime haven’t had time to build up and compact, to cake itself on to the PCB, compressed air is powerful but it’s not THAT powerful.
If you clean it weekly, you will likely never have any problems. Wiping your laptop down with a dust rag is super helpful too. Sure, the screen benefits from being clean, but removing dust from the keys before it can build up and then fall into your laptop is equally important. It’s also nicer to use a clean keyboard.
Stay up to Date
Keeping your laptop up to date with its software version is so helpful, ensuring you update weekly or the very least fortnightly means you are unlikely to bump into as many software issues. Not just for the keyboard but your entire laptop.
Be Cautious When Downloading Programs
Avoid downloading and running software that you aren’t familiar with. Malware is very common and can be a big factor regarding whether or not your keyboard works as it should. That could mean block keystrokes from being registered or recording keystrokes and sending the data back to someone else.
Using a free malware scanner like malware bytes is good for this. I implore you not to choose things like McAfee, that in of itself is a virus and should be avoided at all costs.
Hopefully, you now have a much better idea about what some common problems and fixes are for your laptop keyboard. Laptop keyboards are a little more tedious to work with when the problems are hardware-based, but software-wise they are pretty similar to your PC.
Remember, if you try to take good care of your keyboard you are going to encounter far fewer problems. Updating and regularly cleaning your laptop should be part of your weekly routine, whether you are at home or the office.
If you have tried all of the above suggestions and still can’t seem to get to the bottom of it, I would highly suggest that you take your laptop to a PC repair store. They can take a much more detailed look and make complicated software or hardware fixes that you don’t have the knowledge or understanding to perform yourself. Good luck with your keyboard!