Keyboard input lag is something that we pretty much all deal with. Whether we even notice it is a different matter entirely. Keyboard input lag can vary from almost undetectable to overwhelmingly annoying on almost any type of keyboard of any age, even if you’re reading this article and think you suffer no such problem, well, chances are you probably do.
You’re just so used to dealing with it that your brain doesn’t even notice it anymore. In other words, it’s become the norm and you no longer remember what a properly working, lag-less, keyboard feels like to use.
There are two types of keyboard input lag, both hardware, and software. It’s easy to fix both types. If it’s hardware, it’s as simple as cleaning under the switches and keys. If it’s software, you will need to check for updates, adjust your keyboard settings, or even upgrade your pc RAM.
Keyboard lag isn’t something that people commonly talk about, it’s never mentioned at school or college, and in the workplace, most of us just resign ourselves to using whatever keyboard we are given with little to no thought about whether is even working properly. In all honesty, most of us are probably just happy to be getting a working keyboard from our school or employer.
When we press A we get an A on the screen – it doesn’t matter how long it took to get there. Except, it does matter, far more than you might think. This article is going to cover what keyboard lag is, why it occurs, what problems it can cause, and most importantly how to fix it yourself.
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What is Keyboard Lag?
Keyboard lag is the amount of time between user input and the expected output on your keyboard. For example, how long it takes from when you press the A key to the letter A appearing on your word document. This is the best example because there is a very clear visual representation of what’s going on.
Another example would be when you are gaming if you press one of the WASD directional keys that most games make use of, how long does it take from the time you press to your character moving.
This example is a little harder to quantify because your input to move is not just one press, it’s actually lots of W inputs for example to keep your character walking forward. So while the initial lag might be obvious, after that it’s far less clear and often not even noticeable. But, it is still there, and it shouldn’t be ignored.
Keyboard lag usually refers to the delay between keystroke (input) and the expected result (output) but that isn’t always the case, sometimes we are talking about under-representation of what you think you have done. Meaning, if you held down the W key for a few seconds but your character in-game moved a suspiciously short distance. Or, instead of one smooth movement, there were lots of little jagged ones.
This isn’t actually keyboard lag, this is a slightly different problem where your keyboard simply isn’t registering every keystroke. The keystrokes output isn’t delayed, it was just never inputted in the first place (as far as your computer is concerned).
What Causes a Keyboard to Lag?
There are a few reasons for keyboard lag, so don’t immediately panic that your keyboard is going to require some pretty major repairs. Most of the fixes are quick and easy, none of them are overly difficult at all. Just a little tedious.
The first, and most annoying reason for keyboard lag, is that your keyboard is dirty. This is especially problematic for mechanical keyboards but can happen to almost any type. If you have noticed that your keyboard has suddenly started lagging now and again, it’s probably for this reason.
When you go to press a key, the dust, dirt, and grime under the keycaps cause it to slide down less smoothly and may even require more force than usual to get the keystroke to actuate. You are expecting the key to register with less force than normal meaning the “delay” is actually you taking longer than your brain expects to make each keystroke.
The second reason is that perhaps your keyboard is working off outdated software, this isn’t a problem for all keyboards but some do need updating as part of their regular maintenance.
Not Enough Ram
Lastly, and most likely, is that your computer isn’t operating with enough memory. You don’t have enough RAM available and your keyboard seems to be paying the price. This is, of course, a problem with your PC not the keyboard itself.
Sometimes your keyboard appears to be lagging because of a setting you have enabled, called filter keys, ignored short and repetitive keystrokes. Which can be especially prevalent while playing video games.
Again, lack of RAM is your major issue here. Sometimes closing unneeded programs can help, if you are finding that you are getting keyboard lag with nothing open but Google. Well, it might be time for an upgrade.
What are the problems with significant keyboard lag?
The most significant problems with lag are how annoying it is to deal with while you are trying to work. Especially if you are trying to work quickly. While typing, or programming, the lag can cause you to make unnecessary errors rather frequently.
If you are someone who types quite quickly, you are probably looking at the monitor while hardly glancing at the keys on the keyboard. You know you have pressed the correct key and are ready to move on to the next one when you see it pop up on the screen.
If there is a delay, you may find yourself going back and pressing the same key again because you moved too quickly or didn’t press hard enough and it simply hasn’t registered. But, it has. And now, you’ve pressed it twice. Meaning you need to go back and correct that mistake.
Repeat this for hundreds of words or several times per line of code and you are going to start to notice some pretty significant productivity issues. You either spend half your time going back and correcting mistakes caused by double or even triple input or, you simply work slower to avoid having to do just that. Either way, you are far less productive and waste far more time. Which isn’t ideal when we are talking about our jobs, our livelihoods.
Another issue that isn’t quite as important in the grand scheme of things, but that we all probably care about a whole lot more, is when we are gaming. It can cause abilities to miss-fire or delay in games like League of legends where order and timing matter massively. Even casual games like Minecraft will become frustrating as simply walking from place to place will feel laggy and awkward. Especially if your computer is ignoring repetitive keystrokes because that’s exactly how you walk around.
By inputting hundreds of the same W input. You can and will lose games because of keyboard lag. It sucks, there are no two ways about it, it’s not fun and it makes you feel lousy. The same as playing on terrible internet, you’re simply putting yourself at a disadvantage. Luckily, fixing keyboard lag isn’t overly difficult. As you’ll see in the next section.
How to fix keyboard lag:
Fixing keyboard lag is super easy, it takes no time at all and can be done with even the most basic IT skills. Don’t worry, you won’t need to buy a new keyboard just because of a little lag.
The first thing we should look at it is mechanical lag, a very dirty or broken keyboard is going to lag for the reasons we covered above. That means the solution is to either fix whatever mechanical problem that you have, like a broken or jammed switch, or simply just cleaning the keyboard.
A can of compressed air is usually enough to remove any caked in dirt and grime from inside the keyboard. It’s best to unplug your keyboard when doing this and do it away from your monitor and PC. That way you don’t make a mess or potentially damage them should your compressed air jet out something a little more solid than skin flakes from the crevices in your keyboard.
If you are sure that your lag is software related, not hardware, then you can try finding the filter key settings in windows. You can search for this using the task bar’s search bar very easily. Once you’re there, look for accessibility options and make sure that ignore short repeated keystrokes isn’t toggled on.
You can also edit your keyboards response time in your control panel, keep making adjustments until you find a response time you are happy with. Too fast of response time is actually quite hard to work with, it’s uncomfortable to use and our brain can’t always keep up.
Lastly, if none of the above is helping, your problem is almost certainly lack of RAM. The only solution to this is to buy more, which is unfortunate because RAM isn’t cheap. It’s very weird to not have enough RAM while everything else is closed, this problem is far more likely with older computers.
A software update might be enough to temporarily curb this problem but it won’t go away entirely until you make the upgrade.
As you can see, there are a few things that can cause keyboard input lag, luckily it’s not too hard to fix. The obvious one is to simply clean your keyboard. That’s if the lag is a mechanical issue and not a software issue.
If it’s a software problem, you will want to check all your keyboard drivers and make sure your computer is up to date. You may also need to upgrade your ram if the problem still persists.
Hopefully, this has answered all of your questions. It isn’t a terribly difficult problem to deal with, if you aren’t confident installing more RAM yourself I would suggest either following a YouTube guide or going into a PC repair store and asking them to do it. Whatever you decide, good luck!