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How Do I Replace My Laptop Keyboard?

I get a lot of questions about stuck or broken keys in keyboards.
Occasionally, it’s a software issue, but more often than not it’s a
physically broken key. On desktop machines that’s not an issue;
replacement keyboards are readily available, and easy to replace.

Laptops, however, are a different matter.

Sure enough, over the past few months my wife’s laptop started
having issues with the space bar and no amount of compressed air or
other cleaning techniques would fix it. It was time to replace it.

I brought my camera along so I could show you what it took to replace it.

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Important Important Important

This is not meant as a “how to” for your laptop. Every
laptop is different
, and the steps I’ll demonstrate below will
likely be very different for different brands and models of laptops.
How you open it up, how you remove and reinstall the keyboard … heck
even if you can replace the keyboard … is going to be highly
dependant on exactly what model of computer you have. You’ll need to
check with your computer’s manufacturer for specific instructions.

That being said, I’ll show you the steps I took so you can at least
get a feel for what kind of a job it might be. If what you see
is scary and something you’d never want to try, then you know you’ll
want to take it to a pro. On the other hand if what you see seems
reasonable, you can take the next step of finding out more about your
specific laptop.

As always, I can’t make guarantees. You could break it. Heck, I
could break it, which leads perfectly into…

The All Important First Step

It’s tempting to skip the first step. Do not skip the first step.
You will be sorry if you do.

Breaking your computer is bad.

Breaking someone else’s computer is worse.

Breaking your spouse’s computer is … better left to the
imagination.

Hence, here’s the first step:

Backing up the laptop

In over 30 years of working with computers, experience has shown that
whenever I’m about to play with hardware on a computer that’s even
marginally important, a backup “in case something goes wrong” is
critical. (And your spouse’s computer is always much more than
“marginally important”.) After taking a backup onto an external drive
even if the laptop bursts into flame while I work on it, I’ve got
everything safely saved to restore onto a repaired or replacement
machine.

Take a full backup before you begin.

Do not skip the first step.

Here’s the laptop:

Dell Latitude D610 Laptop

It’s a well used Dell Latitude D610 with a fair number of “miles” on
it. You can see that the keyboard shows signs of wear.

We begin with an important second step: removing the batteries:

Laptop with batteries removed

This prevents the machine from being accidentally turned on while
we’re in the middle of ripping it apart. (And yes, this laptop has two
batteries, one in place of a CD/DVD ROM drive.)

Next we open the D610 by carefully prying off the plastic access
cover that runs along the top of the keyboard that happens to include
the power and audio buttons:

Prying off the access cover

Having done so, you can see the exposed electronics across the top of
the keyboard:

Laptop access cover removed

It’s difficult to see in that photo, but there are exactly two small
screws that hold the keyboard in place. Removing those allows the
keyboard to be carefully lifted up, except:

Laptop keyboard held in place by tabs on each side of case

There are two tabs on the actual laptop plastic case, one on each of
the left and right sides, that hold the keyboard in place. They need to
be carefully held aside and the keyboard can be angled up some more.
Then you can slide it up a little at which point it’s entirely free
except for the cable.

Keyboard being lifted up exposing cable

Do not stress the cable. Even on the old keyboard
which you’ll likely throw away, pulling or indiscriminately yanking on
the cable could actually damage the circuit board that it’s plugged
into.

In the D610’s case the cable connector actually includes a plastic
tab that can be held on to so that you can carefully disconnect the
keyboard cable:

Disconnecting the laptop keyboard cable

Things are a little tight, so take your time, again, not stressing
the computer, cable or keyboard.

The result, a laptop with no keyboard:

Laptop with keyboard removed

Here’s the replacement keyboard, ordered direct from Dell:

Replacement keyboard

The next step is to connect the new keyboard’s cable. Once again,
this is slightly cramped work that needs to be done carefully:

Replacing the laptop keyboard cablep

Now you can slide the keyboard down into place, and the top two
screws can be replaced:

Replacing the screws holding the keyboard

It’s at this point, before closing things back up, that I inserted
one of the batteries, booted the computer, and ensured that the new
keyboard was, in fact, working. (It was – hooray!) I then removed the
battery (perhaps not absolutely necessary in this case), and
continued.

The last step was to replace the plastic access cover by carefully
pressing it back into position:

Replacing the access cover

That’s it.

My wife’s laptop now has a working keyboard once again.

One final, and important, picture to illustrate some fundamental
problems:

Old laptop keyboard with spacebar removed

Only after I was satisfied that the new keyboard was working did I
remove some of the key tops on the old broken one. This picture shows
where the spacebar used to be. There are two things to note:

  • The Dirt – keyboards have long been known to be the
    dirtiest part of your computer, and you can see why. A lot of dirt, and
    in our case pet hair, gets trapped underneath those keys. Regularly
    blowing out your keyboard with compressed air helps some, but
    over time the results are inevitable.
  • The Switches – after removing the spacebar the
    cause of the actual keyboard problem was fairly obvious. The spacebar
    on a D610 actually activates three separate switches so that no mater
    where on the spacebar you press, you get a space. What you can see, if
    you look carefully, is that the switch on the left is broken – it
    doesn’t come back up after being pressed down. The center switch is OK.
    (The right hand switch was a casualty of removing the spacebar.)

All in all, replacing this laptop’s keyboard is “do-able” if you have
some small amount of ability and dexterity. Other laptops, as I
mentioned, may vary a great deal. Hopefully knowing that the keyboard
is likely to be the most commonly broken part of the machine, your
laptop’s manufacturer will have made it relatively easy to replace.

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24 comments on “How Do I Replace My Laptop Keyboard?”

  1. This is a great tutorial for replacing the keyboard on a Dell Latitude D610. Like Leo says though, procedures for removal/replacement of hardware components, including keyboards can be very different on different systems. –even different models in the same product line can be very different.

    Besides User’s Guides, many manufacturers also supply Hardware Maintenance Manuals via their web sites. Try to find the hardware manual that covers your specific model. They generally have a removals/replacements section that will provide complete step-by-step instructions including graphics almost as good as Leo’s photos.

    Reply
  2. You lucked out doing it on a Dell. 🙂 They’re quite a bit easier than some other models I’ve had the misfortune of working with.

    This isn’t a task for the faint of heart. If you’re very careful, it’s a pretty safe procedure usually. It’s a nightmare on some laptops though.

    The one thing I really, really caution you on is the little ribbon cable that connects the keyboard to the motherboard. The cable and the connector on the motherboard are both very easy to break if you aren’t careful.

    I had the misfortune of working in laptop refurb in my teenage years, and it’s something I avoid as much as possible now. Laptops are painful to work with, probably more so now than they were a decade ago (though the internals haven’t changed as considerably as you would think in that time).

    Reply
  3. No one has mentioned so far, but getting grounded probably would not hurt. I have not actually had to do this, but have worked around some electronics. A grounded wrist strap is a fairly inexpensive item, and you can zap electronics without even knowing if if you are not completely draining any static that is around.

    (RMB)

    Reply
  4. Hi Leo
    Concerning “How to replace your laptop KEYBOARD”
    I think you have done a great disservice to your readers by publishing the article even though it is technically correct, this procedure is not for the “faint of heart”. The odds of ever reconstructing your laptop and having it still work is minimal at best. I would equate it to dismantling your Rolex watch, cleaning it . reassembling it (if you can) then expect it to ever work again. Remember computer manufacturers pay huge amounts of money to be able to pack in a whole bunch of of component in the least amount of space. Did you ever try to work on a Porsche, same principal.

    To me the only 2 viable solution to a broken keyboard is; hook up a USB (wired or wireless)keyboard or if it is not possible to carry the “extra” keyboard around and you absolutely need a portable computer, Bye a new one. PS same solution for a broken monitor.

    PS. I fully agree with Bradley. I’ve been working with computers for quite a few years. (1954) yes going on 55 years. Working on the biggest and the smallest.

    With no infections ever. At present I run 3 laptop’s and 2 desktops. all hooked up to the net. Like you said, the secret is watch what you are downloading. Be careful, it’s a dangerous world out there.

    Best Regards

    Lou

    Reply
  5. Great share of information.
    Of course taking apart anything, especially computers, comes with its risks. This helps to understand one possible disassembling scenario. Thanks for sharing.
    I agree, using a grounded glove would be helpful.
    Also, I would prefer a wireless keyboard(and mouse if I used it) as I could then position the monitor of the laptop to where I don’t strain my neck, while placing the keyboard in my lap.
    redefining the laptop needs to happen.
    ergonomic needs must be met

    Reply
  6. Find yourself some pictures on how to take your model apart w/ a “disassemble Sony —-” in Google. Don’t fall prey to downloading instructions from Ebay.. anything they’re selling is available to you too with enough searching.

    The trick is not to bust anything. Some laptops come apart harder than others, but when engineers design & put things together.. they also have to come apart.

    As far as people here claiming the “sky is falling”.. it certainly is not. Alarming people is the real disservice.

    And adding a wireless keyboard indeed defeats the entire laptop concept.

    For God’s sake.. it’s not the space shuttle.. it’s a laptop keyboard replacement.. !!

    Reply
  7. Hey there Lou: in your message above you mentioned that Leo did a disservice to readers by describing this procedure.

    You mentioned one of the viable solutions is to buy a new lap top.

    But if you are going to buy a new lap top… then what have you got to lose by trying to fix the old one?

    I don’t think the odds of success are as low as you think. In all my years I know 2 people who changed their laptop keyboards and both operations were successful.

    So I simply think the odds of success are not as bad as you implied.

    However I do agree with you that it is dangerous. There is a high chance of failure. So it’s risky.

    But it’s worth a shot if your only other real option is to buy a new lap top. In that case you may as well roll the dice and hope for the best!

    Reply
  8. Yo!
    Your article sure is good. It will sure benefit my good friend who has a “thousand year-old” laptop. The pictures included will also be of good help!

    Reply
  9. Dear Leo ,Please ignore the alarmists !!!

    “Scifisam” Working on any small delicate equipment is possible with good eyesight and at least able to read and follow instructions.A little dexterity is also helpful,if you happen to be a klutz I wouldn’t advise trying

    Reply
  10. THANKS FOR YOUR ARTICLE I GOT 2 BUSTED KEYS ON THIS EXACT MODEL THANK GOD THEY ARE THE FUNCTION AND ONE CONTROL KEY (THERES 2!!)AND AM PLANNING ON BUYING A REPLACEMENT KEYBOARD OFF EBAY AND WAS WONDERING HOW TO TAKE IT ALL APART. I BUSTED THE KEYS REPLACING THE RAM UNDER THE KEYBOARD AND JUST NEEDED TO KNOW HOW TO DISCONNECT THE CABLEKNOW THAT i FIGURED OUT HOW TO TAKE THE KEYBOARD OFF THE HARD WAY. THANKS AGAIN i KNOW HOW TO DO ALL THIS TYPE STUFF ON A DESKTOP BUT THIS WAS MY FIRST LAPTOP.

    Reply
  11. i spilled orange juice on my laptop and the keyboar won’t work. it is a samsung model. is it possible to fix my keboard? thanks

    You’ll need to find out from the manufacturer.

    – Leo
    07-May-2009
    Reply
  12. If you have ever replaced a cover on the front of a ( CD rom, Cd RW, or DVD device ), you are more than able to do this. It is not rocket science and I think some of these comments were made by somone who might be trying to discourage some people. They may rather have them take the item to the computer repair shop, so they can pay somone 150 dollars to have it done, plus a mark up on the price of the part. Maybe that is what they do for a living? Stealing from the meek. The procedure shouldn’t take more than an hour at tops, and if you have any clue what your doing I would say a half hour or less. Just be careful not to break any plastic clips, and do not force anything to move. Once I went in to have my oil changed in my truck. They wanted entirely too much money to change it and I said so. The young man told me it would be way to hard for me to do it myself….What? I had been changing my own oil for years before that, and NEVER had a problem. It would have just been a convienece to have someone else to do it for me. Do not underestimate yourself. It is darn near as easy as changing ram in a desktop! If you do not know how to do that, well you might not want to try this…..

    Reply
  13. Replacing harddisk, led screen, keyboard in old laptop is easy but getting the new parts for old laptop is a question.

    Reply
  14. Well this might sound pretty stupid…however, after years of running notebook keyboard with simple use, dust, wear and tear (I even had a chipmunk that used to bite the keys off and once peed on the keyboard and ruined it…).

    I also had a couple of my friends fight in my appartment and ruin another laptop with red wine…

    So the best solution in my opinion is to “protect” yourself.

    In Thailand over here they have some great silicone protectors and they work very well.

    If anybody is interested let me know and I can mail you some, never seen any in Canada.

    Looks like this:

    http://westsend.com/silicone-keyboard-protector.jpg

    Cheers!

    Reply
  15. Nice article. I have been having trouble with my keybord one key at a time. I have taken about 5 keys off! Ordered a new one. think these instructions will help

    Reply
  16. Leo, the letter “H” mysteriously came off of my Dell Latitude D610. I found you searching google and printed out your picture instructions on how to replace a similar keyboard. I then ordered a refurbished keyboard from Parts-People.com “The Dell Laptp Experts”. It arrived today and tonight I gathered my two nice screwdrivers, followed your excellent instructions, avoided all pit-falls, and Walla! the entire effort took less than five minutes; most remarkably it works and there are now extra “spare” parts laying around my work area. You Be The Man! Thanks, James

    Reply
  17. HI,

    My laptop Dell d610 some keys are not working e.g. (b,n,/,arrow left, arrow right,arrow down and space bar) when i replace the keyboard it shows me same problem. Then i check the flex cable connector and connect it again it would be also same problem that the same keys are not working. After that i bought a external usb keyboard the open that i saw there the keys (b,n,/,arrow left, arrow right,arrow down and space bar)are connected with one wire and that is not working in the board may i know now what is the solution.

    Thanks and regards.

    Reply
  18. I have a Toshiba Satellite A100 laptop with a French/U.S keyboard that needs to be replaced. Do I need to get buy exactly the same one or can I purchase a different style keyboard that is available for this unit? (The French/U.S keyboard is very expensive)
    Also if get the different style keyboard, will my laptop recognize this new hardware?

    I don’t know. You’d have to check with Toshiba

    Leo
    24-Mar-2011

    Reply
  19. My laptop Dell Inspiron 1545 some keys are not working e.g. (b,n,/,arrow left, arrow right,arrow down and space bar). may i know now what is the solution.

    Reply
  20. i have just replaced a us internaational keyboard on my acer aspire 4820t laptop, with a uk version, but some of the keys are transposed. do i need to replace the drivers as well. if so, can you provide a link for me please. thanks in advance . steve m.

    Reply
  21. @steve
    This can be fixed by a keyboard setting in the control panel.

    First Open the control panel

    For Windows 7 and Vista:

    Click Change Keyboards or other Input Methods (Under Clock, region and language)
    Next click Change Keyboards
    Then if the English UK keyboard isn’t in the list click Add
    Now select English (United Kingdom)
    Keyboard
    United Kingdom
    Click OK
    Then from the pulldown under Default Input Language select English (United Kingdom)

    For XP:

    Click Date, time Language and Regional Options
    Then click Add Other Languages
    Next click the Details button
    Click Add
    Then Under Input Languages select English (United Kingdom)
    Then choose English (United Kingdom) as a default from the pulldown menu.

    Reply

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