How to Install LED Backlights in Laptop Keyboards

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How to Install LED Backlights in Laptop Keyboards

Laptop users may find themselves in situations where it is necessary to type in the dark. Although some modern laptop models have an LED backlight in the keyboard, most products do not have this feature. LED backlights in keyboards improve visibility in dark rooms and outdoor areas, allowing users to clearly see the outline and designation of each key. If a laptop does not already have an LED backlight, it is possible to install one at home. This process can require a bit of work. It is important to choose compatible products to ensure the keyboards and lights are installed properly with no damage to the laptop.

LED lights and backlit keyboards can be purchased from computer specialists and online retailers. Some websites offer a selection of specialist computer accessories. Marketplaces like eBay also have listings for a high number of parts. Shop around to find suitable parts at the best prices. With a bit of work, it is possible to illuminate a laptop keyboard for easy use in even the darkest settings.

Factors to Consider When Installing Backlights in Laptop Keyboards

The easiest and safest way to create a backlight is to purchase an LED backlit keyboard. Several of these products are designed as replacements, although it is also possible to purchase a full keyboard for a desktop computer and remove its keyboard. In either case, choose items that have the same key set-up as the one being replaced. Some products indicate the specific models that the replacement keyboard is compatible with.

Ensure Compatibility

Bear in mind that the specific process for installing LEDs into a laptop keyboard varies from one product to another. The screws holding the case together may be in different places and there may not be enough room for the necessary components within the keyboard. In some cases, it may even be necessary to remove keys or make changes to the keyboard case. Details about the installation process for specific types of laptop can sometimes be found online. Forums and blogs can provide excellent troubleshooting tips for particular models. Take notes on the laptop's internal layout while removing parts to ensure that it is rebuilt correctly. This can also be done by taking photographs with a digital camera.

Gather Necessary Tools

There are a handful of tools needed to install a backlit keyboard successfully. Many of these are common household items. They are also available at DIY or department stores, if needed. The following table lists these tools along with a brief description of how they are used during the installation process.

Tool

Use

Slotted screwdriver

Pries up cover to reveal screws that hold the keyboard in place

Philips head screwdriver

Removes keyboard screws

More than one size may be needed

Masking tape

Holds components in place while the keyboard is replaced

Small container

Keeps small screws in a safe place

Digital camera

Photographs layout of the internal components

Note pad

Holds notes of the keyboard layout

Although taking photos with a digital camera is the easiest way to keep track of the layout of a laptop's internal components, detailed notes can be just as effective. It may also be useful to draw small pictures and diagrams of the components as the laptop is dismantled.

Turn Off Power to the Laptop

Begin by turning off all power to the unit. This is an important step and should not be overlooked. Unplug the AC power cable. Turn the laptop over, locate the battery pack, and remove it. The battery can be removed by hand on many models, but on some it may be necessary to use a screwdriver. Failing to follow these steps can result in personal injury and damage to the electronics in the laptop.

Open the Keyboard

Once the battery is removed, open up the keyboard. The long rectangular panel found just above the keys hides the screws that hold the keyboard cover to the laptop. The shape of this panel can vary significantly from one product to the next. In some cases, it is a large strip that is several centimetres wide. On other laptops, it is very thin. If the panel is not held in place by screws, prise it up with a slotted screwdriver. Several screws should be exposed at this point. Remove each of them and put them aside, preferably in a small cup or container where they can be contained safely and not lost.

Remove the Keyboard

Remove the cover and grab the keyboard by its sides. Lift gently. A ribbon cable connects the keyboard to the laptop. It may be located almost anywhere behind the keys. Once it is found, unplug it from the laptop.

Connect the New Keyboard

The new keyboard connects to the laptop in the same way as the old one, except there is an extra ribbon for the LEDs. This is a thin, orange ribbon, and it can be plugged into a dedicated slot beside the port for the larger ribbon. Ensure the sides of the ribbons with visible lines are face up when making the connections.

Replace the Cover

Return the cover and keyboard, taking care to ensure that all pieces are in their original position. Refer to any photographs or notes that were taken to make sure that the components are placed properly. Do not fasten the screws too tightly, as they may crack the plastic and cause the keyboard to sit loosely on top of the laptop.

Other Lights for a Keyboard

If installing an LED backlight in a keyboard seems daunting, there are other viable options that users can pursue. Consider a USB LED light or purchase a full backlit keyboard for a desktop.

USB LED light

One of the simplest ways to light up a keyboard is to plug in a USB LED light. These items are designed in several different styles. The most common type has a flexible cord with a small lamp on the end that can be positioned in a manner that is suitable for the user. Buyers can also find light strips. These thin, straight rods have a row of LED lights that can illuminate the laptop keyboard when positioned along the computer's hinge.

Illuminated Keyboard

Alternatively, buyers can purchase a separate illuminated keyboard designed for a desktop computer. These products can be obtained inexpensively. Although a separate keyboard adds to the required workspace, it can also increase the comfort of the user.

How to Buy LED Backlights for Laptop Keyboards on eBay

A range of lights and backlit keyboards for laptops can be purchased from the sellers on eBay. These items are sold in both new and used condition, and are available from private and commercial sellers. To shop for these products, type keywords into the search field on the home page. For example, enter "backlit laptop keyboard" into the field to see all items tagged with those keywords. You may refine the listings in the search results by adding new terms or by clicking on any of the available category links on the page.

Review Item Listings

Review item listings by clicking on the name or image of a product in the search results. Look for its price, delivery charges, and forms of payment accepted by the seller. Read the full description and compare it with the available photographs. Some items also have a specification sheet from the manufacturer that can provide information about size and compatibility.

Review eBay Sellers

Review sellers on eBay before committing to a purchase. Item listings contain the seller's feedback rating and number of completed transactions. This information can be used to assess the seller's reliability quickly. Additional details are found in the full profile, including ratings on specific aspects of the seller's performance and comments from previous buyers. Once you have received your item, return to eBay to leave feedback about your experience. This informs the eBay marketplace and helps sellers to improve their performance.

Conclusion

It is sometimes necessary or desirable to work on a laptop in the dark. There are several ways to improve visibility of a keyboard, including adding LED backlights. The easiest and safest way to do this is to replace the laptop's keyboard with a specially designed backlit unit. These products are sold as stand-alone items, although it is also possible to purchase a full backlit keyboard and remove the front panel. Begin by purchasing the keyboard and gathering a few basic tools. Slotted and Phillips head screwdrivers are needed, along with masking tape, a small container to hold the screws, and either a digital camera or a notepad.

Begin by turning off power to the laptop and removing the battery pack on the underside of the machine. Remove the rectangular cover just above the keys on the keyboard. This houses the screws that hold the keyboard panel in place. Prise open the cover with the slotted screwdriver and remove the screws. Gently lift the keyboard away from the laptop, taking care not to tear the ribbon that connects it to the machine. Unplug the ribbon, and put the replacement keyboard into position. Connect the large ribbon, and look for a small port for the smaller, orange ribbon. Both of these should have the silver lines facing up. Replace the cover by referencing any photographs or notes that were taken, and restore power to the unit. With proper care, a standard laptop can be transformed into a backlit unit suitable for any low-light conditions. Laptops keyboards and components can be purchased from eBay sellers.

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