While there are certainly many important parts of a laptop computer that make it function properly and meet the needs of its user, one of the most important of those parts is the keyboard. After all, without a functioning keyboard, it becomes nearly impossible to input any data or commands into the laptop. Unfortunately, laptop keyboards can break from normal wear and tear, from dropping the laptop, or for no discernable reason.
Luckily, replacing a laptop keyboard is a fairly easy task, even for someone who is not particularly skilled at technical or mechanical repairs. Some people even choose to replace a functioning laptop keyboard for purely aesthetic reasons as some replacement keyboards offer vibrant colours or lights. Laptop keyboards are also readily available for purchase at electronics retailers and also online from eBay. Following these simple steps should make it possible to replace nearly any laptop keyboard, no matter what type of laptop has been damaged.
Determine Type of Keyboard
The first step in replacing a laptop keyboard is to determine what type of laptop keyboard is being replaced. Without this information, it is difficult to make a determination as to which keyboards are compatible with the laptop. There are two main types of laptop keyboards on the market: traditional and chiclet keyboards.
Traditional keyboards are found on many laptops although they are becoming less common. On a traditional laptop keyboard, the keys are all attached to one another. This means that the keyboard itself is all one piece, and it is this singular piece that is replaced when necessary. The choice between traditional and chiclet keyboards is a personal one, but keep in mind that it is not possible to replace a traditional keyboard with a chiclet keyboard or vice versa.
A chiclet keyboard, which may also be referred to as an island keyboard, has each of the keys separated from one another by a space. In this way, each key is essentially its own island. This also means that when a chiclet keyboard needs to be replaced, the keys must be replaced individually rather than as a single unit.
Find a New or Used Compatible Keyboard
Once the type of keyboard being replaced has been determined, it is time to seek out a keyboard that is compatible with the laptop. The keyboard needs to be one that is the same type as the keyboard the laptop already has. The company that made the laptop likely also makes replacement keyboards. Buying a replacement keyboard from the manufacturer may not be the most cost-effective choice, but it is a good way to guarantee the new keyboard fits the laptop. It may also be possible to find a used laptop keyboard, either from a third party or the manufacturer at a lower price.
Third-Party Laptop Keyboards
For those that choose not to buy a manufacturer's keyboard, there are many third-party options available. The most important thing to ensure when purchasing a third-party laptop keyboard is compatibility. Most third-party keyboards offer a list of laptop brands and models with which they are compatible. Be sure that the laptop with the keyboard in need of replacement is represented on that list.
Power Off Laptop
Once a new keyboard that is compatible with the laptop has been secured, the actual replacement can begin. Before removing the old keyboard, be sure the computer is turned off. It is a good idea to not only turn the computer off but also to unplug it from the wall and remove the laptop battery. This is a safety precaution for the person working on the laptop as well as for the laptop, which could be damaged if it is opened up while the power is on.
Removing an Old Laptop Keyboard
When the power on the laptop is off, remove the old keyboard. In the case of a chiclet keyboard, this means removing the keys one at a time. Of course, if only one or two keys are being replaced, it is not necessary to remove the other keys.
Some chiclet keys can be removed by simply popping them off using fingernails or a small, flat tool like a butter knife. However, other chiclet keys utilise a scissor attachment that can easily be broken. In this case, it is a good idea to take the laptop to a repair shop in order to remove the keys safely without doing damage to the computer. Removing a traditional laptop keyboard is easier and can be done by almost anyone at home.
Unscrew Laptop Keyboard
To remove a traditional laptop keyboard, first remove the screws that are keeping it in place. These screws may be on the keyboard itself or may be hidden by hinge covers or other pieces or parts. Make sure every screw is removed before proceeding.
Removing the small screws that hold a laptop together may require special tools. These screws can be quite small or even have unique shapes. The following table outlines some of the most common types of screwdrivers required to work on a laptop.
Typical Size for Laptops
Thin and flat for slotted screws
Shaped in a plus sign
Star-patterned; originally made only under the brand name Torx
Every laptop is different, so the same screwdriver cannot necessarily be used on any computer. It is important to determine what size screwdriver is needed for any laptop before attempting to do any work because otherwise the screws can be easily stripped.
Attaching a New Laptop Keyboard
Once the old keyboard has been carefully removed, the new keyboard can be put onto the computer. It should fit snugly into the space left by the old keyboard. Before attaching the keyboard with screws or snapping it into place, be sure it is thoroughly connected.
Attaching Laptop Keyboard Cables
Before fitting the keyboard onto the computer, be sure any cables that were attached to the old keyboard are also attached to the new keyboard. Most traditional keyboards have a short ribbon cable that runs from the body of the laptop to the keyboard. Be sure to check for any damage to this cable and replace it if necessary. Once the cables have been attached, snap the keyboard into place. Some laptops have plastic or metal tabs that make sure the keyboard stays in place, even before screws are attached. When the keyboard is properly positioned, replace any screws that were removed during the process.
Testing a New Laptop Keyboard
When the new keyboard is fully attached to the laptop, replace the laptop battery and plug in the computer using the laptop adapter. Be sure that no parts of the computer that should not be exposed are showing, then power on the laptop. Test out the keyboard and make sure that it is working properly and feels comfortable. If the keyboard is not working, repeat the keyboard removal process and make sure that all cables are securely and correctly connected before testing the keyboard again.
How to Buy Laptop Keyboards on eBay
It is not ideal to have a laptop keyboard that is not functioning, but if that is the case it is easy to find a replacement model on eBay. In order to shop for a laptop keyboard on eBay, you can start with entering some search terms into the search box, which is located on every page of the site. The best way to search for this particular item is to enter you laptop make or model first. For instance, search for "Dell Inspiron keyboard" and options that are compatible with your particular laptop show up immediately.
If it is not immediately apparent in the item listing which laptops are compatible with the item, be sure to ask. This is easy to do when you use the eBay interface to message the seller directly. You can also use this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about shipping, condition of the item, or anything else. Once the seller responds to your inquiries, you can be sure that you are completing your transaction with confidence.
It can be quite a hassle to have a laptop without a functioning keyboard. Most people may not even realise how much of what they do on their computers is directly related to the keyboard until it stops working. Fortunately, replacing a laptop keyboard for any reason is a fairly simple task. Anyone who has some patience and the proper type of screwdriver can replace a laptop keyboard effectively.
Shopping for a new laptop keyboard is also an easy task, since there are not too many options that are compatible with most models of laptops and compatibility is essential. It is important to complete this task carefully and conscientiously because it does mean that internal elements of the laptop may be exposed. Making sure no damage comes to these pieces is important to keep the laptop functioning. By following these simple steps and employing a modicum of common sense, nearly anyone can successfully replace a laptop keyboard in a matter of minutes.