One thing many people have to face when considering the total cost of owning a laptop is the general perception that whenever anything goes wrong, the entire computer has to be either replaced or sent off to the manufacturer for repair. For the average computer owner on a budget, neither option is particularly attractive, as both can be quite expensive. Sending the computer away adds its own issues, as there is no way to predict how long it is likely to be in the manufacturer's hands, and out of the owners. While the nature of laptop computers does make repair more difficult than on desktops that have much more internal room, there are some repairs that can be done by the owner with a minimal level of difficulty. This is particularly important when one considers components such as the keyboard, which contains a large number of moving parts and is among the most heavily used components on many computers.
Laptop Keyboard Construction Basics
The majority of laptop keyboards rely on what is commonly called the rubber dome design. As with all keyboards, this is a multiple switch based system. The idea is simple, under the keys there is a multiple layer pad of thin plastic with circuit traces for all the key switch locations. Under each key there is a formed dome with a conductive connector at the bottom. When the user presses down on the key, this pressure is transmitted down to the pad, making a connection between the two different layers at that point. This connects the two circuit traces associated with that particular key, allowing the computer to register a keypress. Some models may also have a plastic scissor switch to improve the tactile response of the keyboard, but the underlying design is the same.
Sources of Keyboard Damage
There are several ways in which a computer keyboard can be damaged, but there are three in particular that laptop owners are most likely to run into.
One of the most obvious concerns for any heavy user is normal wear. Many computer keyboards have to endure thousands of keypresses a day, and the moving parts sometimes just wear out. Occasionally the scissor switches go, other times the membrane of the dome itself can be torn. In either situation, the end result is at best a key that does not spring back as smoothly as it once did, if the key even responds to input.
Another common concern is liquid damage. While laptop computers are portable and can sometimes be exposed to water outdoors or in transport, the primary culprit is the habit of computer users drinking at their desks. It does not take much to knock over a cup of tea or a fizzy drink, and send a wave of sugary liquid across the keys. Not only does the user then have the worry of a short-circuit, but they also have to deal with the fact that sugary drinks are extremely difficult to clean out of keyboards. They can be rinsed away with water before they dry, but this is not a recommended procedure, especially with laptops where the keyboard is often right on top of all the delicate electronics.
Static Electrical Shock
While it may be less common than wear, and less obvious than spilling a cup of tea, static electricity is also a noted keyboard killer. It can be built up without a person's knowledge by the simple act of walking across a carpet wearing the wrong footwear. One ungrounded finger can be enough to zap the circuitry in any keyboard. It may not happen often, but when it does, the usual result is a completely non-functional keyboard.
Damaged Laptop Keyboard Options
Users who have suffered damage to their laptop keyboards do have a number of options available to them. One of the simplest, albeit the most expensive, is to replace the computer, but for many users that simply is not a viable option. That being the case, there are two main options available: either repair or replace the keyboard.
A keyboard with a missing key cap or a damaged scissor switch can be repaired without too much difficulty. New caps can be obtained, as can scissor switches, and they are reasonably easy to replace. The problem with this option is that it is seldom a long-term solution. The replacement switches and caps sometimes fail more rapidly than the originals, and the original failure may often be a harbinger of future failures.
Using an External Keyboard
One of the quickest solutions to implement is to simply plug a desktop keyboard into an available USB port on the laptop. It only takes a matter of moments before the system is up and running again. Unfortunately, not all laptop owners have an unused USB port on their laptops, and the use of an external keyboard compromises the all-in-one nature of a laptop. It is no longer a single easily portable unit if a person has to lug along a full-size keyboard with it. That may be an option for those who do not move their laptops, but it is certainly not a viable option for everyone.
Laptop Keyboard Replacement Kits
The biggest advantage to using a keyboard replacement kit on a laptop is that it restores full functionality to the laptop computer. This is a huge benefit when compared to partial repairs effected by swapping key caps or just plugging in a spare keyboard from an old desktop that just happened to be lying around. In fact, it provides all the same results as sending the computer off to the manufacturer for repair at a fraction of the cost. The owner gets what is probably the most heavily worn component of the computer replaced with a new one, without having to hand over the computer for an unknown period of time.
Considerations When Replacing a Laptop Keyboard
While it can be possible to find everything needed to replace a laptop keyboard individually, this can take quite a bit of time and effort. The problem is that keyboard replacement on a laptop is not as simple as on a desktop. Desktop users simply have to take a few seconds to unplug one and plug in the other, but laptop owners need to partially disassemble their computer in order to swap out the keyboard. Not only does this turn what would otherwise be a matter of seconds into an afternoon project, but the increased complexity means that the user needs more than just the new keyboard.
Advantages of a Kit
The biggest advantage of a laptop keyboard replacement kit is not that it contains the keyboard itself, but that it also includes the tools necessary to turn what can be a frustratingly difficult job into a quick and easy process. Some laptops may use proprietary screws to hold the unit together, and a replacement kit provides the necessary drivers in addition to any other specialised tools needed to open the case and safely disconnect the cables involved. This not only saves time, but also money as a laptop keyboard replacement kit is not only less expensive than sending it off for service, it is also generally less expensive than buying the replacement keyboard and necessary tools separately.
Buying a Laptop Keyboard Replacement Kit on eBay
One of the best places to buy a laptop keyboard replacement kit is eBay. The site offers a huge variety of keyboard kits to fit any budget and most models of laptop. All you have to do is put your needs into the search box, you can find one on every eBay page, and watch as the results fill your screen. Once you have your results you can use the filters in the sidebar to narrow them down to just the kits that work with your particular laptop. You can filter by everything from seller location, to price range, even separate new from remanufactured keyboard kits. The filters also make it easier to eliminate those kits designed for other laptops which somehow slipped through. eBay also lets you sort the results as well as filter them, making it easy to ensure that the ones that best fit your needs are at the top of the screen.
After you have your final list of laptop keyboard replacement kits, the next step is to decide on a seller. The best way to do that is to take a look at their profile page where you can determine everything from their feedback to their location. Some sellers can bundle keyboard replacement kits with other accessories, while others may allow local purchasers to pick up their replacement kits in person.
Buying a laptop replacement keyboard kit is an excellent way for a laptop owner to save both money and time. For many people, the only way to replace a laptop keyboard when it becomes damaged or otherwise non-functional is to replace the entire computer, which is a major expense. Using a keyboard replacement kit allows the owner to sidestep the issue completely by only replacing the damaged component. Not only are replacement kits less expensive than replacing the whole computer, they also remove the need to send a laptop to the manufacturer for an indeterminate time and large bill in order to have them replace the keyboard. There are other options such as performing minor repairs to an existing keyboard, or attaching an external one, but these alternatives are far less satisfactory than replacing the keyboard itself. For most users, the answer is simple: buying a laptop keyboard replacement kit is the best available course of action.