flaky keyboard

 

Summary

this page deals with:

  • flaky keyboards
  • broken keyboards
  • keyboard just acting strange
  • liquid spills which can cause keyboard and possibly motherboard problems (send laptop in for repair), but if desktop, simply replace the keyboard with te power off

usually the simplest solution is to replace the keyboard.

if this is a laptop with a liquid spill and the motherboard has been affected, the least expensive solution is to get a new laptop, since motherboards are $800 and decent new shiny laptops are $500-$800. you can always get an estimate of the total cost. The manufacturer-authorized local technician will know what is wrong with the laptop and can fix it.

if the motherboard has NOT been affected, you will at least need to replace the keyboard which will be about $200 (average laptop)-$299 (toshiba laptop). get an estimate. a workaround is to plug in a USB keyboard for $11-$140.

stuck key

when having trouble with keyboards, I have learned that sometimes, windows messes up wit keyboard communications and drops a scancode (a character), like if you pressed a key, that sends a scancode, and when you let up on a key, that sends a scancode. if the keyup scancode is lost, windows thinks the key is stuck down. this happens once in a random while and seems to be normal for any good keyboard.

solution to this problem: hit the affected key, all the shift keys, caps lock, alt keys, ctrl keys, windows-logo-flag-keys and the context menu key in sequence, twice. (doing the context menu key twice will undo the context menu if it's working). this will re-send all the scan codes. and kick windows back into normality IF the keyboard is any good. if the keyboard is bad, it will still be stuck down and you will have to replace the keyboard OR buy a USB Keyboard and plug it in as a workaround. works on laptops and desktops both.

"Sticky Keys" - windows accessibility feature

often times, what can happen is if you hold a key down a ctrl-key or alt-key or shift-key for too long, windows automatically assumes you want the accessibility feature "Sticky Keys" turned on, and it will show a dialog box regarding same.

sticky keys, mouse keys (using the numeric keypad) can be turned off by going to control panel, all control panel items, ease of access center, make the keyboard easier to use. bring up windows explorer ([windows-logo-flag-key]-E), then copy and paste this text into windows explorer's breadcrumb menu/address bar: Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Ease of Access Center\Make the keyboard easier to use

costs:

these are common current prices as of about 2010:

  • $350-$4500 for nice shiny new laptop, and you can mount the old hard drive in a 2.5" external drive case and you have your data.
  • $5-$180 USB or wireless keyboard, see bottom of page for wired (I prefer those). the cheaper it is, the shorter it lasts. $5 ones last 3 months, so don't bother with them. I also prefer mechanical keyboards.
  • $800 or $359(toshiba) replace laptop motherboard
  • $600 or $359(toshiba) replace laptop screen, toshiba is aomplete redo
  • $200 or $299(toshiba) replace laptop keyboard
  • $75 or $299 (toshiba) clean laptop cpu cooler
  • $5 canned air from office supply store - clean desktop cpu cooler once/year or 6 mo
  • $25 2.5" USB external drive case

laptop: any way to disable the keyboard and use a usb keyboard?

no way to disable the keyboard on any laptop I know of.

USB keyboards essentially MERGE their data with the main keyboard's data.

you MAY be able to plug in a USB keyboard to solve the problem depending on some of the following conditions:

keyboard sending continuous keypresses

IF the main keyboard circuitry is sending out CONTINUOUS keypresses, adding a usb keyboard is only going to add to this mess of a situation by adding your keystrokes to the continuous stream. so a USB keyboard is not going to help here.

the only thing that is going to help is taking the laptop in for service (possibly to have the keyboard replaced if that is what is wrong, of any liquids got on the motherboard, that is a more expensive issue that needs to be addressed and thought about).

it will cost you about $200(others)-$299(toshiba) to have a laptop keyboard replaced if indeed that is all that is wrong. if liquids got into the motherboard, that could cost you about $800(mobo)+$200(keyboard) or it's just $359(toshiba) to have everything fixed.

a shiny new laptop is $600, and you can mount your old 2.5" hard drive inside a 2.5" external USB drive case for $40 + cost of precision screwdrivers for $20. see precision screwdrivers and 2.5" usb case, and you get to keeo your data, be sure to reinstall your programs on the new computer.

keyboard sending WRONG keypresses, but not continuous

there is hope for using a usb keyboard.

IF the main keyboard circuitry is sending out the WRONG keypresses for the keys you press, but not sending out continuous keypresses, there is hope for a temporary solution.

you can connect a USB keyboard and all should be fine (be sure to turn off the computer first, not all usb ports are hot-plug these days).

but your main keyboard is dead, replace it.

I spilled liquids in my laptop! now computer's acting weird

liquids act like a short circuit in the short term because the liquids have impurities (not pure H2O), and in the long term lead to corrosion.

coke/pepsi/orange juice/acidic content are the worst, especially at high frequencies.

think:computer motherboard, keyboard scanners are low frequency, but a keyboard scanner chip's oscillator runs at a high frequency, any keyboard circuit traces may or may not be exposed and be vulnerable to corrosion.

replace the keyboard. if this is a laptop, the serviceman might say you need to replace the motherboard and it costs $800(mobo)+$200-299(keyboard) or it's just $359(toshiba) to have everything fixed. new laptop: $350-4500.

My story about spills

years ago I lent my pager to someone, who spilled some pepsi into the pager. and she said it wasn't working. I turned it on, and I found it wasn't working either. then I took it apart like I usually do.

I saw something that surprised me. in the places where I saw that the pepsi spilled and had dried tackiness, the copper circuit traces that had to do with the high-frequency oscillator were corroded. in fact, the soldered, tinned through-hole vias had been eaten away and looked horrible.

once-shiny tin-lead solder joints (today they use something other than lead) looked gray and the copper looked exposed and looked pretty bad, can't remember if it looked green or not, but probably. it was a mess wherever that high-frequency clock/oscillator line went. by clock I mean oscillator, not wall clock.

need to bring laptop in for repair

look here for service departments where you can find a local authorized repair shop in town. again, get an estimate. see costs.

desktops

if this is a desktop, it's much simpler: buy a new keyboard and replace the keyboard. it's easy because it's a separate unit. PS/2 keyboards (even with USB-to-PS/2 adapters) are not subject to being disconnected by software oddities compared with USB-only and wireless which CAN be disconnected by software (or missing/corrupted chipset drivers). If you have a choice, get a PS/2 keyboard, even if it has an adapter to do its job.

PS/2

  • shut down the computer.
  • when you connect the PS/2 keyboard, make sure the computer is unplugged first or the power is turned off at the back of the power supply
  • wait for 30 seconds for the power to completely drain from the power supply (probably takes less time than that, the green LED on your motherboard will no longer be lit).
  • swap the keyboards (or PS/2 mouse, or both).
  • turn the power switch on the power supply back on or plug the power supply back in.
  • turn the computer on.

USB

not all usb ports today are hot-plug (meaning you can plug in devices with the power on). check your motherboard or hub manual. here are directions that always work:

  • shut down the computer.
  • when you connect the PS/2 keyboard, make sure the computer is unplugged first or the power is turned off at the back of the power supply
  • wait for 30 seconds for the power to completely drain from the power supply (probably takes less time than that, the green LED on your motherboard will no longer be lit).
  • swap the keyboards (or PS/2 mouse, or both).
  • turn the power switch on the power supply back on or plug the power supply back in.
  • turn the computer on.
usb keyboards (useful for laptops)
ps2 keyboards (useful for desktops)