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How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Computer Keyboard (Including Laptops)

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Computer Keyboard (Including Laptops)

Key Points

  • The most common reason that keyboard keys get stuck is dirt and debris, such as crumbs or liquid, which can prevent keys from functioning properly.
  • Fixing stuck keys usually involves cleaning the keyboard with canned air and isopropyl alcohol, and in some cases, removing and cleaning individual keycaps.
  • Different types of keyboards, such as membrane, mechanical, MacBook, and laptop keyboards, may require slightly different methods to fix stuck keys.
  • If a key is still stuck after attempting to fix it, it may be necessary to replace the key switch or consider purchasing a new keyboard.

A keyboard with a stuck key is a major headache. All it takes is a single crumb to wedge itself under a key and, suddenly, your work grinds to a halt. Even worse, a drop of liquid will leave your keys stuck together.

These relatively minor problems can wreak havoc before you even realize it. Fortunately, it is very easy to fix stuck keys on a keyboard.

Sometimes all it takes to clean out a keyboard is a little blast of canned air. Other times it may require more drastic measures, such as removing keys.

Fortunately, stuck keys are rarely caused by physical damage, so a few minutes of cleaning will typically resolve the problem. Keep reading as we fix stuck keys on membrane, mechanical, and MacBook keyboards.

Why Keyboard Keys Get Stuck

The most common reason that keyboard keys get stuck is dirt and debris. It is very common for people to eat or drink while using their computers. Just a drop of liquid or a small crumb can easily get between keys and cause major problems.

Crumbs underneath a key prevent it from going down all the way to activate the switch beneath it. Additionally, they can also cause an annoying crunching noise and make the key feel a little different.

Liquid, however, often gets stuck to the sides of the keys, causing them to stick. Another reason that keys stick is mechanical failure. Some keyboards have more moving parts, and the underlying structure can dislodge or even break off.

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard

Fixing stuck keys is usually a straightforward process. Sometimes, all it takes is blowing out dirt and debris with canned air. However, more complicated problems may require you to remove the key and perform a thorough cleaning.

The steps below outline the entire process, from cleaning out loose dirt to repairing a disconnected key bracket on a common keyboard.

Step 1: Turn Off the Computer or Unplug the Keyboard

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Finding the power button.

Start by unplugging your keyboard, or if you are using a laptop, go ahead and turn it off. This is essential because you will be pressing a number of keys as you attempt the fixes below.

Turning off the computer or unplugging the keyboard ensures that you don’t accidentally open and modify any files or settings.

Step 2: Blow Dirt off the Keyboard with Canned Air

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Using canned air.

Now, it’s time to try the first keyboard fix. Get a can of compressed air online or from a local retailer. Getting a pack of cans is usually cheaper, but one can is more than enough for a light dusting.

Put the straw on the can and carefully blow around the stuck keys. Be cautious, and do not point the straw at your skin. Going in different directions around the key can also help remove trapped debris.

Step 3: Wipe Around the Stuck Key

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Cleaning around the key.

If your keyboard is still stuck after blowing canned air on it, something may be stuck to the key. There are a couple of ways to clean the key, but the easiest is with isopropyl alcohol on a Q-tip.

Rub the damp Q-tip around the sides of the key and look for any residue. You may also have to clean the adjacent keys to get all of the grime off.

Step 4: Remove the Keycap

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Using a guitar pick to remove one of the keycaps.

After cleaning around the keys, you may need to go a step further and remove the keycap entirely. This is a very delicate procedure that should be done with caution.

The best tool to remove the keycap is a guitar pick, but the corner of a credit card will also work on most keyboards. Simply slip it next to the keycap you wish to remove and gently lift it upwards.

Step 5: Clean the Keycap

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Carefully cleaning the keycap.

With the keycap off, you need to assess the state of the switch, membrane, and keycap. Start by cleaning the keycap itself, including the underside of it.

It would be best if you used isopropyl alcohol and Q-tips, as mentioned above. Pay close attention to the sides of the keycap, as well as any nooks and crannies that could hold dirt and grime.

Step 6: Clean the Keyboard Frame

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Removing dirt from the frame.

After cleaning the keycap, it’s a good time to clean the keyboard frame. Although cleaning the key may fix your keyboard, some residue may still remain under the keycap.

You can use the canned air again to remove any loose dirt, then use the Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol to clean out the keyboard frame.

Step 7: Repair the Key Bracket

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Checking the key switch.

The switch or bracket is another problem to fix while your keyboard is apart. Mechanical keyboards use individual switches with springs, which can be replaced. More commonly, membrane keyboards use small plastic brackets to keep the keys aligned.

It is common for these brackets to come apart, but putting one back together is easy. Just put the pieces of plastic back together and snap them into the keyboard.

Step 8: Reinstall the Keycap

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Putting the keycap back in its place.

Once everything is clean and working properly, you can go ahead and reinstall the keycap. Align it over its location on the keyboard. Then, gently press straight down on the key until you hear a light snap or pop sound.

Wiggle the key a little to make sure it is securely in place. Finally, turn your computer back on or plug the keyboard back in and test it out.

Fix Stuck Keys on a MacBook Keyboard

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Fixing the problem on a MacBook.

Fixing a stuck key on a MacBook keyboard can be very daunting, especially considering how much the devices cost. The good news is that removing a MacBook key is similar to the steps outlined above.

The problem with a MacBook is that the keys are very close together, so it’s difficult to get dirt out. Additionally, the brackets on a MacBook are very delicate.

After trying to blow the dirt off your keyboard and wiping it off, it is time to carefully remove the key. Doing so does require two guitar picks, as a credit card is too thick.

Place one pick on each side at the bottom and gently lift upwards. Once the front unhooks, carefully bend the key back to remove it. Replace it by hooking it in the back and pressing it down until you hear two clicks.

Fix Stuck Keys on a Laptop

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
Blowing any dirt off the keyboard should be the first step.

Laptop keys are a little different because they do not have much room for dirt or debris to fit underneath. However, the keys are often very close together, making them prone to sticking together.

Fixing a stuck key on a laptop keyboard is very similar to doing so on a standalone one. First, try blowing any loose dirt off. Then, thoroughly clean the individual key as best as possible. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll have to remove the key entirely to inspect the area beneath.

A common problem on laptop keyboards are the small plastic brackets underneath the keys. Double-check that everything is clean and in its proper place before putting the key back on.

Fix Stuck Keys on a Mechanical Keyboard

How to Fix Stuck Keys on a Keyboard
You can always replace the switches on a mechanical keyboard.

Mechanical keyboards are very different from the more common membrane keyboards. Fortunately, mechanical keyboards are easy to fix, and the keys are designed for easy removal.

The steps outlined above will work on a mechanical keyboard. However, you may need to take some additional steps to fix a broken switch.

If your key is still stuck after following the steps above, then purchase a replacement key switch. You can find replacement switches online based on who manufactured the keyboard.

After getting the new switch, use the special tool to remove the old one and install the new one. Finish by putting the keycap on and testing out the keyboard.

When to Buy a New Keyboard

At some point, you may have to purchase a new keyboard. Keyboards take a lot of abuse. Depending on how much you use them, the keyboard may not be worth repairing.

Obviously, you should try to fix minor issues such as dirt and debris. But a keyboard may not be worth fixing if you spilled an entire drink on it.

With a mechanical keyboard, you have the option of replacing individual components, such as switches. But it is best to buy a new membrane keyboard when the keys start failing rather than trying to fix it.

You may be surprised to learn that you can even buy a new laptop keyboard. However, they should only be replaced when repair isn’t an option because the process requires a complete disassembly of the computer.

Prevent Future Keyboard Problems

The best fix for a keyboard is preventing a key from getting stuck in the first place. You can perform a few simple tasks to keep your keyboard in good condition.

Firstly, regularly blow dirt off the keyboard with canned air. At the same time, give the top of the keyboard a light wipe-down to remove any dust or residue.

Moving on from preventive maintenance, you should avoid eating or drinking while using a computer. This is difficult for many people since computers are so connected to our daily life.

However, spilling food or a drink on a laptop can permanently damage the computer. With a desktop, you don’t have to worry about a spill destroying your computer, but it could grind your work to a halt as you wait for a new keyboard.

Wrapping Up

A stuck key on a keyboard isn’t the end of the world, but having to stop and fix the problem is annoying. This is why having an extra keyboard on hand for emergencies is a good idea.

Hopefully, you’ve managed to fix your keyboard with the steps above. Plus, you now have both the knowledge and supplies to fix stuck keyboard keys in the future, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you buy replacement keycaps?

It is easy to find replacement keycaps for a mechanical keyboard. However, it is much more difficult to find ones for other types of keyboards. The best option will likely be to look for used keys on eBay or buy a replacement keyboard.

Is it worth it to use a keyboard cover?

Keyboard covers are very annoying, and it is difficult to find a cover that fits a keyboard perfectly. However, they’re a good option in environments where dirt and grime are always present.

Does a spilled drink permanently damage a keyboard?

Contrary to popular belief, spilling a drink on a keyboard does not mean it is destroyed. Although it is possible for a spilled drink to break a keyboard, you can usually clean it out and get it working like new by meticulously cleaning individual keys and the frame.

Is a Mac keyboard different from a Windows keyboard?

Mac keyboards are very similar to other laptop keyboards. Even the Magic Keyboard has a lot in common with a standard laptop keyboard. The biggest difference is that the keys are very close to the computer’s frame, making them susceptible to getting stuck with a little liquid.

Why use isopropyl alcohol to clean a keyboard?

Isopropyl alcohol is the best cleaner for working with electronics because it leaves no residue and it quickly evaporates. Resist the urge to use other name-brand cleaners or degreasers, as they can further damage the components.

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