We all know that mechanical keyboards are superior to membrane keyboards. Although a bit expensive, it’s more comfortable to type using a mechanical keyboard. You can even customize them to fit your aesthetic. This is all thanks to the switches of these keyboards. They make these keyboards superior to any other out there. What’s more, if your keyboard starts acting up, you can easily fix it by swapping the switches!
How to Replace Keyboard Switches
Let’s get into what you came here to do: replacing keyboard switches! This article will give you step-by-step instructions for replacing your keyboard switches. Methods for both PCB and plate-mounted switches are mentioned. So, you can get swapping no matter the keyboard mounting style.
For Hot-Swappable PCB Keyboard
The switches of PCB-mounted keyboards are easier to replace. This is because the switches are only put in the circuit board without any soldering. So that means you just have to take them out, right? Although that’s true, there’s more to this than just that.
Tools you’ll require
- Keycap switch puller
- Switch removers
- Flush Cutter / Clippers (optional)
The first and foremost thing you need to do is get your switches of choice. If you’ve decided on replacing switches then you must already have some switches prepared. If not, have some prepared because how will you replace keyboard switches without any switches? Maybe you haven’t settled on a particular type of switch yet. No worries as you can purchase ‘switch testers’ to make your decision easier. You can find these on Amazon, or you can buy them directly from switch manufacturers.
After you have your new switches on stand by, start pulling. Take out your keycap switch puller and gently pull out the keycaps one by one. You have to use a keycap-switch puller because pulling them with your fingers might damage the switches. If you are like me and don’t have all the keys memorized, then place them aside in order. This will make putting them back on a breeze.
After you’ve exposed the switches, pull them out now. Again, don’t use your hands! Make sure to use a switch remover. There are many switch removers available for switches of all sizes so go for those. If the switches on your keyboard are high profile, then clip them from top and bottom.
Pull them gently and they should come out. If some show resistance, don’t go savage on them. Just wiggle the stubborn switches, and they should pull out easily. If your switches are low profile, then clip them from left and right. After clipping, gently pull them, and you should be good to go.
Out with the old, in with the new! Now that you’ve removed the old switches, swap them with new ones. Simply place the new switches in place of the old ones. If your circuit board is for 5 pins and your switches have 3 pins, it’s no issue. The switches will fit in without a hassle. But if your circuit board is for 3 pins and your switches have 5 pins, now that’s a problem.
But no worries. Simply remove the two extra plastic legs of the 5 pin switch using clippers. After this is done, the switch should fit like a glove. If your PCB has LEDs on it, remember that the LED’s hole is on the top part and place it as such. When you’ve pushed the switches in, you’ll know that they’re secure once you hear a “Click.”
Have you followed all the steps to the T, and some switches still aren’t working? Don’t worry. This can be due to many reasons. Maybe you didn’t press the switch down properly, so it didn’t “Click.” If that’s the case, then simply put some pressure on the switch, and the problem should be solved. But be gentle! Take these words as the mantra for replacing switches. This is because if you push too hard, you might damage the circuit.
If this didn’t solve the issues, pull out the switch and check if the pin is okay. Maybe the switch’s pin got bent, and because of that, it didn’t work correctly. If this is the case, straighten out the pin, put it back inside, and you should be good to go. One thing you can do to fix this issue is to plug in the keyboard and check if the switches are working as you install them (perks of hot-swappable keyboards).
For Plate-Mounted Switches
Unlike PCB-mounted switches that can easily be replaced, plate-mounted switches need soldering. This is because these switches are mounted onto the PCB. These bad boys are fixed onto the PCB, so you can’t just pull the switches out and place the new ones in. Before we get started, get all the necessary tools assembled, so you don’t have to run around looking for them.
- Soldering Iron
- Soldering Pump
- Electronic-grade Solder
- Keycap-switch Puller
- Small screwdriver
- Pry bar (to open keyboard case if necessary)
- Pliers or small tweezers
- Switches compatible with your keyboard
Before we get started with replacing your keyboard switches, make sure you have suitable switches. Don’t buy switches that aren’t compatible because that’s simply a waste. Also, this method requires soldering, so make sure you have protective gear on. Otherwise, you can give yourself a horrible burn. Furthermore, if you’re new to soldering, you should acquaint yourself with it by watching some tutorials and such.
The first thing you need to do is to remove your keyboard from your PC. After that, place it in your workplace, making sure that it’s clean. I mean, you don’t want your electronics in a dirty place, right? Once you’re ready to disassemble, start with the keyboard’s outer case. This is so you can easily access the metal printed circuit board (PCB) underneath. This process may differ depending on the kind of keyboard you use.
If it’s a regular keyboard, then all you have to do is remove the keycaps. Once that’s done, remove the six screws, and that should be the end of removing the outer case. If you have a gamer-style keyboard, you might have to struggle a bit. To reach the retention screws, you’ll have to fight off the plastic bits by prying them off and then remove the feet. Your PCB mightn’t be labeled, so mark the switches you want to replace if you’re only replacing a few.
Once you’ve prepped your PCB by stripping it of everything, desolder. With the soldering tool heating up, flip your PCB upside down with the switches facing your work table. Also, have some sponge or brass to clean off the mess created during soldering. Start using the cleaning tools on the hot solder to have a nice and clean tip. After that, use the clean, hot solder tip and press it on the prong of the switch you want to replace.
This will heat the old solder and once it liquifies, use the pump to remove the liquid metal from the PCB instantly. Make sure that you don’t touch the non-conductive part of the PCB and only the previous solder. To remove the solder entirely, you might have to repeat this particular step numerous times. Once you’re done with one switch’s solder, repeat the same thing with the others. Remember to keep the solder’s tip clean as you proceed for better results.
Once all the soldering is removed, the switches are free to be pulled out. If they’re mounted directly onto the PCB, you should be able to pull them out with a switch puller. In case they’re mounted onto a metal plate (like most plate-mounted switches), you’ll have to depress some of the switch’s tabs to get them out.
Be careful as you proceed because you don’t want to damage your switches. Even after trying your best, some switches just won’t budge, repeat step 2. This is because the switches might still have some soldering stuck to them, sticking them to the PCB.
Make sure that you put the new switches in properly. Lower them in a straight manner so you don’t bend the pins. If the metal board is present, you’ll have to make the switches “snap” as you push them down. Make sure that all your new switches are properly aligned and are in proper positions. Now that you’ve placed the new switches in, secure them via soldering. Flip your board, so you have the switches facing the work table.
Add new soldering to completely seal the electrical contact of the switches with the PCB. Heat your soldering tool and start melting the wire around the contact area. Ensure that the solder doesn’t spill onto the non-conductive material and only makes contact with the switch’s electrical pin. Keep cleaning the soldering rod as you repeat this step for other switches that need replacing.
As the switches are in place, how about giving them a test trial? Connect your keyboard with the PC and check if all the new switches are working properly. It’s better to do this at this stage because if something is wrong, you won’t have to go and remove everything to fix it. If everything is working properly, well and good. If not, make the needed repairs.
Reassemble your keyboard after the switches have been tested and re-fixed (where needed). Disconnect your keyboard from your PC and place the keycaps in their rightful place. Then rejoin the outer case and screw it in place. Voila! Pat yourself on the back because you just replaced your keyboard switches. Plug your keyboard with your PC and get typing on your keyboard.
Mechanical keyboards are fantastic to work with. The clicking sound assures you that every key has hit the spot. At the same time, the multiple choices for keycaps and switches give you the option to customize it to your needs fully. Thus, if a switch isn’t to your liking or isn’t working correctly, replace it with one that’s just right! This article gives step-by-step instructions on how to replace your keyboard switches so you can have a better typing experience.