Struggling with a sticky or unresponsive keyboard? Delay switch replacement can lead to inefficient typing and diminished gaming experiences. Refreshing your keyboard switches not only enhances performance but also customizes your touch. Essential for any keyboard user, our guide offers a step-by-step solution to replace mechanical keyboard switches, ensuring a smoother, more responsive typing experience. […]
How to Replace Mechanical Keyboard Switches - A Step-by-Step Guide
Struggling with a sticky or unresponsive keyboard? Delay switch replacement can lead to inefficient typing and diminished gaming experiences. Refreshing your keyboard switches not only enhances performance but also customizes your touch. Essential for any keyboard user, our guide offers a step-by-step solution to replace mechanical keyboard switches, ensuring a smoother, more responsive typing experience.
List of Tools for Keyboard Switches Replacement
Before starting the replacement mechanical keyboard switches process, you should gather all the necessary tools to ensure a smooth and efficient workflow. Here's a table outlining each tool and its usage:
|Safety and quick for how to remove mechanical key switch
|Useful for how to remove switches from keyboard, especially in hot-swappable models
|Melting solder during the removal of soldered switches
|Used to remove melted solder from the connections
|Manipulate small parts and straighten the pins
|Create new solder joints when installing switches
|The new switches to be installed in the keyboard
How to Replace Soldered Mechanical Keyboard Switches?
Replacing soldered switches is a more intricate approach requiring some basic soldering skills. Let's follow these steps to replace mechanical keyboard switches successfully:
Step 1: Prepare Tools Needed and Workspace
Before beginning, make sure you have all the needed tools above and some additional ones like a screwdriver, mask, or an optional PCB holder or vise. Moreover, it's important to work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling solder fumes. If water is accidentally splashed or spilled on an electronic device, check out the steps on how to fix the water damage now!
Arrange your tools for easy access, especially a soldering iron and a desoldering pump, critical for how to desolder keyboard switches. A clean, organized workspace will help smooth the process and reduce the risk of losing small parts or tools. Note that a cluttered area can lead to accidents, especially when working with a hot soldering iron.
Step 2: Unplug the keyboard from your PC
Completely disconnect your keyboard from the computer or any power source by unplugging the wired or USB wireless keyboard. This step is crucial to avoid any risk of electric shock or damaging your keyboard's electronic components.
Note: It is essential for safety before you start the process of replacing keyboard switches. Double-check to ensure that the keyboard is unplugged. It's a small but important security precaution.
Step 3: Disassemble the keyboard
First, use the keycap puller, a vital mechanical keyboard switch removal tool, to take out all the keycaps. Then using the screwdriver to disassemble the screws from the back of the keyboard.
Some models might have hidden screws under stickers or rubber feet, so inspect carefully. Once the screws are removed, gently separate the backplate from the rest of the keyboard to expose the PCB and the soldered switches.
Note: During disassembly, keep screws and small parts in a container to prevent loss. Also, handle the keyboard gently to avoid damaging any internal components.
Step 4: Activate Your Soldering Iron
In step 4 of how to replace mechanical switches, the focus is on activating your soldering iron. Begin by turning on the soldering iron and setting it to approximately 350°C (660°F), a temperature suitable for effectively melting the types of solder commonly used in keyboard assembly.
Allow the iron a few minutes to reach a temperature of 300°C, it's ready when it can easily melt a small piece of solder upon contact. Remember that the iron tip should be properly tinned. Always place the hot iron on its stand when not in use to avoid any accidents, and keep the tip clean using a damp sponge or brass cleaner.
Step 5: Apply Leaded Solder to Your Solder Joints
It's time to apply leaded solder to your solder joints. Carefully identify the solder joints on the back of the PCB where each switch is connected. Gently touch the tip of the soldering iron to a joint and feed a small amount of leaded solder into it. This additional solder helps to lower the melting point, facilitating a smoother desoldering process.
Ensure you apply just enough solder to cover the joint without creating large blobs, as excess solder can create short circuits or make the desoldering process more challenging. The use of leaded solder is recommended due to its lower melting point, which makes it easier to work with compared to lead-free alternatives.
Step 6: Prepare Your Solder Sucker
Get ready with your solder sucker or desoldering pump, an essential tool for removing molten solder. Start by priming the solder sucker, pressing down the plunger until it clicks and locks in place. Gently pressing the release button to test the suction power, the plunger should spring back quickly, creating the suction needed to remove molten solder effectively.
Regular cleaning of the solder sucker is vital to maintaining optimal performance. Ensure the tip is free of solder residue and handle the tool with a firm grip for quick positioning over the melted solder.
Step 7: Extract Solder From Each Switch
After preparing your solder sucker, begin the desoldering process. Place the tip of the heated soldering iron on each solder joint to melt the existing solder. Once the solder becomes liquid, quickly position the tip of your solder sucker over the molten solder and activate it to remove the solder.
This process may require a few attempts for each joint to ensure all solder is effectively removed. Patience is key in this step to replace mechanical keyboard switches. If the solder doesn't come off in the first attempt, reapply heat and try again. Avoid applying excessive force or heat to prevent damage to the PCB.
Step 8: Detach Switches from The Plate and PCB
With the solder removed, you can now continue to replace mechanical keyboard switches by detaching the switches from the plate and PCB. Gently push or pry the switches out of their positions. If a switch seems stuck, it may be due to residual solder - in this case, reapply heat and use the solder sucker again on the affected joint.
Note: Handle the switches and PCB gently to avoid bending the pins or damaging the PCB. If a switch doesn't come out easily, check again for leftover solder before applying more force.
Step 9: Insert New Switches Into Plate and PCB
Once all the old switches are removed, you can start inserting the new switches into the plate and aligning them with the holes on the PCB. Make sure the pins on the switches are straight and correctly aligned with the PCB holes. Press each switch firmly into place, ensuring a snug fit.
Note: It's essential to ensure that the switches are properly oriented before pressing them into the PCB. Incorrectly placed switches can cause alignment issues and may require rework.
Step 10: Solder Switches Onto the PCB
With the new switches placed on the PCB, the next step is to re-solder a mechanical keyboard switch securely. Heat your soldering iron to the optimal temperature around 350°C. Hold the tip of the iron against the joint where the switch pin meets the PCB, and then feed a small amount of solder onto the joint. The solder should flow smoothly and form a neat cone around the pin.
Note: Ensure the solder isn't forming a blob over the joint, as this can lead to poor conductivity and even short circuits. A good solder joint should look shiny and have a volcano or cone shape.
Step 11: Test Your Switches and PCB
After soldering all the switches, it’s vital to test each one to ensure they are functioning correctly. Reconnect the PCB to your computer and use a keyboard testing program or a simple text document to test each key. Press each switch and verify that it registers correctly on your computer. Additionally, if you want to change the pre-installed layout, you can also easily remap your keyboard with some simple software.
Note: If a key doesn’t register, check the solder joint of the corresponding switch. It might require re-soldering if the connection isn’t solid. Also, check for any bent pins or misaligned switches.
How to Replace Hot-Swappable Switches?
Replacement keyboard switches on a hot-swappable keyboard are super easy and don't require any soldering. Just follow 4 simple steps, and you'll be typing on your upgraded keyboard in no time.
Step 1: Remove the Keycaps
Start your replacement mechanical keyboard switches journey by taking off the keycaps. Using a keycap puller, carefully grip each keycap and gently lift it upward. You should remove keycaps without tools or apply too much force to avoid damaging the keycaps or the switch stems underneath.
Note: Organizing the keycaps in order as you remove them can save you time during reassembly, helping you easily remember where each one belongs. This is the first step in removing the key switch from the keyboard.
Step 2: Remove the Switches
With the keycaps removed, your switches are now exposed and ready to be replaced. Employ a switch puller, a specialized tool designed for this task, to gently clasp and extract each switch. Firmly press on the switch's side tabs with the puller, and with a gentle upward motion, remove the switch. If it feels tight, do not force it out. Instead, give it a slight wiggle, this can help loosen the switch without causing damage.
Avoid using your hands to pull out the switches, as this can exert uneven force and potentially break them. It’s important to be cautious during the step on how to remove hot swap switches, rough handling can damage the delicate pins on the switches or leave scratches on the keyboard's PCB.
Step 3: Swap in the New Switches
Carefully align the new switches, the pins are straight and correctly oriented towards the holes on the PCB. Gently press each switch down until you hear a 'click' sound, indicating it securely snaps into place. If you notice any bent pins, straighten them using tweezers or your fingers as it can prevent the switch from seating correctly and may cause issues with key registration.
Note: Choosing compatible switches is crucial, the 3-pin switch has a distinctive thick central pin and two electrical pins protruding. When selecting switches, remember that the hole for the LEDs should be on the top part, aligning with where the light shines through on your keyboard.
Step 4: Install the Keycaps
Finally, it's time to return those keycaps where they belong or you can clean your keycaps before the installation for a sleek surface beforehand. Line them up and press them down onto the switches. Pay special attention to the orientation and placement of each keycap, especially those with unique shapes like the spacebar or the enter key.
Common Mistakes of Switches Replacement
Replacing keyboard switches, especially for beginners, can be a delicate process where simple oversights can lead to 3 common mistakes below:
Not Testing Switches Beforehand
One of the most common mistakes is not testing the switches before replacement which can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort if you discover halfway through that your new switches are faulty or not to your liking. So, you should test and film switches to avoid not operating or wobbling. Utilize a switch tester allowing you to press each switch and experience its feel and sound, whether they are replacement keyboard switches or specifically replacement mechanical keyboard switches.
Moreover, after soldering the new switches onto the PCB, it's also important to test them before reassembling the keyboard. Connect the PCB to your computer and check with the keyboard testing software. If a switch isn't working, it's much easier to fix the problem at this stage than after your keyboard is fully reassembled.
Poor Desoldering Technique
Another mistake when replacing soldered switches is poor desoldering technique. Hastily desoldering, which results in solder removal that is not fully removed, can lead to damage to the PCB or the switch itself. It's also important to apply just the right amount of heat and to use a quality solder sucker to cleanly remove the solder.
You should be familiar with your soldering iron and solder sucker before you start the process on how to desolder keyboard switches. Practice on a spare piece of electronics if you can, patience and precision are key. Remember, the goal is to melt the solder so it can be sucked up, not to burn the PCB or the switch.
Incorrect Switch Alignment
The switch is not properly aligned with the hole in the PCB and the plate which may lead to problems with keycap fit and switch operation. Always check carefully the alignment of your switches before pressing them in place. Make sure the pins are straight and that they're going through the correct holes in the PCB.
If you discover that a switch is misaligned after soldering, you'll need to desolder it, realign it, and then solder it back in place. A bit of a hassle, so it's best to get it right the first time.
That's it! You've just mastered the art of how to replace mechanical keyboard switches! It's not just about fixing or upgrading to change mechanical keyboard switches, it's about putting a bit of yourself into the device you probably use every day. So, go ahead, show off your newly refreshed keyboard, and enjoy every click that comes from your personal touch!
Can mechanical keyboard switches be replaced?
Definitely yes, mechanical keyboard switches can be replaced. The process varies depending on whether the keyboard uses soldered or hot-swappable switches.
How often should you replace keyboard switches?
The frequency of replacement mechanical keyboard switches depends on usage and personal preference. Typically, mechanical switches last for millions of keystrokes, but you might want to replace them for customization or if a switch becomes faulty.
Is it easy to replace keyboard switches?
The difficulty varies based on the keyboard type. Hot-swappable keyboards are easier as they don't require soldering. Soldered keyboards require more tools and patience, especially for beginners.
Can you remove switches without a tool?
While it's possible to remove keycaps and switches without a tool, it's not recommended. Using a switch puller or a soldering iron and solder sucker (for soldered switches) is safer and less likely to damage the switch or the keyboard.
How much does it cost to replace switches?
The cost depends on the type of switches you choose and whether you need to purchase tools or hire a professional. Prices for switches vary widely, and investing in quality soldering equipment can add to the cost if you don't already own it.