Broken Laptop Keyboard? 12 Simple Fixes

edited August 2023 in PC Tech

You're hammering out your report's last page when suddenly, your laptop keyboard stops responding. No warning, no mercy - without a working keyboard, your computer can’t respond. 

You could easily replace a regular keyboard, but a laptop keyboard? That's entirely different. Don't panic, though. We've got you covered with our foolproof checklist to solve this.

1) Pinpoint the problem: Is the issue keyboard-related? 

 Is the laptop screen lit up? You want to rule out broader system glitches before zeroing in on your keyboard. Here are some questions to kickstart your detective work:

  • Is the laptop turned on? 
  • Is the power indicator lit? 
  • Is the laptop connected to a power source via an AC adapter or battery? 
  • Is the power cord properly connected to the laptop and the wall socket? 
  • Will another appliance work on the same power source? 
  • If running on battery power, is the battery drained?

Crossing these off the list will help pin the issue on the keyboard, streamlining your fix-it mission.

2) Hit the reset button: reboot your laptop 

When tech goes haywire, a reboot often works. Resetting your system can fix minor glitches. So, turn off and restart your laptop - a quick reboot might be all it takes to bring your keyboard back to life.

Since your keyboard's gone rogue, a hard reset might be necessary. Unplug your laptop and, if your model allows, detach the battery. A hard reboot could bring your keyboard back to life.

3) Identify the issue: hardware or software? 

After verifying that your computer is functioning correctly, it's time to focus on the keyboard itself. Keyboard issues usually come from either:

  • Hardware failure 
  • Software bugs

Most hardware issues can be identified by looking at your keyboard. Is your keyboard dirty? Are specific keys sticky or hard to press?

The easiest way to determine the root cause is to connect an external USB keyboard. If the external keyboard works fine, it's likely a physical problem with your laptop's built-in keyboard.

4) Check for external device conflicts 

Once you have ruled out that software isn't the problem, you can check for hardware glitches:

  • Disconnect all peripherals. Every device and cable connected to your laptop should be removed. 
  • Cut off the power supply completely: unplug your laptop, remove its battery, and reinsert it. Overheating can cause keyboard issues as the battery is directly beneath the keys. 
  • Turn on your laptop. If it starts successfully and your keyboard works, the issue might be with one of your external devices. 
  • Reconnect and test each device. Plug in one device at a time, checking your keyboard function. This method helps you identify if a specific peripheral is causing the keyboard issue.

5) Clean your keyboard

Sometimes, the problem is less complicated than it seems. Ever thought that your late-night doughnut indulgence during a gaming marathon might be the culprit? Sugary crumbs can create sticky situations, especially when combined with humidity. To determine if some grime is hampering your keys, turn off the laptop and clean your keyboard before powering up again.

Follow these steps to clean your keyboard effectively:

  • Shut down your laptop and disconnect it from the power source. Safety first! 
  • Use a can of compressed air to gently blow away any dust or soft debris lodged beneath or between the keys. For stickier residue, a lint-free cloth can solve it. 
  • Flip your laptop upside-down and give it a light tap to dislodge any loose debris. While it's upside-down, consider brushing the keys gently to help remove anything stuck. 
  • After your cleaning spree, restart your laptop. A simple cleaning might be necessary to restore your keyboard to its former glory.

For a detailed approach, see our complete cleaning your keyboard guide.

6) Software issue? Update the keyboard drivers. 

One common source of keyboard trouble, besides liquid spills, is outdated or incorrect drivers. If so, you'll likely need to connect an external keyboard and mouse to navigate your computer. With your external devices ready, follow these steps to download and install your keyboard drivers:

  1. Type device manager in the Windows taskbar search box, and select Device Manager from the results list. 
  2. Find your keyboard and double-click on the icon. 
  3. Click the Driver tab, then click Update Driver. 
  4. Follow the instructions to complete the update. 

If the driver update didn't work, it's time for Plan B - driver reinstallation. Even if no bright yellow exclamation mark tells you there's a driver issue, it's worth trying. 

To uninstall the driver:

  1. Navigate to Device Manager.
  2. Right-click on your keyboard icon and choose Properties.
  3. Click the Driver tab, and select Uninstall device.

Now, reboot your laptop. Windows will automatically fetch the latest driver and install it. If a faulty driver was the cause of your keyboard meltdown, this step should resolve it.

7) Check the keyboard layout 

Unintentionally changed your laptop's language or keyboard layout? If your keys are typing different letters than they should be, simply adjust the keyboard layout on your Windows system with these steps:

  • Open Settings from the Start Menu. 
  • Navigate to Language
  • Under Preferred Languages, click on your default language and select Options
  • Click Add a Keyboard and select the correct layout US QWERTY.

Now, your keys should correspond to their expected inputs. But if you're still experiencing keyboard issues, follow Microsoft's detailed instructions.

8) Run an SFC scan 

Microsoft's System File Checker (SFC) helps you fix corrupted Windows system files. This scan could potentially identify and fix keyboard troubles. Here's how to run an SFC scan:

  1. Click Start, and type 'cmd' in the Search box. 
  2. Right-click on Command Prompt, and then click Run as administrator
  3. If prompted, enter the administrator password or click Allow
  4. Type sfc /scannow in the Command Prompt.
  5. Press Enter.

The SFC will thoroughly scan your system files for corruption. It'll then attempt to fix any issues it finds. Once the scan is finished, reboot your computer for changes to take effect.

Pro tip: Keep the Command Prompt window open until the verification hits 100% completion.

9) Tackling intermittent key issues 

Sometimes, most keys work fine, but others don't function correctly. Maybe a single key press results in 4 e's, or a letter transforms into a symbol. If some keys are playing hide and seek with you, here are a few troubleshooting steps:

  • Explore the Microsoft Help Center: Microsoft's keyboard troubleshooting guide offers helpful instructions on fixing it. 
  • Check keyboard language settings: If your keys are jumbling up languages, it could be due to altered language settings
  • Perform an online keyboard test: Tools like IObit Keyboard Test allow you to assess each key's performance and identify malfunctioning ones. 
  • Clean the keyboard: A few obstinate keys might be due to physical obstructions. Follow our cleaning guide above.

10) Suspected virus 

If you've exhausted the above solutions, there's a possibility that a virus might be at play. Malicious software can tamper with your system settings, including keyboard controls. Run a malware scan.

11) Replacing the laptop keyboard 

Tried everything, and the keyboard still isn't working? Perhaps a fall jostled a tiny internal connection, or liquid damage from an accidental spill corroded the wiring.

Different manufacturers build their laptops differently, so there isn't a universal solution. And replacing a laptop keyboard isn't usually a DIY job.

So, if you think a keyboard replacement might be in order, here's what you can do:

  • Get Professional Help: Reach out to a professional computer technician. They have the expertise and tools to replace the keyboard correctly. 
  • Contact Manufacturer Support: If you're under warranty and have a brand-specific laptop like Acer, contact their support team. They can guide you towards a suitable repair service. 
  • Temporary Fix: In the interim, use an external keyboard and mouse to keep you going.

Remember, when it comes to hardware fixes like these, it's best to turn to the professionals to avoid any potential laptop damage or voided warranties.

12) Keyboard Spillage 

Accidents happen; taking immediate action is crucial if you've spilled liquid on your keyboard. The severity depends on the amount and type of liquid spilled and how long it stays on the keyboard.

In case of a spill, here's a condensed guide: 

  1. Act fast: Immediately disconnect the power supply and hold down the power button for around 10 seconds to switch it off. 
  2. Mop it up: Use a microfiber cloth (not a paper towel) to absorb excess liquid. 
  3. Battery & peripherals out: Flip your laptop, remove the battery, and disconnect any external devices. 
  4. Air it out: Open the laptop with the screen facing away from the keyboard. Leave it turned upside down on a towel in a well-ventilated space for at least 24 hours.

Don't use a hairdryer, oven, or direct sunlight to expedite drying - it could overheat the device. If you spill a sticky liquid like soda, clean it with a lint-free cloth and alcohol wipes to dissolve the sugar.

Remember, ensuring all components are dry before turning the laptop back on is crucial. If in doubt, get professional help. What is the best preventive measure? Keep your desk clear of liquids!

Can you fix a broken laptop keyboard? 

Defective laptop keyboards are the bane of productivity, and hopefully, one of these solutions successfully fixes it. Start by troubleshooting basic issues like cleaning the keyboard and updating drivers, progressing to more technical solutions if necessary. If all else fails, connect a USB keyboard to keep your productivity on track while you seek professional assistance. Get typing again! 

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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