What causes laptop keyboard failure?

Trapped dust and debris

The gaps between your laptop’s keys are where all kinds of dust and debris can get in. Because of how small these gaps are, the dust can stay trapped in there and potentially harm the keyboard. Things like pieces of lint, or crumbs from eating right above the keyboard can get right into the keyboard and jam it up.

To be fair, keeping your laptop spotless at all times is pretty impossible. It’s natural to get a little dust in there, and your laptop would still work perfectly normal. But when it reaches a point where there is a lot of dust trapped inside, it could become a problem for the keyboard. An accumulation of dust could also cause other hardware problems like overheating and fan failure.

Moisture in the air

It’s common knowledge that liquids and electronics don’t mix. You probably already know not to use your laptop around the pool or in the bath.

But what about rooms with high humidity? You might not be aware about this, but the moisture in the air can sometimes affect your laptop’s keyboard. Just like dust, moisture can get trapped inside a laptop and get you in quite a bit of trouble. So just to be on the safe side, you might want to use your laptop in a cool and dry spot.

Physical damage and liquid spills

spilled red wine liquid

Physical damage is another thing that can kill laptop keyboards. These usually occur as accidents. You wouldn’t try to break your keyboard on purpose, would you?

Liquid spills are a very common cause for keyboard failures. Accidentally spilling your drink over your laptop can short out the keys and ruin the keyboard. If it’s only a water spill, you might be able to use it as normal once it’s dried out completely. In other cases like sugary liquids or wine, it’s a little bit more tricky. After drying, the sugar in these liquids will still remain between the keys, and inside the laptop. Corrosive liquids like beer and seawater do the worst damage, corroding the connective parts of the keyboard.


In our computer repair experience, we’ve learnt that neglect can also frequently result in the failure of a laptop keyboard. Some cases of keyboard failure all share this observation: the laptop was neglected and not used for more than two months.

In these situations, users may just be using a different computer, or just primarily using their work laptops more often than their personal ones. Then when they take up their other laptop, they find that some keys are not working.

What if it’s actually…?

Keyboard issues are generally hardware faults. They come from physical damage. Like any kind of computer hardware, laptop keyboards don’t last forever and will begin to fail at some point in the laptop’s lifetime.

Some may think it’s a software or driver issue, or even a possible computer virus, but it’s quite unlikely that those are the case. It could be a connection that’s come loose, but that’s rare. As a piece of computer hardware, the keyboard will start showing signs of malfunction when it gets damaged. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to update your laptop’s drivers.

Now that we understand the different causes of keyboard failures, we can move onto the kinds of warning signs that you should look out for. These are some obvious and noticeable signs of keyboard failure that you may come across on your laptop.

4 Laptop keyboard failure warning signs to look out for

woman using macbook laptop and taking notes

1. Keys not working

This is pretty straightforward. You’ll notice certain keys don’t respond no matter how much or how hard you press it. Nothing comes out. This could be just a few keys, or even a whole row of keys. It’s completely random and unpredictable.

2. Keys repeat itself

This type of malfunction happens when you press a key once and the output appears to be repeated many times. The keyboard is not not working, just not working properly. Say your F key is repeating itself. You could press it once and out comes “fffff”. It could get annoying when you’re trying to type emails or work on documents.

3. Keys come out with a different output

Another instance of a keyboard not working properly, this issue happens when you press one key and a different thing comes out. You could press the F key and the number 9 comes out. And then you’ll have to work around this quirk, keeping in mind to press which key for which thing until you can’t take it anymore.

4. Keys are jammed, or stuck

A laptop keyboard is a part with connective points and mechanical parts. Over a period of use, the keys can get jammed, just by wear and tear, or from external factors like dust and liquid spills. Sugary liquids can cause the keys to stick together, and pieces of debris can jam the keys. So when you can’t seem to press down the keys, or notice that keys are stuck to its base, you know you have a problem.

How can I be sure? Here’s how you can test your keyboard

If you have a spare external keyboard, use it to test whether your keyboard is indeed faulty. Plug in it, and test the keys that you usually have problems with. You’ll be able to confirm that your laptop’s keyboard is indeed faulty when everything works fine with the external keyboard. Then you’ll need to fix this internal problem.

So far, that’s the only way to test whether you have a keyboard failure. Pre-boot diagnostics won’t be able to test the part, and you don’t really need to open up the laptop to check things out. Opening up a laptop just to see what’s going on when you can already confirm the problem can be unproductive to the problem at hand. This can also harm the laptop as well. That’s a common mistake that users make when they try to fix their computer by themselves. We try to only open up a laptop when we’re actually fixing the hardware, and not as a testing method.

How to fix a dead laptop keyboard

The tricky thing with laptop keyboards is, there’s no fix for only one specific faulty key. Even if one key is dead, the whole keyboard will need to be replaced. If you see retailers selling individual keycaps for faulty keys, those won’t fix your problem as they are only cosmetic. With that said though, if your problem is merely a lost keycap that’s popped off, then sure, you can get an individual key cap fit back in easy as.

Keyboard repairs are known to be quite complicated, as the keyboard is usually hard to get to. When you open up the laptop to take the keyboard out, most of the time you’ll need to get through the motherboard to reach the keyboard. The motherboard is a delicate piece of circuitry that takes experienced hands to deal with. If you’re not that confident in your tech repair skills, you might want to get it checked out by a professional.

Fortunately, newer models of laptops like ultrabooks are designed with a feature that’s more repair friendly. They are designed with this gap between the keyboard and the laptop, where the keyboard can be flipped out from the top when you want to take it out. It’s certainly an improvement for keyboard repair, but can still be a difficult process that takes a great deal of care.

Getting your laptop repaired by a professional

computer hardware repair tools and components hard drives and motherboard

With how complex the process is with most laptop keyboard repairs, you might be turning to a more “hands-off” approach and hand it off to a professional. That’s where we can help!

At Safemode Computer Service, we are always happy to help with any computer issue, from Macbook butterfly keyboard repairs to Windows PC hard drive failures. We are located in Enmore, conveniently in the Inner West of Sydney. With our highly-rated services and our friendly technicians, trust us to diagnose and fix your computer issues expertly. Call us today or come down to our Enmore store today!