Key Tips to Fix Keyboard Problems
Computer keyboards are a bit like knees. You don't think much about them until they're giving you problems. And when they're giving you problems, it seems to impede many of your daily activities.
When your keyboard isn't working correctly, it's a frustrating experience that slows you down. Luckily, many issues can be solved quickly and easily. Before you run out and buy a new keyboard or take your computer into the shop, try the following troubleshooting tips.
Replug, Refresh, or Reboot
These steps may seem overly simple, but they'll solve the problem more often than not.
- If your keyboard is connected to your desktop computer with a USB cord, the first thing you should do is make sure it's still plugged in. If it seems to be plugged in, unplug it and re-plug it in again.
- If the keyboard is wireless, replace the batteries with a fresh set.
- If those steps don't solve your problem, or if the issue is with a laptop keyboard, reboot your computer.
- If you reboot your computer and the keyboard still doesn't work, buy or borrow a working USB keyboard, plug it into your computer, and reboot the system again. When your computer comes back online, you'll at least have a working keyboard while you do further troubleshooting.
Check Your Settings
Sometimes the culprit in a keyboard problem is a setting that accidentally got changed.
- If everything you type appears in capital letters, check to make sure your "Caps Lock" button isn't pressed.
- If a number appears instead of a letter when you use certain keys, check to make sure your "Num Lock" button isn't pressed.
- If your keyboard is working intermittently, it may be an advanced settings issue. If you're comfortable with computers, you can take steps such as checking the driver for updates or running motherboard connection tests. If you're not experienced with IT services or computer repair, however, it's best to take it to a professional.
Unstick Keys With a Good Cleaning
You know you need to clean off your desk from time to time, and you dust your monitor when it starts looking a bit fuzzy. But you might not realize that your keyboard needs a regular cleaning, too. Crumbs, dust, and debris build up beneath the keys, and over time, they can cause keys to get stuck or become unresponsive.
- Turn the keyboard or laptop upside down and gently shake it. This will help dislodge any loose particles and free up the keys.
- Use canned, compressed air to blow debris out from between the keys. Most office supply stores carry this product.
- Clean between the keys with a cotton swab dibbed in rubbing alcohol.
Tips for Rescuing a Wet Keyboard
You don't have to be a computer genius to know that liquids and electronics don't mix. If you spill a drink on your keyboard, however, all may not be lost.
- Immediately unplug the keyboard or laptop and turn it upside down. Shake the keyboard gently and drain all the liquid out.
- If it's water that spilled onto your keyboard, let it air dry. To speed up the process, you can use a hair dryer on a cool setting (heat can hurt electrical components, too).
- If it's soda or some other sticky beverage that spilled, clean between the keys with a thin cloth and a little water. Don't use soap!
Unfortunately, liquid spills sometimes permanently damage keyboards — especially laptop keyboards because there are even more electrical components affected under the keys. If you follow these steps and the keyboard still doesn't work, it's time to call in the professionals or buy a new keyboard.
Important note: Make sure your keyboard is completely dry before you try to use it again. Never plug in a wet keyboard!
Give Your Keyboard a Fresh Look With Stickers
Your keyboard issues may be more aesthetic than functional. If you've got a heavy hand (perhaps caused by years of typing on typewriters), the most frequently used letters on your keyboard may be starting to wear off. You don't need to replace your keyboard. There's a simple, low-cost solution that will get it looking almost new again. Do a web search for "replacement keyboard stickers," and you'll have your choice of high-quality stickers in different colors and styles to place over your worn-down keys.
Consider Keeping a Backup Keyboard On Hand
Troubleshooting keyboard issues can be a Catch-22. You can't navigate your computer to troubleshoot without a keyboard, but to troubleshoot the keyboard you need to navigate your computer. Basic USB keyboards are inexpensive today, and it might be worthwhile keeping an extra one around just in case. You can find them at your local office supply store or online.