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3 tips for preserving the life of your keyboard

Jack Wallen offers up a few simple tips to saving your favorite keyboard from an untimely death.

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Maybe you've had your favorite keyboard for years and you want to do everything you can to keep it working Maybe it's been discontinued or it just has the perfect feel for your fingers. With that trusty interface you can type like the wind. Zero errors, zero issues, but it's starting to show signs of wear and tear. 

Tragedy is just around the corner. I know this well. Because words are my livelihood, I develop emotional attachments to my keyboards. When I have a keyboard I really love, I'll do everything I can to keep it in tip-top shape.

To that end, I thought I'd offer up some of my best tips for saving your favorite keyboard from a premature death.

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How to keep it clean

Although this may seem fairly obvious, I find many people do not heed the advice from that fount of wisdom. Although you might do a great job of not spilling your morning coffee into your keyboard or dropping handfuls of pretzel crumbs over the device, there's always debris collecting between and under those keys. 

One thing you can do is a daily shakedown of the keyboard. For this, I simply turn the device upside down and give it a bit of a shake. You'll be surprised at how much falls out from between those keys.

However, not everything is going to fall out. Yes, you'll see crumbs, fingernail clippings, and other disgusting bits tumble to your desk, but what you won't see are the dust bunnies and hairballs that inevitably gather in the shadows of those keys, seeking solace from their own untimely death.

To combat this problem, I have a couple of different vacuums that I use. One is made specifically for vacuuming computers, the Metro Vacuum DataVac.

This thing is incredibly powerful and includes very small nozzles that can help you get in between those keys.

Another option is using a vacuum like a Dyson stick. Remove the long tube and attach the angled nozzle to help suck up that debris beneath your keys.

As you're vacuuming, you might find stubborn hairballs. For that, I use a toothpick and run it between the keys--those hairballs will lift right out and you can finish the job with the vacuum.

How to take care of the sticky bits

Now that you have the gunk cleaned from under the keys, you might find those keys smeared with various sticky bits. You've probably dripped coffee, typed with peanut butter fingers, or did a soda pop spit take at your monitor after seeing the single funniest meme to have ever been created.

What is that meme? I've yet to see it.

When you find extra bits of stickiness glommed onto your keys, what do you do?

The simple solution is to grab some cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol. The reason for using alcohol is that it'll dissipate quickly and has a very low conductivity rating (6 μS.m-1). Before you do this, make sure to turn the computer off. Dip the cotton end of that swab in the alcohol and go to town cleaning the keyboard, making sure to clean the top and all sides of each key. As you clean the keys, make sure to press them, in case some of the gooeyness is sticking keys together. This can happen if you drop something tacky enough to land between the keys, stick to both, and dry. If you see something like that, you might have to go back to your toothpick and do a bit of scraping. Should that be the case, grab the vacuum for another go-round.

Once you've finished cleaning the keys, make sure the alcohol is completely dry, before starting the computer. 

How to be overly protective

If you want to be absolutely sure that keyboard will last longer than its expected lifetime, you can always opt to cover it when it's not in use. A low-fi approach to this is to just place a microfiber cloth over the device. Don't use a regular towel as those collect dust and other bits you might not be able to see. If you want to get fancy, you could find a silicon cover made specifically for the keyboard in question.

You'll find such covers on Amazon by searching for a silicon cover and the brand/model of your keyboard.

Just remember, when you're not using that keyboard, cover it up.

Those are some very simple tips for saving your precious keyboard. If you do these regularly, that device will last a long, long time. I regularly take care of these very things for my Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, because there's no keyboard like it and I want it to go the distance.

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