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How to quickly swap out a key on a mechanical keyboard

If you have a mechanical keyboard that allows for hot swappable key switches, Jack Wallen shows you how easy this is to take care of.

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Amazon

If you've purchased a keyboard that includes hot swappable mechanical keys, you've hit the proverbial jackpot of keyboards. Why? Because it means you can always switch out a broken switch, change your switch type (say, from a linear to a clicky switch), or even remap your keyboard.

Chances are pretty good that if you bought a mechanical keyboard with replaceable switches, you know how to do just that. However, on the off-chance the how-to of this task evades you, let me help you out with that.

Before you dive into swapping out a keyboard key, it is very important that you understand one thing: Not every mechanical keyboard has keys that can be easily swapped out. Most keyboards, even those of the mechanical nature, have keys that are soldered to the circuit board. What that means is that you must desolder the key before it can be removed, which is probably above your paygrade, so you should avoid diving down that rabbit hole. 

However, if you purchased a keyboard that does offer hot swappable key switches, their removal is actually quite easy--so long as you have the right tools.

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What you'll need

Outside of having a keyboard with hot swappable keys, you'll need a keycap/key switch puller. You can purchase such a tool from Amazon for around $5.00.

If you don't purchase a keycap puller that also includes a key remover, you'll need to purchase the key puller separately. I do find the combo tools work great. If you're of the DIY sort, you can always make your own keycap puller by bending the ends of paperclips into hooks and hooking the ends under the cap and pulling upward. As for the switch, you can use needle nose pliers, but you should be very careful to not crack the plastic. In my experience, the low cost of the key puller is definitely worth avoiding the frustration you'll find with the DIY solution.

How to remove the keycap

In order to remove the keycap you insert the squared off end of the puller, such that the wires slip between the keys (Figure A).

Figure A

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The keycap end of the puller.

Once the wires are securely under the keycap, pull upward to pop off the key.

How to remove the key switch

With the keycap removed, you can now remove the switch. To do this, use the switch end of the puller (Figure B).

Figure B

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The switch end of the key puller.

Make sure to clip the bends of the puller under the switch and gently lift--the key should pop out. Once you have the key out, you can then replace it with a new key by lining up the pins and pressing down gently. With the switch in place, carefully pop the keycap back on and you're good to go.

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....