November 5, 2009

A key fell off the laptop keyboard. Fixing the problem

One or more keys fell off the laptop keyboard and you are not sure how to put them back? Don’t worry, most likely you can fix the keyboard and it’s not necessary to buy a new one. There is no universal repair guide because all keyboards are different. Here’s what I usually do in this case.

Situation 1. The key cap and key retainer fell off the keyboard and you cannot figure out how to assemble them back.

Missing a key? Find a new one at

Carefully remove the cap from any other working key so the key retainer stays connected to the keyboard.

Take a closer look at the key retainer, it’s connected to the keyboard at four different points.

Assemble the disconnected retainer the same way as one on the keyboard and put it back in place.

Put the key cap on the retainer and snap the cap back in place.

Situation 2. The key fell off the keyboard and you lost the cap or the retainer. In this case you can purchase a single key here, just search for it. (Search examples: “Dell keyboard key”, “Toshiba keyboard key”, “HP keyboard key”, etc… )
After you found a new key, put it back in place the same way as I described in the situation 1.

Installing the space bar key.

The space bar key is connected to the keyboard a little bit differently then any other key.

There is a metal retainer connected to the space bar key (on some keyboard models). Separate the retainer from the space bar key with a flathead screwdriver.

Install the retainer back in place as it shown on the picture. You have to engage the retainer with the small hooks on the keyboard.

Put the space bar key back in place and gently press on it with fingers until it snaps back in place.

That’s it. The space bar key is installed back in place and should work as before. If you still cannot fix your keyboard, then you’ll have to find a new one and replace it.

Here’s another technique you can use to fix a broken keyboard key.

As you see on the picture below the keyboard is missing the U key. The key cap, retainer and even silicone membrane were lost. Let’s see if it’s possible to temporarily fix the U key without buying any spare parts.

Personally, I cannot use keyboard without U key but I can live without a key located on the side from the right ALT, I’m not even sure what this key does. In the following guide I will remove the useless key and install it in the place of missing U.

Carefully remove the key cap with your fingers.

Remove the retainer. The retainer has two pieces connected to each other. If one piece got disconnected from the other, connect them back together.

The silicon membrane is glued to the keyboard. Very very slowly separate the membrane from the keyboard with a sharp knife. While creating this disassembly guide I damaged one membrane because I wasn’t careful enough.
Again, you have to be very careful removing the membrane.
If you damage the membrane you’ll end up with two broken keys instead of just one.

The silicon membrane has been removed.

Now apply some superglue on the bottom edge of the membrane, just enough to keep the membrane in the place.

Carefully place the membrane in the center of the U. Make sure the membrane is positioned correctly. Wait until the glue cures.

Install the retainer.

Position the key cap above the retainer. Gently press on the key cap until it clips in and connects to the retainer.

Now you can use the U key again.


Removing and replacing laptop keyboard

These instructions will help you to remove and replace keyboards on various laptops. I will not be able to cover all models but you’ll get the idea. Steps for removing and replacing the keyboard are similar for most laptops.

- if your laptop is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, do not open the case or you can loose the warranty
- always remove the battery and unplug the AC adapter before you open the laptop case
- if you damage the keyboard connector on the motherboard you’ll have to replace the whole motherboard
- proceed on your own risk

Sony laptop

I took these pictures from a Sony Vaio PCG-K33 (model PCG-9S1L) notebook. Should be similar for some other Sony notebooks too.

Insert a small flathead screwdriver under the keyboard bezel and carefully lift it up. Continue releasing plastic latches and removing the keyboard bezel with your fingers.

Be careful, on some models the bezel might be connected to the motherboard as it shown on the picture above. If you accidentally pulled the cable, connect it back. It is not necessary to disconnect the keyboard bezel from the motherboard in order to remove and replace the keyboard, just put it aside so you can access the keyboard screws.

Remove three (or more) screws from the top of the keyboard. Carefully lift up the keyboard from the laptop case.

The keyboard connects to the motherboard via a flat ribbon cable. Before you pull the cable from the connector, you’ll have to unlock the connector.

The image above illustrates how to unlock the keyboard connector. Carefully move the connector lock 2-3 millimeters up and after that pull the keyboard cable. To install the keyboard, follow the above mentioned steps in the reverse order.

Toshiba laptop

The following pictures were taken from a Toshiba Satellite A135 laptop. The keyboard removal instructions will be almost the same for most modern Toshiba laptops.

The keyboard bezel removal procedure is similar to the above mentioned Sony Vaio laptop. Lift it up with a small screwdriver and remove using fingers. On most Toshiba laptops the keyboard bezel doesn’t have any circuit board underneath, it’s just a piece of plastic and you don’t have to worry about cables.

After the bezel is removed you get an access to the keyboard screws. Remove two (or more) screws. Release the plastic latch pointed with the red arrow and lift up the keyboard. Carefully put the keyboard aside so you can access the connector underneath the keyboard. Do not forget that the keyboard is still connected to the motherboard.

Before you remove the keyboard, you’ll have to open the connector and release the flat ribbon cable.

Here’s a closeup picture of the keyboard connector on the motherboard. Be careful, this type of connector is fragile. On the left image the connector is closed. On the right image the connector is opened. Unlock the connector by moving the lock up as it shown on the right image and after that release the ribbon cable. Remove and replace the keyboard. For assembly instructions follow all the steps in the reverse order.

If you are looking for laptop disassembly instructions, check out laptop service manuals.