Replacing A Non-Replacable Laptop Keyboard

Spilling a drink on a laptop is a terrifying experience. If you’re lucky you’ll ruin just a keyboard, and if not, your entire machine could go up in smoke. Assuming you’ve just suffered the latter, you can still be out of luck, as many laptops come with fancy integrated keyboards that are not designed to be removable. It’s not always the case however, as this ingenious hack from [InsideMyLaptop] bears out.

The hack begins with removing the top case assembly from a HP Pavilion laptop. The keyboard is riveted into the top plate assembly, along with the trackpad, which would normally necessitate their replacement as a total unit. However, if properly armed with a soldering iron, these plastic rivets can be melted to allow the backing plate and keyboard to be removed. A replacement part can then be sourced, and the remaining rivet stubs can be remelted to hold the new part in place.

It’s a simple hack, but one that goes to show one shouldn’t always take “No User Servicable Parts Inside” as an answer. We’ve seen other useful work from [InsideMyLaptop] before – like this power jack repair way back in 2011.

29 thoughts on “Replacing A Non-Replacable Laptop Keyboard

      1. I’m willing to vote “hack” as the most overused word in 2019. Every time I turn around some news outlet is turning out articles about “hacking” this or “hacking” that which has nothing at all to do with what the computing term they’re trying to usurp means. The BBC is especially bad about this.

  1. I’ll probably have to attack this Gateway I’ve been hammering on for 5+ years, it’s starting to drop more letters than a mail man with parkinsons. Think it’s a separate unit though, so shouldn’t need this kind of messing around. Can’t really believe I’ve had the thing so long and it’s still got more grunt than anything I could buy under about five or six hundred at best buy or mallwart. Time to slam in the ram, put a yuge SSD in it, replace keyboard and fan, see if it makes it another 5 years. I didn’t bother with an older C2D Toshiba I picked up, that doesn’t need to be portable still, KB got coked (the soft drink that used to have a certain substance in, not the certain substance that used to be in a soft drink) and besides not working, keys would randomly activate, so that had to be ripped out, then just sat a compact USB one on top.

  2. I just recently replaced a keyboard on a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon.

    It was replaceable, but only after undoing in excess of 60 tiny screws to release the keyboard after entirely gutting the machine..

    Mt Dell Precision on the other hand only needs the removal of a plastic bezel and a couple of screws. Don’t even need to open the machine up.

    I guess you get what you pay for…….

    1. I like the ones where it’s 3 screws across the middle and flip it out. Though usually that’s because there’s something else like a wifi card or the RAM slots hiding under.

  3. Yup. Just did the exact same job on a Chromebook last night. I just shaved the heads straight off the rivets and used a low temp setting and staked them afterwards. Plenty enough plastic left to flow out over the retaining plate.
    Given the price difference between the keyboard and the whole cover assembly with keyboard already mounted(sans trackpad) I will probably never do that again.

  4. keyboards are consumable devices. When they break the device they are attached to is consumed, and must be replaced.

    “Fixing” it is a violation of the terms of the device. it is sold as a single device. Replacing a single component voids the license to use the device.

    1. Yeah … screw that. Once a device is sold to me I can fix whatever I want on it. Sure that may void the warranty but there is absolutely no legal recourse the manufacturer can take to prevent me from fixing it short of making replacement parts difficult to purchase.

  5. I used to do this to repair the surface mount snap dome switches in mice. The metal dome inside would crack. I’d cut off the tops of the 4 melted over plastic pins holding the top of the switch on. Then I’d do the same for the right switch on another mouse that was dead. Swap the good dome over, put the switch back together, carefully apply 4 drops of super glue with a straight pin.

    The switches didn’t have to be the same brand and model, just had to have dome diameters close enough. Seems that since optical mine killed off ball mice, the industry has gone to using much better switches. Never have had a switch fail from wear on any optical mouse, or trackball.

    Something else from back in the day, the higher priced mice rarely had strain reliefs on the cords, and I had to shorten a lot of cords due to broken wires. Most of the cheap off brand mice had strain reliefs molded onto their cords.

    1. Yah, those switches only used to last like 6 months on the left button for me. I would buy 3 button mice for the “spare” switch because very little actually supported them until into the 2000s. However, I found them fairly easy to replace whole, desolder and resolder, never thought of trying to rebuild in situ. However, while more recent mice do last longer, I find after a couple or three years they get furred up contacts or something and double click on you randomly. By that time also, the scroll wheel, now somewhat essential, has gone nasty sticky or otherwise cranky, which much scrubbing with alcohol or anything doesn’t seem to resolve so they get retired for that too. At around the turning point I guess, where PS/2 and serial mice were “done” and scroll wheels and/or middle buttons actually had a point, I found a place selling the dome switches dirt cheap and I’ve got a small bag of them somewhere I never actually had to use, due to moving on to optical/scroll mice. I’m getting more into retro though now and might end up having to dig them out and use them to resuscitate serial ball mice for 90s systems on down.

  6. A girl in my office spilled a whole water bottle on her Dell laptop. It didn’t even care. Water was pouring out of the fan vent. She shut it down, took it to support and they let it dry out

    1. Some machines are actually designed this way specifically, the keyboard has drains which will allow liquids to pass through and out the bottom of the computer rather than reaching the motherboard. As you might imagine, this is usually an option to look for when buying laptops that will be used in school settings.

  7. Panasonic always or Let’s Note if you want something thin and light.

    Fantastic build quality, and glorious replaceable components, plus that sweet vertical integration and support.

  8. Someday soon, someone won’t think twice about duplicating the plastic case on their 3D printer, because it will be easier (to them) to reproduce it, than to re-form all those plastic rivets.

    1. that requires 3D scanners able to scan parts with acceptable precision and good tolerances. Imagine printing the same part over and over again because it doesn’t snap together with the bottom half of the case, being oversized/undersized/lacking features… Hopefully there’s a breakthrough somewhere that means we don’t need to waste hours and hours on re-designing the part – until then, a couple of rivets (or even a hundred) aren’t that big of a deal.

      1. Until a part fits together THAT nicely, a lot of work is involved. The precision of those small noses and hooks is crucial.
        We all know of products, which seem to fit not so nicely, or feel cheap – it’s because of such small details.
        When tool manufacturers (mold tools) need multiple iterations with high precision machines, I doubt that anytime soon such things will be possible on household 3d printers.
        Just use what’s left of the parts, and hot-glue/hack around until it is usable again. Everything else won’t happen.

        Just think – how often do I have to open it again? Maybe 2 times of glueing and ripping apart are in the game. Voila!

  9. If you spill a drink on a keyboard, just wash it off. What we call “drinks” are just aqueous solutions of organic and inorganic compounds. Inorganic salts can make the solution electrically conductive, and interfere with the proper electrical operation of the keyboard. Organic substances like sugar and sugar substitutes become gummy and eventually harden, interfering with the mechanical operation of the keyboard. Because they all got there by being in solution, the easiest way of getting rid of them is by adding more solvent (water) to dilute them to the point that they’re no longer problematic, and then let the water evaporate. Tap water is fine for initial rinsing, and distilled water should be used as the final step to remove any dissolved substances present in tap water.

  10. Congratulations for the hack. Having fun, while voiding warranties, is, indeed, my new way of life.
    However, I few months ago, I found so difficult to fit the rivets back in the new keyboard that removing them completely was the easy way out. So, instead of trying to melt the rivets with an iron, I removed them completely, cutting the heads off with a sharp razor. Later, to mount and fix the new keyboard back in, I found out that most cases are plastic ABS based. So, I used 3D printer ABS filaments, melted with a (temperature controlled) soldering iron, immediately over the scalped rivets. With some heat the new ABS glues with the old one. And pressing the melted ABS bubble with a phillips screwdriver head did the finnishing. The result was also perfectly fine.
    This remind me of an older hackaday post, with a hand gun with a 3D printer head attached to it, that could also fits this applications.

  11. Plastic welding works, what also does the trick (Sony Vaio PCG) is UV setting glue sold in many garages as a way to repair clear lights on cars.
    Took me all of an hour to repair this one but it would have been a lot faster if I used a high power >1W UVA LED to replace the one in the kit which barely registered on my UV meter with 40mA and a bodged Al heatsink + reflector.

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