How do I safely remove my netbook's chiclet keys?
August 13, 2010 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I own an Asus netbook with a chiclet keyboard. I've had it for about a year and a half now and I would really like to properly clean the keyboard. But I can't seem to find instructions for how to take the keys off and clearly I don't want to break them! Has anyone out there done this before? Is it possible?

I love this keyboard and it's not really that dirty, but there's sort of a little bit of grime around the edges of the keys now, that a q-tip is not really getting with the keys still on. I'm just very afraid of just prying them off and accidentally breaking them, because this is my primary computer. But that little bit of dirt is just annoying the crap out of me, I want my computer to look all pretty and new again!

Thanks so much for the help.
posted by gracedissolved to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
This is a chiclet keyboard. It's generally only found on calculators or remote controls. You can't take the "keys" off without taking it apart, but I don't think that's what you have.

If you have this kind of keyboard or if it's a typical laptop, you can just pop off the keys one by one. I'd take a photo of your keyboard before starting, unless you have a good idea of where they all go.

Here's a nice guide.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:00 AM on August 13, 2010

This is a chiclet keyboard.

Read further down that Wikipedia article and you'll see that some netbooks and laptops today do indeed have a type of chiclet keyboard (at least it's called that), which is what the OP is asking about.

Gracedissolved, have you tried consulting the owner's manual for advice? It might not explicitly tell you how to clean the keyboard, but it might at least give you an idea as to whether or not you could safely remove the keys.

(I hope you get a more definitive answer than this - I've been wondering about it myself! - but in case you don't I hope this at least gets you on the right track ...)
posted by DingoMutt at 10:43 AM on August 13, 2010

(Ack, sorry two lights, didn't mean for that first part to come across so snittishly! *dons the Jerk Hat for the day*)
posted by DingoMutt at 10:53 AM on August 13, 2010

If the keys use scissor switches internally (and apparently some "chiclet" Asus netbooks do, from what I can see) then you do not want to attempt to remove the keys. It's theoretically possible, but the plastic bits involved are so thin and fragile that you'd almost certainly damage one or two over the course of the keyboard cleaning. Laptop keyboards are very finicky. If it were me, I certainly wouldn't say it's worth the risk.
posted by Phyltre at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2010

They are not true chiclets, however, as they are not using the rubber membrane or directly moulded hard key tops as the keys themselves, and are built using well-established modern technology for low-profile keyboards

I'm not trying to be argumentative, it's just that these two things are very different. They are only "soft touch" like a chiclet keyboard is.

Anyway, here's another guide that might be more suited to what you are looking for, in case you are worried that my original link doesn't apply. It's the same basic principle.

Most importantly, what MODEL Asus do you own? The ASUS eee-keyboard mentioned in the chiclet keyboard just came out this past May. That's probably the most important point here, and as Phyltre mentions, some are more delicate than others.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:58 AM on August 13, 2010

Response by poster: I have a 1000HE. I got it in March 2009. It was, I believe, the first of the Eees to have this kind of keyboard. I haven't found an actual repair manual for it yet and I don't have the regular manual anymore but I don't *think* it said anything about it.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:37 AM on August 13, 2010

As a general rule, pulling keys off a notebook/netbook keyboard is not a great idea. What I've done in the past is completely remove the keyboard assembly from the laptop and blow it out with compressed air, which may or may not be an option depending how comfortable you are disassembling your machine.
posted by jjb at 11:42 AM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: I have a different ASUS notebook and one time I did take one of the keys off.

It did break it. I eventually had to buy a replacement keyboard. I recommend that you not try to do what you are doing.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:27 PM on August 13, 2010

Best answer: Just replace the keyboard. $15.18 on eBay with free shipping. I would buy three and replace it once a year.
posted by sockpup at 7:47 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: At that sort of price, replacement it is! I'm probably not going to have this more than another year, anyway--I bought it for the battery life and I'm going to want something with a larger screen once I can afford it. But replacement's shockingly reasonable. Thanks, everybody!
posted by gracedissolved at 10:46 AM on August 14, 2010

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