Laptop keyboard replacement: sanity saver or more trouble than it's worth?
March 8, 2011 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Are laptop keyboards really as easy to replace as the do-it-yourself articles make it sound?

My husband and son both have Dell laptops (a Studio 1535 and an Inspiron 1545). They're gamers, and they're being driven insane by loose and missing keys (and I'M being driven insane by their whining).

My son bought a USB keyboard, and it works, but it's not really an ideal solution. So, I found aftermarket replacement keyboards from reputable sellers on both eBay and Amazon for less than $20, as well as DIY instructions at various tech sites.

Is this something we can reasonably expect to accomplish ourselves or will it just result in more frustration?
posted by amyms to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah they're just opening up the top case, unhooking the old keyboard connector, and then doing everything in reverse with the new keyboard. I've only done it with ThinkPad keyboards, but it's a relatively straight forward swap.
posted by msbutah at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not much of a hardware guy, but was able to replace my apple laptop keyboard that died in a coffee spill without much problems. Since macs are designed to prevent tinkering with the internals, I think it should be even easier on your machine.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 3:36 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty far from being a competent computer hardware person, but back when I had a Dell I had it apart all the time (the piece of crap broke--physically broke--probably 2 or 3 times a year as long as I owned it). It really is that easy. The hardest part is keeping track of all the tiny screws holding the computer together (I use an upturned piece of masking tape).
posted by phunniemee at 3:36 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I replace them often, and it's very easy. Takes about 20 minutes. Here's the instructions for the 1545, and here's the 1535
posted by deezil at 3:37 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have the right part for your model of laptop, if you have all the correct tools at your disposal, and if you have good, detailed instructions that you read carefully, then the job should be a cinch.

If you end up with a part that is not quite right but that you decide to make do with anyway, if you try to remove delicate little torx screws with a rusty old phillips screwdriver in a cluttered workspace, if you charge through the procedure skipping steps and trying to infer what the next step in the disassembly/reassembly should be, it will be a nightmare and you may well break something.

I've tried it both ways and can say that a person with very little technical knowledge should be able to perform a job like this quite satisfactorily (keyboards in particular tend to be harder than memory but much easier than, say, screen components.) Just take your time and don't try to force something that's not working.
posted by contraption at 3:39 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Follow the instructions deezil posted.

The keyboards for those laptops are easy to replace. Take your time. Keep a digital camera handy to take pictures of what things look like along the way, in case you mess up. Put spare parts and screws on a piece of duct tape to keep them together and not lose them. Dell keyboards have been historically easy to replace, and those instructions look similar to the rest.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:44 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes. I've done it literally hundreds of times. If you want to be cautious, memail me and I'll hold your hand through it over the phone.
posted by KathrynT at 3:45 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes. My mom did it and she's... well... somebody's mom.
posted by citywolf at 3:58 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, thanks everyone! The positive affirmation makes me feel more confident about the whole thing.
posted by amyms at 4:13 PM on March 8, 2011

Ironically, replacing the actual keys on a Dell laptop keyboard is usually impossible.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:14 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yup, really easy. Even Dell themselves assumes their users can do it themselves. When I poured juice over mine, thy replaced it under warrantly by sending me a new keyboard, a screwdriver and instructions. The whole process took 15 minutes, and I'd never done it before.
posted by cgg at 4:20 PM on March 8, 2011

It depends entirely on the laptop. Old macbooks basically had a latch you unclipped and the keyboard came off. The current aluminum unibody ones require you to take apart the entire laptop, including things like removing the motherboard, before you can access the keyboard (because it can no longer just lift off the top of the machine).

The unibody macs are the worst I've seen, though.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:32 PM on March 8, 2011

I've done it on a Studio 1535. It took maybe an hour. On the other hand, I've had some smaller laptops that are really hard to take apart because everything's really squished in there.
posted by miyabo at 5:41 PM on March 8, 2011

It really depends on your laptop model. On my HP, replacing the heyboard was as simple as plugging in a ribbon cable, setting the kb down and flipping two levers. However, other laptops may require opening the case up, which will be more difficult.
If you have to open the case, you should be ok if you have any "take stuff apart and put it back together" skills and can keep track of what screws go where.
posted by BadCat! at 8:39 PM on March 8, 2011

Here ya go! It looks about medium complexity, so take a look to see if it sounds like something you have the skils to do. Find a cheap keyboard that you can buy (or buy a non-working laptop off of ebay).
Dell Studio 1535/1536 Service Manual
Dell Inspiron 1545 Service Manual
posted by BadCat! at 8:45 PM on March 8, 2011

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