How to get my laptop's keyboard to work after a beer spillage?
May 31, 2012 2:26 PM   Subscribe

I spilled beer on my laptop. I got a missing or corrupt BIOS error on startup and a number of keys didn't do anything when pressed. I disassembled the laptop and cleaned the inside with alcohol wipes and replaced the keyboard. The BIOS error is gone and the keys register as input but in pairs. Is there a software solution to this problem?

hp g6-1359ea

The new replacement keyboard is identical to the original.

After spilling beer on the laptop I immediately turned it upside down and blow dried it from underneath.

After it had fully dried I took out most of the screws and removed the top panel and keyboard. I cleaned the underside of the top panel and the topside of the motherboard with alcohol cleaning wipes. I did not wipe deeper than the motherboard. I then connected the new keyboard and reassembled the laptop.

The affected keys before and after the replacement are the same. Before, the following when pressed did nothing:


With the replacement keyboard pressing any of the above keys registers two keys at once. It works in pairs as follows:

` and tab (pressing either prints " `")
5 and t (pressing either prints "t5")
6 and y ("y6")
- and [ ("[-")
] and \ ("]\")

Is there a software based solution to this or do I have to clean more thoroughly/replace a more expensive component than the keyboard?
posted by Lubo to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure software would know which of the two keys you pressed. If you press either of two keys and they both come out, there's no way a software program can decide which of the two you meant to pick, other than guessing with 50% probability. You'll need a hardware fix, possibly replacing the logic board or the component the keyboard connects to.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:23 PM on May 31, 2012

I'll bet that either the keyboards are slightly different electronically, or the connector isn't seated quite properly. Try to clean out the ribbon cable connector a bit (be delicate, it isn't that robust of a part).

It is an interesting problem :)
posted by Chuckles at 3:47 PM on May 31, 2012

Do you have a USB keyboard you could try? That'd help to differentiate between keyboard related problems and anything deeper.
posted by jwells at 4:13 PM on May 31, 2012

You say "fully dried". In my experience, that can take several days. Did you wait that long?

It sounds to me like you still have residual moisture hiding inside the key contacts. Place it somewhere where it will get direct sunlight, or (in winter) where a hot air vent will blow on it, for at least 2 days. Seriously.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:55 PM on May 31, 2012

The first guess is that the new keyboard is no good or isn't connected right. My second guess is that the keyboard controller on the motherboard has gone bad. I highly doubt a keyboard that has the same connector and the same form factor is going to be incompatible.

Keyboards work by scanning lines and columns. When you press a key, it connects a horizontal wire with a vertical wire and that's the letter you get. Since you are getting neighboring keys, it looks like two of the horizontal "wires" are crossed.

Regardless, there will not be a software solution to this.

If you are sure the new keyboard is good and that it is connected correctly, you can try to update/rewrite the firmware of the unit. It probably isn't going to fix it, but it is worth trying, since I think the keyboard controller's software is in the BIOS.
posted by gjc at 7:59 PM on May 31, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the help. After a month with the new keyboard I turned on the laptop and it somehow miraculously fixed itself. Glad I didn't try to replace any more components! Phew.
posted by Lubo at 2:11 PM on June 15, 2012

Not miraculously. Not even surprisingly.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:08 PM on June 15, 2012

Response by poster: I let it dry for over a month, for which time it was disassembled and stored in a dry cupboard- before I even attempted to solve the problem. I used the term "miraculously" wih tongue in cheek, anyway.
posted by Lubo at 1:02 AM on June 17, 2012

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