Losing Ctrl
December 19, 2005 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Broken Keyboard Filter: So my GF managed to splash a bit of water from on the corner of the keyboard of her Dell Inspiron 600m. At first it appeared fine, but now a day later the Ctrl key appears to be stuck.

Consequently, using the computer is maddening. Just as an example, in Firefox the moment she types an ordinary "H" in the search bar the history pane opens, if she types an "S" it tries to save the webpage, "U" brings up the page source etc. Same for Word and any other program that uses Ctrl for keyboard commands. Computer appears just fine otherwise, despite how incredibly irritating this is. Is there anything that can be done that will fix this that will not result in costly repair and/or doing without the computer for days while it's fixed? And if any solutions involve taking the computer/keyboard apart, can someone point me to a good guide on how to do this?

I know there have been a few AskMeFi questions on water spilled on Keyboards, but this appears to be a localized problem rather than a total failure and it's a laptop rather than a stand alone keyboard, so I thought it unique enough to post. Forgive me if you disagree, and thanks to the AskMeFi community in advance. You've always been a big help.
posted by Heminator to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Best answer: Inspiron 600m keyboards on ebay

in the $20 range.

This is the route I've always gone - they are inexpensive and very easy to replace.
posted by zerokey at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2005

Check to see what warranty she has on it. My 600m is a work machine and it was still under a "we come to your house" plan. I called them up and a guy came out and replaced the keyboard in 2 minutes.
posted by sciatica at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2005

Having had beer spilt into my Dell D800, I can say from experience that taking the machine apart and allow it to dry completely will fix everything...

...except the keyboard. I bought a new one from a supplier for about 60quid (at the time) but you've already been pointed towards cheaper ones on eBay, so I know where I'd be looking.
posted by benzo8 at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2005

Warning: be very cautious about disk problems because with a stuck key your PC will pass over the disk checks normally done if the machine is abruptly powered off.

("hit any key to skip this stage...")

This can really compound if done repeatedly.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:02 AM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: Since it was water I doubt your keyboard is really damaged. What's more likely is that there is still some moisture in there.

See, keyboards work by having a rubber-like membrane that presses down on a board when the key above it is pressed. When the rubber presses down it closes a circuit.

The water is probably shorting out that circuit so it thinks that the key is being pressed.

Just wait patiently for a few days and the water might evaporate (it's likely sandwiched between two very close pieces of plastic so it'll take a while).

If you are adventureous take the keyboard out and blow everything you can reach with a can of compressed air to try to blow the moisture out.
posted by lockle at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2005

A software solution would be to deactivate the errant control key, remap Caps Lock to Control, and use Caps Lock where once you used Control. You would lose the use of Caps Lock for its original purpose. This is probably fine, assuming your girlfriend isn't a big fan of SHOUTING in emails or programming in FORTRAN.

This is easy enough in OS X > 10.4 (System Preferences, Keyboard and Mouse, Modifier Keys) and I assume it's possible on PC/Win. This page on Annoyances.org may get you started.
posted by caek at 8:31 AM on December 19, 2005

There have been numerous liquid-in-the-keyboard askmes. Do a little search and you'll find significant advice.
posted by edgeways at 8:53 AM on December 19, 2005

If you are uncomfortable removing a laptop keyboard, put it under a lamp for warmth, and train a fan on it if tyou have one handy. Be cautious with a hair dryer, as I believe they generate a lot of static. Leave it off. Even a small amount of moisture can wreak havoc in combination with electricity. Give it a couple of days. If it's still a problem, you may have to replace the keyboard.
posted by theora55 at 9:17 AM on December 19, 2005

i like the gf blaming part of the question :D
posted by suni at 11:34 AM on December 19, 2005

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