Cat Hair Killed My Shift Key!
July 19, 2006 5:21 PM   Subscribe

My cats are shedding a lot. As a result, my laptop (Dell Inspiron 700m) keyboard is filled with hair. I have had to remove a few keys to fix the problem. Until today, no problemo. But I didn't know how weird that shift key was. I can't get it to click back into place correctly. I really can't go without my laptop, given my current job, so sending the thing off to Dell is pretty much out of the question. Can I get some tips on fixing this myself? Or does anyone know what kinds of stores fix laptop keyboards? While I'm at it, anyone know a good way to protect laptop keyboards from cat hair so this won't happen again?
posted by abbyladybug to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
I'm not sure exactly how the key on your keyboard is set up, but a lot of larger keys have a thin metal/plastic bar that snaps into two little slots on the key. If you've taken off your spacebar, you know what I mean. Make sure that you 1) have that bar, and 2) are connecting it to the key before you click in it.

I can't think of anything else that'd cause that problem, but I'm certain someone will.
posted by billybunny at 6:10 PM on July 19, 2006

Best answer: I had the exact same issue and spent several (successful) hours reattaching my keys. Just for future reference I found a small stiff bristled paint brush very useful for getting cat fluff out of my keyboard. Canned air was pretty useless.

I have an IBM ThinkPad but judging from this page the keys are the same. The trick with the shift key was to make sure that the metal hooks
were hooked into the slots on the top of the key before trying to pop them on. The page I linked to has a great diagram to make sure the rest of the key mechanism is properly seated. Wish I had had that when I was trying to fix my keys.

Good luck. I 'm interested in hearing the responses to the prevention question since yelling at my cat doesn't seem to work.
posted by DarthDuckie at 6:14 PM on July 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: ...or spend approximately $20.00 plus shipping at ebay and buy a new one. Less muss, less fuss, how much is your time worth? While you wait, use the other shift key.

Seriously, that is totally not a snark. Laptop keyboards are usually pretty flimsy, usually pretty cheap, and usually pretty easy to replace, especially relative to other laptop components.
posted by ZakDaddy at 6:37 PM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: oh wow

didn't know i could do that...

can you tell i've given up the capitals at this point... and question marks, too
posted by abbyladybug at 6:53 PM on July 19, 2006

Warning: I replaced my laptop keyboard once because my cat tore off a couple of keys, and they couldn't be repaired. The action on the replacement board was decidedly inferior.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:02 PM on July 19, 2006

Try talking Dell into sending you a replacement unit that you will replace yourself... I always buy the onsite warranty, so I am not sure if this will work for ya.
posted by SirStan at 7:06 PM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: That page was completely helpful. THANKS!! All better now, and I'm able to type normally. It's also great to know that I can buy a new keyboard if I need to.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:07 PM on July 19, 2006

To protect your laptop from cat hair so it doesn't happen again? Shave your cats bald, or get a big, mean dog. That's what I'd suggest. All the fun, none of the Toxoplasma gondii.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:50 PM on July 19, 2006

Re prevention, am I missing something here, or is a silicon cover like this so obvious that people just aren't bothering to mention it? Or do they not make these for non-Mac computers?
posted by misozaki at 8:05 PM on July 19, 2006

Here's another list. I googled laptop keyboard dust cover and got more. This isn't meant to sound snarky at all, just wondering if these aren't as common where you are as they are here.
Or does cat hair somehow magically slip past silicon as well?
posted by misozaki at 8:23 PM on July 19, 2006

Usually you can replace the keyboard yourself - you just unscrew a few miniscrews (per directions) and it takes about 10 minutes.

In the future you might want to take off the keyboard to vaccuum up the fluff rather than removing keys.
posted by radioamy at 9:20 PM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: This is all such good information. I didn't know I could remove the entire keyboard, nor did I know that those covers were available for laptop keyboards. I don't see one right away that fits my Inpiron 700m, but I'll look more later when I have more time... unless someone has a good source at the ready.
posted by abbyladybug at 4:35 AM on July 20, 2006

And some additional advice, if you haven't already tried it:

I started feeding my cats Science Diet Hairball Control Light about 2 years ago. I converted them over because they needed to lose weight and the hairball control is the lightest of all the Science Diets. I quickly realized that the hairball control had a very huge effect on their shedding, and probally reduced it by at least a 1/2. You should check it out.
posted by punkrockrat at 7:11 AM on July 20, 2006

I had this same problem a while ago- all the information above is really good. I actually ended up going the other route and killing the cats, but taking the keys off and cleaning them would work too.
posted by petsounds at 11:07 AM on July 20, 2006

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