How To Remove Laptop Keys Without Breaking Them

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Ordinarily, we wouldn't recommend that you remove laptop keys from the keyboard. There is always the risk of breaking them, leaving yourself with a hole in your keyboard, or possibly being unable to type a specific letter. Let's just hope in that scenario that it's a Q.

But the reality is that there might be times when this is simply unavoidable. Maybe there's been a spillage. Maybe something has got trapped under the key, and won't let you press the key down.

Whatever the scenario, if you find yourself needing to remove a laptop key, there is a right way of doing it, to minimise the risk of permanently damaging anything. Here's everything you need to know.

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How To Remove Laptop Keys Without Breaking Them

Before we get into the details, it's worth mentioning a couple of points. Firstly, while the advice we offer will work for many laptop keyboards, we can't promise it will work for all of them. So if in doubt, check with your laptop manufacturer for their advice on this.

Secondly, make sure your computer is turned off before you start removing keys. You don't want to inadvertently alter a document, or send a weird email to your boss. Or maybe you do. It's your call.

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If you need to remove a laptop key, most will either use a butterfly switch or a scissor-switch system. In both cases, the keys can be lifted off. You can use a fingernail, or a flat-headed screwdriver. But we'd probably advise making use of a dedicated toolkit such as the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit which can help with a multitude of jobs.

Whatever you decide to use, gently slide your tool of choice under the key and lever it up. The key should pop off without too much effort. If it seems to be stuck, try not to force it, as this could break the key. You can try your tool on the other side of the key, to see if this is more effective. If you are lifting a larger key, such as the spacebar, try to lever from the middle of the key.

Dell laptop keyboard - how to remove laptop keys
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Credit: Dell

You might find that the key only partially detaches from the keyboard. If this is the case, you can just use your fingers and gently pull the keycap to detach it from the key retainer.

If for any reason you need to remove the key retainer itself, use a flat tool under a corner, and gently and carefully twist until it pops off.

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Replacing Laptop Keys

When you're ready to do so, replacing the laptop key back into its slot should be a relatively simple process.

Simply align your keycap with the hooks on the key retainer, and gently push it back down into the hole, starting with the bottom edge.

Your key should quickly click back into place. We'd recommend opening a blank document and testing the key to make sure it works properly.

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That's you done. Your keys safely removed, any dusting and cleaning jobs completed, and the key back in situ, ready to work. And you swear, this time you promise you won't get crumbs on your keyboard ever again.

How To Clean Under Laptop Keys

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So now that you know how to remove laptop keys safely, you may also wonder how to clean underneath those keys once you have taken the keys off.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to clean up your keyboard is by using good old sticky tape.

Make sure it's a low-adhesive tape, rather than duct tape. These stronger adhesives can leave a residue. And nobody wants residue.

All you need to do is take a piece of tape, an inch or so long. Fold it over itself so that the sticky sides are facing outward. Run the tape across the surface, and it will lift a surprising amount of dust, crumbs and other detritus.

Rinse and repeat until your keyboard is clean. If the tape gets too dirty, simply tear off a new piece. And you'll quickly spot when the tape is no longer collecting dirt.