The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

First attempt at laptop keyboard replacement

Used up keyboard

I figure I type at least a million words a year, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my keyboard laptop started to fail me right after the one-year warranty expired.  Sticky  keys and faded letters were possible to work around, but an unfortunate incident with a flyswatter a couple of weeks ago knocked off the x key and broke the underlying plastic springy thing.  "I could just learn to write without the letter x," I suggested, but Mark looked at me like I was crazy and told me to buy a new keyboard.

Laptop repair

It turns out zareason sells a replacement keyboard for my laptop for $60, which I figure will be worth it if it allows me to easily send emails in pine again (using control-X --- the real reason I need the x key).  The keyboard arrived, I backed up all my files, read a few general tutorials, then took my laptop most of the way apart...and got too scared to finish.

So we're back to x-less typing and I'm hoping the support folks over at zareason have some brand-specific documentation they can send me to make the keyboard swap a little less daunting.  I chose the small company because I wanted a linux-box with the operating system pre-installed (and presumably 100% suited to the hardware), and I've been quite happy with my laptop until the keyboard issues popped up.  In addition, in zareason's defense, I am hard on laptops --- previous laptops have had failed hinges, warped screens, and flaky power-cord sockets within two or three years after purchase, all due to me opening and closing the laptop too much, using the laptop too close to the wood stove, and moving the laptop while plugged in.  Perhaps I should go back to the resiliency of desktops, but the ability to type in front of the fire or in the porch swing makes me stick to these sensitive but flexible pieces of equipment.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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What's the model number? I take apart laptops for a living and might be able to offer some tips. Also is an excellent resource for repair guides.
Comment by John Amrhein Mon Jul 7 08:07:19 2014
Disregard my comment - I didn't realize zareason builds their own hardware. Cool looking company.
Comment by John Amrhein Mon Jul 7 08:15:46 2014
why not use a usb keyboard that you can plug in? they are generally more comfortable to use for extended amounts of time in my experience.
Comment by mizztanya Mon Jul 7 08:54:06 2014
In the meantime, what about plugging in a usb keyboard? I know it is not porch swing compliant, but it may hold you over for a bit! :o)
Comment by M Mon Jul 7 10:08:29 2014

p.s.- I am typing this on a Dell a friend gave to me. #5 key is gone, but who cares. I just push on the stub :). This computer used to run $$ OS but now runs Linux Knoppix 7.2.0.

Hi Anna,

A MUCH cheaper and longer duration solution is to buy a USB keyboard. And the keyboard is full sized.

I bought one for $10. Still working great. Local Sears seems to have some of that sort of stuff?

I would buy a couple and also a couple of mice. Make them a stock item :).

While I am on that subject. I have not bought a computer in many years. Friends give me their old one(s) and I keep a pile around. I plug in a Linux CD or Memory stick. Abandon the old operating system and NEVER have any virus, etc. problems again !

Sweet :).


Comment by John Mon Jul 7 10:42:34 2014

As far as I've seen, this is the similar for most laptops. Remove the power cord and battery.

Then take off the center hinge cover. This is the piece of plastic running from the top op the keyboard to (and sometimes over) the hinges. This can usually be popped off by careful prying with a flat screwdriver.

Once this is off, you'll see a couple of (usually Philips head) screws through the top of the keyboard. Unscrew them. Lift up the top of the keyboard and take out all screws.

Hinge the keayboard up some and pull out the tabs on the bottom of the keyboard from under the front cover. Flip the keyboard over and pull the cable out of the socket in the laptop.

Assembly is basically the reverse sequence.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Jul 7 13:35:52 2014

In case you're contemplating using a separate keyboard; a company named unicomp still sells the original IBM Model M buckling spring keyboards. Those are solid as a rock. This is partially due to the metal base plate inside. :-) You can take off the keycaps (without disassembling the keyboard) if you want to clean them, and even if dirt gets inside the mechanism, the keys are easy to disassemble and clean. They're kinda noisy, but have a very crisp and positive "feel". Best keyboard I ever bought. I would highly recommend it.

BTW, anything made of ordinary plastic should definitely be kept far away from things like stoves. The radiant heat from the stove could easily soften the plastic if it gets too close.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Jul 7 13:52:27 2014

One easy option: Use the new keyboard for parts, and just replace the broken plastic spring thing on the old one. Those are easy though fiddly to replace, unless the little plastic thing they clip into is also broken.

OR, looking at the picture, this looks very like a new model lenovo / thinkpad keyboard. I suspect zareason buys and rebrands such laptops. So it should be possible to find the lenovo model number and then lenovo tends to have pretty good repair manuals.

Comment by Mon Jul 7 14:53:30 2014
Also, those plastic bits all seem the same, so there's a good chance you could canabalize the keyboard of a dead laptop to get some that would fit.
Comment by Mon Jul 7 15:06:38 2014

Anna, You may be able to just replace the key. I did this. I was able to purchase the key and all the goodies that live underneath it from

Maybe they support your model too. I also considered a new keyboard but like you it just seemed like too big a job.

Good Luck- Suzanne

Comment by Suzanne Mon Jul 7 15:44:27 2014

Why are you smiling when you are perplexed as to how to make it work!!!

I know, you are always smiling.

Comment by Sheila Mon Jul 7 22:11:19 2014

I actually gave up spelling with an "x" years ago. Call it eccentric or just plain odd, but I only use it on official forms any longer. It takes a fraction of a second to replace it with "ecs". My reason for giving it up is simple;

Name one word that starts with an X which actually makes an X sound.

Xylophone? Nope. Xanadu? Uh-uh.

I just ecstended the personal spelling rule to supplant the letter in other words. Now I spell around it without even thinking.

Comment by Min Thu Jul 10 20:16:57 2014

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