Tapping away on your keyboard expecting to see text on the screen, but only seeing some of the characters? Or worse, none of them?
Without a working keyboard, your computer is useless. For laptop computers, this is a big problem as you can’t simply swap the keyboard like you can with a desktop PC.
Computer maintenance should be a habit. But problems can still rear their ugly head. If your laptop keyboard has stopped working, here’s what you need to know, and how to fix it.
4 Reasons Your Laptop Keyboard Stopped Working
Typically, there are five reasons why your laptop keyboard has stopped working. Each reason has its own fix.
- Bad hardware driver: This can be reinstalled or updated.
- Dirt and dust: Cleaning up your laptop keyboard can help.
- Bad connection: In some cases, your laptop can be opened and the keyboard reconnected. There is a chance that the keyboard is defective, so a replacement will need to be sourced.
- Wrong regional settings: Some characters don’t work because the keyboard settings are set to use the wrong region or language.
As you may have noticed, two of these problems are easily resolved, whereas the other two require a bit more work. To complicate matters further, any repair action that requires you to open your laptop will differ depending on the manufacturer. It may even differ between models from the same manufacturer.
1. Update or Rollback Laptop Keyboard Drivers
The easiest way to deal with a laptop keyboard that won’t work is to update the driver.
Do this by clicking Start and entering the device manager. The Device Manager icon will appear in the results, so click this. Browse the list of devices until you see Keyboards, then expand the list. Right-click the keyboard device (usually Standard PS/2 Keyboard) and select Properties > Driver.
Here, click Update Driver and wait while Windows finds a new driver and installs it. Test the keyboard with a word processor, or perhaps the Windows Notepad app—with any luck, it should now work.
Still no better?
This time, select Uninstall Device and wait for the driver to be removed. Once done, you should reboot Windows, and wait while the driver is reinstalled. However, you can also use Action > Scan for hardware changes to prompt Windows to install the driver.
Note that there is also a Rollback Driver option. This will be grayed out at most times, unless a new driver has been installed, possibly as part of a Windows Update. If this option is available, and your keyboard has only recently stopped working, click Rollback Driver and wait for the new driver.
2. Laptop Keyboard Not Working? Clean It!
Cleaning a standard keyboard is not easy; cleaning a laptop keyboard is even tougher. Keyboards require a certain amount of physical interaction to loosen dirt, and while this is generally simple to achieve with a USB or wireless keyboard, things are different on a laptop.
Basically, you cannot easily shake and tap the back of a laptop without risking damage to the entire unit.
However, you can dislodge dust and debris from a laptop keyboard by first shutting the device down, then turning it upside down and gently tapping on the base. You should then run your fingers across all the keys while the device is upside down, to remove any remaining dirt.
Be sure to clean up any fallen dirt from the table when you’re done! If there is dirt you cannot remove, a can of compressed air can be used at this point, or you might rely on some keyboard cleaning putty instead.
Note that cleaning cannot repair any deep-seated faults, but it will help if dirt is preventing one or more keys from working properly.
Our guide to cleaning a laptop includes a section about cleaning your keyboard.
3. Replace a Faulty Laptop Keyboard
If the keyboard is physically damaged or has become disconnected from the motherboard (perhaps due to a shock), then you’ll need to put some time aside to remove the component from your laptop and either reseat the connection or replace the keyboard altogether.
Different manufacturers build their laptops in a variety of ways, which means it’s difficult to specify a single fix.
However, opening different laptops from the same manufacturer is generally the same. This makes swapping the keyboard (or simply reseating the cable connection) a lot easier.
Note that laptop keyboards are typically sealed units, so while it might be possible to give the keyboards a better clean when it’s removed from the laptop, you won’t be able to easily check the internal workings.
Once a keyboard is removed, you’ll be able to check its serial number. Enter this into the search box on eBay to see if it’s available to buy. They usually are, but buying a replacement laptop keyboard can be expensive.
Remove a Dell Laptop Keyboard to Fix It
Most Dell laptop keyboards are relatively straightforward to remove and don’t require a screwdriver.
In this video, you’ll see how to unclip a Dell Inspiron keyboard using a pair of plastic opening tools. Once the keyboard is successfully unclipped, you should see the ribbon cable, and where it connects to the motherboard.
Easily Remove a Toshiba Laptop Keyboard to Replace It
Toshiba laptop keyboards are a lot tougher to detach from the chassis. The underside of the laptop needs removing, which means taking care with all the screws and checking the cable.
There is a good chance that this might not be something you don’t want to do. However, follow the steps carefully and you’ll find the keyboard can be replaced.
HP Laptop Keyboard Not Working? Consider an External Keyboard
HP laptops are trickier when it comes to removing the keyboard. It depends on which model you use. Fortunately, the more popular models such as the Pavilion have a simple method for keyboard removal. (Higher end HP laptops are more complicated, however.)
Look at this as a combination of the Dell and Toshiba approaches. A single screw must be removed from the underside, then unclipped from the chassis, similar to the Dell laptop.
4. What If a Keyboard Key Doesn’t Work?
Having trouble with the “@” key? Can’t get Shift to work?
If you’re having difficulty with a specific keyboard keys not working, it could be due to your language settings. After you’ve established that the problem isn’t hardware, this is the first thing to check.
To check, open a text editor and press the key in question. Is there any output? If it’s the wrong symbol, then the problem is almost certainly related to language settings. Different regions use different keyboard layouts, based on how characters are used.
You’ll need to reconfigure your regional settings to match your keyboard. In Windows 10 do this by pressing Windows + I and selecting Time & language > Region & language. Here, click Add a language and choose the correct option for your keyboard.
Click Next then Install and wait a moment while the language is installed. In the Region & language screen, use the Languages drop down menu to select the new language.
Check your keyboard input again; the correct characters should now be outputting to the display.
Similar keyboard language settings can be found in macOS and Linux.
Can You Fix a Defective Laptop Keyboard?
A laptop without a working keyboard might seem like a massive block to productivity, but it is possible to repair. This might involve some simple hardware and software maintenance, or it might require some hands-on repairs with your laptop’s insides.
Or it might simply be down to you having the wrong regional settings applied for your keyboard.
If you can’t get any joy with any of these fixes, all is not lost. If your laptop is under warranty, or you know of a reputable repair shop, you should be able to get the device repaired with the minimum of effort.