How to Know if a Keyboard Is Mechanical

The differences between a regular and mechanical keyboard

What to Know

  • A mechanical keyboard uses switches rather than membrane to register keystrokes.
  • Look for a louder and more 'clicky' keyboard sound to identify if it's a mechanical keyboard.
  • Lift a key cap off the keyboard to see if there is a switch underneath it.

This article teaches you how to tell the difference between a regular and mechanical keyboard. It does so by explaining the differences and demonstrating what to look for.

How Can You Tell if a Keyboard Is Mechanical or Membrane?

There are a few different ways to tell if a keyboard is mechanical or membrane. Some are simpler than others. Here's a look at the best method to check if a keyboard is membrane or mechanical-based.

  1. On your keyboard, tap the key and see how loud it sounds. If it's quite loud and clicky, it's almost certainly a mechanical keyboard.

  2. Alternatively, lift one of the keys off the keyboard carefully and check if there is a switch underneath the key. If there is, it's a mechanical keyboard.

    A mechanical switch inside a keyboard.
  3. If you've recently purchased the keyboard, check the packaging and see if it states anything about being a mechanical keyboard. If it doesn't, it's a 'regular' membrane-based keyboard.

What Do Mechanical Keyboards Feel Like?

A mechanical keyboard generally feels a lot different to a membrane-based keyboard. Here's a look at what to expect from the feeling of a mechanical keyboard.

  • Mechanical keyboards are more tactile. Thanks to how mechanical keyboard switches feel, they feel much more responsive and more tactile every time you tap a key. 
  • Mechanical keyboards are louder. A mechanical keyboard tends to make a lot more noise than a regular one because of the switches involved. 
  • You'll (potentially) make fewer mistakes. Due to how a mechanical keyboard feels, you gain better typing feedback which means you might be more accurate and less prone to mistakes. 
  • More durable. A mechanical keyboard feels heavier than a regular one which means it's more durable and able to withstand a few knocks. 

What Is the Difference Between a Regular and Mechanical Keyboard?

A regular keyboard and mechanical keyboard have a number of differences. It's useful to know how they differ before making a purchase. Here's what to expect.

  • They sound different. A regular keyboard is generally much quieter than a mechanical one which can be useful in an open office environment or when you simply prefer a quieter working environment.
  • They're priced differently. Membrane or regular keyboards tend to be much cheaper than a mechanical one, although they don't have as long a lifespan. 
  • Mechanical keyboards are sturdier. Mechanical keyboards are generally sturdier and more durable meaning they will last users longer. 
  • Mechanical keyboards have removable parts. It's possible to remove a mechanical keyboard's keycaps and customize your keyboard with other parts. A membrane-based one doesn't offer this option. 

What Is Considered Mechanical Keyboard?

A mechanical keyboard is any keyboard that uses switches instead of membrane to allow you to perform keystrokes. 

A mechanical keyboard is much hardier than a regular keyboard because of this so they immediately feel different to the touch. They're generally heavier and feel more substantial. They're also more expensive than regular keyboards which makes it easier to identify them before making a purchase. 

  • How do I clean a mechanical keyboard?

    To clean a mechanical keyboard, disconnect your keyboard, turn it upside down, and gently shake loose debris. Use compressed air and a small handheld vacuum to dislodge debris from under the keycaps. Use a keycap puller tool to remove the keycaps and then use the compressed air inside the switch area. Use a cloth with a gentle cleaning solution to gently wipe inside the switch area.

  • How do I build a mechanical keyboard?

    To build a custom mechanical keyboard, decide on the keyboard size you want and choose the features you want, including RGB lighting, QMK firmware, and USB port. Go to an online store to select and buy the parts you want (keyboard case, plate, circuit board, stabilizer, switches, and keycaps). You'll also need tools like a soldering iron, a solder sucker, solder wire, and a keycap puller. For more information, visit a DIY website.

  • How do I fix sticky keys on a mechanical keyboard?

    If you have keys on your mechanical keyboard that are sticky due to dust and debris, shake out the keyboard gently. Remove the affected keycaps and use compressed air to blow out the switch area or clean the area with a nylon brush. If all else fails, replace the switch to fix the issue.

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