My Keyboard Won't Work. Now What?

Problem with your computer keyboard? We've got the fix for that

Nothing is more frustrating in the computer peripheral world than a broken device. Sometimes you get lucky, and the fix is simple. Other times you find that you need to replace the device.

Here's a list of simple troubleshooting advice for a keyboard that seems to be broken. You'll also find a tip on how to type with a broken keyboard. Try these before you run out to get a new one.

Computer keyboard
Brennan Burling / Unsplash

How to Fix a Broken Keyboard

Follow these troubleshooting tips in the order presented until the keyboard works as intended.

  1. Check the batteries. This sounds simple, but it's always the best place to start. Replace the batteries if you have a wireless keyboard.

  2. Check the connection. If you have a wired keyboard, ensure the cable hasn't come loose from the USB port. If you have a USB receiver for a wireless keyboard, ensure this is properly plugged in.

  3. Re-pair the keyboard if you use Bluetooth technology. Although most companies offer one-time pairing, a redo is occasionally needed. Follow these step-by-step instructions on pairing Bluetooth devices.

  4. Clean it. Keys might be sticky from too much snacking while typing. A keyboard cleaning could do the trick. The type of cleaning you can do depends on the robustness of the device. Waterproof keyboards can take some scrubbing, while others should clean up with a damp cloth.

  5. Fix a broken key. If one of the keys is broken, how you replace it depends on the type of keyboard you have. A mechanical keyboard is designed differently than a quiet-key device. You can go to Instructables.com for a helpful video on fixing an unresponsive key on a standard and commonly found Microsoft keyboard, using an ordinary plastic straw.

How to Type with a Broken Keyboard

If you can't fix the keyboard, but you need to type on your computer until you obtain a new one, there is a workaround. Both Windows and Mac offer a built-in, on-screen keyboard you can use in a pinch.

On a Windows computer, type on screen into the Start search box and open the on-screen keyboard.

On a Mac, go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Accessibility and choose Keyboard. Select Accessibility Keyboard and then Enable Accessibility Keyboard.

On-screen keyboard in Windows

You can use your mouse or touchscreen to type until you can repair or replace the physical keyboard.