How to Put a Key Back on a Laptop Keyboard

Keycap troubles? Don't worry, these are easier to fix than you think

What to Know

  • If a keycap comes off your laptop's keyboard, snap the keycap back onto its key retainer; listen for a click to be sure it's secured.
  • Key retainers are usually small pieces of round or square plastic that fit around the underside of your keycap.
  • Be gentle! These are fragile mechanisms that can break if too much force is applied.

This article covers how to reattach a laptop keycap that's broken off the keyboard. The piece of square plastic with a letter, number, or symbol is usually called a 'key' but is, technically speaking, a 'keycap.'

Keycaps that have been broken off of a laptop keyboard.

orcearo / Getty Images

How to Fix a Broken Laptop Keycap

Not all laptop keyboards are equal, and certain keyboards are constructed differently from other keyboards. However, traditionally a laptop keyboard is covered in flat, plastic keycaps with those familiar letters, numbers, and symbols.

Other parts of a key can break aside from the keycap, but a keycap snapping off your keyboard is the most common laptop keyboard issue, so if you have a broken key, chances are the keycap came off.

These keycaps lock into a tiny bit of plastic known as the keycap retainer. These are usually small, plastic circles or squares which lock the keycap into place.

Fixing a broken keycap involves making sure the retainer is secured on your computer and then gently securing the keycap on top of its retainer.

  1. Check to see if only your keycap came off your laptop or if the retainer came with it, which can sometimes happen if the retainer becomes loose over time. If there's a bit of plastic with your keycap, it's likely the retainer.

    Gently place your retainer back onto the spot where it came off. The retainer's design will naturally slot into this space when you orient it the right way, which may take a couple of tries to figure out.

    If any plastic pieces appear broken, don't try to reattach either the keycap or the retainer because you may end up doing more harm than good and damage the keyboard further. In this case, you may want to have your laptop repaired by a third party or order a replacement key or keyboard to replace yourself.

  2. With the key retainer in place, position your keycap on top of the retainer. Check the retainer and the underside of the keycap to find out the correct orientation.

    Press down lightly and listen for a click; this signals the keycap has locked into the retainer.

  3. With some good lighting, examine the keycap to check if it's aligned properly with all the other keys on your keyboard. If it seems misaligned, press down gently on the key until it's positioned correctly.

  4. If you've followed along with these steps, but your key still doesn't work, chances are there's a deeper problem with the circuitry in your keyboard, which could necessitate more advanced repair.

    In this situation, without familiarity and experience repairing keyboards, it's best to take your laptop to a third party for, at least, evaluation.

Important Laptop Keyboard Maintenance Tips

The best way to take care of your laptop keyboard is not to break it in the first place, which can be easier said than done. Luckily, if you build a few good habits, the chances of you breaking something will go way down.

Firstly, routine cleaning is essential. Keycaps can come off after residue builds up underneath them and works to separate the keycap from its retainer. Giving your keyboard a regular wipe-down is a great way to keep your keyboard clean and residue-free. Check with the manufacturer to learn what is recommended (and learn what can harm the keyboard).

Disinfecting wipe passing over laptop keys

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Second, be aware of how hard you're pressing down on your keys! Laptop keyboards often require light presses to work, so if you're used to a more full-featured keyboard, you might be whacking away at your keys more than you need to register a keypress.

Woman Typing on Laptop Apple Watch

Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Lastly, be careful of spills near your keyboard. A spill by itself won't cause a keycap to come off, but, of course, they are not all created equally. A glass of water or seltzer can be manageable if you disconnect your board and dry it carefully and thoroughly, but anything with sugar can be an immediate game over.

Coffee spilled on laptop
© Tonic Photo Studios / Photographer's Choice / Getty

Even the best maintenance can sometimes still not be enough. Sometimes the keys just can't be fixed. In those cases, your options are to replace the keyboard or replace the entire laptop.

  • How do you clean a laptop keyboard?

    First, unplug your laptop and remove the battery if necessary. Moisten a lint-free cloth with a 1:1 solution of water and isopropyl alcohol and wipe down the laptop's exterior and display. You can use a can of compressed air to clean the keyboard or you can turn it over and gently shake it to remove loose debris.

  • How do you disable a laptop keyboard?

    If you're using Windows 10, go into Device Manager and select Keyboards > Standard PS/2 Keyboard > Disable device. Alternatively, you can quickly lock your computer using Win+L or CTRL+ALT+Delete to prevent accidental typing. MacBook users can temporarily disable the keyboard by closing the lid or by using the shortcut Control+Shift+Power.

  • Why is my laptop keyboard not working?

    If your laptop keyboard isn't working, there are some troubleshooting steps you can try. Give it a good cleaning, try restarting the system, or replace any broken keys. If all else fails, use your computer's on-screen keyboard to type (open the On-Screen Keyboard app in Windows or go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Keyboard > Accessibility Keyboard > Enable Accessibility Keyboard on Mac).

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