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[ The PC Guide | System Care Guide | System Care: Protecting Your PC | Care of Specific Components ]


Keyboards are one of the most abused parts of the average system. They get pounded on, covered with dirt, loaded with dust and food particles, and even the occasional cup of decaf. :^) The extent to which keyboard care is important depends on how much you care about your keyboard, and what it costs. Cheap keyboards go for as little as $10 these days; if you don't care about what kind of keyboard you use, you can practically treat them as a disposable item, just getting a new one when they get damaged or gummed up from excessive gunk. (A rather wasteful attitude, I think, but one that does make sense in some circumstances.) Other people (such as myself) rely upon unique keyboards with special features, some of which are hard to replace if they become damaged, and so care and maintenance become much more important.

Fortunately, most decent keyboards are fairly resistant to abuse, but over time, if they are never maintained, they can eventually fail. Common failure modes are keys that stick or repeat, or have to be pressed multiple times to get a character to show up. Assuming that you do want your keyboard to last, I recommend the following routine care steps be taken:

  • Keep Food and Drink Away: The number one enemy of keyboards is not dust, but in fact food and drink. If you can "simply" make a policy of never eating or drinking while using your PC, you will have taken one of the best preventive measures that you can to keeping your keyboard working reliably. I put the word "simply" in quotes because this is sure as heck not something that I've ever been able to do! :^) If you're like me you can still minimize problems by trying to keep the food and drink away from the keyboard itself. Keeping your coffee mug more than "spill's distance" from the PC is a wise move.
  • Clean the Keyboard: Over time dirt and natural oils from your fingers will accumulate on the keycaps, and dust and debris will fall into the keyboard between the keys. These should be cleaned at least annually, by wiping with a damp cloth. Cleaning a keyboard isn't always that simple; opening it up can in fact ruin it, and some attempts at cleaning a keyboard can in fact make things worse.
  • Check the Cable and Connector: Make sure that the keyboard cable is not caught on anything or pinched between your desk drawers, etc., to prevent damage. There should be slack in the cable as well; if the keyboard cable is too tight this can damage the cable, connector, or worst of all, the plug on the motherboard where they keyboard connects to it. (This can result in your needing to replace your motherboard!)

In the unfortunate event that you spill coffee or other liquids into the keyboard, it is still possible in some cases to save the device, but often you will need to replace it.

Next: Mice

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