What to Do When Your Keyboard Stops Working Properly

Most of us take our computer keyboard for granted – until it starts acting up, or stops working altogether. With your keyboard not working properly, productivity can come to a halt. This can be not only frustrating, but detrimental if it’s a business computer. Fortunately, there are some keyboard troubleshooting steps you can take to help determine the cause – and a solution. What follows is a list actions to take to get the keyboard working again:

Reboot Your Computer

When in doubt, reboot. The computer reboot is a great, single-step solution to many computer problems, including some common keyboard issues. It just takes a minute, and you might find that your keyboard is working fine again once the computer is up and running. If it works, let it serve as a reminder to shut your computer down regularly. (As opposed to letting it simply slip into the more- vulnerable “Sleep” mode.)

Snacking and Typing? Check for Crumbs

Crumbs and other small debris becoming lodged beneath the keys of a keyboard is another possible culprit behind many keyboard issues. This is a more likely issue with older devices than it would be with newer keyboards. It’s a common problem for those users who snack while typing or surfing the internet. The simplest fix is to carefully turn the keyboard or laptop upside down and gently shake it. Usually, anything beneath the keys or inside the keyboard will shake out of the device, freeing up the keys for effective functioning once again.

Blow Away Dust

Over time, a keyboard accumulates dust and debris particles that coat the sides and undersides of the keys, impeding and impairing their functioning. Even those who never snack while using their computer may find this type of debris causing a problem. Canned, compressed air makes a great solution, so pick up a can at your local office supply store and use it regularly to blow the debris out from under the keys. You might be surprised to see what has accumulated.

Liquid Spills?

If you’ve spilled or splashed a beverage on your keyboard recently, this could be the cause of a keyboard outage. This is especially true for sticky beverages such as soda or fruit juices. Address this issue by cleaning between the keys using a thin, clean cloth and a little warm water or a few drops or rubbing alcohol. A cotton swab may also be effective in getting between the keys of a dirty or sticky keyboard. However, larger spills may result in damage beyond simple clean ups. They may require the replacement of several keys or even the whole keyboard.

Issues with a Driver

The driver for the keyboard may also be responsible for malfunctioning keyboards. This is often the case when using third-party software, or if a user does not follow proper procedure when turning a computer off. (Always use the “Shut Down” command.) If the driver is damaged, you may be able to download a replacement driver and resolve this issue. If downloading a new driver is not possible, it may be time to seek out a professional repair service.

Motherboard Issues

A computer’s motherboard oversees a number of functions, including the keyboard. Sometimes the connection between the two can be lost, and this can manifest as a keyboard that only works intermittently or – in some cases – not at all. Those skilled with IT and electronics can run tests and take a look at the computer’s inner workings; however, novices probably should not attempt this. An IT professional can easily determine if there is a motherboard issue and take the appropriate steps to address it. In some cases, the motherboard may need to be replaced.

Your Keyboard is Defective

If none of these troubleshooting assessments or fixes yield results for you, the keyboard may be defective. If you are within the warranty period of your device, you may be eligible for a free replacement; however, make sure to back up your hard drive before having it serviced.

Need a Quick Fix? Use USB

If you use a laptop, and none of these troubleshooting tips have proved effective, you may want to plug in a temporary USB-operated keyboard. This can help you finish any pending projects before addressing the actual issues with the laptop. Simply buy or borrow a USB keyboard and plug it into the laptop’s USB port. While not a long-term solution, it can help you finish outstanding projects. You can then determine the keyboard issue at a later time.

A keyboard not working properly can be frustrating; in the case of a laptop, a malfunctioning keyboard could mean the owner must replace the whole laptop. In either case, a faulty keyboard may not be a lost cause. Before shouting: “Why is my keyboard not working?!!” try the suggestions outlined on this keyboard troubleshooting list.