How to Remove Laptop Keyboard Keys

Laptop keyboard keys are easy to remove if you’ve spilled something on your laptop or your laptop has a bunch of debris around and under the keys. You can also remove your laptop keys if they are malfunctioning so that you can replace them. It’s not difficult, but you’ll want to follow step-by-step directions in order not to lose keycaps or key retainers, forget their orientation, or damage the keyboard. Continue reading to learn how to remove laptop keyboard keys. 

Laptop keyboard crash course

You can remove laptop keyboard keys for cleaning or replacement, but you should do this infrequently. If you’re popping keys off too frequently, you can damage the key retainers or other keyboard components. 

Laptop keyboards are more shallow than standalone laptops because the laptop needs to fully close and can’t be blocked by bulky keys. 

Membrane or Mechanical

There are two basic types of keyboards. Membrane keyboards have keycaps overlaying a continuous membrane layer. This layer servers all of the keyboard keys and registers your keystrokes. In contrast, mechanical keyboards use individual contacts and switches for each key. Gamers and computer enthusiasts strongly prefer mechanical keyboards, but most stock keyboards are membrane keyboards because they offer great durability and performance at a lower price point. 

When it comes to laptop keyboards, you’re almost exclusively going to have a membrane keyboard. There just isn’t enough room for a mechanical setup when the laptop screen needs to close on the keyboard. It doesn’t really matter which brand or model of laptop your own. Asus, MSI, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Apple laptops all have very similar keyboard setups. 


There are three types of keyboard keycap structures available:

  1. Pillar Keycap.
    The piece that slots into the keyboard base is in the shape of a pillar. These keycaps are usually high profile and more commonly found with nicer keyboards.
  2. X-Leg Keycap.
    The underside of the keycap is in an “X” shape that contacts the keyboard in 4 areas. The X allows for a lower profile, so these types are sometimes seen in laptop keyboards.
  3. Scissor-Switch Keycap.
    Rubber domes extend from the keyboard that the scissor-switch caps sit on. The scissor is a criss-cross rubber that compresses down when pressed to push the dome and register the stroke. 
Image Credit: Daniel Beardsmore via Creative Commons

Scissor-switch keycaps are far and away the most common keycaps for laptop membrane keyboards. They offer a great tactile feel with high responsiveness. 

Note: When you remove scissor-switch keycaps, the scissor-switch themselves will sometimes come out of the keycap. You’ll need to reinstall these when reassembling the keyboard. 

Keyboard care tips

Consider buying a keyboard brush or just keeping a clean toothbrush nearby. Wipe down your keyboard after use and gently invert it upside down while tapping to release any loose debris. 

Keep any pets away from your keyboard or desk, and don’t let them lounge on top. You’d be surprised how much hair gets caught under keycaps. 

Don’t eat or drink while using your keyboard. Wash your hands before using your computer, especially after eating any sticky or greasy foods – the residue will 100% transfer to your keys.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Are all keyboard keys removable?

All keyboard keys are removable, whether you’re using a laptop keyboard or some other external keyboard. However, replacing some keyboard keys like the space bar, for example, can be a major pain.

Can you replace laptop keyboard keys?

If your laptop keyboard is worn and the letter or symbol identifiers are starting to rub off, you can replace them. You will need to look at the bottom of your laptop and pull the brand and model information so that you can locate the correct keycaps. Replacing the entire set of keycaps, even on an Apple laptop, shouldn’t cost more than $30. They aren’t very expensive to replace, and it’s an easy way to spruce up a laptop with some wear and tear.

What tools are needed to remove and clean laptop keyboard keys

You don’t actually need any tools to remove laptop keyboard keys in most cases. There are keycap puller tools available for purchase to make removal easier, but they are 100% optional. You can also use tools from around the house, like a small flathead screwdriver or a butter knife. 

To clean your keys, you will want rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs or Q-tips, and compressed air. Don’t use any water or cleaning solution. Rubbing alcohol will remove any dirt, dead skin cells, or debris, but dry quickly and leave your laptop undamaged. 

Servicing your laptop keyboard 

1. How to Remove Laptop Keyboard Keys

If you have the supplies you want to use and are ready to get started, follow these steps to safely remove your keyboard keys:

  1. Make sure your laptop is powered off. Take care not to accidentally power the computer on during the removal or cleaning process. It may be best to remove the battery or let it run empty before beginning the keycap removal process. 
  2. Copy your laptop key layout onto a template. Or you can snap a picture with your phone to refer back when you are reattaching or replacing keys. You want to make sure all the keys are reinstalled in their correct location, or you’ll be swapping keys later.
Keyboard layout template
  1. Take your tool of choice, finger, knife, keycap puller tool, or flathead screwdriver, and wedge it underneath a key. The best placement location is underneath the top of the keycap.
    • With Enter, Shift, Spacebar, and any other large keys, insert the tool near the center of the key. This will give you enough leverage on both ends to pop the larger keys off. 
  2. Gently pry the key off. Laptop keyboard keycap removal does not require much effort. If you need to use a lot of force, back off and try coming in from a different angle.
How to remove laptop keyboard keys safely
  1. When you have removed a keycap, set it aside, preferable in the layout that they will be going back in. If the scissor-switch separates from the keycap (and it usually does), you’ll need to reattach it before you can reinstall the keys. 
Remove both the keycap and the scissor-switch mechanism before cleaning

2. How to clean laptop keyboard keys

Once all the laptop keyboard keys have been removed, you can start cleaning the keys individually, as well as the keyboard board. Usually, debris falls and gets trapped around or under the keys. A build-up of debris can make your keystroke less responsive or even damage your keys. 

  1. You should clean all sides of your keycaps with rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip or cotton pad. Take care to remove any grease or sticky residues. These are the most problematic to remove with a surface clean.
  2. Clean the base of the keyboard. Dip the cotton swabs into the rubbing alcohol before applying it to the keyboard. Do not dump or spill any rubbing alcohol into the keyboard. You are only cleaning the base of the laptop, like the spaces between keys. Not the interior electronics of the keyboard or laptop. 
  3. Flip the keyboard upside down and lightly tap to release any remaining dust or dirt. 

3. How to replace laptop keyboard keys

You’ve removed all of the laptop keys and cleaned everything. Now you’re ready to reinstall the keycaps, so you can return the keyboard to use. To replace laptop keyboard keys:

  1. Check that the scissor switches are fully seated on the keycaps. If not, press down to connect them. 
  2. Use your photo or keyboard template to place each key in its correct spot. Then, press down firmly to lock the keycap in place. You shouldn’t have to force it, but it needs to be clicked into place. 
  3. Press the key multiple times to see if it feels right and compare it to the feel and height of other keys you’ve already installed. Continue with this process until you have completely replaced all laptop keyboard keys. 
  4. Plug your laptop in, reinsert the battery, and turn your device back on. Next, open a browser and check if all of your laptop keys are working and in the right place. 

Done: laptop keyboard keys removed, cleaned, and replaced

See how easy it is to remove, clean, and replace your laptop keyboard keys! But you don’t want to break into your laptop keyboard too often. Save this for drastic situations where you’ve spilled something sticky that needs cleaning. Messing with your keyboard keys too frequently can wear the parts out and cause them to break, or you can damage the keyboard membrane and have to replace the whole thing. 

The most important part of removing and cleaning your laptop keycaps is to be organized and systematic. Make sure to remove or drain the laptop battery before getting started and take a picture of your full laptop layout for later reference. Remove the keys carefully to avoid breaking them and neatly set them aside. Clean all keycaps individually, as well as the laptop base, before reinstalling the keys. 

Once all keys have been reinstalled and are secure, you can turn the laptop back on to test. Look for any keycaps that aren’t matching their keystroke and check for responsiveness. More than anything else, take care to prevent any accidents around your laptops going forward. Keep all food, drink, and pets away from your laptop at all times. 

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