Without accidental damage of any sort, the keyboard of your laptop and the touchpad are the pieces that exhibit most wear as you keep using them.
They’re not just some of the only moving pieces that remain in modern laptops, they’re those which we fleshy people constantly stroke, taking up small quantities of skin oil and wearing away legends on the keys. The keyboard deck may begin looking surprisingly older after a year or so.
But the good news is that many laptops are built to be removed and replaced relatively quickly because it’s one component that often malfunctions. You can also replace the touchpad mounting (usually in combination with the keyboard deck itself).
If you can trace the pieces and be patient, it is possible to make your laptop look new for a fraction of the cost of buying a new machine.
What will you need to replace your Laptop’s Keyboard or Touchpad?
- Different sizes of Phillips and Flat-head screwdrivers. You may need various Torx screwdrivers, and something like a tiny pry bar, depending on your laptop model. With the iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit ($50), you can grab these and any other tech-friendly tools in one box.
- The unique replacement parts for your laptop. In Step 2, we’re going to explain how to find these.
Done? Let’s go ahead.
Step One: Find a Service or Repair Manual
Service manuals are instructions provided by manufacturers to their own technicians or approved service agents. These provide step-by-step instructions on the most specific repairs, such as keyboard replacement and touchpad mounting. You will need one.
The sad truth is that not all machines have the manuals for this operation. Newer laptops rarely have a manual. The great news is that the available ones will usually be posted free of charge online in PDF format. They are also hosted by the company, as with the Lenovo ThinkPad, which we used in our demo machine.
Just upload it to your phone, laptop, or another computer to guide you while you’re working when you find the one that suits your laptop model. You can also print the exact pages you need to follow if you don’t have any other options.
A quick search on Google is usually all you need to do to find a service manual. Archive.org and Future Proof both maintain manual indexes for older versions on their pages.
If you don’t have any official alternatives, you can search for a more general guide on iFixit or YouTube. In any case, before you proceed, you want to make sure that you have some kind of reference.
Step Two: Find the Parts
You’re actually going to have to find a replacement part before you can replace your keyboard or touchpad. This isn’t as difficult as it would seem. OEM parts from a wide range of suppliers and wholesalers can be found online and independent sellers frequently list individual parts on Amazon or eBay.
If you don’t have one you can find the specific part numbers in the service manual or with a little research.
Alternatively, if everything else fails, you can find a defective laptop of the same kind. If you have a spent battery or a broken screen on your keyboard or deck, it doesn’t matter, you can save the pieces. Follow this guide to disentangle the broken computer, get the components, and then use them on the original system.
Remember to match your laptop model number as closely as possible when ordering your replacement keyboard or touchpad.
Small manufacturing variations may make parts incompatible, especially when dealing with versions sold on different global markets it will be a headache if you have a French AZERTY keypad on your US-standard QWERTY computer.
Note also that while the keyboard is always a single component, the touchpad assembly is often built into the plastic or metal case surrounding it, making it more expensive.
Step Three: Set Up Your Work Area
Depending on your laptop model, the repair can be quick, easy, or extremely time-consuming. But it’s presumably between these. You want to have a nice clean, flat place in a non-carpeted floor area (to minimize static).
Some cups or bowls may also be a great assist; they are useful places to put various screws so they do not roll away. Slow down your computer before starting up and if possible, remove the battery.
Step Four: Disassembly and Replacement
Everything is set, and the instructions in the manual, online guide or video must be followed now. This usually begins when you remove at least part of the laptop rear panel, loosen or remove a retention screw, and then remove some or all of your keyboard deck to reach the keyboard assembly itself.
It will be different for each model. Be slow and methodical and adhere to your instructions as closely as possible. If you need plastic or metal tabs to be inserted into your laptop body to remove the panels, use firm pressure inside and up your pry tool.
Make sure you have accounted for each piece and removed screws once you have replaced your components and closed your laptop. Nothing should remain except the part that you just replaced. Retrace your steps and if you have anything left, put them in the desired place.
Now boot your computer and see if the new component works. Great job!