Taking Apart & Cleaning A MBP Keyboard 27

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Taking Apart & Cleaning A MBP Keyboard

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After you have used your MacBookPro (and other Macs) for a while crud and crap gets lodged under the keys. Although this doesn’t really effect MacBooks (older pre Oct 14th version at least) the silver MacBook Pros tend to get a bit dirty. At this point I am unsure whether it will be of use to the newer MacBooks/Pros (after Oct 14th), but if you keyboard is dirty already, you must be doing something wrong.

This post/tutorial will focus on the MacBook Pros. They have a very tricky key design that will take you a while to figure out. Throughout this post you need to take your time. Do not rush this. The springy action of the key is very delicate and if you apply to much force it will break and you will be screwed. Patience is the name of the game.

For this tutorial you will need:

  • Something flat and strong; a knife, flat headed screw driver etc
  • Something to clean the keyboard base which isn’t to strong
  • Lots of time and patience

I will try to be as detailed as possible, if you get stuck leave a comment. Once you manage to remove and re-attach a key the rest of them will be easy. I am focusing on the main keys, but all of the other keys should function in the same manner. The only one that is different will be the space and maybe the bigger keys. You will have to find out.

The actual key design is very simple. At the bottom (the base plate) there is a couple of hooks and the actual button. Into these very small hooks there is a two part piece of thin plastic. This piece of plastic has points which attach to various parts of the system. On the very top is the key. This attaches to the plastic hooks and slots into place. It will all come clear when you take you keyboard apart.

Taking Off The Keys

First open up TextEdit and insert the cursor into the program. I am going to assume you have your Mac on so you can read the instructions. TextEdit is designed to catch all of the random key presses you make and to stop your computer whining as you smash the keyboard.

Next take your flat object and put it into the bottom of the key you are going to remove. Start somewhere in the middle of the keyboard. Gently, and I mean gently prise the key up. Go in from the top as well. You need to apply enough pressure for the key to pop out of the plastic centre piece with out breaking things. After you have applied enough pressure the key should pop out. It may make a small crack. Slowly build up the amount of pressure you apply until you can work out how to easily remove the keys.

In the image I have removed two keys. You can clearly see how the key works. The next step is to remove the white piece. This is so you can easily clean the keyboard. Removing the piece is simple. Pinch the plastic (it can move up and down) so one of the top attachment points comes free. They are quite flexible, but agin they can break. Once as you have remove the white piece store it with the key it came from. Continue to do this for all of the keys.

Cleaning

A clean keyboard works well in my opinion. If you have dirt and pieces of stuff under the keys it becomes hard to use your keyboard. You end up bashing the keys like and old type writer. To clean the keyboard use compressed air or a fine brush. A vacuum cleaner could work, although they tend to be a bit powerful. Gently remove all of the dirt and grime.

Putting It All Back Together

Hopefully you can remember where every key goes. If you don’t use the keyboard viewer from System Preferences in your MenuBar. Re-attaching the keys is a two step process. Attach the white plastic part and snap in the key.

The plastic part is the trickiest. You need to lay the plastic part flat, the right way up, pinch and then slide it into a corner. The bits that stick out go into the top holes. First try and get the piece as flat as possible. This is so the bottom attachment piece can fit in securely. Then in one smooth action pinch the plastic so it can hit into the gap, slide it into place and let go. If all goes well the plastic will reattach into the correct position and the bottom part will be in the correct place.

Attaching the actual key is also quite simple but it takes a bit of practice. With you knife or screwdriver place it in such a way that the plastic part is raised. Then insert the key vertically into the slot so the top attachment points meet.

In one smooth motion you need to bend the key round and move the knife out of the way. It should then click into place. This method seems to work, probably because the top two attachment points slide in quite well. Then the key is flat give it a good couple of presses so it connects properly. Repeat with every other key.

Conclusion

Cleaning a MacBook Pro keyboard is easy. It just take a hell of a long time in taking it apart and putting back together again. Take your time, be patient and hope you don’t break anything. It is a fiddly method, but once you get the hang of it you should be quite quick at performing the task. Its like riding a bicycle, take ages to learn but once you have the knack you can do it without thinking.


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27 Responses to “Taking Apart & Cleaning A MBP Keyboard”

  1. 1

    Is there a way to take off the trackpad mouse button on a 2007 15 inch Macbook Pro? I can feel something stuck beneath it. It’s driving me nuts! Thanks.

    Comment By Alex on October 17th, at 12:43 am

  2. 2

    What a coincidence! I was looking at moving my keys around on my MBP so that I have a Dvorak layout.

    I did this with my iBook G4. Basically, I could grab the top part of the key, pry it off the white plastic piece, then remove it. (All the keys still work fine BTW.)

    Any chance you could shoot a short video of removing a MBP key? I would really appreciate it!

    Thanks!

    Comment By MacTipper on October 17th, at 12:48 am

  3. 3

    @Alex, you would have to take the bottom of the mac off, everything in between and then get to the track pad.

    @MacTipper, I would but I don’t have a video camera.

    Comment By admin on October 17th, at 6:33 am

  4. 4

    There is not much to brake if you are reasonable careful, just pop one off and then you will see.
    SpaceBar is little bit more tricky, there are three “key holders” evenly spaced out (left, center, right) and two small metal bar, to get it out is quite simple – just pop it off all around the space bar.
    When putting back put the metal bars into space bar first, click the top one in under two small metal pieces and slide in the other one into holes provided; gently push all over spacebar till everything clicks in place.

    Comment By Martin on October 18th, at 11:00 pm

  5. 5

    my u got messed up!! now i have to click it super hard to get it to work :|
    and so did my fll stop (FULL STOP)

    Comment By stacy on November 6th, at 1:02 am

  6. 6

    @Stacy, can you explain yourself a bit more clearly.

    Comment By admin on November 6th, at 7:16 pm

  7. 7

    Damnit, there is no way to pull off your key gentle.. I did it verry gentle at the top and bottom of the key, but suddenly it flew at the ground and 1 top thing broked down >__<

    Comment By Jonathan on May 13th, at 7:36 pm

  8. 8

    My daughter managed to remove my ctrl-key using a combination of extreme force and Lego.
    Thanks to you I managed to put the key back again.
    Big thanks!

    Comment By tommys on May 27th, at 9:25 pm

  9. 9

    Thanks for this. I recommend say taking off just the ‘fn’ key in the bottom left to practice: take it off then put it back on. You are right, after a bit you get quite nifty with it.

    The return key was complicated. There are two small plastic attachments and also a fine metal bar that has to be inserted. It went back on ok, but it was even more fiddly: I did the usual manipulation to click in the top plastic hinge, then manipulated the metal strip so that it slotted into the little hoops that receive it then finally pushed down to click on the second plastic piece. I would recommend not doing the return key unless you had a specific problem with it.

    One thing that can happen is that the little plastic piece comes off with the key. This is not a problem, you can just detach it and put it back on as described.

    Another thing is that the white plastic piece is made of two parts. One of the pieces swings inside the other and is attached by two points on the side that fit into two holes on the outside piece. These can easily jump out of the holes but again, by pinching the outside piece one can get the points back in fairly easily.

    Comment By Rob on June 21st, at 2:19 pm

  10. 10

    When doing the return key, lever it up from the left hand side. Once you have felt it click out of place you might be able to see that a thin metal bar needs to be worked out of the hole. The whole key has to be rotated in order for it to get out of the bottom hole.

    Comment By john on July 9th, at 6:21 pm

  11. 11

    thanks so much, i removed my key using other instructions to get a sunflower seed that was stuck under out, but the instructions for putting it back on wasnt clear but you helped a lot. as you can see by thiscomment, i can now type the letter h again!

    Comment By Alex on October 10th, at 8:41 pm

  12. 12

    I would like to have seen ! ,

    Comment By Settor93 on October 22nd, at 1:41 pm

  13. 13

    Care and compas- sion have to be number one. ,

    Comment By BadGirl33 on October 23rd, at 12:23 pm

  14. 14

    i i tried to take off the h key and i havent broken anything but when i click the key back in place the key just stays depressed. Tjere is no spring to it. It is clicked in place thoroughly. What is the problem? thanks!

    Comment By Andy on November 26th, at 4:58 pm

  15. 15

    hello,
    I took the h key off (there was a red lentil in there) and ive tried clicking it back on but it stays pressed down, feels like there is no spring to it. what am i doing wrong? where should the bottom bar of the white plastic bit be?
    thank you for any help!

    Comment By andy on November 26th, at 7:15 pm

  16. 16

    Thanks for posting this informative post. Never knew that opinions could be this varied. Lucas Copeland @ Flyttst

    Comment By flyttst on November 28th, at 3:10 pm

  17. 17

    Thank you for this, I was finally able to clean out my keyboard after reading your post. It’s so nice to have a fully functional keyboard again!

    Comment By Luke on December 19th, at 8:31 am

  18. 18

    Considerably, the post is really the best on this valuable topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your upcoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the phenomenal lucidity in your writing. I will directly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Solid work and much success in your business enterprise!

    Comment By site sado maso on December 19th, at 9:23 pm

  19. 19

    I had to remove my return key as a small piece of plastic became trapped there. I am trying very carefully to reattach it as mentioned above but the lower plastic thingy has become detached and I can’t seem to reassemble it properly.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Comment By Stacey (not the same girl as above though) on December 31st, at 2:13 am

  20. 20

    Oh nevermind, an hour later and I’ve given up on reconnecting the lower half, it seems to function okay without it!!

    Comment By Stacey (not the same girl as above though) on December 31st, at 3:00 am

  21. 21

    Thanks for the article! Just wanted to make sure that I could pop the keys off without breaking them. Popped it off, removed grain of rice, popped back on, works perfectly!

    Comment By Anna on January 12th, at 5:40 am

  22. 22

    Thank you for this!!! A moth crawled unter my Z and Alt keys, and I couldn’t stand typing with the furry little wings poking out! What a relief – all worked!

    Comment By Theresa on February 6th, at 1:29 am

  23. 23

    Phenomenal blog, numerous fascinating details. I believe seven of days ago, I have seen a similar blog. Does anybody know how to track future posts?

    Comment By Gaylene Darnold on March 17th, at 3:54 am

  24. 24

    How do you put the return key back on, it has a metal bar that i can’t seem to get it fixed into place better

    Comment By Jade on September 19th, at 12:55 am

  25. 25

    this is great information, except I cannot find TextEdit

    Comment By Rasta on October 3rd, at 3:56 am

  26. 26

    @Rasta

    TextEdit is under the ALT key but you have to remove it first:)

    Comment By Bruce on November 26th, at 8:03 am

  27. 27

    This article is very useful. I have used my Mac for years and did not clean it once. I cleaned my Mac by following this article and it helped me much. I also found the free cleanup software MacCleaning to clean the useless files on the disk as well.It is free and effective. Now I get a cleaner Mac, both inside and outside.

    Comment By soap on December 21st, at 9:20 am