Easy Fixes for Six Common Laptop Problems

Problem: Stuck key

Cost: $10 to $100
Time: 10 minutes to 1 hour
Materials: Screwdriver, replacement keyboard for your system

One of the most common and frustrating ways good notebooks go bad is with a stuck or broken key. In my case, the Satellite Pro 6100 had an "R" key that stuck -- when I hit it, I got a line or two of Rs.

In some cases (most notably MacBooks) you can get individual replacement keys, but they are quite expensive -- often $8 or $9 per key. In most cases, a full keyboard costs only a little more and is a better deal in the long run.

Start by locating a replacement keyboard for your system. All you need to do is fire up your favorite Web search engine and type in the notebook model and the word "keyboard." There's a good chance that you'll find several online stores -- including GetPartsOnline and LaptopZ -- that sell the right keyboard for between $5 and $20 for a refurbished or used one and between $15 and $100 for a new one.

I opted for a refurbished keyboard at $10 because the system I have is more than five years old -- a new keyboard would likely outlive the rest of the machine.

Some laptops have a locking bar above or below the keyboard that holds it in place. Others make you remove screws from the bottom of the case before the keyboard can be removed, and still others require you to open the whole case to get at the keyboard. (If that describes your system, this is a good project to do while you're replacing the fan.) Your best bet is to nose around and look for a way in or leaf through the system's manual to find the answer.

My Satellite Pro 6100 has a locking bar above the keyboard that holds it in place, so the instructions that follow are for that type of device.

After prying up the locking bar at the top of the keyboard, pull it off. Unscrew the keyboard.

Remove the locking bar and unscrew the screws that hold the keyboard in.
(Click to view larger image)

Lift the keyboard slightly, but before you remove it completely, make sure you unplug the ribbon cable that connects it to the motherboard so you don't damage either piece. With the keyboard safely unplugged, lift it out.

Unplug the ribbon cable and lift out the keyboard.
(Click to view larger image)

It's now time to install the new keyboard. After plugging the new keyboard in, slip it into place and screw the keyboard in. Finally, snap the lock bar back in.

That's it, but I suggest trying all the keys out before celebrating a job well done. Even refurbished and new keyboards are known to have bad keys, so you might have traded one problem for another. Most come with at least a 30-day warranty -- you might need it.

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