dog on laptop keyboard
Keyboard dogged by problems? (Image by Martine Auvray from Pixabay)
Hardware Laptops

Why is my laptop keyboard not working?

Seen any guilty-looking toddlers lurking suspiciously close to your laptop with once-full glasses of juice? Accidental spills are one of many reasons why your laptop keyboard can turn into little more than a jumbled alphabet, but the fault isn’t always as obvious as a MacBook drowning in Ribena. Here’s what to do if your laptop keyboard is not working.

This article is an extract from Help! My Computer Is Broken. Click here to find out more and order a copy.

The first thing to determine is whether a keyboard fault has knocked out the entire keyboard or only certain keys. If it’s a cluster of keys alone, it’s very likely something has been spilled on the keyboard. Turn the laptop off and remove the battery (if possible), lay the keyboard upside down on a cloth or kitchen paper, and let the system dry thoroughly for 48 hours. Use a dry brush around the affected area to remove any debris. With any luck, the keyboard will return to full health when dry. If it doesn’t, a trip to the repair shop beckons.

If the entire keyboard is kaput, it’s likely something else is afoot. Keyboards are normally connected to the computer’s motherboard by a thin ribbon-like interface, and it’s not unheard of for these to pop off – especially if the laptop has been dropped or banged.

Not so long ago, you could normally remove a few screws on the base of the laptop, wear a static strip and put the ribbon back in place yourself. These days laptops are generally sealed units that require special tools to prise apart. A trip to the repair shop is likely to be necessary.

Before you load the laptop in the car and drive to your local geek emporium, there is something else you should try to rectify a whole keyboard failure on Windows laptops. Turn the laptop off, power it back on again and then quickly press the key on your laptop that enters the computer’s BIOS (or setup) menu – the key differs from manufacturer to manufacturers, but F2, F10 and DEL are commonly used.

If the laptop will enter the BIOS menu, then the fault is likely with the keyboard’s software driver, not the keyboard itself. Leave the BIOS setup menu and boot back into Windows as normal. Plug in an external USB keyboard (borrow one if you don’t have one lying around) and open the Device Manager by typing that phrase into the Windows search menu and selecting the relevant option.

In the Device manager, look for keyboards, find your laptop’s main keyboard (normally called Standard PS/2 keyboard) and right click on it. Select Uninstall device. Restart the computer and Windows should – fingers crossed – automatically reinstall the keyboard. If not, right click on keyboards in the Device Manager again and select Scan For Hardware Changes. That should reinstall the keyboard driver and hopefully resolve your problem.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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