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Fixing a Macbook Pro Keyboard after an (eggnog) spill

My dog Ninja knocked over a full glass of eggnog onto my unibody Macbook Pro. The eggnog turned to glue overnight, so while the electronics survived intact (the backlight was the one fatality), the keyboard was basically useless.

My first thought was to get a new keyboard, but my trips to the Apple Genius Bar were discouraging. Apple wanted five days and $300+ to fix it. It also came with a threat -- if they found anything else wrong, they would "depot it" and charge me $1200. AllMac was much better -- they said they could fix it in a day, but I would have to come back during a weekday. They even offered a cheaper cleaning option instead of full keyboard replacement.

Now that it was clear that I couldn't throw money at the problem and make it go away quickly, I decided to clean it myself. I was able to get the responsiveness back by prying off the individual keys, soaking them in water, scraping out the gunk underneath, and reattaching. You can tell from this entry that my keyboard is mostly working: it went through some weird states where the 4 key stopped working and certain key combos wouldn't work, but these got better the more keys I cleaned.

Before embarking on this, I did some Google searches and eventually found this video, which was the most useful for learning how to remove keys from the Macbook Pro keyboard. Some notes on what you see:

  • as you lift up the edge of the key, you have to push a little white tab in to release the key. If you watch the video carefully, you'll see this, but it's not obvious.
  • be very careful not to damage the silicon membrane beneath the key as you jab stuff underneath the key. I found this out the hard way

Also, for the stuff not described:

  • You need to pull the white scissor clip out from the key before reattaching. It's easiest to detach the big end first. I just ran a small screwdriver beneath the clip and it immediately popped out. The small end is trickier and more fragile. You'll want to rotate it out 90 degrees first. then pull straight out. It's not the end of the world if you break one -- you can order more online.
  • the option key is rotated 90 degrees clockwise, so you have to push in the tab on the top right or top left instead.
  • the command key is much beefier -- you also have to push in at the top, but it requires much more force
  • the white scissor clips can come unhinged from one another. The clips for the letter keys are easy to slide back together, but the Command and Spacebar clips are a pain. I inserted one pin in and then used my screwdriver to create the necessary space to insert the other by lifting the the hole over the other pin.
  • the spacebar is a pain and I haven't figured the proper way to get it off, though I did successfully remove it. There are metal bars on the top and bottom edge that you have to work free. Then there are two of the white plastic scissor clips to release. When you put the spacebar back on, there are a lot of things that need to snap together. It may seem like you have it back on, but you really need to press down hard on every part of the bar to make sure.

Comments (1)

Thanks for the tutorial KWC :) I haven't replace a missing keyboard letter yet on my mac..

Considered your post bookmarked :D


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