How to Add a Backlit Keyboard to a Laptop

By Jordan Gaither

While even the most basic keyboards these days offer advanced buttons allowing you ever-greater control over your computer’s functions, even the most modern keyboards don’t offer much in the way of nighttime keyboarding features. If you can navigate your way around a keyboard by feel alone, the solution to this problem might be as simple as a homemade backlight for your keyboard. Adding a backlighting system to your keyboard can be done fairly inexpensively and can assist you as you're typing all those midnight emails.

Things You'll Need

  • 1-inch by 2-inch circuit board
  • 5mm LED
  • 330-ohm resistor
  • Single-pole, single-throw (SPST) switch
  • Insulated low-voltage copper wire
  • 4 AA battery holder
  • 4 1.5-volt AA batteries
  • Wire cutters
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Small flat-tip screwdriver

Step 1

Thread the metal leads from the LED and resistor through the circuit board. Intertwine one lead from the resistor with one lead on the LED, and the other with the “On” lead on the SPST switch via a short piece of copper wire.

Step 2

Connect the other LED lead directly to one wire from the battery pack; connect the other battery pack wire to the unused “Off” lead on the SPST switch. Insert the batteries into the battery pack and test your circuit by flicking the switch to the “On” position.

Step 3

Solder all the connected components together at their connecting points (as close to the underside of the board as possible). Use wire cutters to snip away any excess metal leads from any components.

Step 4

Open your laptop’s outer casing with the screwdriver and insert your newly constructed LED light source into a vacant spot somewhere to the side of the keyboard, between the actual keys and the circuit board beneath them. Close your computer's case. Make sure the switch is outside the case so you can activate your system.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can securely mount your LED circuit inside the laptop by using double-sided sticky foam strips during the insertion phase.
  • To avoid pinching the switch wires, drill a small hole in the side of the casing and thread them through there.
  • Opening your laptop's hardware case will void most warranties.

References & Resources