Malfunctioning keyboard keys are a huge headache for everything from typing documents to writing emails. They turn an otherwise simple task into a painstaking process of copying and pasting characters from elsewhere or accepting the loss of important letters. If you have a keyboard key that is not working properly, the chances are good that the problem is either related to debris under the key itself or the key is not connected properly. However, in some cases, the problem may be related to software issues or something else entirely. Finding out the most common causes should help you rectify the problem.
Remove Debris Under the Key
If specific keyboard keys are not working, the simplest and most likely cause is that something is preventing your presses from being recognized. Grab a can of compressed air with a thin nozzle (most come with one) and blow air under the problem key or keys. While a basic approach, air is often all it takes to get your key working properly again, and you can go over the other keys at the same time to prevent similar problems in the future.
Remove and Reinstall the Key
If compressed air doesn't work or you don't have any compressed air, you can often solve the problem by removing the key and reinstalling it. Use a flat-head screwdriver (small precision screwdrivers are great for this) and push the tip under the key that's not working. Gently twist the screwdriver to pop off the key.
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Underneath the key on a laptop keyboard is a white frame called the key retainer, which often has two parts that connect and a small keypad in the center. The key retainer attaches to metal hooks on the base of the keyboard and can be gently pried off using the screwdriver. After you remove all parts of the key, you can see whether something is physically blocking it from being pushed down. Either remove the debris manually, clean the base with rubbing alcohol on a rag (if you spilled a sugary drink, for example) or blow compressed air directly into the space.
Replace all the sections of the key as you found them, inspecting the hooks to make sure the retainer is in the right place. (It's smart to note the orientation before removing it.) Put the keypad in the middle of the retainer and then place the key itself on top and push it down until you hear it click into place. This reinstallation process often solves the problem.
Keyboard Not Typing Letters
If your keyboard is not typing any letters or if reinstalling the key or using compressed air doesn't help, the problem may be software-related rather than physical. If this is the case, reinstall the driver for your keyboard. Go to Device Manager on Windows systems by searching for Device Manager in the search bar next to the Start menu and click the drop-down arrow beside Keyboards. Locate your keyboard and right-click it, choosing Uninstall device from the menu.
Restart the computer. Windows automatically searches for and installs an appropriate driver. Alternatively, and especially if you're using a wired keyboard rather than a laptop, go to the manufacturer's website and download an updated driver manually.
Q, A and Z Keys Not Working
If the Q, A and Z keys are not working on your Dell laptop, this is a known issue. The keys are all connected to the same pins of the keyboard connector, and when this pin has problems, these specific keys stop working. Unfortunately, this isn't an easy problem to fix, and it's you may need to replace the keyboard or send it to Dell for repair if it's still under warranty.
Use the On-Screen Keyboard
Another simple (if imperfect) solution is to use the on-screen keyboard on Windows. Go to Settings (the gear icon at the side of the Start menu for Windows 10) and select Ease of Access. Scroll down on the menu on the left of the screen and choose Keyboard. Select the first option that appears, Use the On-Screen Keyboard, to bring up a software keyboard to use.