What to Do If a Keyboard Has Stopped Working

By J.E. Myers

There is no more helpless feeling than when your computer keyboard suddenly stops working. While many functions on a PC can be carried out with just a mouse, a keyboard is a necessary item for accomplishing real work and doing simple but critical things such as logging into a desktop account. If your keyboard stops working, there could be several reasons for the failure, depending on the kind of computer you have or the type of keyboard.

Wireless Keyboards Fail Often

Wireless keyboards are actually prone to failure. They are dependent on a battery and when that battery dies, the keyboard is dead. Wireless keyboards are notorious for "eating" or draining batteries very quickly. Have a stash of fresh batteries nearby to revive your wireless keyboard when it fails. Wireless keyboards communicate with the computer through a small transmitter on the keyboard itself and a USB receiver connected to the computer. If the connection between the two devices is not good, the signal is blocked and the keyboard dies. Replacing the USB receiver can be difficult since few wireless keyboard manufacturers sell the USB receiver separately. Have a wired keyboard ready as a standby in case your wireless model fails at the wrong time.

Common Laptop Keyboard Failures

Laptop keyboards are robust but they are known to fail for electrical reasons. When this occurs, you usually have to replace the entire keyboard component. Replacement keyboards for most laptop makes and models are readily available on the Internet. Replacing a keyboard is the easiest repair that a do-it-yourselfer can accomplish because you can change most keyboards without entering the case. Find instructions for removing and replacing the keyboard from your laptop manufacturer. Laptop keyboards most often fail when they are exposed to liquids. Dumping a chocolate martini, for example, onto your keyboard will short out delicate electronic parts in the worst case, or, in the best case, foul the "springs" under the keys when the liquid crystallizes. Damage caused by liquids means replacing the keyboard.

Desktops Keyboards Fail Less Often

Desktop-wired keyboards come in two types: PS/2 and USB connectors. Most failures of either type happen when the plug simply comes loose from the back of the machine. Replug the keyboard in firmly and the problem is usually solved. The tiny wires on the inside of a PS/2-type keyboard connector can become bent or broken off. Examine the inside of the PS/2 plug. If the wires are bent over, take a fingernail file or a small screwdriver and carefully pry the wires back into a straight up-and-down position. If the tiny wires inside the plug are broken off, replace the keyboard with another PS/2 model. USB keyboards have the best performance record but they can malfunction if the USB port itself is dead or misbehaving. Test your USB ports with other USB devices to determine if the problem is the keyboard or the USB port. You may need to reinstall the USB port drivers to restore function for everything, including your keyboard.

Problems Caused by Software

Some viruses and legitimate software can also cause a keyboard to lock up. Reboot the computer and press F8 to start the computer in Safe Mode. If the keyboard works in Safe Mode, but does not work in regular mode, a virus or software conflict is likely. Scan your computer for potential infections. Uninstall any new software. If your keyboard works with the new program removed, there is a conflict. Contact the software manufacturer for help with resolving this conflict.