Whether you just purchased a new set of keycaps for your keyboard and are looking for installation instructions, or if you’re researching to see what is involved in changing out your keycaps for a potential purchase, this guide will help walk you through each step of how to change the keycaps on your keyboard, and in detail. Changing the keycaps is not difficult, but it will take somewhere between 30-45 minutes for a full-sized keyboard, and much less for a TKL or smaller keyboard.
The most difficult part of the process you will want to know about ahead of time is reconnecting the stabilizers, also known as stabs in the mechanical keyboard community. This can be tricky the first time you attempt it, but once you figure out the easiest way to reconnect them, it is not difficult at all and only takes a few seconds per stabilizer.
If this doesn’t sound too daunting so far, and you’re ready to learn how to make your keyboard blank, upgrade your keycaps, or replace worn-out keycaps, follow this guide and you may enjoy it so much that you decide you’ve found a new hobby!
- Step 1: Remove the keycaps from your keyboard (10-15 minutes)
- Step 2: Spray an air duster on your keyboard’s switches and use a micro cloth to clean if dirty (5 minutes)
- Step 3: Connect the large keys with stabilizers (5-10 minutes)
- Step 4: Add the rest of the keys to your keyboard (10-20 minutes)
- Step 5: Enjoy your new typing experience
Step 1: Remove the keycaps from your keyboard
Pro Tip: If you plan to use the old keycap set again, it is recommended that when you remove each keycap that you keep them all in order and then put them back in the packaging in order that the new keycap set came with so that you save time next time you use them again. This is especially smart if you are removing blank keycaps that you may reuse again.
This step is definitely the easiest, and possibly even therapeutic. To take off all the keycaps from your keyboard, simply push your keycap puller straight down over your keycap, and then pull straight up, in a smooth motion. There is not going to be a lot of force needed to pull each keycap off, but in most cases, it will be more than the weight of your keyboard, so place your other hand on the keyboard to keep it from pulling up, and use steady force as you pull straight up. Do not pull at an angle because you can risk damaging the switch.
There are two common types of keycap pullers, the small plastic ones, and the longer metal keycap puller. For the small plastic keycap puller, you can easily remove each keycap by keeping the puller arms on either opposite sides of the keycap.
If you have a metal wire keycap puller, the easiest way to remove your keycaps is by sliding it straight over the keycap, then rotating it slightly so the wire arms are under opposing corners. This can be a little more tricky than the plastic keycap puller, but once you have done it once or twice it can actually be much easier and quicker than using a plastic puller.
Removing Keycaps with Stabilizers
A number of the large keys on the keyboard have stabilizers attached to them. The most common type of stabilizer consists of a bar that connects to the left and right of the inside of the keyboard, which then bends up to connect to two plastic inserts that go into the keycap. The most common keys that will have stabilizers are the backspace key on the number row, the enter key, both shift keys, the space bar, the plus symbol on the number pad, and the enter key on the number pad. In most instances, the small plastic inserts in the keycaps will simply pull out when you pull up on the keycap, but in older Das Keyboard models these inserts will not pull out, so you may need to angle the keycap and unhook it from the stabilizer bar.
Step 2: Clean Disassembled Keyboard
Once all of the keycaps have been removed from the keyboard, you will have the rare opportunity to clean all the dust and crumbs from in between your switches. First, remove all the stabilizer inserts from the stabilizer bars, so they don’t blow away. It is recommended to first lightly shake the keyboard upside down to get all the debris to fall out, then use an air duster can that is designed for electronics, such as emzone, to get rid of the rest. Once you have sprayed the keyboard with the air duster, then you can take a microfiber cloth you have and clean in between the switches even more, and spray again.
Step 3: How to Connect Large Keys and Stabilizers
If you have Cherry stabilizers and do not have stabilizer bars or inserts in your keycap, then this step is very easy, just place the large keys on their switches and move on to the next step.
For those with stabilizer bars and inserts, this will be the most difficult step of the process, but there are a few tricks that will help this go smoothly. First, understand that the stabilizer inserts will always fit into the keycap so that the longer end of the insert is pointing towards the back of the keyboard, i.e. towards the F1-F12 keys. If the insert is inserted the other way, the keycap will rub against the other keys around it. If you end up disconnecting the stabilizer bars, be mindful that they only go in one direction, so that the angled part of the bar provides the space necessary for the bottom of the switch.
There are two different techniques you can use to make this process easier. If you try to disconnect a stabilizer bar from the keyboard and it comes out easily, it may be easier to put the stabilizer bar and inserts in the keycap first, and then clip the stabilizer bar back into the keyboard with the keycap attached. Hold the keycap up, so that the inscription is facing you and maneuver the stabilizer bar into the correct position with your fingers and snap it into place. Note that the part of the stabilizer bar that clips into the keyboard can only go in one direction so that the angled part of the bar provides the space necessary for the bottom of the switch.
If you need a lot of force to unclick the stabilizer bar from the keyboard, then it will be easier to put both stabilizer inserts in the keycap first, and then tilt the keycap backward a bit so the letter is facing you to insert one side of the stabilizer bar into the plastic insert, then using diagonal pressure on the already connected insert, to make room for the other side of the bar to fit into the insert so it is completely connected. This clip will show how to angle the keycap inserts to connect large keys to your stabilizer bar in this manner.
Complete these steps or all the large keys with stabilizers and then move on to adding the rest of the keycaps.
Step 4: How to Add the Rest of the Keycaps
This step is fairly simple and straightforward since you will just go through your keycaps and push each one straight down onto the appropriate switch. It may be easier to start from the top left, escape key, then the F1 key, and so forth, working through one row of keys at a time. The only thing that can be a little tricky is if the keys are not in order and facing in the right direction, it can be hard to know which direction certain keys are supposed to go, such as the arrow keys. A quick way to tell is by seeing which side of the keycap is the smallest and is going downhill. This downward slope on the keycap should go towards the back of the keyboard, pointing towards the F1-F12 row of keys. Another tip is that the front of the keycap is usually a straight 90-degree angle, and the bottom of the keycap is usually slanted towards the front of the keyboard.
Step 4: Enjoy the New Keycaps on Your Keyboard
Now that you’ve added your new keycaps to your keyboard, you are all set to get back to typing! When you’re ready to try a new set of keycaps, you’ll be ready to add them to your keyboard in no time! With different types of materials such as rubber, ABS, or PBT, you may find your keyboard not only feels a little different but even sounds different. Good luck and happy typing!