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My Surface Book i7... Some keys stopped working

Luca

New Member
Hi, sorry to tell you that if some keys are not working and some other are working it is 99% hardware problem.
If you spilled something on the keyboard it could be the problem. It doesn't matter how much water (or whatever) if it has reached the contacts it spoiled them.
Solutions: you buy a new keyboard, fast but very expansive (too much).
You replace the keyboard as I did, difficult, but very cheap.
You sell your surface and buy a new one.
You use it with a Bluetooth keyboard (there is a Microsoft foldable keyboard that is very slim, it would be perfect. When my keys were not working I was using it over the original keyboard)
 

hockinsk

New Member
Hi Luca. What method did you use to remove the rivets? I have a keyboard to remove from a broken spare base, to fit into another. They are difficult to remove I find? thanks.
 

Luca

New Member
I used a very small flathead screwdriver. To help the screwdriver go under the rivet I used a small hammer. Very gently.
Once the screwdriver is under the head of the rivet, you can turn the screwdriver and the rivet comes out.
Ask if it is not clear
 

hockinsk

New Member
OK, many thanks. I have a keyboard base from a standard Surface Book and am hoping to try and remove this to fit into mine with the Performance Base which is thicker. I've removed the black plastic backing and refitted and keyboard works fine still, so appears is just a liquid barrier. What a complete pain these keyboards are being riveted like this. A new base costs half a new Surface Book for just a couple of keys not working is rather insane lol!
 

Luca

New Member
Exactly! I didn't want to pay all that money for some keys...
If you replace the keyboard remember to glue the rivets.
At first I just pressed them back with a hammer and a punch and reassembled the surface, but as soon as I started to press the keys on the keyboard the rivets came off so I had to open it again, take all the rivets out and glue them back... I used super glue
 

hockinsk

New Member
Managed to buy a broken base (usb and battery not working) from a standard model and removed the keyboard and put into my performance base. Not easy, but it's working fine and was successful.
For anyone interested.
Remove all the keys.
Get inside the base unscrew everything, take the graphics, usb, car reader etc all out.
Heat the black plastic membrane on the keyboard back to ease the adhesive, so you can peal it back to reveal the rivets without damaging the back light.
Then pushed from the top of the keys to force the rivets out. This works really well. I used a bit of plastic with a notch so you can push around the space of the keys. Hard to explain, but the rivets are each side of each key, so a U shaped push tool makes this really easy. Just push until rivet pops.
Did the same on donor base
Then I used loctite on a paperclip, to put a blob on the rivet holes and push the rivets back in to secure the keyboard back into place.
Fit all the internal components back in and glue the back plate with battery on the base to finish.
Took about 3 hours, but for £60 was better than spending £400 on a new/used performance base.
 

johnbinsc

New Member
@Luca @hockinsk
Thank you both for providing the details on your methods to solve the bad keys problem.
I have this same problem on my surface book (gen 1).
I was wondering if either of you would mind giving a brief update on the durability of this keyboard replacement/swap repair?
Has it continued to correct the problem long term? Or did the problem come back up after some time?
Or do you not know because you no longer have the device?
This would obviously be helpful to know before I dive into this myself.
Thanks!
 

hockinsk

New Member
Yes, still going strong. No problems whatsoever. Only tackle it if you have an eye for detail and confident taking electronics apart though. It's one of the harder repairs to carry out.
 

johnbinsc

New Member
Thank you for responding.
Yes I realize that this is quite a complex repair. I researched this a couple of years ago, before Luca had posted, and there was just no info out there, but I bought a replacement bare keyboard on ebay at the time.
When I first opened the base a month ago to replace the keyboard, I saw all those rivets and thought it would be impossible. But then I happened upon this thread with the info from you and Luca, and that has given me the courage to take a stab at it.
The surface books are fantastic machines if you can keep them running without breaking the bank.
I have already had to replace the battery and the plastic button strip in the tablet portion, and that is also a pretty challenging repair.
 

johnbinsc

New Member
The keyboard replacement in my surface book 1 is completed and was a complete success.
Overall impression:
I don't know that I can recommend this repair approach to anyone. As the others have said, it is really very challenging and tedious. I lost 2 of the almost 100 tiny rivets in the process, and just omitted them when installing the new keyboard at locations where they seemed most redundant.
I had purchased the replacement bare keyboard mechanism (i.e. no housing) about 2 years ago on ebay, but it sat around for a long time before I found this thread, which gave me the nerve to attempt the replacement. I don't see these bare keyboards available on ebay anymore. There are new keyboard housings with keyboards installed available for $80-$100 out of China. I'm thinking those would allow a much easier repair by just swapping everything except the keyboard from the old housing with the bad keyboard to the new housing with the new keyboard. The only wild card for me would be transferring the hinge, which I have no experience with yet.

Here are some notes to add to the good information provided by @Luca and @hockinsk.
  1. To remove the rivets holding the bad keyboard in place, I tried the approaches of both @Luca and @hockinsk described above. Since I wasn't trying to save the bad keyboard, I ended up using an even simpler version of @hockinsk's method. I just put a small flathead screwdriver tip down the side of a key cap from the top (key cap side) closest to where a rivet was located below, and tapped it with a small hammer, and the rivets just popped off fairly easily. I did not remove the keys, but if you push down on all the keys surrounding the screwdriver while you tap with the hammer, you won't break the keys from the keyboard. Also very helpful is to put a strip of tape over the row of rivets you are working on so that they don't go flying when they pop out. I learned this the hard way.
  2. I used blue loctite (thread sealant) rather than superglue to (hopefully) help hold the rivets in place, as it is just much easier to work with. I set the rivets with a hardened steel punch and the same small hammer. My punch was 5/32" diameter, which was a bit too big, and may have deformed the sheet metal frame of the keyboard, causing some other problems (see #4 below). It is important to make sure that the keyboard is resting (upside down) on a flat surface, with the hinge hanging over the edge, when you set the rivets with the punch. Even though I was careful, I have a row of barely noticeable punch size bumps on the top surface of my keyboard housing right above the function keys where I might have been a bit to zealous with the hammer. But I didn't break the housing, so I am OK with that.
  3. When re-installing the keyboard backlight layer, I just placed it over the metal standoffs to align it, and did not use any additional adhesive. When I removed the backlight from the old keyboard, some of the plastic "masking" film remained stuck to the keyboard. I didn't use any heat when I removed the backlight, and maybe that would have helped keep that thin plastic film intact, but it is really thin and fragile. Because of this damage to the masking layer, there is a bit of excess light leaking around the edges of some of the keys, but it's not too bad. I don't know where to obtain a new backlight layer if I wanted to fix this properly. I suppose I could remove the backlight again and fix the masking with some black electrical tape applied to the backlight. Meh.
  4. After reassembling the keyboard base, everything was great except that a few of the top row keys did not respond consistently, and the Detach key did not respond at all. The Del key was particularly flakey, which was a real problem for me. I removed the Detach key cap and hinge, and found that if I pressed on the little silicone cup with the end of a pen, I could activate the detach. So it didn't seem to be a problem with the key matrix, but rather that the key cap itself was not pressing down far enough to activate the contacts. I was able to fix this by disassembling the base again, and pressing on the back side of the keys/contacts that were not working well with the end of a pen, such that I deformed the sheet metal support to move the contacts "higher" or closer to the key caps. This was easiest to do with the Del and Detach keys, for which the sheet metal support is split down the middle under the contact, but I was able to deform all of them a bit. After reassembling, my Detach and Del keys are now working well! The only key that is still a little bit flakey is the volume up key, and I can live with that. Why was this tweak necessary? I believe it was because the process of manually installing one of these keyboards by setting the rivets in place with a punch, may have distorted the sheet metal support of the keyboard, particularly for the very top row of keys, where the two rows of rivets are the closest together. When setting the rivets, I worked from the middle to the outside, setting the 4th row of rivets first, then 3rd, then 5th etc. Maybe it is better to start from the function key side and work across. It is also possible that if I had taken the time to purchase a smaller punch (maybe 3/32"), I might not have distorted the sheet metal support so much in the first place (see #2 above). It might have been possible to tweak these flakey keys from the key caps side, by removing the key cap and hinge, and very carefully pulling up on the sheet metal frame directly under the contacts with some kind of hook tool.
  5. I think I've seen this warning elsewhere, but think hard before removing the key cap of the Detach key, as it is really hard to re-install it correctly once the bare keyboard has been installed in the housing. The other keys caps are pretty easy to remove and re-install.
 
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