Dell Keyboard Troubleshooting

A few days back someone spilled a small amount of ice tea onto one of our Dell L100 keyboards. This was a relatively inexpensive keyboard that came with a Dell Inspiron home computer.

The Dell L100 Keyboard

After drying the keyboard as much as possible, I let it sit for a day or two to dry even more. But, when I tried it on a working system, every key worked except the “Space” bar. Being an occasional hardware hacker, I wanted to see if I could fix it. My first step was to take the keyboard apart to see if there were any obvious problems. Here’s the inside:

Bottom half of keyboard with top cover and keys removed.

Considering how simple the switches were, I figured it must be something more complex, like the small circuit board:

Internal "logic" board.

In order to figure out which pins on the connector represented the Space bar, I had to follow the conductive traces around the clear plastic “circuit boards” inside the keyboard. Thats when I found it … a small area where the ice tea must have eaten away at the conductive traces making the Space bar inoperative:

The conductive traces (to the right of my thumb) had been eaten away by ice tea spilled on the keyboard!

To confirm the traces were broken, I used a multimeter. I tried to repair the conductive traces using a pen with “metallic” ink, but the traces were too small and pen was too wide.

At this point it was clear the keyboard could not be repaired.

Having served its final purpose – reminding me that I still have useful hardware troubleshooting skills – I tossed the keyboard the trash and turned my attention to buying a new one online.

Clint Laskowski

Hello! My name is Clint Laskowski, and I'm an Information Security Professional who helps clients identify, assess, treat, and monitor risks to information and information systems. I'm also very interested in web development and the Milwaukee-area startup scene.

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