Author Topic: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?  (Read 2290 times)

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Offline rowdy

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Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« on: Fri, 27 September 2013, 06:26:37 »
While I was swapping Miami and EK green keycap sets between my QFR and KeyCool at work today, someone asked how many keycap swaps they were rated for.

I paused for a moment in my toils and gave the question due consideration, before summoning my verbals skills and saying something informative and witty like "Er, I dunno".

MX switches are rated for 50 million presses.

Is there any rating or experience index of how many times the keycaps can be swapped?

I would think indefinitely, as long as due caution is exercised when removing the keycaps.

I tend to wiggle the keycap around in a very, very small circle as I am lifting it off - would that eventually loosen the stem?  Or cause other damage to the switch?  The wiggle is very, very slight - about as much as the keycap moves if you lightly rest your finger on it and move it from side to side without pressing it down.  Mainly because I don't like the idea of pulling the keycap straight up.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

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Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 27 September 2013, 06:31:48 »
I think as long as your careful it is ok.

I think there is a fine line because some OEM's act like key swapping is bad and when you start talking about having problems they start asking if you've been swapping key caps, but why do they include key pullers etc.

It's a good question, I've also found recently all switches are not equal and neither are key caps in their ease of removal. I know there a are a few threads on it but some key caps are ridiculously easy and some extremely hard to remove, of course this also depends on the switch.

I do think if your not careful and take your time you can easily damage switches and even key caps when removing them.

Offline IvanIvanovich

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 27 September 2013, 08:19:12 »
Some combinations are more prone to causing damage than others. Of course user error as well, which is what manufacturer is hoping to shift blame to the end user when asking such a question to avoid RMA. Lets pretend both the stem on the switch and the keycap is both perfectly manufactured... I will say at least hundreds of keycap on/off cycles on the switch. Perhaps less on the keycap side as it seems the female stem is more prone to wear and loosening. I've cracked or broken many more stems on the keycaps than on switch, but in every case it was very vintage boards/caps in the more than 20 years old range. I think they just become brittle, but poor storage is also a likely factor.

Offline C5Allroad

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 27 September 2013, 09:12:39 »
Well is there a limit to how many times you can remove them and put them back on? Would the stem or keycap require almost no force to remove eventually?

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 27 September 2013, 09:19:02 »
Well is there a limit to how many times you can remove them and put them back on? Would the stem or keycap require almost no force to remove eventually?

It really comes down to the key cap manufacturer, material, profile, age and also the same with the switch. I've got some vintage blacks that you can pull caps off of with very light force with your fingers. But then I've got some clears that pull the switch tops when using GMK caps. Then I've got other clears that don't have that issue, it is very variable.

I highly doubt in normal use and again taking care not to carefully remove key caps, that you will have any problems.

Offline rowdy

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #5 on: Fri, 27 September 2013, 18:43:13 »
The comments about manufacturers avoid RMA is a good point.

I sorta figured there would be too many variables for anyone to put even an approximate figure on it.

But the question intrigued me, so I thought I'd ask :)

Thanks guys!
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

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Offline IvanIvanovich

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 28 September 2013, 09:02:29 »
I noticed this with vintage blacks too, it's very easy to remove keycap. It's a slipperier plastic, I am so sure of it. It's why they feel so much smoohter, slick plastic glide better inside the housing.

Offline hazeluff

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #7 on: Sat, 28 September 2013, 11:05:49 »
The comments about manufacturers avoid RMA is a good point.

I sorta figured there would be too many variables for anyone to put even an approximate figure on it.

But the question intrigued me, so I thought I'd ask :)

Thanks guys!

Mechanically, If you are pulling them straight upwards, i'd rate it more times than the keys get pressed.

But given how people actually pull them out, I'd say its in the hundred/thousands range. You're probably most likely going to damage the switch from forcing the stems sideways/angled.

I can't see any reasonable damage that could be done/wear on parts caused from pulling off keycaps. Key presses cause wear to spring/contacts. Pulling up can only wear the plastic if anything, and that stuffs more durable.

Offline rowdy

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #8 on: Sat, 28 September 2013, 18:31:28 »
Or unless pulling straight upwards over and over again weakens the clips holding the switch top on?

There was a thread recently about malformed DSA key caps causing the switch top to come off with alarming ease.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

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Offline elton5354

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #9 on: Sat, 28 September 2013, 18:37:25 »
Would lubing the stem be helpful then?

Offline rowdy

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #10 on: Sat, 28 September 2013, 19:07:51 »
Would lubing the stem be helpful then?

This is not something I was worried about, just a factor to take into account when removing keycaps in general.

I wonder if lubing would help with keycap sets that are tight?  And whether it might work in reverse for looser keycap sets.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

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Offline Linkbane

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 13:27:42 »
As elton said, if one is afraid of a problem arising (which I could see on, say, PCB-mounted with very tight fits), perhaps putting a drop of lube in the keycap or using a q-tip on the stem would eliminate these problems, and shouldn't affect typing given that keycaps don't ever really move (in relation to the stem).
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Offline Pacifist

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #12 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 13:42:50 »
What about those rare instances where the stem gets broken off?

Offline rowdy

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 15:09:11 »
What about those rare instances where the stem gets broken off?

Unless there is an inherent weakness in the stem, this is unlikely to occur unless the keycap is removed at a significant angle.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

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Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 15:30:01 »
What about those rare instances where the stem gets broken off?

Unless there is an inherent weakness in the stem, this is unlikely to occur unless the keycap is removed at a significant angle.

I agree. I think you'd have to get pretty rough with a switch to snap the stem.

Possibly could happen easier with the DSA caps that had the tight fit problem.

Offline rowdy

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 17:46:06 »
What about those rare instances where the stem gets broken off?

Unless there is an inherent weakness in the stem, this is unlikely to occur unless the keycap is removed at a significant angle.

I agree. I think you'd have to get pretty rough with a switch to snap the stem.

Possibly could happen easier with the DSA caps that had the tight fit problem.


There were some yellow (sigh) MX clone switches that were pretty fragile.  Apart from those I haven't heard of a genuine MX switch stem snapping.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

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Offline oaklandishh

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 17:55:40 »
I own a snapped stem switch. Not sure how it happened. I got it that way from the previous owner, but it does happen to cherry switches.

Offline rowdy

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 18:09:04 »
I own a snapped stem switch. Not sure how it happened. I got it that way from the previous owner, but it does happen to cherry switches.

No doubt it can happen (your board is evidence of that), but it seems to be the exception, fortunately.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

Ị̸͚̯̲́ͤ̃͑̇̑ͯ̊̂͟ͅs̞͚̩͉̝̪̲͗͊ͪ̽̚̚ ̭̦͖͕̑́͌ͬͩ͟t̷̻͔̙̑͟h̹̠̼͋ͤ͋i̤̜̣̦̱̫͈͔̞ͭ͑ͥ̌̔s̬͔͎̍̈ͥͫ̐̾ͣ̔̇͘ͅ ̩̘̼͆̐̕e̞̰͓̲̺̎͐̏ͬ̓̅̾͠͝ͅv̶̰͕̱̞̥̍ͣ̄̕e͕͙͖̬̜͓͎̤̊ͭ͐͝ṇ̰͎̱̤̟̭ͫ͌̌͢͠ͅ ̳̥̦ͮ̐ͤ̎̊ͣ͡͡n̤̜̙̺̪̒͜e̶̻̦̿ͮ̂̀c̝̘̝͖̠̖͐ͨͪ̈̐͌ͩ̀e̷̥͇̋ͦs̢̡̤ͤͤͯ͜s͈̠̉̑͘a̱͕̗͖̳̥̺ͬͦͧ͆̌̑͡r̶̟̖̈͘ỷ̮̦̩͙͔ͫ̾ͬ̔ͬͮ̌?̵̘͇͔͙ͥͪ͞ͅ

Offline swill

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #18 on: Sun, 29 September 2013, 20:17:03 »
I am glad I read this thread.  I have a set of keycaps coming which I have read are very tight.  If they are, I will probably try using a little lube and see if that helps. 

Offline rowdy

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #19 on: Tue, 01 October 2013, 05:53:53 »
Here's some reasoning, from SP site: http://keycapsdirect.com/faq.php#22

"22. Why are DSA mounts so tight?
the DSA family was mainly created for industrial applications where customers required the keyboard to sustain a drop test of 4-6 feet, so the tighter the mount fit the better. These customers, unlike keyboard enthusiast, were not pulling keys on and off the keyboard."

Seems legit, but yikes!  Dropping a keyboard from 4-6 feet :eek:
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

Ị̸͚̯̲́ͤ̃͑̇̑ͯ̊̂͟ͅs̞͚̩͉̝̪̲͗͊ͪ̽̚̚ ̭̦͖͕̑́͌ͬͩ͟t̷̻͔̙̑͟h̹̠̼͋ͤ͋i̤̜̣̦̱̫͈͔̞ͭ͑ͥ̌̔s̬͔͎̍̈ͥͫ̐̾ͣ̔̇͘ͅ ̩̘̼͆̐̕e̞̰͓̲̺̎͐̏ͬ̓̅̾͠͝ͅv̶̰͕̱̞̥̍ͣ̄̕e͕͙͖̬̜͓͎̤̊ͭ͐͝ṇ̰͎̱̤̟̭ͫ͌̌͢͠ͅ ̳̥̦ͮ̐ͤ̎̊ͣ͡͡n̤̜̙̺̪̒͜e̶̻̦̿ͮ̂̀c̝̘̝͖̠̖͐ͨͪ̈̐͌ͩ̀e̷̥͇̋ͦs̢̡̤ͤͤͯ͜s͈̠̉̑͘a̱͕̗͖̳̥̺ͬͦͧ͆̌̑͡r̶̟̖̈͘ỷ̮̦̩͙͔ͫ̾ͬ̔ͬͮ̌?̵̘͇͔͙ͥͪ͞ͅ

Offline C5Allroad

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #20 on: Tue, 01 October 2013, 06:13:46 »
I wouldn't want to drop my keyboard from 2 inches.... I cringe.

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Are keyboards rated for swapping keycaps?
« Reply #21 on: Tue, 01 October 2013, 06:28:35 »
Here's some reasoning, from SP site: http://keycapsdirect.com/faq.php#22

"22. Why are DSA mounts so tight?
the DSA family was mainly created for industrial applications where customers required the keyboard to sustain a drop test of 4-6 feet, so the tighter the mount fit the better. These customers, unlike keyboard enthusiast, were not pulling keys on and off the keyboard."

Seems legit, but yikes!  Dropping a keyboard from 4-6 feet :eek:

Good find rowdy. That needs to be put in the simple questions simple answers OP FAQ