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Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Ultimate Dell 8IK Keyboard Fix

The Dell Latitude CPx line of laptop is notorious for having keyboards go bad and mine was no different. Not all the keys would stop working, just the 8, I and K keys. Various fixes have been posted and I’ve tried them all but to no avail. Cleaning the contacts, removing parts of the metal keyboard tray that was supposedly shorting, etc. They would work for a few days then it would be back to typing with the onscreen keyboard. If I pounded my fist in just the right place I could get it to work but only until I moved the laptop again. This was getting irritating.

Before the surgeryI could just buy a new keyboard but I wasn’t even sure that would fix it and replacement keyboards are pretty expensive around $60. I finally got the idea to replace the keyboard entirely with a slim USB keyboard. Logitech makes one to be used with the PlayStation 2. I bought a few of them before because of their small size and 8 foot USB cord and was impressed with their quality. They’re kind of hard to find but I got a brand new one off of eBay for $10 shipped.

It Fits!The new keyboard was almost the perfect size to fit where the old keyboard was so I thought instead of carrying around an extra keyboard all the time why not make it fit where the old one went? I pulled the back off the keyboard and it was relatively simple underneath, just a metal plate for the keyboard and a small circuit board. I hacked off the plastic around the top and bottom of the keyboard and it dropped in perfectly, now to connect it.

The controller card for the keyboard wouldn’t fit without some modification but it didn't look to difficult. I decided to pull the ribbon cable connectors off the controller card so I could solder to those instead of the ribbon cable then mount the board off to the side where a modem would have gone if it were included in the laptop. This required soldering 24 wires from the connectors to the controller card which was a little tedious but the contacts weren’t too small so it was just a matter of being careful to not cross a connection.

Won't fit here:
Controller will not fit

Controller relocated:
Controller fits now

A small hubNow that the keyboard would fit with its controller card I had to find a way to actually connect it to the laptop. I was really hoping it would be the type of USB keyboard that also worked as a PS2 keyboard with an adapter so I wouldn’t have to use a hub. Unfortunately it wasn’t and since I didn’t have any spare USB ports I had to fit a USB hub in there somewhere.

The hub in it's homeI already had an internal USB port as a result from my previous hack of adding internal Bluetooth so I just needed a small USB hub to split that port into two. I took a slim 4 port USB hub apart and hacked off two of the connectors and removed the other two and a few other unnecessary parts to come up with an almost quarter sized 2 port USB hub. I could technically still use the other two ports if I had to I would just have to solder directly to the traces. You can pick these hubs up today for around $10-15 dollars so total cost is still pretty low plus with the extra ports I could add internal Wi-Fi if I wanted.

Even as small as it was I still had a somewhat hard time finding a place to stow it inside the laptop. Routing the wiresThere was a nice unused space behind the video card that worked out nicely. I cut the wires I used for the Bluetooth module and spliced the hub into them. Then I added a connector to the wires going to the keyboard so I can easily disconnect it if I have to remove it for some reason.

One downside to using the USB hub is that the keyboard will no longer work until the laptop is booted up. When I was testing it by hooking it directly to the back port it would let me get into BIOS but I’ll have to use an external keyboard to do that now. This could be solved by moving the USB hub to the other port on the laptop and hooking the keyboard up directly but for now I’ll probably leave it the way it is since I don’t need to get into the BIOS very often.

Here’s the finished product.

The surgery is a success!

Everything works as normal and I kinda like the way it makes the laptop look like a Frankenstein or something. I may find some black plastic to fill in the gaps on the sides but I’ll see how it goes. Right now the keyboard is just sitting in the gap, it’s not screwed down so I may find some way of securing it in the future. Finally, I can use my 8IK keys again!


  • Well done, a very nice project!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:10 AM CST  

  • nice mod, but a quick q, where did you get that background, i have been looking everywhere for it and can't find it anywhere.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:45 AM CST  

  • Can't you just use superglue to keep the keyboard in place? Or some gungum if you wanted to be extreme.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:27 AM CST  

  • Nice workaround for a dead laptop keyboard. How about soldering rows & columns contacts of the newer keyboard with the rows & columns contacts of the Dell keyboard controller? I know it's a little bit harder (and the rows x columns mapping of the keyboards must be the same!) but in this way you have a fully compatible PS2 keyborard also working at BIOS bootup.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:42 AM CST  

  • Frankenstein was the doctor.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:56 AM CST  

  • Beautiful background! Where did you get it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:08 AM CST  

  • I didn't glue or tape the keyboard down because it's part of the cooling system on the laptop so I need some sort of heat transfer tape.

    You can find the Grim background at Deviant Art.

    By Blogger TomTheGeek, at 11:10 AM CST  


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:32 AM CST  

  • Get some flat, black abs plastic and cut it to rough shape. Keep the abs shavings while you cut.

    Then, mix the shavings with acetone, and you have abs plastic paste. Fill in the remaining gaps with that, allow to dry, and sand to a nice finish.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:27 PM CST  

  • hey, nice shemale vids folder

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:52 AM CST  

  • hey!
    how 'bout some translucent plastic and colored leds, instead of black plastic to fill spaces.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:27 PM CST  

  • Mine broke too, but $9.50 on the 'Bay was money and time better spent, IMO.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:58 PM CST  

  • Excellent! Very Blade Runner stuff!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:20 PM CST  

  • I had a problem with a similar Dell laptop model. They keyboard apparently stopped working a few times with dead columns of keys. While the laptop was under warranty I got the keyboard replaced. However when it failed outside of warranty I posted on a Dell support forum for advice and a representative suggested that I just needed to tighten screws (labled 'K' iirc) on the bottom of the unit. I tried this and somehow it really did fix the problem. I had to do this a few times and the laptop still just about works although it's functionality has significantly been reduced by now due to repeated dropage.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:05 PM CST  

  • Has any one tried something like this on a laptop using a Zippy EL-610 Luminescent Slim Keyboard. Many looking for a way to get a back light keyboard for may laptop.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:20 PM CST  

  • Best thing to attach your key board with is Industrial strength plastic fastener its plastic fingers meshing into plastic fingers made by 3M (like hook and loop) great stuff I use it for all kinds of fastening jobs and it holds a lot of weight so use a small amount 4 pieces 1/2" long x 1/2" wide this will give you lots of air space sold at Radio Shack

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:33 PM CST  

  • This guide is mentioned at Repair4Laptop in the laptop and notebook keyboard repair guides section.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 12:07 PM CST  

  • This is a great site. Thanks to the discussions here, I am actually able to use my keyboard without having to use cut and paste for the following keys: 8, +, =, i, k, and ",". All it took was tightening the "K" screws on the bottom of the laptop. Thanks to all. You provided some very interesting and creative fixes. Thankfully the simplest, and least expensive, worked for me, especially since my soldering skills leave a lot to be desired.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:36 PM CDT  

  • All you have to do is remove the processor sheild, and use a drill to remove the little bump that sits on the sheild under the i8k keys. -kram

    msn -

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:06 PM CDT  

  • kram - I tried that and it had no effect.

    By Blogger TomTheGeek, at 1:10 PM CDT  

  • great fix!
    anyone got an idea for a lattitude c600 keyboard where the "zxcv" and "m,." groups along with right hand "shift" and "ctrl" that don't work? It used to work (on and off, but not anymore) when I pushed down around the upper left corner of the trackpad. but not anymore (or at least at the time of this writing, its fickle like that)
    I've already tighted all of the "K" screws, took out the keyboard and dusted the plate a bit, and I don't think this mod would be viable for me because not only do I lack the skill, but my original USB port is broken, along with my ps2 port that I killed with mouse abuse (sigh, maybe it died from a lack of love) I'm not even sure that the bluetooth mod can be done on mine. It's really fustrating and I would really apreaciate any advice.

    By Blogger irregularcog, at 1:07 AM CDT  

  • Hey U sound pretty smart with computers.. My key board messed up and doesnt work on my dell anymore i opened it up and re hooked 2 wires up and it still didnt work... I cant even really open it that far.. Can u Give me any Tips?? Please!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:14 AM CDT  

  • wrote:

    > All you have to do is remove the
    > processor shield, and use a drill to
    > remove the little bump that sits on
    > the sheild under the i8k keys. -kram

    Thanks Kram!
    I had exactly the same problem and can definitely confirm the cause was the pressure that this bump was doing on the back of the keyboard.
    Unscrewing all 7 "K" screws worked around the problem.
    As a permanent fix, instead of removing the bump, I "partially drilled" a 4mm hole (yes, I live in Europe) on the back of the keyboard, where the bump left its mark in these 7 years of operation.
    I stopped before going through the metal, leaving just a "conic dip" in it.
    (I had first to build a "tape dam" around the area to avoid aluminum debris jumping around).
    Now I can tighten the screws without losing any key.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:52 AM CDT  

  • I too had the 8ik, problem on a Latitude CPT.. One fix that was trivial was to loosen the keyboard, tilt it up, and put a piece of gummed shipping label on the two small bumps on the lower left corner of the cpu cover cage...



    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:52 AM CST  

  • one thing that may work in the long run is to get a mini screwdriver and a metal object and tap all the backside screws, as if youre hammering in a nail. I did that (the screws were already tightened) and the 8ik problem is not as bad as before.

    By Blogger Brant, at 9:51 PM CST  

  • hooray, didn't know about tightening the "k" screws. Fixed my 8ik, problem.

    They were already tight, so I backed them out, retightened, then tapped on the end of the screwdriver with a small hammer for good measure.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:23 PM CDT  

  • too much work in tearing the computer apart!The metal shield with all the holes in it has a raised bump on the lower left'll see it has a black mark from wearing against the keyboard bottom.Remove the shield center punch and drill a hole.reassemble and power up! I just did mine 2 min ago perfect fix!REMOVE BATTERY AND AC POWER CABLE BEFORE PROCEEDING !!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:49 AM CDT  

  • AWESOME nice conversion. now heres a bigger question. can you reverse this process? i cant stand my regular keyboard. ive found several laptops all with good keyboards.. i like the quietness and small profile of the keys. i could buy one but im on a budget and i have a ton of extra parts there any simple instructions on how to convert a lap top keyboard??
    mail to

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:36 AM CST  

  • You know what? I've been having the same problem with my Laptop, except mine is a Toshiba. Regardless, I'm pretty sure that if the same problem occurs with my laptop, then there is for sure something we can do about it. The question is, what is it? I actually took my laptop to a computer technician and he wanted to charge me an arm and a leg Just to open and check the laptop internally. For an arm and a leg I'll be glad to check it myself!

    By Anonymous Dell 1320c toner, at 2:41 AM CDT  

  • Too much time and effort put in this... Plus, be honest, the result is ugly. Check eBay first

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:37 AM CDT  


    By Blogger Mario, at 2:50 AM CDT  

  • I had the same 8ik problem on a Dell CPx H 500 GT.

    First I tried to "partially drilled" a 4mm hole on the back of the keyboard as suggested, but that wasn't enough and I could still feel the keyboard "rocking" on the bump when unscrewed.

    So, after removing the Al processor shield, I carefully hammered the bump until it wasn't protruding any more.

    As of now, the fix is holding...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:43 AM CDT  

  • I have a Dell Latitude CPx H500GT Pentium III. I just ran into the notorious I8K, problem. After digging around the internet and ripping my hair out I decided to open the box and look around. Funny thing was the keyboard is mounted on a VERY soft aluminum base. I (gently) bent the aluminum just a little backwards and VOILA' THE THING WORKED!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:20 PM CST  

  • It worked! First I tried tightening the keyboard, that didn't work, so I pulled the KB and processer guard. I flattened the dimples on the guard on a steel block with a hammer. After reinstallation of the guard and KB, all is good! I barely snugged the screws on the KB, and am going to put a drop of adhesive on the screw heads to keep them from loosening.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 PM CST  

  • Good post regarding laptop keyboard issue. The keyboard moulded in board are tougher than normal ones. I have worked as a technician in hp laptop service center Chennai location. Posts like these are very useful for me. Thank you.

    By Blogger Arvind Kumar, at 4:13 AM CDT  

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