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How To Know If Your Keyboard Is Hot Swappable?

By: Robert Llarves | Date Posted: February 5, 2023

How To Know If Your Keyboard Is Hot Swappable?

Mechanical keyboards have been around for a while now. Gamers and keyboard modders are always looking for ways to customize their gaming experience.

One of the hottest trends in customizing these keyboards is hot swapping, which allows you to replace individual key switches without any soldering or technical knowledge. But how can you tell if your keyboard is hot-swappable?

In this article, we’ll discuss the basics first and how you can determine if your keyboard is hot-swappable. We will also give you a simple guide on how to replace keyboard switches.

What Is a Hot Swappable Keyboard?

Hot Swappable Keyboard

A hot-swappable keyboard is a gaming peripheral that allows for quick and easy switching of the physical switches underneath the keys. This means that users are able to keep their keyboards looking and feeling like new, while still being able to easily modify or customize their preferred actuation force, switch lifespan, noise output, and other characteristics.

Using a hot-swappable keyboard equipped with different switch setups allows gamers to have multiple “personalities” depending on the game they are playing, meaning less fiddling between uses.

Combined with its long life span, this type of keyboard offers the best of both worlds: style and usability.

Two Basic Keyboard Types

Membrane Keyboard

Membrane Keyboard

Membrane keyboards are the most commonly seen type of keyboard today, as they are typically used in places like retail stores or in homes. It consists of several layers that create a circuit when pressing one of the keys.

These layers usually consist of a polyester support layer, an insulation layer, and an upper circuit layer. The most important advantages of membrane keyboards are their low cost due to their simple construction, and their electricity-saving design since they don’t require much power to run.

Despite these advantages, membrane keyboards generally lack tactile feedback, making typing accuracy more difficult as well as feeling less responsive than other types. Despite this, we still consider them a great choice for people who want an inexpensive solution that won’t require too much maintenance over the years.

Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical keyboards are the more popular choice among professional and enthusiast gamers, as they offer a better typing experience.

These keyboards use individual switches beneath each keycap, which provide tactile feedback and make it easier to type accurately. They also generally last longer than membrane keyboards due to their construction and components.

Additionally, mechanical keyboards are usually more expensive than membrane options because of their higher-quality materials and construction. Hot swapping is only possible on mechanical keyboards.

Membrane keyboards, in contrast, are not hot-swappable as they don’t feature individual switches beneath each key. These types of keyboards have a flat membrane that the keys press onto and provide limited tactile feedback or sound.

Mechanical Keyboard Components Explained

A mechanical keyboard consists of several components. The most important ones include the keycap, the switch, and Printed Circuit Board (PCB).


Keyboard Keycaps

Keycaps are the top part of the keyboard, which are placed on the switches. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be customized with creative designs and special materials such as PBT or ABS plastic.

The main purpose of keycaps is to provide a comfortable typing experience, while also making it easy to identify each key by its design.


Blue Switch

Switches are what give mechanical keyboards their unique feel when typing. Switches consist of a stem, two metal contacts, and a spring that provides tactile feedback when pressing down on the keycap.

Switches differ in actuation force (how hard you need to press down), travel distance (how far down you have to press), noise output (which range from quiet clicks to loud clicks), and life expectancy (how long it will last before wearing out).

Printed Circuit Board (PCB)

Keyboard PCB

A printed circuit board, or PCB for short, is the component that holds all of the electrical components together. It is responsible for connecting each key to the main microcontroller chip and providing electricity to power the keyboard.

Different types of PCBs vary in terms of size, layout, and features such as RGB lighting support.

Now that you know the basics of mechanical keyboards, let’s move on to the tips on how to know if the keyboard is hot-swappable.

Hot Swapping is an important feature of mechanical keyboards, which allows you to quickly replace any damaged or worn-out switches without having to take apart the entire keyboard. This can be especially helpful for gamers who need a fast and reliable solution for their gaming needs.

Tips To Know If Your Keyboard Is Hot Swappable

Open Up The Board And See If The Switches Are Soldered

One of the easiest ways to know if your keyboard is hot-swappable is to open up the board and check if the switches are soldered in place or not.

If they are, then it means that it’s not hot-swappable. On the other hand, if you can see individual sockets for each switch, then it’s hot-swappable.

Check The Manufacturer’s Website

Another way to find out if your keyboard is hot-swappable is to check the manufacturer’s website for more information about their products.

Most companies will list the features of their keyboards on their websites, including whether or not they are hot-swappable. This will quickly provide you with an answer without having to open up the board.

Check The User Manual

If you can’t find the information on the manufacturer’s website, then your next best bet is to check the user manual or quick start guide that came with the keyboard. This should give you all of the necessary details and instructions on how to hot-swap your switches.

There is no way to tell if the keyboard is hot-swappable just by looking at the outside, so it’s important to know how to look for the features that indicate whether or not a keyboard is hot-swappable.

By following these tips, you can easily determine whether or not your mechanical keyboard is hot-swappable and take advantage of this great feature.

Types of Hot Swappable Switches: 3-pin and 5-pin

Hot-swappable switches are becoming increasingly popular due to their convenience and versatility.

They come in two basic configurations: 3-pin and 5-pin. A 3-pin configuration switch is the most common type, as it allows for an easy installation with fewer components. This setup is great for applications that utilize simpler systems with lower power loads, such as keyboards, control panels, and white goods appliances.

On the other hand, a 5-pin configuration is more robust and offers more complex functionality. Generally used for industrial machinery, electric vehicle charging systems, and other high voltage programs, this setup is often necessary when electrical load requirements are larger or more complex circuitry needs to be installed.

With hot-swappable switches available in both reliable configurations, they have become go-to solutions for those looking to expand their range of electrical capabilities quickly and efficiently.

Step-By-Step Guide For Replacing the Switches

Once you’ve determined that your keyboard is hot-swappable, here’s a step-by-step guide if you plan on replacing any of the switches from your keyboard:

  • Turn off your computer and unplug the keyboard from its power source
  • Open up the board by carefully unscrewing it
  • Identify the switch pins on both sides of the socket
  • Pop-out each switch using a small flathead screwdriver
  • Place in new switches with the same pin configuration as old ones
  • Reassemble the board and plug it back into the power outlet
  • Test out each key to make sure they all work properly.

By following these simple steps, you can easily replace any faulty or broken switches within your hot-swappable keyboard.

Final Thoughts

Hot-swappable keyboards are quickly becoming the go-to choice of professionals who need to customize their gear in a hurry.

With the ability to quickly switch out individual switches without having to solder or desolder them, these versatile keyboards offer users maximum control over their typing experience.

Whether you’re looking to replace a faulty switch or completely change up your setup with an entirely new type of switch, hot-swapping is now simpler than ever. Just remember to double-check that your keyboard is indeed hot-swappable before you start replacing any switches.

Henz Llarves

Robert Llarves

Robert Llarves is a PC hardware enthusiast, gamer, and writer. He has been building his own rigs for a long time and is passionate about helping others do the same. Robert is also an avid competitive gamer, having played games such as Dota 2 and Far Cry.

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