How Long do Mechanical Keyboards Last?


It can be difficult to justify buying an expensive mechanical keyboard for yourself when there are so many cheap non-mechanical keyboards available. Before committing to the purchase of a new mechanical keyboard, you’re probably curious, how long will this mechanical keyboard last for? Is it worth the price?

Mechanical keyboards can last for up to 10 years or more depending on how heavily they are used. Mechanical keyboard switches are rated for 50+ million keystrokes, which will last for years of heavy use. If you are willing to repair some of the parts as they break, mechanical keyboards can last for even longer. The quality of your keyboard also matters, a pricier keyboard will usually last longer than a cheaper one.

We’ll break down some of the details of what makes certain mechanical keyboards last longer than others and go over parts that can be repaired to increase the time your mechanical keyboard can be used.

There are also several features that can make a keyboard last longer, so we’ll go over that as well.

Why do Mechanical Keyboards Last So Long?

At first glance mechanical keyboards don’t look too different from a normal keyboard. So, what makes mechanical keyboard so special? Why do they last so long?

Anne Pro 2

Well, mechanical keyboards have much better quality than normal keyboards because they have more reliable parts and build structure. Every single key on a mechanical keyboard has its own independent switch mounted underneath. This allows for each key to have its own feel and response when pressed.

The switches have an incredibly long lifespan. You’re looking at 50-100 million keystrokes before the switch will even think about breaking. Normal keyboards generally don’t have quality standards anywhere close to those requirements, which is what makes mechanical keyboards so impressive.

Most membrane or chiclet style keyboards are mass produced for the public and are focused on a product that is extremely low cost, so in general they are not built for longevity. For reference, the IBM Model M mechanical keyboard, one of the first models of mechanical keyboards originally produced in 1984, still has a lot of keyboards that are still working 25+ years later.

The Model M uses the old buckling spring design instead of Cherry MX style switch, but they were the first to proof the mechanical keyboard design and the rest is history.

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IBM Model M Industrial. Compliments of u/j0d1

What Parts are Easily Replaced on your Mechanical Keyboard?

A cool feature with mechanical keyboards is its quite easy to repair many issues that may come up with your keyboard. Whether you are DIY inclined or not, some fixes can as simple as ordering a replacement part online and spending 5-10 minutes replacing the broken part.

Lots of Repairable Parts

Mechanical keyboards are very similar to a PC. When ever a part breaks on your PC, it’s possible to buy a new part and replace. For example if one of your RAM sticks corrupt, you simply order a new stick of RAM online and replace it.

Some of the mechanical keyboard parts that are most likely to break first are the switches, keycaps, and stabilizers. The switches, as mentioned before, are rated for millions and millions of keypresses. So, after a few years to a decade of heavy use, one or two of your switches may break.

Broken PartHow to Fix/Replace PartCost to Repair
SwitchDesolder/unplug the broken switch and replace with a new switch. May require soldering and desoldering.New switch will cost ~$1. Will require solder kit unless you have a hot-swappable keyboard.
KeycapRemove broken keycap with fingers or keycap puller. Replace with new keycap.New keycap will cost anywhere between $0.50 to $2 depending on keycap material.
StabilizerRemove broken stabilizer from plate/PCB. Replace with new stabilizer.New stabilizer will usually cost ~$2 but can go up to $25 depending on which stabilizers you have.

Switches

In that case, we recommend ordering spare switches online and replacing the part yourself. This will require you to desolder the broken switch from the keyboard PCB, and re-solder the new switch back on. If you have a hot-swappable keyboard, however, no soldering is required.

Keycaps

Over time the keycaps will wear down from the friction of your fingers sliding over the tops of the keycaps. The letters/numbers on the keycaps will start to disappear and the keycap plastic will thin out. This will be after lots and lots of use, so no reason to worry about this happening if your keyboard is only a few years old. It’s a relatively easy fix, all you need to do is order the replacement keycaps online and replace the broken ones.

Stabilizers

The stabilizers are another issue that may develop over time. Stabilizers are used to keep your larger keys, such as space bar and enter key from shaking too much. To repair the stabilizers, you need to remove them from the PCB and replace with a new stabilizer. There are different styles of stabilizers, but generally you just unclip/clip them to the PCB.

What Features Make a Mechanical Keyboard Last Longer?

There are several things to look for when buying a mechanical keyboard that will help increase the longevity of the keyboard. These features are usually more wear and tear resistant and because of that will usually cost more as well.

Detachable Power Cable

Mechanical keyboards with detachable USB power cable tend to last longer than ones with a fixed non-detachable cable. If the non-detachable cable gets damaged in any way and no longer works, you will need to replace your entire keyboard to fix the issue.

A keyboard with a detachable power cable does not have this problem. If the detachable cable gets damaged it’s easy to order a new cable online for a relatively cheap price. No need to buy a brand-new keyboard just because the power cable broke. There are different f power ports on keyboards, but generally USB-C is considered the best.

keyboard with custom cable
Mechanical keyboard with custom detachable power cable.
Photo compliments of u/EST4R

Splash Resistant or Waterproof

Over the many years of owning a mechanical keyboard, there’s a pretty good chance that you may spill something on your keyboard. Whether you accidentally dump soda, beer, or water on your keyboard, it’s a good idea to buy a keyboard that is splash resistant.

A splash resistant keyboard will not get damaged by water or soda spills. As long as you’re not taking a bath with your mechanical keyboard and fully submerging it, a splash resistant keyboard will protect the vulnerable parts of your keyboard from water damage. The PCB is generally the most vulnerable component, so avoid getting water on this part if possible.

Aluminum Keyboard Case

The case is an important part of the keyboard, as it protects the inner components from outside damage and impact. The case will also determine how the keyboard feels in your hands, whether it’s heavy and solid or light and flimsy. It can also change how each keystroke will sound, as a heavier case will generally make your keystrokes sound deeper and fuller.

Cheaper mechanical keyboards tend to come with a plastic case. Plastic is by far the cheapest material to produce which is why it’s used so widely. There are some downsides to plastic. Plastic cases are lighter and more flexible and will scratch and bend more easily than other types of material. Because of this, they don’t usually last as long as other case materials such as aluminum.

Aluminum keyboard casing is usually a bit more expensive but does a much better job at protecting your keyboard from the outside elements. Aluminum is a much heavier, stronger material and can take more abuse before it will scratch or bend.

PBT Keycaps

The plastic material the keycaps are made of will also determine the how long your keyboard will last. The standard plastic material for keycaps is ABS plastic. Over time, a keyboard with ABS keycaps will start to develop a greasy shine and it will look like someone was typing after eating a bag of potato chips.

PBT vs ABS Keycaps
PBT vs ABS Keycaps

PBT keycaps, on the other hand, are made from a different type of plastic that does not develop this greasy shine. This style will last much longer, and will look brand new for a long time, even after heavy use. For this reason, we recommend buying a keyboard with PBT keycaps if your interested in the longevity of your keyboard.

Less RBG Lighting

While people find colored backlighting on a keyboard exciting and enjoyable, backlighting can cause issues over time. RGB lighting can have issues due to LED bulbs going out over time, and unlike other components are not that easy to replace.

Also, RGB lighting requires more parts to be soldered to the PCB which creates more possible points of failure on the PCB. Because of this, having RBG lighting can make your keyboard more susceptible to damage over time.

Conclusion

There are a lot of reasons why a mechanical keyboard will last longer than a normal keyboard, such as better build quality and higher standards for how long the components will last. If you’re wanting your keyboard to last even longer, mechanical keyboards are easily repaired, and broken parts can be replaced.

In addition, there are several features you can look for in a mechanical keyboard that will make it last longer than other keyboards. Look for a detachable power cable, splash-resistant design, aluminum case material, PBT keycaps, and minimalistic lighting.

We hope you enjoyed this post. As always, happy typing!

Jake Harrington

Jake has been an avid mechanical keyboard user for the past six years. He has a background in Mechanical Engineering and wants to apply his expertise to break down how mechanical keyboards and other tech work to show the world all of the cool aspects of the hobby.

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