Perhaps one of your keyboard switches is not working properly, and it may be impossible to figure out what’s wrong without taking the switch apart. Only problem is, you have no idea how to take the switch apart. Do not fear! In this article, we’ll go over how to take apart a switch and figure out what’s going on under the hood.
There are two main methods to take apart a mechanical keyboard switch:
1) Use a 1/16” flathead screwdriver to take apart the switch.
2) Pull apart the switch with a specialized switch opener tool.
Taking apart a mechanical keyboard switch and understanding how it works is a super useful skill. There is some complexity to the process and some switches are built differently. There are some easily breakable components, so we’ll go over exactly what you need to do.
Why Take Apart A Switch?
- Lube your switches (Guide here)
- Install switch film
- Repair broken switch
- Make a frankenswitch
- Spring swapping
- Satisfy your Curiosity
There are a multitude of reasons for why you may want to take apart your keyboard switch. Some of the best keyboard mods require you to dissassembly your keyboard. Whether you want to lube your switches or install switch film, learning how to pull apart a switch can be super useful.
Not to mention, repairing a switch can be done by taking it apart, inspecting what the issue may be, and fixing it quickly. If you’re a little crazy, you could also make your own frankenswitch by cannabalizing parts from other switches to make a switch that is truly unique.
Or perhaps you’re just intrigued by the way switches work and you want to take them apart to see how everything works. Regardless, we’ll teach you exactly what you need to do to fully disassemble a switch.
Determine Switch Type: Cherry or Kailh
Before taking apart your switch, you should determine which type of switch you have on hand. A Cherry MX style switch will be held together by four clips while the Kailh style switch will be held together by two. This distinction is important because the Kailh style switch is much more difficult to open and will require a different switch opener tool.
If your switch is not from Kailh, the switch will usually be in the Cherry style. But the best way to figure out which type of switch you have is to inspect it for yourself. A screwdriver will work for taking both switch types apart, but the Kailh switch will require a lot more patience and tinkering.
If you are using a switch opener, you’ll need one that works for that specific switch type (shown below).
Method 1: Screwdriver Method
– 1/16” (1.6mm) Flathead Screwdriver
– Keyboard Switches
Taking apart a switch with a screwdriver will take a bit longer than using a switch opener and will require a bit of patience and a steady hand. The upside to this method is how easily accessible a flathead screwdriver is, you won’t need to order any specialized tools. The first few switches you disassemble will be quite slow, but you’ll speed up as you get better.
1. Loosen the First Clip
The first step is to simply loosen the first clip. You’ll want to slide the screwdriver head under one of the plastic clips and wedge it apart until the clip loosens.
Once the clip has been loosened, slide your thumbnail between the upper and lower housing of the switch to keep the clips from snapping back in place.
2. Loosen the Second Clip
Next, you’ll want to start loosening the second clip on the opposite side of the first clip. This is the part where it gets a little tricky, you want to carefully lift the clip while also making sure the switch doesn’t snap back together. Keep your thumbnail wedged between the upper and lower housing while loosening the second clip.
3. Pop Open the Switch
At this point you should be able to pop open the switch with just your hands. If the switch is still stuck together, you should work your way around the switch loosening the 4 clips until it pops open.
Congratulations, you opened the switch!
Method 2: Switch Opener Method
– Switch Opener (Cherry or Kailh)
– Keyboard Switches
Taking apart the switch with a switch opener is a breeze compared to using a screwdriver. The only downside is you’ll need to order the specialized tool online and wait for it to ship. But once you have the tool it’s super easy, this method is great if you plan on taking apart a ton switches.
Step 1: Place Switch on Opener
The first step is to place the switch on the switch opener, stem side facing upwards. You want the pegs on the switch opener to line up with the clips on the switch. The pattern will be different depending on if you have a Cherry style or Kailh switch.
Step 2: Press Down on the Switch
The next step is to simply press down on the switch while it is resting on the opener. The switch will pop open and be ready to go, easy as pie. If the switch doesn’t open, I would make sure you properly lined the switch up on the opener. With the Kailh style switch you’ll need to press down a bit harder to open the switch up.
Congratulations, you opened the switch!
The Switch Components
Now that you’ve opened the switch up, you can look at all of the cool components inside. A switch is composed of four main components, the lower housing, spring, stem, and upper housing. Depending on the switch type there may be extra components, for example a clicky switch may have a click bar or click jacket.
Kailh box switches will look especially strange, so we don’t really recommend taking those apart unless you know what you are doing.
How to Remove the Switch from Your Keyboard
Unless you’ve ordered your switches in a separate bag, you’ll need to remove the switches from your keyboard in order to take them apart. To take the switches off of your keyboard, you’ll need to remove your keycaps, take out all of the screws from your keyboard, and then de-solder the switches from the PCB. This can be quite difficult to do, so we linked a guide here.
If you have a hot-swappable keyboard, you can easily remove the switches with a switch puller. Just take off the keycaps and pull out the switches with the switch puller. A hot-swappable keyboard can make taking out switches a breeze and save you a ton of time.
There are a few different ways to take a switch but it all depends on what type of switch you have and what tools you have available. If you only plan taking a few switches apart we recommend the screwdriver method, since it won’t be worth ordering a specialized tool for a few switches. If you plan on taking apart all of your switches, it can be smart to order a switch opener online to save you time and frustration of wedging the switches apart with a screwdriver.