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Fixing an Erratic Laptop Keyboard

Patricia asks:

I have a one year old HP laptop. It will skip letters and pop back up to the beginning when I am typing. Sometimes it just types gibberish or runs all the words together. I am self taught (several years) but I just cannot figure this out.

Nothing is worse than sitting down at your computer to type out an important e-mail, only to find your carefully crafted words missing key letters, numbers, spaces, punctuation, etc. When such an occurrence happens randomly, the gibberish looking results can be absolutely maddening. While your first instinct may be to bash your keyboard and/or monitor with your fist, doing so (probably) won’t do you or your computer any good. So where do you start when troubleshooting a troublesome keyboard? By updating the software which controls your keyboard: the hardware drivers.

To update your HP keyboard drivers follow these steps:
(Note: In this example we will be updating drivers for an HP Laptop keyboard, however the steps outlined here will work for the majority of keyboards on the market, regardless of manufacturer.)

Step 1. Go to HP.com and click on the “Support & Drivers” link; the Support & Drivers wizard will appear.

Step 2. In the “Enter a product name/number” form field, enter the model number of your laptop (typically found on the bottom of your computer) and click “Submit.”

If you are having trouble locating your model number, click the “how do I find the product name/number?” link and follow the instructions which appear.

Step 3. Select your operating system from the “Select your operating system” drop down menu and click Next.

Step 4. Click “Driver – Keyboard, Mouse and Input Devices” from the “Select a download” category, and download any relevant keyboard drivers available.

Step 5. Once downloaded, find and run the keyboard driver installer by double clicking on the downloaded .exe file and following the installation prompts which appear.

Step 6. After your updated drivers have been installed, shut down and restart your computer to ensure the drivers install completely.

If updating your keyboard drivers still does not resolve your issue, uninstall and re-install your keyboard via these steps:

Step 1. Open your “Start” menu, right click the “Computer” button, and select “Properties” from the context menu which appears. The Computer Information window will appear.

Step 2. Click “Device Manager” from the left hand menu to initiate the Device Manager.

Step 3. In the Device Manager, find the “Keyboards” Category, open it, and find your HP Laptop keyboard in the list.

Step 4. Right click on your keyboard and select “Uninstall.”

Step 5. In the “Confirm Device Uninstall” box which appears, click “OK” to uninstall the keyboard from your system.

Step 6. Reboot your computer.

Once your computer has restarted, it will take a moment to re-register your keyboard. Windows will notify you once re-registration is complete.

Step 7. Follow Steps 1-3 above, this time selecting the “Update Driver Software” selection from the context menu.

Step 8. In the “Update Driver Software” dialog which appears, click “Search Automatically for updated driver software” to have Windows search for and install any new keyboard drivers it finds.

If, once again, your keyboard issues are not resolved, follow Steps 1-5 above, but select the “Delete the driver software for this device” check box prior to clicking the “Ok button, then proceed with Steps 6-8 as normal.

If, after performing the above methods, your keyboard still refuses to work properly, you may have a physically faulty, defective, or damaged keyboard on your hands. While most keyboards can handle a fair amount of use on a daily basis, a few common conditions can cause a keyboard to fail quickly and without notice. Chief among these conditions: the introduction of a foreign liquid such as water, juice, soda, coffee, etc. Even the smallest spillage can cause near complete failure of a keyboard, typically exhibited by the erratic gibberish inducing behavior mentioned at the beginning of this article. If you suspect your keyboard hardware to be damaged, you generally have two options to fix it:

1. Contact HP to order and install a new HP keyboard in your laptop. This is the ideal option for those looking to get their HP laptop keyboard running like new again. However, unless your laptop is still under warranty, a keyboard replacement can be quite costly in both parts and labor charges.

2. Buy an external USB or Bluetooth keyboard. While this method is by far the cheapest way to “fix” a broken laptop keyboard, it is also the most cumbersome as an external keyboard means having to carry around yet more stuff in your laptop bag. For ultimate portability, look into water resistant, roll up keyboards with a Bluetooth connection.

Utilizing the above steps will have your HP (and many non-HP) laptop up and running again in no time; with the possible side effect of improving your overall typing experience as well!

~J. Conboy