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Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard Cleanout

Pin punch in keycap stem

Pin punch in keycap stem

Comes a time in the life of every keyboard when you must simply tear it apart to clean out the crud. I’ve been using a Microsoft Comfort Curve keyboard for several years and it’s worked well, but the grunge finally exceeded even my lax standards.

A handful of screws secures the bottom cover; the shortest screws run down the middle. Surprisingly, the giant HEALTH WARNING label doesn’t cover any screws. A row of gentle snap latches along the edges holds the covers together; ease them apart with a small screwdriver or your fingernails.

The lower cover holds the crosspoint matrix under a giant silicone rubber spring mat, with the USB interface board to the upper left. I left those in place, as the top cover captured nearly all the crud.

The keycaps have stems that slide in guide tubes molded into the top cover, with triangular latches that both secure the stem and prevent it from rotating. I used a small pin punch to push the keycaps out, as shown in the top picture; the punch much be small enough to allow the latches to bend inward as they clear the notches.

Keycap retaining latches

Keycap retaining latches

The larger keys have equalizing wire bails that latch under guides molded into the top cover. They’ll slide right out, but don’t shove the pin punch too far too fast.

Keycaps with equalizing wires

Keycaps with equalizing wires

Many of the keycap stems have ridges along their length to ensure each one fits only in its proper position; the triangular latches also have different orientations. This view shows the numeric pad (from the “screen” side of the keyboard) with a variety of coded guide tubes, wire bail guides, and the surprisingly deep tub underneath the keycaps that may capture much of the inevitable liquid spill and route it out the drain hole near the far edge.

Keyboard top panel

Keyboard top panel

I tossed the keycaps and top cover in the dishwasher, which did a wonderful job of cleaning them out. A dab of silicone grease on the wire bail contact points should keep them sliding freely.

Reassembly is in reverse order, although I defy you to put all the keycaps back in their proper places without referring to another keyboard…

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  1. #1 by Frans on 2010-10-29 - 10:58

    My current keyboard has been serving me since 2004 and I merely sometimes shake it out over a garbage bin and dust it off a little. Seems plenty clean to me. Maybe it’s the dirtiest place in the house underneath the keys, but it’s not like I can see there. :P

  2. #3 by smellsofbikes on 2010-10-29 - 11:48

    I’ve read, repeatedly, that you can run the whole keyboard through the dishwasher and it’ll do fine. However, I’m dubious enough about this claim that I haven’t tried it yet.
    Her Nibs has a Sony Vaio I got to disassemble to repair a broken switch that powers the wireless adapter, and the keys on that are devilish. Each one has a scissors arrangement holding it off the keyboard, involving nine pivot points for every key, and since I couldn’t see the mechanism a priori it took blind hope to just pry one off. (and as it turns out I didn’t need to, although I’ve still no idea of how you’re *supposed* to assemble the computer, but while I was in there I cleaned out a lot of dog hair from beneath a few keys.)

    • #4 by Ed on 2010-10-29 - 15:41

      run the whole keyboard through the dishwasher and it’ll do fine

      The caveat might be to not use pow(d)ered dishwashing detergent, which is nasty corrosive stuff. If a dose of that got trapped inside the housing atop the circuit board amid the conductors, things would get ugly in a hurry.

      The keyboard’s active ingredient consists of two sheets of contact points separated by a thin interlayer with holes at the key positions; I can imagine water + detergent getting in there, replacing the air in the gap, and never leaving. I don’t see how the rest of the innards would drain correctly, either.

      Which is why I took it apart and washed only the grubby plastic parts, leaving the electrical widgetry sitting on the table for a day.

      a scissors arrangement holding it off the keyboard

      I have a couple of pre-Lenovo IBM Thinkpads with that sort of keycap mechanism. Had to fix the backspace key, a process involving ritual incantation, sacrifices, and deft tweezer work. I don’t remember the details, for well and good reason.

      • #5 by randomdreams on 2010-10-29 - 23:27

        If you should ever have to work on them again, pry a key upwards until you can see which direction has two legs going up into the bottom of the key, and which has only one, and pry on the side with the two pins. Those snap in. The one engages a hook, and while it *can* unsnap it does so by plastic deformation of the hook.
        Could be useful, but I hope you never need to know it.

        • #6 by Ed on 2010-10-30 - 08:56

          I just peeked under the edge of some Thinkpad keys and, wow, they have lifetime membership in the “assemble-only” device category.

          I think I could get ’em off, but it might not be a keyboard by the time I was finished…

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