How Long Do Mechanical Keyboards Last?

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Mar 18, 2022

A mechanical keyboard is a great choice for anyone who wants something durable and reliable.

But how long do these keyboards last?

Do you really get what you pay for?

Are mechanical keyboards worth the extra cost? What do you get from spending $100+ on a keyboard?

Mechanical keyboards can last for up to 10 -15 years and even more depending on usage. Generally speaking mechanical keyboard switches are engineered to last for millions of keystrokes. For example, Cherry MX switches are engineered to endure 100 million actuations. And if you have a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard, you can easily change your key switches and keycaps to make it last even longer.

it’s not uncommon in heavy usage situations like gaming and programming, that your mechanical keyboard can easily last for 10-15 years.

For less keystroke intensive usage scenarios a mechanical keyboard can last for 14-16 years, while for lower usage you can expect to use the keyboard for 18-20 years or more!

Mechanical keyboard switches can endure up to 100 million presses which is way more than the membrane keyboards which usually can take up to around 5 million presses.

But you also have to keep in mind that durability is also determined by the quality of the parts that make up the mechanical keyboard as well as what you do to maintain it.

Regular keyboards are mostly made from plastic or rubber and there really isn’t anything spectacular about them.

But that’s not the case with mechanical keyboards.

But why do mechanical keyboards last longer?

What do you need to do to insure a long productive life for your keyboard?

Do parts of a mechanical keyboard wear out?

Can the parts be replaced?

In this article we’re covering all these things and more so you know what to expect of your mechanical keyboard, and you know which kind of mechanical keyboard to get for your situation.

By the way – before we get too far into it here, if you want to get more great ideas for your gaming room or home office and want to connect with other home office hackers to make your space the best join my free private Facebook group, Home Office Hacks here.

Why Do Mechanical Keyboards Last Longer Than Membrane Keyboards?

Mechanical keyboards last longer because they’re precision-engineered with high-quality and reliable parts.

They’re highly engineered devices designed for speed, accuracy, and endurance.

This means their material and design are wildly different from other types of keyboards.

Each key has its own dedicated switch which means that they’re able to be operated individually. This allows them to be very responsive and incredibly accurate.

It also means that they’re really durable.

There are several different components to a mechanical keyboard that are not used in other types of keyboards like membrane keyboards, rubber dome keyboards, scissor switch keyboards, or butterfly switch keyboards.

In many instances, mechanical keyboards have cases made from aircraft-grade aluminum, or other kinds of high quality metal materials.

They also utilize several different parts that makes up an individual key.

  • Keycap: This is the top cap with the letters and numbers
  • Switch: It is the part underneath the keycap that moves down when pressed
  • Housing: The case that holds together all the components.

And the switch itself has several components: the switching slide/stem, the crosspoint contact, and the coil spring.

All of these parts work together to create a durable, precise and reliable experience.

In addition, if you have a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard you can not only customize your keyboard to be exactly what you want it to be, but you can change out your key switches with minimal effort.

When you compare the lifespan of a mechanical keyboard to a membrane keyboard, it’s clear that mechanical keyboards will last much longer.

How Long Does A Typical Keyboard Last?

A typical keyboard will last the designed lifespan of your computer which is usually about 5 years.

Most computers are designed to last around 5 years, so the keyboards are designed to match that lifespan.

For instance, one of the keyboards I’ve used is a 100% Apple Magic Keyboard.

Now, I’m a developer and I write a lot so I’m harder on a keyboard than most people, but that keyboard lasted around 3 years.

And this is supposed to be a really high-quality device – that’s not a long lifespan at all.

So when you compare how long a typical keyboard lasts, to a high-quality mechanical keyboard, it’s pretty impressive.

Can Mechanical Keyboards Keys Get Damaged?

Although mechanical keyboards are designed to be long-lasting, their keys can break or stop functioning correctly.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to replace the entire keyboard!

The good news is the mechanical keys can be easily repaired. So, let’s explore more on how to fix the damaged mechanical keys.

 

Type of  Damages How to Fix Them
Unresponsive Keys
  • Used compressed are to dislodge debris that may be obstructing the travel of the key mechanism
  • If it’s hot-swappable remove the keycaps and blow off the unresponsive switches with the canned air.
Sticky Keys
  • Clean the keyboard with a damp cloth or alcohol and compressed air. If that doesn’t fix the issue, and it’s hot-swappable, replace the affected key switches with new ones.
Dead Keys
Stuck/Jammed Keys
  • Hold your keyboard upside down over a trash can and tap lightly to remove any dirt or debris that may be obstructing the keys
  • Using warm water on a damp microfiber cloth wipe down your keyboard
  • Gently lift the key to see if you can return it to a normal position
Hard-pressed Keys
  • Get a can of compressed air and turn over the keyboard. Use the compressed air to gently blow  around the hard-pressed keys for several seconds
  • Brush away any present debris and test the hard-pressed keys.

 

What Parts Can I Replace On My Mechanical Keyboard?

Sometimes with mechanical keyboards you get damage due to heavy typing or you just want to try a different switch type or you might decide you just want to swap out some of the parts for something new.

You can’t do this with regular keyboards.

And to be fair, not all mechanical keyboards are equal.

Some have interchangeable parts while others do not.

The type of keyboards that are able to change and replace parts are called hot-swappable keyboards.

That means from the escape key to the space bar, you can change out parts when they become damaged or if you just prefer a different keycap set.

If your keyboard is not a hot-swappable keyboard then you can still change things out, however, this requires a lot more work that includes desoldering and re-soldering in the new components, and for most people, it’s easier to toss a keyboard like that into the recycle bin and replace than to go to all that trouble.

So what parts CAN you change out?

Mechanical Keyboard Switches – The switching mechanism itself can be changed out if it becomes inoperable, or you just prefer to try the new set of Cherry MX switches because you want to have tactile feedback or even acoustic feedback. The cost to repair or swap out your switches usually runs around $1 per switch that needs replacing and you can purchase a kit where several switches are included.

Keycaps – You can get different colors of keycaps for different keys that perform different functions. For instance, maybe you want a black key for your space bar, but an orange key for your enter key. Replacing the key caps is easy. You simply pop them off and then put in the new ones. The cost to change out your keycaps can run from around $20 for an entire set up to $50 or more depending on the material used in the construction (ABS plastic vs. PBT plastic, double-shot, etc).

Stabilizers – Stabilizers provide a “stable” keypress experience across the entire surface of the key and sometimes these become damaged. Replacing your stabilizers will cost you around $20-$40 depending on how many need to be changed out or replaced.

Chassis – The case you use for your mechanical keyboard can be changed too. The cost to get a new chassis for your mechanical keyboard is a bit more expensive, and as always, depends on what you need. A quality, full aluminum chassis will start at around $100.

How to Maintain Mechanical Keyboards So They Last Longer

Mechanical keyboards need simple maintenance not only to last longer but also to function properly.

Don’t worry – it’s really not all that complicated.

Just the fact that a mechanical keyboard is being used will introduce food crumbs, pollen, hair, dust, and debris

If this is unaddressed, over a period of time, the keyboard may not function appropriately.

There are several ways to clean your keyboard so that you can prolong its life cycle and save money in the long run.

Clean Your Mechanical Keyboard Regularly

Dust, debris, pollen, or hair can settle on your keyboard surface or under the keycaps.

This is especially true if you carry your keyboard with you in a backpack to school or to your friend’s house or really anywhere else.

To avoid your keycaps from stickiness or becoming stuck, clean your keyboard at least once every week to avoid particle accumulations.

For dust, debris, hair, and pollen you can clean the keyboard using a cleaning brush or simple can of compressed air.

Turn the keyboard upside down and gently shake it to get rid of any remaining debris on the surface.  As for any stains, smudges use a clean damp cloth or microfiber cloth.

Note that, if you are using a compressed air canister, be careful not to spray too much to avoid damaging the metallic parts of the keyboard.

Also, to avoid a lot of unnecessary particles, ensure you cover your keyboard with a piece of cloth whenever you aren’t using it.

Lube the Switches and Stabilizers

It’s not uncommon for mechanical keyboards to make a lot of noise, especially after months of heavy use.

If this happens, the best solution is to lube the switches and the stabilizers. This ensures that unnecessary noise from friction on metal parts is taken care of.

You should always lubricate the switches before putting them into operation.

Most mechanical keyboards will ship with them already being appropriately lubed, but that’s not always the case.

There are different types of lubricants available. You can choose one based on your preference and budget.

Next Steps

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Robert David Orr

I'm an award-winning web designer & developer, creator, an all-around digital marketing guy and, most importantly when it comes to this site, a long-time veteran of the working from home life. My work from home life spans more than 10 years, and I've experimented with just about everything you can think of when it comes to getting the most out of my home office, how to work from home without going crazy, and found solutions to the numerous challenges that those of us who work from home run into in this life.

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