What Is A Hot-Swappable Keyboard? The Definitive Answer

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Jan 5, 2022

What is a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard?

A hot-swappable keyboard is a keyboard is designed to use hot-swappable switches which gives you the ability change out the key switches by using a switch puller tool without having to solder and desolder them from the PCB.

A hot-swappable keyboard allows you to swap out key switches without having to completely deconstruct your entire keyboard or learn a new skill like soldering

Hot-swappable keyboards are becoming more common because they allow you to customize your keyboard to suit your specific needs. They also make repairs MUCH easier and faster.

You can get a hot-swappable keyboard from brands such as Keychron, Drop Shift, and RK Royal Kludge.

But that then begs the question: are all mechanical keyboards hot-swappable? The answer might surprise you!

Keep reading to learn all about hot-swappable mechanical keyboards and what you need to know before purchasing one yourself.

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.

What Is a Hotswap Mechanical Keyboard?

Hot swappable keyboards allow for easy replacement of your switches without having to solder or desolder the components to or from the PCB.

Hot-swap (also known as hotswap or hot swap) keyboards are popular among gamers, modders and DIY enthusiasts because they allow for quick and easy changes of keyboard switches without a bunch of manual work on the hardware.

Hot-swapping is a term borrowed from the IT world where it’s used to describe the process of changing or replacing a system’s components without having to stop, shut down or reboot the system.

As an example, you may have run into a situation where you’ve needed to restart your computer after adding a printer. That’s an example of a cold swap – one that requires the reboot.

Hot-swapping enables you to change things on the fly without having to worry about any of that.

In the mech keyboard world being able to do this is really important for customization and making sure you get exactly what you want.

The best thing about hot swapping is that you can easily replace any part of the board – including the keycaps.

Why Should You Get A HotSwappable Keyboard?

There are many reasons why you should consider getting a hot-swappable keyboard.

One reason is that it allows you to customize your keyboard in ways that would be impossible if you had to solder or desolder anything.

Another reason is that it makes it easier to repair your keyboard when something goes wrong.

If you’re like me, I’m always tinkering around with my mechanical keyboard and trying different switches & keycaps.

If you find that you don’t like a particular keyboard switch, it’s easy to change them out to try something else.

For instance, maybe your keyboard came with Cherry MX Blue switches, but you prefer the typing experience you’ve learned about for their brown switches.

A hot-swappable keyboard makes this an easy and quick task to switch them out – all you need is the switch puller and you’re ready to go.

Or maybe a switch goes bad – like it’s not registering properly, or you’re getting key chatter. Since your hot-swappable keyboard uses hot-swappable switches, fixing the issue is fast and easy.

In addition, you can configure a unique arrangement of switches like a heavy spacebar and different switches for your WASD keys.

Since you’ve got hot-swappable switches you’ve easier access to all their components so you can appropriately lube your switches and can access the stabilizers where you can dial in the sound and feel.

Are All Mechanical Keyboards Hot-Swappable?

Are mechanical keyboards better?

Unfortunately the reality is that many mechanical keyboards are not hot-swappable.

For example, some popular brands like HyperX, Logitech, and Razer make keyboards that aren’t hot-swappable.

When you’re searching for a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard the ability to customize your switches is usually listed in the title when you’re searching places like Amazon. If it’s not included in the product title, then it’s almost certainly not hot-swappable.

However, to save you time, I’ve included some of the most popular hot-swappable mechanical keyboards below.

Do Hot-Swappable Keyboards Work With All Switches?

Wouldn’t it be great if all these things were universal and you didn’t have to worry about whether or not your desired switch would work with your hot-swappable keyboard?

Indeed that would be great, but such is not the case.

There are different kinds of hot-swappable switches and to go along with different kinds of hot-swappable keyboards.

All things are not equal.

So to be sure, when you’re picking up your hot-swappable keyboard make sure you know what kind of hot-swappable switches are compatible with that model so you don’t end up frustrating yourself and wasting time on switches that won’t fit properly.

Are Switches The Same Thing As Keycaps?

programming mechanical keyboard

No, they’re actually completely different, but also two parts of the same system.

Key switches are the part that actually execute the operation of a keystroke and register it on the PCB, and are the part of the keyboard through which the RGB backlighting shines for those keyboards that have that feature.

Keycaps are the covering pieces on top of the switch where the character is printed or embossed and they’re made primarily from two different types of plastic polymer:

ABS keycaps are constructed from acrylonitrile butadiene and styrene which is widely used in consumer goods, most notably Lego block.

Many people prefer PBT keycaps because they’re considered a better quality than ABS caps. They maintain their texture longer and don’t tend to wear and get slick like some ABS keycaps tend to do.

Keycaps are a completely different part of the key, but are an essential part of a mechanical keyboard.

In addition, keycaps are almost always interchangeable on mechanical keyboards.

What Are The Most Popular Hot-Swappable Keyboards?

How long does it take to get used to a mechanical keyboard?

There is no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to picking a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard for your rig.

In addition, there are no shortage of aftermarket 3rd party switches available.

When you put it all together, it can make for an amazing gaming and typing experience!

Here are some of the most popular ones:

RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK61 – Wildly popular, this keyboard has wireless bluetooth connectivity, is RGB backlit, has a compact 61 key design, with hot-swappable switch types (brown switches), this keyboard is fully customizable.

Keychron C1 Hot-swappable Wired Mechanical Keyboard – This wired mechanical keyboard is as solid as they come. Also backlit,  is a tenkeyless model with 87 keys and is compatible for both Windows and Macs.

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Drop Shift Full-Size Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – Built with a solid aluminum frame and premium materials, this hot-swappable keyboard is great for gaming and productivity. It features full size numpad, USB 2.0 port, and is fully customizable.

Tezarre TK61Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – Not only is this one hot-swappable but it also has fully customizable RGB backlights with double-shot PBT keycaps and compact 60% keyboard layout

Pulsar Gaming Gears – PK101 Nova Optical PRO eSports Level Hot Swappable Super Fast Optical Switch Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – Comes loaded with Kailh red linear optical switches, water and dust-proof, with customizable macro and RGB features and is fully hot-swappable.

Dollar For Dollar The Best Hot-Swap Keyboard I’ve Found

You simply. cannot beat the performance that the Keychron C1 delivers for the dollars you spend.

It lets you customize the keyboard by choosing from different layouts, keycaps, and switches without having to break out soldering tools and having to learn how that skill (which is a skill all by itself to do it right!), and is also designed with Mac users in mind providing all the multimedia keys you’ll need, and they’re included with your keyboard!

The pre-installed Gateron red switch offers unmatched tactile responsiveness for the linear red switch with a durable 50 million keystroke lifespan and the C1’s special sockets support most of the MX style 3 pin and 5 pin mechanical switches out there including Gateron, Cherry MX, Kailh, etc.

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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