Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cleaning the Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000

A couple of days ago, I decided that I needed to take apart and clean out the keyboard at my workhorse machine: a Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000. The name seems kinda over-the-top, but despite my general disdain for the giant from Redmond, I like most of their hardware. I have a couple of minor gripes, but it's overall a good keyboard for RSI sufferers. Anyway, disassembling it wasn't exactly obvious and there may be others out there who wondered how to get the thing apart to clean the thing. Not only will I relate how to void your warranty this way, but I'll also give you some tips on cleaning the thing.

Tools:
  • Lineman's pliers or, alternatively, needlenose pliers
  • Cotton swabs (Q-tips)
  • Philips-head screwdriver
  • small flathead screwdriver (or other small prying device)
  • old toothbrush
  • compressed air
  • rubbing alcohol
Disassembly:
  1. Unplug it from the computer. While this might seem obvious, some people might go commando and use the thing while in the process of cleaning it. You've been warned. ;-)
  2. Remove (no exaggeration) 21 screws from the underside.
  3. Place right side up and wiggle off the faux-leather wrist rests.
  4. Remove a screw from under each of the newly-removed wrist rests.
  5. Find a small flathead screwdriver (or some other flat prying object), slide under the front edge of the space bar and gently give it a twist. The spacebar should pop right out. Set it aside.
  6. Remove two silver screws and then remove the top cover. Note that this will require some wiggling becase there are a few plastic catches sort-of holding it in place, such as in front below the F-Lock light.
  7. If your keyboard is anything like mine was, you'll need to be able to clean under what's left, so remove 4 more screws under where the Back and Forward buttons normally are along with the metal bar they hold down.
  8. Remove the silicone overlays.
Now you'll need the rest of the tools I listed above to clean the thing. You'll probably want to remove all the keycaps from the grid. If that's too much bother, at least get the ones with the metal sliders.

Caveats:
  • The best way I've found to get the keycaps out is to use one hand with the pliers to slightly pinch together catch for the keycap while gently pulling on it from the other side with your other hand. If you pinch too much, you'll bend the plastic on the catch and possibly break it, which would be a Bad Thing (TM).
  • If the warranty was good on your keyboard, it certainly isn't now.
  • It's amazing how many crumbs (and in my case, cat hair) fall in between the keys and collect in this thing

Tips
  1. The compressed air will come in really handy for cleaning under the components that are still in place.
  2. The bigger keys (spacebar, Backspace, Caps Lock, number pad +, etc.) have a little metal bar that slides under a couple of plastic "hooks" which are a great place for crud to collect and make the action for those keys pretty gummy. Cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol work well for cleaning it from the back side of the key grid.
  3. The silver buttons at the top shouldn't need cleaning unless something has been spilled on your keyboard.
  4. Cleaning an empty grid is pretty easy with the sprayer hose on the kitchen sink. You *might* be able to get away with running the grid through the dishwasher, but you might melt the plastic, so don't complain to me if it does.
Plan to spend a couple of hours doing this, but for a $50 keyboard, it's probably worth your time. It's also less mind-numbing if you're doing it in front of the TV. I hope this helps someone else out there. :)

34 comments:

  1. Hello,

    thank you, it definitely helped me.

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  2. Thanks for that. I've noticed that three of the 21 screws that hold this thing together are longer than the others. Took mine apart to change the colour of the LEDs. Now got four different colours, easier to tell which lock is on. Looks sexier, too.

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  3. Great info. This helped me greatly tonight cleaning my friends keyboard. (I missed the two silver screws under the spacebar) He is still having an issue wher presing a key gives multiple characters on the screen... and ideas?

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  4. Thanks a ton! I'm swapping the LEDs to match the rest of my system and installing EL wire to light around the keys. Your instrucions saved me from breaking anything! Thanks!

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  5. I spilled beer in my keyboard.

    I missed the screws under the spacebar, thanks

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  6. Of *course*; pop *off* the space bar. That's intuitive. (Not! ;-) I wasted an hour puzzling over that before googling you. Thanks for the tip.

    G-

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  7. Mainman,
    You'll have to mess around with the LED series resistors to ensure that the four LEDs are the same brightness. I also wrapped some black tape around the prism assembly to stop light scatter.

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  8. thank you, big help. I have two of these now. The first one died, probably something got spilled and the second one - the one I'm using is also acting up, missing keys, that sort of thing.

    I took it apart. The plastic sheet with circuity has some dried up residue of something.

    How do you clean this plastic sheet?

    thanks

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  9. Aw, nuts. I can't remember -- it's been too long. It looks like mine needs cleaning, so I'll probably be ripping it apart soon. When I get around to it, I'll see and post. It depends on the residue, but I'd probably try the toothbrush and alcohol. Not being able to see it, though, don't quote me on that. YMMV

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  10. Help - I've opened mine up to dry it (After spilling some tea on it), but I can't get the spacebar back in properly. Where does the hook fit?

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  11. If you look at the underside of the spacebar, you'll notice that the bracket has a C shape if held sideways. The two ends slide into two hook-like mounts on the keyboard. Fold out the bracket, slide the ends into the mounts, and carefully push the post on the underside of the spacebar into the hole on the keyboard. This kind of mount is standard on many keyboards, and even Mac keyboards. I may be a bit off because I'm doing this from memory, but it should be pretty close.

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  12. Great article! Thanks!
    I had to take my keyboard apart and this tutorial helped a lot.
    I managed to spill a cup of coke on the keyboard which made it very sticky to touch after drying up. Some keys didn't depress after pressing and also the plastic circuitry got messed up. I had some keys not working then other keys permanently pressed even if I didn't press them and so on.
    I think spilling coke is the worst thing you can do to a keyboard as it's a very agressive fluid. Oh well...

    If somebody have a similar problem, don't worry, just take the keyboard apart like DarkWyrm says, take the plastic circuitry out of the keyboard and clean it. There are three layers of the circuitry one on top of another so don't forget to clean every layer. Then everything should work.

    The procedure of taking the circuitry from the keyboard is simple. Just strip the keyboard bare according to DarkWyrm and unscrew 4 screws to lift a little circuit board with LEDs. Then gently pull a narrow circuitry strip from the middle scrolling controller and you can take the circuitry out.

    The cleaning of the plastic circuitry I did in a very simple way. Just some water with dish cleaner in a bowl (dish cleaner is made to remove the food or drinks after all, heh), sink the circuitry in the bowl and rub it with a cotton towel. After that, take it out, dry it with some paper towel and after that with a hair dryer.
    I'm not sure it's a proper technique how to clean these things... it's probably cruel but hey... effective :-) My keyboard works like a charm. But maybe due to the simple water it's maybe good to properly dry the circuitry quick and don't let it dry by itself for two days...

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  13. Wow great tips. I also got stuck at the spacebar. I spilled orange juice on mine and need to clean the left control and windows keys. I replaced my board and am trying to clean the old one for a spare. : )

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  14. Thanks a lot. I, too, had missed the screws under the space bar. How did YOU find those out, I would be curious.

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  15. Can anyone post a picture or an explanation of how to put the back/forward pieces back in? I've got a little flat silicone piece, a little flat metal piece, and a little metal tunnel-shaped piece, each with 3 holes. I assume the tunnel goes in first, over top of the plastic screw holes, but i'm not sure how the clear plastic circuit board stuff, silicone and flat metal pieces go. Thanks!

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  16. Cheers. I also got stuck at the two screws under the spacebar. I was about to pull harder before I decided it was better to Google it. :)

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  17. Thank you! I've just finished cleaning after I spilled coke on it. This really helped me out.
    Little tip: You probably don't need to unscrew the screws that are under front panel and keep "small keyboards" (you'll know what I mean when you see it) in place.
    You gain almost nothing by doing it and screwing them back is a bit tricky.
    I washed it under the shower, then shook it to dry it. If you shook, wait, repeat it'll be almost dry in no time.

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  18. Thanks - this was pretty awesome and very useful!

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  19. Finally got around to cleaning, 3 weeks after a coffee spill caused my "x" and "enter" keys to die...

    After disassembling and using the compressed air on the plastic wiring, my x and enter keys still do not work... ANY thoughts on using a cleaning fluid ... I'm ready to buy a new one at this point.

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  20. How do you re-assemble the keyboard after all of this?

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  21. i have follow the instruction to the core and did that. When i put back everything, i could not key in anything at all.

    The keyboard is spoilt. This instruction expose the circuit inside the keyboard and it is easily short- circuit. And now i have to go out and get a new one. i have wasted my time and money.

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  23. Thanks soooo much for the Spacebar tip. Ive been struggling with my keyboard for the last 15 mins, gradually using more and more force, wondering why it doesnt come apart even though ive removed all visible screws.

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  24. I'm impressed at your bravery in levering off the space bar to find those two little screws which were holding up the works! My keyboard has just stopped working properly (just a couple of minor keys like the enter key and the spacebar!) for no known reason. It's not old, nothing has been spilled on or near it... so I hope the clean will sort it out. Thanks for your help!! cheers

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  25. Thanks so much for this. I jumped in and started to disassemble, but the spacebar was a bugger. Actually cracked it a bit trying to take it off. Started searching and found your post. Thanks for providing some guidance when I thought I was off the tracks ...

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  26. This has been great, for disassembling - thanks so much. But... I've put it back together and tested it, and now it doesn't seem to work at all, but I can't tell if it's that I've downloaded or configured something incorrectly (I'm having to test it on a different computer, so download the software again), or that I've ruined the keyboard being clever. It connects ok, the computer automatically starts the process of searching for drivers etc, and the Num Lock light comes on, but then it doesn't do anything else at all. Num Lock light won't go off, Caps Lock light won't go on, program launch buttons do nothing, and nothing appears on the screen when I type.

    Does anyone have any ideas?

    Thanks heaps

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  27. The same thing happened to me once, in my case I had put the connectors for the plastic key sheets in the wrong order with the PCB at the front. If I recall correctly the sheets need to be under the PCB so that they can match up with the contacts.

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  28. Thanks, just successfully disassembled mine (the wireless one, 7000) using your instructions. In this keyboard, 5 of the bottom screws are longer one. I've marked their position by the greenish stickers here https://plus.google.com/photos/107340717771860737382/albums/5769797856347397217/5769797857646647810

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  29. Thank you for the info on how to take this sucker apart. I have 4-5 of these that are down from I will admit it full on rage abuse. I just fixed one of them and can now work on the others. YAY!!!

    Ok I really need some help with the anger thing but this is not the place for it. The two screws under the spacebar... Never wudda thought about that... MIcrosoft. What were you thinking???

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  30. Thanks so much! I dumped coffee all over my keyboard in the last 4 hours before I have a major project due. Like many others here I never would have found the 2 screws under the spacebar!

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  31. I only lost 2 screws and the membrane under the never-used calculator button, now I can clean the monster energy out! Thanks!

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  32. Pretty interesting post! Thanks it was interesting. click here

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