How to Update Your Computer Keyboard - dummies

By Andy Rathbone

Whether your computer keyboard isn’t working properly or you just want to upgrade, you can buy an updated keyboard and install it on your computer. Before buying a new computer keyboard at the store, remove the keyboard from the box and try it out. Only by trying the keyboard can you see if it “feels” right beneath your fingers.

1When you update your computer’s keyboard, buy a replacement keyboard that fits your computer’s port, either USB or PS/2.

If a keyboard says it works with both types of ports, then it’s a USB keyboard with a tiny adapter: To plug it into the PS/2 port, slip the adapter onto the USB plug. Most computers come with both of those ports, and both types work equally well. So, if your computer has a spare USB port, pick up a USB keyboard. No USB ports to spare? Go with PS/2.

Unlike desktop computers, laptops and netbooks don’t include PS/2 ports. If you want a full-size keyboard to supplement your tiny laptop or netbook, buy a USB keyboard.

2Make sure the keyboard you buy has at least 101 keys.

That magic number guarantees the standard typewriter layout, a separate numeric keypad along the right, and a row of function keys (F1, F2, and so on) along the top. It even includes a few keys added by Microsoft — most importantly, the Windows key, which offers quick access to Windows 7 commands.

3Look for any special features that you want in a keyboard.

For example, keyboards designed for gamers offer programmable keys: One key press lets you open a map to find quick exit routes in World of Warcraft, for example. Ergonomic keyboards resemble a thick boomerang and spark a love/hate relationship (definitely try before you buy). Wireless keyboards bear no cables, making for tidy desktops.

4Before installing anything, save your current work and close your programs. If you’re installing a PS/2 keyboard, turn off your computer first.

You don’t need to turn off your computer to install a USB keyboard.

5Remove your old keyboard by pulling the cable’s plug from its socket on your computer and examine the end of the cord.

A rectangular plug with a pitchfork symbol on it is a USB plug (left). A smaller, round plug is an older-style, PS/2 plug (right).

6Plug the new keyboard into the correct port.

USB ports slide in pretty easily. Doesn’t fit? Turn over the plug, and try again, as it fits only one way. If the USB keyboard is wireless, plug its receiver into the USB port. PS/2 plugs need their pins to match up with the notches of the PS/2 ports. Most computers have two PS/2 ports, one for the mouse and the other for the keyboard; if you’re lucky, they’re labeled with the appropriate icon. They won’t do any harm plugged into the wrong port, but they won’t work until pushed into the correct port.

7Turn your computer back on (if you've turned it off).

If the computer doesn’t complain and your new keyboard works, your computer found the keyboard and liked it.

8If necessary, install your keyboard’s drivers or software by inserting the CD and double-clicking the Setup program.

If the software doesn’t work well, visit the manufacturer’s Web site to download the latest set of drivers.

9If you want to adjust your keyboard’s settings in Windows, choose Start→Control Panel, type keyboard in the search box in the top-right corner, and double-click the Keyboard option to open the Keyboard Properties dialog box.

Here, you can change options like a key’s repeat rate — how long it waits before repeating when you hold down a letter. Your keyboard’s manufacturer may have tossed in a few options for your specific model, as well.