Definitive Guide to keyboard or key replacement for MacBook unibody

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by cyphunk, Mar 13, 2009.

  1. cyphunk macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2009
    So, I purchased a macbook unibody 2.4ghz with a German keyboard in Germany because to get it with english would have taken 3 additional weeks. There is a lot of confusion concerning how to replace the keyboard on the unibody macbooks. Perhaps people can help me solder out the logic here.

    Full official replacement
    The official word is that to replace the keyboard requires replacing the entire top body. You can purchase the top body for the 2.0ghz without backlight for $230 from ifixit or others, and with backlit for the 2.4ghz its $300.

    Replace only the keyboard itself?
    I dont know that this is possible but supposedly ifixit were able to remove the keyboard from the casing after unscrewing 50+ screws (source). So, is it possible to just replace the keyboard? perhaps with a old non-unibody black macbook keyboard or the macbook air keyboard? And would it work for the 2ghz non-backlit or 2.4 backlit bodies?

    Replace individual keys
    This is possible. Replacement keys are sold for the Unibody macs, both backlit or not. I found them for 5eu a peice here. Another option could be finding cheaper keys from another model. The old non-unibody keyboards are compatible, all keys but the function keys, and of course they are not backlit. But if you look at picutres in this thread which replaces Macbook Air keys with white Macbook keys, it is barable. Also there are some photos in this thread discussing replacing the unibody MB keys with white MB keys. It can get expensive the more keys you replace. A better option might be buying a macbook keyboard replacement for not backlit needs, and a macbook air replacement for those with 2.4ghz unibodies that want to retain backlit keys, and just swaping keys.

    Here are instructions for how to remove the keys:
    Or see more thurough instructions in PDF form from Powerbook Medic.

    I will update this post as I find more information.

    Attached Files:

  2. NewMacbookPlz macrumors 68040


    Sep 28, 2008
    I think you should change your thread's more of a "how would I make a definitive guide...."
  3. cyphunk thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2009
    the plan is to update as i research. I've already answered one question and described how to replace individual keys, with resources where to buy. So, I think the title is sufficient. The only question remaining is how to replace the entire keyboard without replacing the entire top body.
  4. oGu macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2007
    What I don't understand is whether or not the macbook air keys are the same with the unibody macbook. If so I can buy a new one from ebay for about 100$ and simply swap the keys. My macbook hase a azerty french layout but I exchanged the day I got it the keys between them so now all I need is the numbers and a few other keys to have a full US keyboard.
  5. NewMacbookPlz macrumors 68040


    Sep 28, 2008
    Fair enough, proceed :p
  6. cyphunk thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2009
    I havent even seen a macbook air (MBA) keyboard for sale without the body. With the body it comes to about $180. Where is your source for $100? In any case, The keyboards of the MBA and MB-uni look to be the same size. Lets put it this way, from the links above I give example where a MB-uni keys are swamped with a white MB, and where a MBA keys are swapped with a white MB. So, logic follows that the MBA and MB-uni could also swap keys. But if you are going to just buy keys, you can get the individual keys you need and specifically marketed for either MB-uni or MBA on ebay to assure compatibility.
  7. oGu macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2007

    Check out the link above and you will see how cheap the macbook air top case + keyboard is. So can anybody else confirm to me that the MBA keyboard is the same with the alu macbook?
  8. MarcheurDeCiel macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2009
    Let me know when you get down to the section on "replacing the rubber nub under the key". I've got a wonky AAAAAA, which is still giving me trouble. :(
  9. cyphunk thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2009
    I've opened a thread on the air forum that should answer this. Basically its been confirmed that the Air and MB-uni keys can be swapped, well all but the function keys on the top have been confirmed. So if someone just measures the keyboard from side to side, top to bottom and then one of the top row function keys, we can say for certain if the keyboard and/or keys can be swapped.
  10. cyphunk thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2009
    do you mean the scisor hinge? or the plastic pressure gummy thing under the key which is in the middle. Either way, these are both most definitely compatible and I've found places on ebay selling keys with the scisor hinge, and a couple that can sell the gummy thing as well.
  11. dxta0 macrumors member


    Feb 28, 2009
    can you put an 2.4 backlit keyboard on a 2.0 macbook
  12. MarcheurDeCiel macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2009
    Gummy thing. I've got a trigger happy 'a' key. If you breath on it it activates. Took key off, hinge too, but must admit didn't dare to tackle the nub. Mac store says they'll have to put in a whole new keyboard = three weeks no MB.:eek:
  13. bilals macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2010
    Hi all,

    Stunningly late to the party but I just got hold of a Unibody Macbook that had coffee spilled on it at least two months ago and has been sitting in its box ever since.

    I completely disassembled it right down to, and including, the keyboard, cleaning along the way with water (metal/plastic bits) and isopropyl (pcbs). I found this thread while searching for a way to power it on without the keyboard (keyboard traces have been destroyed by the coffee near the keyboard's 30-pin ribbon connector).

    I removed all the keys one-by-one. I used a small, plastic set square from high school.

    Working from the top row, I removed each key. I inserted the set square between the key and the scissor hinge as per the tutorial in the OP which caused it to pop free, then I slid it to the right to remove it completely.

    Using this method, I managed to remove every key quite quickly, and without any breakages, and all the latches are still intact and show no signs of strain.

    The larger keys were a bit trickier and I've forgotten how I did those, but I removed all the standard keys first before attempting the these.

    Anyway, regarding your questions, here's what I've discovered:

    The keyboard is relatively easy to replace if you follow's guide for top case replacement and have some way of remembering which screw goes where. I used a little screw holder with lots of little compartments and wrote down what screw was in each, along with the step in the guide that each compartment related to. Once you've taken the logic board out, there's a large, black sheet stuck down that you have to prise off. Once that's done, the keyboard is visible and you need to remove the 50 tiny screws as you've mentioned already. Then it's just a case of swapping the keyboard and reassembling.

    In my case, the keyboard isn't backlit but the seller I'm buying the replacement keyboard from (based on the above, it must have been pulled from another Macbook) has said you just remove the backlight layer from the old keyboard and transfer it across. There is a small connector on the logic board that isn't being used and is near the keyboard ribbon connector (seen in the image below) so I imagine that's for the keyboard backlight.

    When I get my replacement keyboard, I imagine it won't take more than an hour to do, especially as I've disassembled the laptop a few times already.

    But as to my actual contribution, I hope this is of as much use to you all as it was to me:

    I couldn't power on the Macbook via the keyboard even after cleaning and I was convinced the keyboard wasn't sending the power-on signal. The logic board may have been dead but the battery was charging just fine so I held on to this glimmer of hope. You're probably wondering why on Earth I'd bother removing each key if I was going to replace the whole keyboard anyway. The reason is that I wanted to poke around at the individual keyboard membranes and, in order to do that properly, I had to remove the keys!

    I got bored of waiting for the new keyboard (the weather here in Britain has messed up the postal service up a bit) so, after reading a bit on how keyboard matrices work, I decided to follow the traces from the power button to the ribbon connector. The reading up was unnecessary, though. All I needed was a steady hand and a cdr pen to mark as I went in case I got lost.

    I discovered that the pins on the keyboard connector that correspond with the power button are pins 5 and 29. This is assuming the keyboard is oriented right-way-up and the keys are facing you.

    On the logic board itself, based on this image (courtesy of


    I've numbered the pins from the left. Simply take a thin wire and poke it on pins 5 and 29 (second pin from the right) and you will power on your Macbook. I'm quite shakey-handed yet I didn't cause any shorts (I imagine shorting a few pins trying to turn it on would just send those relevant key signals)

    Hopefully, anyone else finding they cannot power on their Macbook at all may be able to rule out the keyboard this way.
  14. NewMacbookPlz macrumors 68040


    Sep 28, 2008
    IIRC you just have to swap out the keyboard units from the topcase. Ton of screws but the connector for power is on the 2.0ghz logic board from what I recall.
  15. bilals macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2010
    It's there just to the right of the keyboard connector in the image above right at the bottom of the logic board, just left of the ram stick.
  16. googan macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2010
    I lost my F6 key :/

    I lost my F6 key of my unibody mac pro after coffee spillage. :/
    There was no sugar in the coffee. However there is a remnant of coffee which results the F6 key not functioning condition. I saw some brown colored areas under the key, when I remove it.

    How should i clean it. Is using a hypo and some alcohol applicable?
  17. ChristianTed macrumors newbie

    Sep 10, 2008
    bilals - Just wondered how you got on with fixing the Mac unibody with liquid damage? Got the same problem.
  18. sheela macrumors newbie

    Mar 10, 2010
    Replace laptop keyboard keys

    I know of such a website which sells individual laptop keys and trust me you don’t have to buy a new keyboard for just a single key. They sell genuine keys with their retainer plastic pieces for just $5. Check out:

    Browse through your brand name, model number and order your required key. It’s that simple.
    The best part is, you can repair your broken laptop keys yourself by watching the video tutorials on the website.
  19. bilals macrumors newbie

    Jan 9, 2010
    Really sorry for not responding sooner but I've only just seen your post. The Macbook is more or less fully functional now. I had to spend about £80 or so on parts (keyboard, DVD slot, IR/lid sensor cable) but I've been using it since my post up there without any real problems. The DVD drive was hit the worst - occasionally it needs a few goes to read discs and I think it isn't burning correctly (burnt a few music CDs for my car and some start skipping towards the end but it could be the CDRs themselves).

    Hope it worked out for you
  20. njl macrumors regular

    Mar 15, 2009
    Gonna try these guys out, thanks for the link!
  21. Sgreen7491 macrumors newbie

    Feb 26, 2013
    I have new keys new scissors, and new gummy thing for under the key in the middle no problem.... (My gummy thing fell off too). HOW DO I ATTACH THE GUMMY PART TO THE KEYBOARD??
  22. devonbuy macrumors newbie

    Mar 14, 2013
    If you're planning to replace the entire keyboard...

    Replacing single keys are fine and probably the easiest way to go.

    I can tell you for a fact that replacing the entire keyboard can almost drive you nuts. It's not impossible though, but takes some effort. I have personally attempted this when the keyboard on my mid-2010 13" MacBook Pro failed on me. Seemed the Shift key was constantly depressed, even when it wasn't physically down.

    I bought a replacement keyboard, took the MacBook apart from underneath, and replaced the keyboard. I have documented the entire process at my site, take a look at but I have to apologise that because I had limited hands to work with, I could not photograph disconnecting the various connectors well enough. But you could figure that one out yourself as I had. Just be very very gentle and don't yank anything off by force! Good luck...
  23. fingertrouble macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2013
    Is it possible to replace a keyboard on the 17" MBP mid 2010?

    I'm being told I have to replace the whole top, which since you can replace the keyboard in the mid 2010 15" and other very similar models of the same age, and replacement A1297 keyboards are available online, I'm suspicious about that - seems like running up the cost of the parts and making their lives easier....because it does look a little fiddly.
  24. Bucephalus macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2013
    Dead Keyboard on MacBook Pro aluminum

    Okay, I removed the keyboard from my macbook pro aluminum, cleaned everything and replaced. Unfortunately, now it turns on, but the keyboard is completely non-functional. I suspect the problem is with the ribbon connector, but I've also reinstalled the ribbon to the clip four times and still no response and no track pad. The cursor works fine with an external mouse hooked up, but none of the keyboard works — nothing. Is there a trick to reinstalling the ribbon? Or is there some other possibility, regarding a dead keyboard and track pad?
  25. DmbShn41 macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2009
    Have to make sure that you reseat that cable perfectly parallel, 90 degrees to the ribbon connector. Once the ribbon is properly seated, you shouldn't see any gold connectors on the ribbon it self all the way across. Also, try doing an SMC reset for good measure.

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27 March 13, 2009