Source of butterfly KB issues?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by CallMyBookie, Apr 14, 2019.

  1. CallMyBookie, Apr 14, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019

    CallMyBookie macrumors newbie

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    Apr 14, 2019
    #1
    Does anyone on the forum know what is actually causing the issues? Mine had several keys that didn't hold themselves up on one side. What's going on? Is this because an internal piece of plastic is shattering under strain, or what -- why don't they make the plastic parts out of metal then? In three years surely they must have found the source of the problem that keys are *breaking*.

    I had a Macbook 12" but once it needed its second keyboard repair in the first year, I went back to my Pro. I consider the previous 13" retina the best Apple laptop that is currently available. Count me in the group that says the butterfly keyboard needs a complete redesign before I'll spend money on a replacement for a still-working computer, there is the clacking noise of the keys and just the generally unfriendly feeling that they don't move much.
     
  2. chekie macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2013
    #2
    The most accepted theory is debris, dust or crumb getting stuck under the keys.
    Those butterfly keys have such shallow travel that those small foreign objects could completely block them from actuating. 2018 version macbook keyboard has a thin film under the keys to prevent debris from getting under. But it seems to do very little to help.
    So what you can do is to keep a clean environment for keyboard. Try not to eat around it.
     
  3. smirking, Apr 14, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019

    smirking macrumors 68000

    smirking

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    #3
    I would suspect it's multifactoral and there are probably batches of them that are more susceptible than others. I had a BTO 2016 15" tbMBP that I didn't take any special care of. It got some on and off again stuck keys for the first year. It happened more often at first and completely stopped happening after one year. After 18 months, my battery was indicating that it would need a replacement so I went from not taking special care of the keyboard to being a bit neglectful to see if I could cause it to break down on me.

    It did indeed break, but not in the way expected. It didn't jam. It didn't become unresponsive. I intentionally hit some of the keys so hard while typing that I snapped the binding for one of the keys, which resulted in one side of the key being collapsed in so that the key would actuate unless you hit it dead in the center. I was able to deal with this for a few months before my battery replacement by removing that broken keycap and turning it upside down so that it would actuate when I hit the lower edge of the key (which is where I tended to hit it).

    That keyboard didn't die. I don't think it was just a matter of time either. I've eaten around it. I never cleaned it. I beat the hell out of it. Once I knew I'd be getting a topcase replacement for a battery in the future, I intentionally left it to build up dust and grime for two months. The only reason I cleaned it after 2 months was because it was starting to gross me out. I don't think I would have learned anything more from continuing to be a slob.

    The cleanings I have done on it never involved compressed air. I find that suggestion dubious. I just used water or glasses cleaner on a paper towel and wiped it down.

    I'm sure if I threw sand on it, it'd start jamming, but the copy I had was not fragile... that is, the switches were not fragile. The keycaps were, but the keycaps on their previous MBPs were not exactly made of iron either. My wife's a hard striking hunt and peck typist and she's broken those before.

    Anyway, in my first year of ownership of that 2016 when I was dealing with a jam once every 1 to 2 months, I was usually able to get it right again by pressing down and jiggling the key in a clockwise manner. Give that a shot.
     
  4. CallMyBookie thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 14, 2019
    #4
    Well, I bought the 2015 model in 2016 and it was 2017 when it broke the first time, but they still replaced mine with a bad batch -- maybe they hadn't replaced it at all and just applied percussive maintenance.
     
  5. niji Contributor

    niji

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2003
    Location:
    tokyo
    #5
    exactly.

    which will prompt the statement from many users in this forum:
    that this is not a reasonable request.

    i think there seems to be a lot of Macrumors "keyboard issues" complainers who seem to be eating a lot of powdered sugar donuts (or their equivalent) in front of their computer.
     
  6. mdnz macrumors 6502

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    Apr 14, 2010
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #6
    So you think it's okay if a $3000 laptop breaks if you do that? How come none of the other laptops have this issue? A laptop is something you use, not something you baby.
     
  7. leman macrumors G3

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    Oct 14, 2008
    #7
    As mentioned before, the most likely cause is dust and debris accumulating under the keys and eventually breaking the switches. Evidence for this is the fact that cleaning the keyboard with pressurized air helps in the majority of cases and that the new silicone membrane did seem to drive down the complaints considerably. Some people argue that it’s the heat, but do far, I haven’t seen any evidence for this. Most likely the batch theory is also correct, there are multiple manufacturers if the keyboard and some are probably lower quality.

    It is also likely that the user is a risk factor since there seems to be a high risk of recurrence. This suggests that user behavior or environment has a big impact.
     
  8. No. 44 macrumors member

    No. 44

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    Electric Larryland
    #8
    I agree, and if Apple could just get rid of the "user", the risk of failure would most certainly be reduced.

    The solution: Don't let anyone use the keyboard...
     
  9. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    Boston
    #9
    If they keep making laptops with the butterfly keyboard they will do just that :p

    Seriously, the design is flawed, and while avoiding situations such as eating or dusty may help. We've seen enough anecdotel evidence to suggest that people who bent over backwards at keeping their laptops in pristine and clean condition succumbed to the failure. Something about blaming the consumer for the failure rubs me the wrong way. I can't put my finger on it, but I think its wrong to say its user error, on the scale that these have failed in the past. Its my opinion that the membrane has helped, and the failure rates have dropped but it did not completely fix the issue.
     
  10. SDColorado Contributor

    SDColorado

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    Highlands Ranch, CO
    #10
    Victim blaming seems to be a common defense of Apple's design flaw in regards to these keyboards, but let us be realistic. The world is made of dirt and water and dust happens. There are plenty of other factors that can create motes of dust and debris ranging from clothing fibers to dander to pet hair, dry wall, ceiling panels in offices, carpet fibers, etc.
    It moves through our ventilation systems and ductwork, it stirs up when we move around, etc.

    Unless you are going to operate in a filtered clean room or never remove the computer from the sealed box, it is unreasonable to expect that it will never be exposed to dust and that has nothing whatsoever to do with eating around it. While eating around the keyboard may be *a* factor, I don't think anyone has ever shown in any conclusive way that it is the only one or even the leading cause of failure.
     
  11. petvas macrumors 601

    petvas

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    Mannheim, Germany
    #11
    I am not trying to defend Apple here. They should have made a keyboard that never fails. Having said though, I wouldn't eat something with powder in front of my expensive computer. At least if I did, I would be very careful not to throw anything on the computer. This applies to all my computers, Windows and Macs. I try to take care of my computers and keep them as clean as possible. I have two Windows PCs from work and a MacBook Pro and I clean all of them regularly.
     
  12. filmbuff macrumors 6502a

    filmbuff

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    #12
    I try to take care of things I paid $3000 for.
     
  13. leman macrumors G3

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    Oct 14, 2008
    #13
    Who is blaming the consumer? o_O
     
  14. ascender macrumors 68020

    ascender

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    Dec 8, 2005
    #14
    There were also reports on some tech podcasts a while back which said that some batches of the metal used in the mechanism were failing under normal use within expected tolerances.
     
  15. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #15
    There's been quite a number of posts over the years here that have blamed the user for the failures, I was not calling any one member out, but rather the theme of blaming anyone other then Apple.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 15, 2019 ---
    I'm not sure I undestand your point, are you saying they were failing but the numbers were within acceptable numbers?
     
  16. SDColorado Contributor

    SDColorado

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    #16
    I wouldn't either. I would imagine most people would not. Nor is there any evidence to support that "something with powder" is the leading cause of keyboard failures. I would suggest the leading cause of Apple butterfly keyboard failures is a flaw in the design, not what people eat or where they use it. There is a reason they are on Gen. 3 and still experiencing issues and I doubt we can blame powdered donuts for the vast majority of failures.
     
  17. Fishrrman macrumors P6

    Fishrrman

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #17
    "Does anyone on the forum know what is actually causing the issues?"

    Heat
    Dust
    Bad design
     
  18. mdnz macrumors 6502

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    The Netherlands
    #18
    Cool, me too. You need surgical gloves in order to take care of this one though.
     
  19. ascender macrumors 68020

    ascender

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    Dec 8, 2005
    #19
    Sorry, no. It wasn't very well written was it?!

    The metal in the keys was failing under what was considered to be normal operating conditions.

    I guess Apple outsource components to different companies and specify tolerances which must be met by the supplied goods. All it takes is for one batch to be sub-par, but manage to somehow make it in to a bunch of laptops and you could have a pretty large number of faulty laptops just waiting to break.
     
  20. SDColorado Contributor

    SDColorado

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    #20
    Metal warping as ascender has heard podcasts suggest?
    Powdered donut addiction?
    dome switches failing?
    Pollen? There was an earlier thread about outdoor use and whether or not using it on your balcony or deck could be a factor. Really? I "pro" device that you can't use outside and on site?
     
  21. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #21
    I see, thanks for the clarification.
     
  22. CallMyBookie thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 14, 2019
    #22
    So, like the princess and the pea, the keys were designed and tested to be struck from above, but if there's a piece of debris under the key, it causes an inordinate amount of stress to the butterfly mechanism. That's an issue they didn't think of or plan for, and it's design-level. I guess it took a while before they really identified the problem, and the 2018 version might alleviate it, but not really fix it.

    Maybe some space foam inside each key would prevent ingress and also make the key travel softer? Or maybe they're going to add a shield to the bottom of the switch? Hopefully the 2019 version will have something new and I can finally buy the new Air.
     
  23. chekie macrumors member

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    Sep 11, 2013
    #23
    LOL. That is exactly what I have been doing.

    I have a 2018 MacBook Pro for 6 months now and I probably have only typed 10 words on its keyboard.
    99.9% of the time I connect it to external monitor and use bluetooth keyboard and mouse. In the meantime, I still keep the original thin white piece of paper between the screen and keyboard at all times. (I need a laptop because I spend equal amount of time at home and office working and I don't want to deal with data syncing)

    It is ridiculous to blame users for not using it in sterile environment, while the real issue is that the keyboard is so poorly designed. My friend owned a 2011 MacBook air and used it in the kitchen all the time to watch videos or look at recipes while cooking. It was almost soaked in flour and crumbs everyday. Yet the keyboard still held up well after years of use before she sold it.
     
  24. marianFCBT macrumors newbie

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    Dec 8, 2018
    Location:
    Botosani, Romania
    #24
    I agree with you all, because this is a really embarassing issue for a laptop that costs 1200$+, but I have a question: if the keyboards used by Apple aren't reliable, are the third party from Ebay any better? Has anyone had such a keyboard? Are they more reliable, or are they just as bad as the ones from Apple?
     
  25. Garage Battle macrumors regular

    Garage Battle

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    Orlando, FL
    #25
    Tim Cook and some Apple engineers.

    I'd wager its not as strict/critical of a design environment now that Steve is gone so the quality is shooting downhill rapidly. Thats why Apples computer division is extremely polarized atm. One of the most powerful companies in the tech industry with a reputation of building top level hardware now cannot accomplish this anymore due to poor choices. Its a direct reflection of the management.
     

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