General discussion

Macbook keyboard problem

Hey all,

wondering if anyone might know what the issue is here. Late 2009 macbook 13in unibody. All the keys working fine in uppercase (capitals) but 4 keys (5,t,g,b) when in lower case are either not working or typing random letters numbers signs (ie: LiUoo%6*bn)

i attached an external keyboard and lowercase works fine so not a text to speech issue

Is this a shorted out issue as i think? As all keys are in a diagonal line. As i said, what confuses me is the keys all works fine with caps on.

will it just take a new topcase? How much does this cost to repair (in the UK btw)

any replies greatly appreciated.

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That would indicate a keyboard problem

and replacement is necessary.

As to how much it would cost, that is between you and the Apple Authorized Service Provider that you take it to.

Not sure if the keyboard is integral to the top case or not


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First thing I'd do

First thing I'd do is reset the PRAM. Unlikely to really solve the problem, but takes like 5 seconds to try.

And the good news is that if an external keyboard works properly, it's not likely a logic board issue, so it will be economical to repair as opposed to it being better to just get a new system.

Now, there is one thing you could try, but it depends on A) whether or not you have AppleCare on this still, and B) how comfortable you are with the prospect of removing the bottom cover and tinkering with things. If it's out of warranty, you can remove the bottom cover, disconnect the battery, then reseat the keyboard flex cable. It's a flat cable, maybe about an inch wide, and you should see it around the middle of the case kind of wedged between the logic board and the battery.

There's a little locking lever for the connector at the top, and you just use your fingernail to carefully lift that up. If you break it, you'll need a new logic board, so CAREFULLY. Then using some non-conductive tool, work the cable out of the port, then put it back in. When it's all the way in, you should only be able to see a small part of the gray colored bit, the rest should look black. Where the two different colors meet is what you should see just barely sticking out of the connector. Put the locking lever back down, connect the battery, and test out the keyboard.

If that doesn't resolve the issue, the entire top case has to be replaced. The keyboard is not a separate part. It's actually not that expensive. I'd say probably less than $200 for the part, maybe another $100 for labor (it's a PITA to replace a top case on a unibody... You have to take the entire system apart and rebuild it on the new top case).

Now if it's still under AppleCare, do NOT try anything on your own, take immediately to the nearest Apple store or AASP, do not pass go, do not collect $200... Make it Apple's problem to fix. Same deal if you have some kind of store warranty with a place like Best Buy or Fry's. You touch it, and they catch you out on it, then you just voided your contract.

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Thanks jimmy...

Sadly i do not have apple care i purchased refurbed from Canada 5 months ago and now back in Ireland.

THanks so much for your detailed reply much appreciated. Not sure i would have the confidence to try to fix it myself, perhaps i'll give it a go slowly using your guided explanation of what to try as even $300 dollars is a stretch for me right now.

thanks again

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Was that an Apple Refurbished or

some dealer?

If Apple refurbished, then you machine is under warranty for another 7 months and also eligible for AppleCare.


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Not Apple

got it from a company called 'computerconceptsdotca' in canada. i am now home in Ireland with no warranty.

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I think I see some good news.

When you wrote 5,t,g,b I thought "matrix scan line failure."

Hang on, bear with me. If you research how keyboards work there is a scan matrix under the keys and a line or row scan failure caused exactly what you wrote.

What's the good news? It's 99.9% sure a new keyboard will fix this. In the meantime you did the right test to verify it's a keyboard failure.

As to the caps lock, that's just going to confuse many and I'll leave it with the advice to change the keyboard.

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Thanks Bob.

appreciate your knowledge here Bob. Thanks for taking the time to look into it. So it looks like a new topcase on the unibody then?

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It's that

It's that or you could just buy one of those bluetooth half-keyboards from Apple and tote that around with your laptop. Would be a lot cheaper, but it would be one more thing to carry around, potentially lose, and you need to be sure to keep a spare set of batteries with you as well since Apple's power management prowess on laptops didn't quite make it into things like their wireless keyboards, mice, and trackpads.

Still, you could probably buy 2-3 of those keyboards for the cost of the topcase replacement, so might be something worth considering.

It might also not be a bad idea to call Apple Ireland and see if maybe there is a limited warranty on that unit. Worst case scenario is they confirm it is out of warranty, but you may get lucky. And on occasion Apple has been known to give people free repairs seemingly on a whim. Again, worst case is you're right back where you started. Apple's warranties are good world-wide BTW, so it doesn't matter where you bought it.

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