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Firstly, let me say that I've never seen how a laptop's internal keyboard interface with the motherboard. Hence the question.

The thing is I use an external keyboard and monitor, but I like how internal keyboards are, and I simply can't find a decent external keyboard that makes me happy.

So it just occurred to me if it could be possible to interface an internal keyboard through USB or PS/2, so I could use it as an external one... and so I could be happy once and for all.

If anyone wants to know, I ended up buying this keaboard which has a key-layout exactly like a laptop's. It hasn't the touch feel of a real laptop's keyboard (it's noisier), but that was the best I could find at that time.

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In laptops, the keyboard controller circuitry is located on-motherboard, so the keyboard connects directly with a matrix cable. While there's no technical reason why someone couldn't make a USB controller suitable for laptop keyboards, I'm not aware of any company that does so. – jcrawfordor Aug 14 '11 at 3:15
@jcrawfordor: Typing on the flat table might not be so handy with a laptop keyboard... – Tom Wijsman Aug 14 '11 at 6:15
I wish a kickstarter comes around with a laptop keyboard (like Thinkpad's) that is NOT compact & integrates touchpad. – Error Apr 26 '14 at 8:53

13 Answers 13

You just have to ask for it and a good computer shop will simply order it from their distributor.

Here is a catalog of most Acer Laptop Keyboards, please note that this is not a store but rather an extensive catalog, they share the same product code/name as the manufacturers/distributors.

To make the process easier, look for a product code at the bottom of your laptop keyboard.

This keyboard on icecat is compatible with Aspire 4736G/4736Z Series, product code: KB.INT00.261.

Instructions from the service guide hosted on icecat: (Remove power connector and power first!):

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Extensive walk thru +1 – MadBoy Aug 7 '11 at 15:32
erm why did this answer gets 11 votes when it is off-topic to the question? – Pacerier Aug 14 '11 at 2:19
@Pacerier: Because I answered on your original question which did not clearly state that. Writing the wrong questions gets you the wrong answers, it's not our fault given that multiple users did it this way. There is no way to remove this mess just because you changed the intention over time. To answer your adjusted question: You can look into USB keyboard of the same producer, they would most likely share the qualities of the laptop keyboard. But no, they don't usually make the exact same keyboard... – Tom Wijsman Aug 14 '11 at 6:13
Tom I merged Pacerier's question with a related one, but this answer is no longer really relevant. I feel it should probably be removed. If you agree, flag it and we can delete it for you. – nhinkle Aug 14 '11 at 19:35
I know that the question's scope changed; regardless, it doesn't really do anybody any good to migrate it back, and I don't think it's worth bothering a dev about - it takes time, would require manual editing of the database, and doesn't really add much of anything. Why not just write a Community FAQ about how to replace a laptop's keyboard, and call it a day? Your answer is basically just a copied picture anyways, which is useful, but nothing you can't easily adapt to a new post. – nhinkle Aug 18 '11 at 2:36
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Doing some research, it turns out that laptop keyboards dont have the controller circuit. They are just the keys with the contacts, and that ribbon cable connects those contacts to the controller circuits which is inside the laptop.
So there is no way to convert that ribbon cable alone to a PS/2 interface. You need first the controller circuit, and only then you can think about converting it to a PS/2 plug.

And depending on how the keyboard's wire matrix is, the ribbon cable will have more or less contacts which match those on the controller. So you either need the exact same controller for the keyboard you want, or you can get a controller from a spare keyboard and manage to rewire the connections to the controller so they match correctly.

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I did little googling and found how it works inside. Basically every keyboard works the same, when a key is pressed, then current flows between two of the wires on the ribbon cable.

The controller circuit can be taken from any (old) keyboard and you would only need to solder the wires together. Of course then the keys would be probably mixed up randomly, but custom keyboard layout in OS would fix it.

Here are links for techies:

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Internal keyboards typically use a PS/2 interface, but the connectors are not designed in such a way that they could be used easily externally from the laptop. Here is an image of a keyboard being replaced; you can see how the keyboard is attached by a narrow ribbon cable. This is not an industry-standard connection, and varies from laptop to laptop.

laptop keyboard ribbon

If you are looking for a keyboard which feels like a laptop keyboard, there are some that exist. Apple's keyboards have a style almost identical to the popuplar "chiclet" style of keyboard found on many laptops today. They are however very expensive, and I don't personally like the aesthetic.

apple keyboard

Newegg sells a wireless keyboard from i-rocks which is very similar to older non-chiclet laptop keyboards. I haven't personally used it, but it has decent reviews.

newegg's keyboard

Newegg also sells a similar design from Rosewell which looks even more appealing to me:

rosewill keyboard

And Microsoft makes a very nice, spill-resistant, laptop-style keyboard as well, the Digital Media Keyboard 3000. You can probably find it from other retailers as well if you want. I've used one of these before and liked it very much.

Microsoft keyboard

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Another thing I like about laptop keyboards is that they don't have the numpad. That thing just takes space. – GetFree Sep 5 '10 at 5:40
what do you mean by spill-resistent? keyboards can't possibly be water-resistant right? – Pacerier Aug 15 '11 at 3:30
I'm pretty sure it's not PS2. PS2 only requires 4 wires... – UpTheCreek May 15 '12 at 17:19

A laptop keyboard connects via a ribbon cable, so you would first need to find some way to adapt that ribbon cable to a ps2 or USB connector. Laptop keyboard are also very flat, so it would be difficult to type on in my opinion. Here is basically what you would be dealing with:

alt text

Unless you like to make and modify stuff I would look harder for a real keyboard that you like... or maybe get a roll up keyboard or search for slim keyboards at Newegg.

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The only stand-alone laptop-like keyboard I've seen is this: Lenovo ThinkPad USB Keyboard with TrackPoint

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Keysonic appears to be a company that make keyboards with "notebook" layouts, though they all appear to be wireless rather than USB, though I would expect them to come with a USB wireless converter.

While it may not exactly match your machine I suspect it is the closest you will get.

Check out the Keysonic Compact Wireless Keyboard

There is also the Toshiba Slim Keyboard - Notebook Layout that is very similar in style to a notebook keyboard but has a separate number pad.

In general though "notebook layout" keyboards do not appear to be very popular and I would not expect to find one that exactly matches your current keyboard, simply because there are likely to be too many slight variations of notebook keyboards and the design work necessary to turn every one of those in to full working keyboards would be insane.

The keyboard you see in front of you on your laptop is generally just a passive set of wires and contacts and to turn it in to a full USB keyboard would require a keyboard-USB controller, a case, cable and everything and given that there are already a lot of compact keyboards out there to choose from I would not expect any manufacturer to go to the effort.

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@Pacerier I've updated my answer. – Mokubai Aug 14 '11 at 9:05
ok btw the first link is broken.. – Pacerier Aug 14 '11 at 15:46
@Pacerier, my real link (…) is being "fixed" automatically by the site, the "true" link works, the replacement one doesn't. – Mokubai Aug 14 '11 at 18:45

There are controller circuits that will convert a laptop keyboard to usb, i'm currently using one. I'm not sure where you can get them but they obviously exist. They are used to create keyboards for tablets.

Laptop keyboard to usb

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Where did you get the one you are using? – GetFree Oct 22 '15 at 22:48

I also like Laptop keyboards as opposed to regular ones.

I used to use an older version of this keyboard:

Buying a wireless keyboard/mouse suite may not be what you want to do, especially if you are not fond of the wireless mouse idea, but the keyboard was pretty excellent (at least when I used it)

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If you need a replacement part, the best source is one of the several outfits that disassemble damaged laptops into component parts.

If you want a desktop keyboard that matches your laptop keyboard, lotsa luck. I prefer a "compact" keyboard without the extra keypad, etc, and they are scarce as hen's teeth. And the few you can find are poor quality or have the keys laid out strangely. Used to be (maybe 10 years ago) that there was an outfit in Kentucky that made nice keyboards in various styles, but they went out of business, and now all you can find is the standard monstrosity, for the most part.

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i don't want a replacement keyboard. so you mean those USB keyboards that are exact look-aliks as the replacement keyboards are not in the market? – Pacerier Aug 14 '11 at 2:50
I tried several years back to find a nice "compact" keyboard, similar to a laptop keyboard. 99% of the keyboards on the market are clones of the "AT" keyboard, with keypad and loads of extra keys. I did find a couple that were compact, but they had screwy key layouts. Unicomp, the outfit that bought out Lexmark's keyboard biz, and which had a nice assortment of keyboards at one time, was apparently sold to another outfit that has milked it as a cash cow for several years. They still nominally exist, but advertise no compact keyboards other than a wireless one with a flaky layout. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 15 '11 at 3:39

All depends on manufacturer. They must be sold separately, probably just when it's needed to be repaired. When I had accidently wet my keyboard, the guys from Fujitsu (I own Fujitsu) sent me keyboard and I changed it with ease.

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i don't wanna change the keyboard. I want a keyboard that is a twin of the keyboard i currently have (the one stuck into my laptop) that is pluggable into the USB port – Pacerier Aug 14 '11 at 2:51

Yeah, for the most part laptop keyboards aren't usually sold seperately. I've got a Samsung laptop with a busted keyboard so I've set my laptop on a raised surface and am using an off-the-shelf full-size USB desktop keyboard as a stand-in because a replacement laptop keyboard for this particular model isn't available in the 'retail channel' and needed to be specially ordered from a supplier overseas.

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i don't want a replacement keyboard. I want a keyboard that is a twin of the keyboard i currently have (the one stuck into my laptop) that is pluggable into the USB port – Pacerier Aug 14 '11 at 2:48

This is an old question, but one that I've heard many times over the years and until recently never had a good answer for, but now I do so I'll share:

You can use a Ribbon Cable Breakout Board that requires soldering the ribbon cable on. The best thing to start searching for a breakout board might be to look for ones for breaking out laptop LCDs for connecting to FPGAs (its a weirdly common thing). The breakout board has a set of solder points spaced that match those on your keyboards ribbon cable, so you need to measure that and find a breakout board to match. Once you have those wired up the breakout board will give you large enough points to attach wires to connect it to something like the Teensy, which can act as a usb keyboard. You would need to write some code, but it is simple code, and hobby level, so most people can do it with a bit of reading and following a few tutorials.

The most difficult thing would be connecting the ribbon cable to the breakout board. It can be done, but you may ruin a ribbon cable (and the laptop keyboard it is attached to) or a few in your attempts, so if you are going to try be prepared to buy more hardware in the case you don't get it right the first try. Maybe try with some broken keyboards first (you can probably get some cheap from a PC recycling store).

This might be a good option for someone who has found a keyboard that really works well for them, and is committed to making it work outside the laptop it is designed for.

Everyone has their own taste in interface devices and it can be difficult to find a good fit for some people, so I hope this helps some of those with tastes/needs that do not fit into the usual spectrum of shelf-found products.

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