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My mom's been using an old laptop whose keyboard appears to have broken. The problem manifests itself such that some keys group themselves into groups of three such that when she presses any one key in the group it presses the other two as well. The on-screen keyboard functions normally, indicating that it's the hardware that's the problem. Could cleaning the keyboard possibly fix the problem, or should I just write off the laptop?

EDIT: It's a Compaq Presario R4000

I haven't tried cleaning it yet. I can, but I guess I was doubtful that it could be fixed from that since it appears to be a problem more with the circuitry than the mechanics. For example, pressing either 'a', 's', or 'return' causes all three keys to be pressed, which couldn't possibly be a mechanical problem. But computers work in mysterious ways so I suppose it can't hurt to try.

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Have you tried taking off the keys and seeing if there is something stuck under there? –  soandos Dec 14 '11 at 7:05
    
Maintenance manuals are often available from the OEMs website containing instructions for simple repairs such as cleaning/replacing the keyboard. What make model of laptop is this? –  Tog Dec 14 '11 at 7:58
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You can try the following:

  1. Disassembling and cleaning your laptop keyboard.
  2. You can try to change the keyboard of your mom's old laptop if you can buy a new one.
  3. You can also use an external USB keyboard as a permanent keyboard for your laptop. On my old laptop (from 2002) it is the only feasible solution and it works well both in BIOS and on logon screen.
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