My laptop's keyboard is prone to buttons sticking. The fix is to just press the same button again.

Now when it is the letter/number keys are stuck, it's just a matter of putting the cursor in a text field, and seeing what characters appear.

However, when it is one of the modifier keys, or tab, or enter or a few other buttons, it gets harder to tell which key is to blame. Trying to type can result in all sort of shortcuts being triggered. Is there anyway to test what input is being recieved?

Also, I'm guessing this is a hardware issue, but if anyone knows of any possible causes/solutions it'd be appreciated. It's a Dell Studio 17, and the problem occurs under Windows and Linux.

  • Is your laptop still under warranty? – Kez Aug 22 '09 at 16:27
  • @ezwi: Yes, but I'd rather avoid the hassle of sending it off for a month. – Macha Aug 22 '09 at 16:28

You could probably hack something together with autohotkey, it has functions to detect keystates.


Try PassMark Keyboard test This program allows you to press a key combination and a graphical display of the keyboard appears on screen. It tells you which keys the computer thinks you are pressing and then you can determine which keys are stuck.

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    Doesn't support my keyboard layout (Irish keyboard). It has a few US keyboards, and a "International" keyboard, which is equally far from mine. – Macha Aug 22 '09 at 16:23
  • Try autohotkey, as the other post suggests then. – ephilip Aug 22 '09 at 16:28

Further to the suggestion of using something written in AutoHotkey, it seems that someone has already done it: osdHotkey. Very useful indeed.


Kinda old question, but I found it while looking for an answer, so...

You can just try the MS applet on this website. No installation and it's free.



Windows comes with an On-Screen Keyboard (Accessories >> Accessibility/Ease of Access >> On-Screen Keyboard) which highlights whatever modifier keys are being held down. I'd image most Linux distros have a similar accessibility feature too.

Chances are the cause is just a sticky keyboard - you should be able to prise the offending keys off and clean the contacts with a very slightly damn cotton bud.

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    Since the keyboard in question is a Dell laptop, I suggest NOT trying to remove the keys. I have never been able to replace a key once it came off a laptop keyboard. – Mike Cooper Aug 22 '09 at 17:51

In the first instance, maybe give the keyboard a damn good blow with a can of compressed air, in case there is debris under the keys. Biscuits are GREAT for screwing up keyboards.

Failing that, I would give Dell technical support a call and explain your problem as it is still under warranty. It would save you some time if you ran through the diagnostics (F12 on boot up and then select the diagnostic option) before calling. It might save them getting you to do it while on the phone.

(sorry if this does not apply to you-) Over here in the UK, if you tell them that you're comfortable changing the keyboard and ask nicely, they will just send the part and let you do it yourself. Not sure whether this will work in your neck of the woods but worth a go nevertheless, nothing to lose right?

Trying to fix it yourself might end in a completely broken key. If you are lucky enough to remove the key without snapping the plastic, the scissor mechanism is a pain the backside to put back together again.

  • @the last paragraph. It's not any particular key that is sticking. All the keys have stuck at some point. – Macha Aug 22 '09 at 16:46
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    Okie dokie, sorry - just a suggestion in case you were going to try some of the other suggestions and find out that it is a select handful of keys that you want to try and fix. If you try can of compressed air suggestion, don't spray it on your arm, it hurts. – Kez Aug 22 '09 at 16:49

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