What Is a Hot Swappable Keyboard – Seamlessly Swap and Type

Many people who use computers for a long time, like gamers and coders, prefer mechanical keyboards. These keyboards are great because you can change the switches to suit your needs and preferences. There are two types of Printed Circuit Board (PCB) options for mechanical keyboards.

  1. Soldered Switches: To change switches in these types of PCBs, you have to desolder the existing switch and solder the new one which you want to use.
  2. Hot-Swappable Switches: Think of it as a plug-and-play switch option, where you simply pull out the switch using a puller and insert another switch with a slight press.

If you have a hot-swappable keyboard, it has sockets with 3 or 5 holes where you can insert the pins of the switch to connect it. The good thing about hot-swappable keyboards is that they save you time and money. You can try different types of switches to see which one works best for you.

This type of keyboard is also great because you can change the switches easily if they ever break or stop working, which means your keyboard will last longer.

What Does Hot-Swappable Keyboard Mean?

A hot-swappable keyboard is a mechanical keyboard that allows you to change the switches. This means you can switch between different types of keys, like linear, tactile, and clicky, without buying a new keyboard.

It’s like having multiple keyboards in one! This can make a big difference when you write, code, or play games. Another benefit of a hot-swappable keyboard is that you can change the keycaps to make your keyboard look the way you want it to. You can choose from different colors and designs, like padded keycaps or unique fonts. Having a keyboard, you like can make working on the computer more enjoyable!

Answered: Are All Mechanical Keyboards Hot-Swappable?

Hot Swappable Switches – 3 Pins vs. 5 Pins

The sockets in the PCBs enabled with the hot-swappable feature come either in 3-pin or 5-pin design, and accordingly, the switches are available in 3-pins as well as 5-pins.

The structure of the switches is almost the same with a thick central plastic pin, also known as the dome, and 2 metallic pins. The central dome helps the switch firmly fit into the socket and keeps the switch stable. In a 5-pin switch, there are two additional plastic pins on two opposite ends to provide additional stability to the switch.

A 3-pin switch can be placed directly in the socket made for a 5-pin switch, but a 5-pin switch cannot be placed in a 3-pin socket directly. Though there is a quick way to convert a 5-pin switch to a 3-pin switch by simply removing the 2 additional plastic pins. The plastic pins can be clipped using a sharp cutter so that there is no stump left.

How to Swap the Keyboard Switches?

To change the switches on your mechanical keyboard, you’ll need a keycap puller and a switch puller. Here are the steps:

  1. Take a picture of the keyboard before removing the keycaps so you can refer to it later.
  2. Use the keycap puller to remove the keycap. Put the puller on the edges of the keycap and gently pull it out.
  3. Underneath the keycap, you will see the switch. Use the switch puller to press the tabs on the switch and gently pull it out.
  4. Align the pins of the new switch with the socket holes. Make sure they’re properly aligned so you don’t bend the pins. Gently push the switch into the socket.
  5. Plug the keyboard into your computer and test the new switch to make sure it works.

Pros and Cons

keyboard switches

Pros of Hot Swappable Switches:

  • Achieve a customized typing experience: Mechanical keyboards allow you to change the switches to suit your needs and preferences. You can switch between different types of switches to find the ones that work best for you.
  • Faulty switches can be easily replaced: If one of your switches stops working, you can replace it without having to buy a new keyboard. This saves you money and ensures that your keyboard lasts longer.
  • Easy to maintain: Mechanical keyboards are easy to maintain because you can open them up, clean them, and put them back together. This helps keep your keyboard in good condition for a long time.
  • Cost-efficient: Although mechanical keyboards can be more expensive than regular keyboards, they can be a cost-efficient choice in the long run. You can replace individual switches rather than buying a whole new keyboard, which can save you money over time.
  • Remapping capability: Some mechanical keyboards offer the ability to remap keys. This means you can change the function of a key to suit your needs, which can be helpful for programming, gaming, or other tasks.

Cons of Hot Swappable Switches:

  • Sockets and switches can wear out over time with frequent replacements.
  • Sometimes, the connection between the switch and socket may not be consistent.
  • Switches can sometimes be a bit wobbly and may require the use of stabilizers under the switches.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can we convert a soldered PCB keyboard to a hot-swappable keyboard?

Yes, you can convert a PCB keyboard to a hot-swappable keyboard. But, it isn’t worth it as there are multiple hot-swappable options available. Multiple hot-swap sockets can be soldered into the PCB, and then you can start using them by plugging in the switches. These sockets need to be soldered very carefully on the PCBs.

Can we change the switches on a non-hot-swappable keyboard?

Yes, but it is very inconvenient to do so and needs a lot of expertise to de-solder the existing keys and precisely solder the new ones. Moreover, in most cases, you’ll end up breaking your PCB as your switches will require a lot of force to be removed. 

Which is better: Soldered or Hot-Swappable keyboards?

The decision to choose one of these two purely depends on the individual priority and usage. If you want to have a different typing experience for different needs, you should definitely choose a hot-swappable keyboard. For example, if you want to enjoy a game on a tactile switch, while you prefer a silent switch for office work, then a hot-swappable keyboard will be highly suitable for you.

On the other hand, if you like to stick to the same typing experience every time, then you can opt for a soldered one. But, still, you should consider a hot-swappable as you can anytime replace a faulty switch easily.

In general, we’re big fans of hot-swappable keyboards as they tend to give you a lot more room to explore with various switches.

Related Articles:

Best 60% mechanical keyboards
Are Mechanical Keyboards Too Loud For Office?
Will Mechanical Keyboard Increase Your Typing Speed?

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I work from home. To do the best possible job I need the right accessories - the right desk, the right chair, the right keyboard, the right monitor, etc. When I work I want to feel comfortable. I review everything that's related to home desk setup - focusing on Monitors & Keyboards.