Apple Keyboard A1243 Disassembly

So – you (or one of your users) spills coffee on an Apple keyboard — what to do?
Well with previous models, they could disassembled with some some effort, and be washed. (G5 KB, G4 KB, & more)
Well I don’t think this is gonna be happening for the new keyboards…
First, no screws, only adhesive and welds.

Putty Knife in Keyboard

You can work it open with a putty knife. Avoid the red areas at the top, that is the extent of the arms of the ribbon cable inside, a putty knife will wreck them quite quickly.

Once you worked the putty knife all around the safe areas, attempt to pull the white plastic bottom (with a metal backer glued to it) open like a book, pivoting on the area you couldn’t work around.

Keyboard Sticky Back

That’s about it… You can unscrew the USB interface from the white plastic well, but the cord is captive, because the wires are soldered to the board. You can desolder the wires from the board or snip the white plastic if you want take the board out.

The keyboard itself is attached to the aluminum top with 147 welds, rather than the ~30 screws it used to have.

Keyboard back and Aluminum Top

I was able to pull it off using some vice grips on a corner I pried up.
There’s no going back after this, both frames will bend and warp as the welds pop off.

So you’ll be left with a bunch of keys still attached to the keyboard on little white plastic clips in various ways.

These keys are all attached the same and are easy to take off: Top row keys, arrow keys, Option, Command, Shift, return, tab, caps lock, Space.
They will have a plastic mechanical that has small plastic tabs in the metal frame, just push the tiny nub out of the fram and key is free.
The letter keys however I found difficult, the key top can be taken off easily by pulling up sideways but the plastic underneath is hooked on top and bottom by the metal frame. It needs to be pushed from the bottom toward the top and a black stick put under the top corner so it pops off the frame’s hook, the same can be done, for the other side, or if you twist it right, it will unhook from the bottom and come off.

After you have taken all the bottom plastic key mechanicals off, you can easily take off the two plastic layers.

Keyboard Bottom Layers

The top layer is a simple plastic sheet with the rubber nipples that press down and give the keys spring.

Keyboard Top Plastic

The next layer is new, what was once three sheets (two sheets of circuit traces and a buffer in between) is now one laminated whole . While you’d hope this makes the keyboard more impervious to spills and perhaps it does, it precludes the ability to wash and dry like the old keyboards. (You had to act quick though, coffee and coke eat though the traces really fast!) Putty knives are also really bad for circuit traces (see the mangled ribbon cable)

Keyboard Trace Layer Keyboard Trace Sammich

Well that’s about all I learned, next time perhaps I will try simply soaking the keyboard in water then drying for a week or two, but a chance at some first hand dissection was too tempting. :)

Keyboard Finale

6 thoughts on “Apple Keyboard A1243 Disassembly

  1. Hey did you try soaking the keyboard in water as you said you would? Do you think that would clean?

  2. Hi, have you any other pictures of circuit traces?
    My keyboard is broken after some drops of coffee – big drops of coffee. After that left control and second row with numbers don’t responding.

    Can you help me with finding traces of this keys?

    Thanks.

  3. Nope, sorry… Time for one of those ugly “McDonald’s-cash-register” plastic keyboard covers!

    But the real issue is disassembly isn’t it? Circuit traces can be repaired with a circuit writing pen that writes in a conductive polymer, sometimes you have to gently scrape the plastic to expose a good trace then draw the rest to connect over the damaged area, at least that’s was up until the G5 keyboard, after that, I don’t know how to get past all those spot welds that hold the keyboard film in place?

  4. I managed today to get my hands on a dead one of these keyboards – was curious to get into it myself, and the trick to getting past the spot welds is to use a 1/8-inch drillbit. The weld spots on the backing plate are recessed so that the bit won’t skid around as you drill. There will be an ever-so-slight lifting of the metal as you get through it so you can separate the aluminum face from the metal back. The mylar trace panel has holes where the weld recesses are, so you’ll not be drilling through any of the circuitry. The BIG problem appears to be that the top and bottom mylar elements with the traces are fused together so that getting to the damaged areas to redraw the circuitry is nearly impossible. I’m going to get my hands on a few more dead keyboards and keep at it until I figure out.

    Deb.

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