Can You Replace Switches on a Mechanical Keyboard?

Can You Replace Switches on a Mechanical Keyboard? Of course you can, if one of the switches on the mechanical keyboard is damaged or you want to replace all the switches on your mechanical keyboard, you can replace them as long as the switches have the same number of pins and have the same pin positions. You cannot replace optical switches with mechanical switches because optical switches use a different type of PCB.

To get a better typing experience, the mechanical keyboard can allow you to change the switches according to your needs. Currently available mechanical keyboards that use Hot Swappable PCBs which make it easy to replace switches without having to solder them and also mechanical keyboards with standard PCBs that require you to desolder the switch when opening it and solder the switch when installing it.

Understanding the difference in the number of pins on a mechanical switch

Pins on mechanical switches have a function as a liaison between the switch and the PCB. The pin has a function to send an electrical signal to the PCB which will be converted into input by the PCB to the computer.

Mechanical keyboard switches are divided into 2 based on the number of pins used, namely switches with 3 pins and switches with 5 pins. Here’s the explanation:

Switch with 3 Pins

Switch with 3 Pins
Switch with 3 Pins

Switches with 3 pins have a 2 pin design made of metal or iron which is usually gold in color and a round pin in the middle. Switches with 3 pins are the most widely used mechanical keyboard products on the market today. Switches with 3 pins are less reliable for use on hot swappable PCBs because they hold too little grip on the PCB and are prone to slipping. We recommend that you use a switch with 3 pins for standard PCB only.

Switch with 5 Pins

Switch with 5 Pins
Switch with 5 Pins

Switch with 5 pins is a type of switch that is also often used for hot swappable PCBs because it has a higher number of pins so that the grip on the PCB port is better than switches with 3 pins.

The switch with 5 pins has a 2 pin design made of iron which is usually gold, one pin in the middle is round, and 2 plastic pins are aligned with the position of the round pin in the middle.

A 5 pin switch can also be used on a standard PCB as long as the PCB supports a 5 pin switch. For installation on a standard PCB, you only need to solder 2 pins of the switch.

Can you replace mechanical switches with optical switches on a mechanical keyboard?

No. Mechanical switches with optical switches have different bottom housing designs and also use different PCB types.

Technically, the optical switch works by utilizing the infrared on the optical PCB where the actuation is done by breaking the infrared line on the PCB to send input to the computer.

While the mechanical switch utilizes the touch of a pin component with a conductor component to send an electrical signal to the PCB to send input to the computer.

Understanding Compatibility Between Mechanical Switch Brands

Mechanical switches such as Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh, ZealPC and others have the same compatibility. This means they have the exact same design with the same pin positions so they can be used on the same PCB.

The Outemu switch which is also a clone of Cherry MX has a different design and pin position so you need to do a special PCB for the Outemu Switch to use it. You cannot use the Outemu Switch on a PCB compatible with switches from Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh, and ZealPC.

The following is a complete explanation of switch compatibility with PCB sockets that you should know:

SwitchesPCB’S ShocketsCompatibility
Cherry MXCherry MX Shockets, Kailh Shockets, Gateron ShocketsCherry MX Switches can be used on various types of PCB shocks such as Kailh shockets and Gateron Shockets. Cherry MX switches cannot be used on PCBs for Outemu Switches.
GateronCherry MX Shockets, Kailh Shockets, Gateron ShocketsBecause Gateron switches are Cherry MX clones, Gateron switches can also be used on PCB shocks that support Cherry MX switches such as Kailh shockets, Cherry MX Shockets, and Gateron Shockets. Gateron switches cannot be used on PCBs used for Outemu Switches.
KailhCherry MX Shockets, Kailh Shockets, Gateron ShocketsJust like Gateron, Kailh is also a cloned switch from Cherry MX so it can use the same PCB shock as Cherry MX and Kailh, and Gateron.
Drop SwitchesCherry MX Shockets, Kailh Shockets, Gateron ShocketsDrop Switches are also compatible with PCB shockers that can use switches from Cherry MX, Gateron, and Kailh.
ZealPC SwitchesCherry MX Shockets, Kailh Shockets, Gateron ShocketsZealPC Switches are also compatible with PCB shockers that can use switches from Cherry MX, Gateron, and Kailh.
Outemu SwitchesOnly PCB compatible for Outemu SwitchesOutemu Switches that have a different design from Cherry MX, Gateron, Kalih and other cloned switches from Cherry MX cannot be used on PCBs for Cherry MX, Kailh, and Gateron.
Compatibility Between Mechanical Switch Brands

Can You Replace Cherry MX Switches with Gateron Switches?

Can. Gateron switch is a clone of Cherry MX which has the same design with the same pin position for Gateron switch products that use 3 pins or 5 pins. And vice versa you can also replace Gateron Switches with Cherry MX Switches.

Can You Replace Cherry MX Switches with Kailh Switches?

Can. Kailh switches are also clones of Cherry MX switches so they share the same PCB ports. On the other hand, you can also replace the hook switches with Cherry mx switches.

Can You Replace Gateron Switches with Kailh Switches?

Can. Gateron and Kailh are 2 cloned products from Cherry MX so they can use the same PCB. You can replace Kailh switches with Gateron switches and vice versa.

Can You Replace Outemu Switches with Kailh Switches, Gateron, and Cherry MX?

Not. Outemu Switches are actually also clones of Cherry MX but Outemu Switches have a different design on the bottom housing so that Outemu switches cannot be replaced with switches from Cherry MX, Gateron, and Kailh. Outemu switches can only be used on PCBs specifically for Outemu only.

How to replace the switch on the Hot Swappable Keyboard

Can You Replace Switches on a Mechanical Keyboard?: How to replace the switch on the Hot Swappable Keyboard
How to replace the switch on the Hot Swappable Keyboard

Replacing hot swappable type switches or keyboard keys turns out to be easy and difficult. There are some keyboard users who don’t know how to do it properly so that it becomes damaged or broken. There are also those who are still hesitant when replacing it so they don’t really replace it,

As we know, the term hot-swappable switch keyboard is a keyboard that uses a type of switch that can be removed and replaced easily. This technology is a new technology because before this technology, keyboard switches could be removed but had to be heated by soldering the legs and re-soldered.

Hot-swappable Switch, Technology that Makes More Creative

With the hot swappable switch technology, keyboard users can replace their own keyboard switches in case of damage. This type of switch can also be cleaned easily because mechanical switches are prone to dust ingress due to their more open position than rubber dome or non-mechanical switches.

In addition, with this technology, keyboard users can also be more creative. How come? They can try to mix and match different types of switches in one keyboard. 3 choices of switch types, namely linear, tactile, and clicky. Each has its own character. Well, users can replace the switches themselves and combine them with other types of switches to get a different sensation.

Tips for Replacing the Switch: Slowly But Sure

For those of you who have a keyboard with hot swappable switch technology, learn how to replace the switch as follows:

1. Use switch puller or switch puller

In the keyboard package, make sure you get a puller switch and extra switches. This switch puller is in the form of a metal clamp which is useful for pulling the switch.

2. Remove the keycaps

First, remove the keycaps or keypad using your finger. Some types of keyboards are equipped with a keycaps puller. For those that don’t exist, just use your finger to release them. It’s easy.

3. Clamp the switch puller in an upright position

Clamp the end of the switch puller on the part of the switch that has a hole for attaching the switch puller. Try to keep your hands straight up when you pull it. Do not tilt as this will bend the switch pins or legs.

4. Pull slowly but surely

If it is in a straight up position and the puller is firmly pressed, then pull the switch up steadily. It does feel a bit heavy so you have to pull it a bit so that the switch is released. And… the switch will be released safely!

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After removing it, make sure the switch legs or pins stay straight. Do not bend it because it has the potential to break and be left in the pin sleeve.

Easy, right? At first, you may feel hesitant when you do it. However, the higher your flight hours, the more accustomed you are to releasing the switch.

How to replace the switch on a mechanical keyboard with a standard PCB (Desoldering and Soldering Switch)

For those of you who want to replace the switches on your mechanical keyboard using a standard PCB, you may need a complete guide because replacing switches on a mechanical keyboard that uses a standard PCB is not as easy as replacing a switch on a hot swappable PCB.

Because replacing switches on a standard PCB is a bit difficult to explain in words, you should watch the video how to replace switches on a mechanical keyboard with a standard PCB below:

video how to replace switches on a mechanical keyboard

So, Can You Replace Switches on a Mechanical Keyboard?

Before replacing a switch on your mechanical keyboard, there are several things you need to pay attention to such as the number of pins on your mechanical keyboard switch, the brand or PCB port supported by your switch, and the type of PCB you are using, whether it’s a hot swappable PCB or a standard PCB that requires tools. solder to attach the switch.

Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh, ZealPC, Drop Switches, Akko Switches, and several switch clones from Cherry MX can be used on the same PCB. While the Outemu Switch is only compatible with a special PCB for the Outemu Switch. You also cannot replace optical switches with mechanical switches because optical switches use a different type of PCB.

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