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How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work? (Explained)

Are you tired of typing on unresponsive and unsatisfying keyboards? Look no further than mechanical keyboards!

With their physical switches located beneath each keycap, mechanical keyboards provide a superior typing and gaming experience.

When a key is pressed, the switch is activated, sending a signal to the computer and displaying the corresponding character on the screen.

Say goodbye to frustrating typos and hello to the satisfying tactile and auditory feedback of a mechanical keyboard.

How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work

How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work?

Mechanical keyboards work by using spring-activated switches for typing, which are located under each key. These switches provide tactile and audible feedback when pressed, which can improve typing accuracy and speed.

Mechanical Keyboard keys have individual switches mapped to them below. On the top layer, there are Keycaps.

Below the Keycaps, lie the Mechanical Switches. Below the mechanical switches lie the PCB board which receives the input signal.

Here is the mechanism of how mechanical keyboards internally work:

  • First, we press the keycap which lies on the top of the mechanical keyboard. It actuates the mechanical switch below it.
  • On applying pressure from the keycap, the mechanical switch gets pressed. However, it requires a certain amount of force to actuate known as actuation force due to the presence of a metal spring within the switch that causes stiffness to be present.
  • The spring compresses and the mechanical switch’s stem goes down, and finally, the metal contacts touch the PCB completing the circuit.
  • This now sends a signal to the computer that a click has been noted.

In contrast to a rubber dome keyboard, mechanical keyboards are preferred by gamers as their gaming keyboard choice due to their high-quality mechanical switches in them.

image of mechanical keyboard

Also, they have N Key Rollover which helps to input multiple characters all at once accurately which is only possible in the case of a mechanical keyboard due to the individual switch design and not array-based keyboard input.

Mechanical keyboards offer different switch types to suit different preferences. Some keyboards offer tactile, linear, or clicky switches.

Clicky switches produce loud clicking noises and are ideal for those who like typing loudly.

How do Mechanical Keyboard Switches work?

Mechanical Switches

Mechanical switches have a metal spring within them which creates stiffness and requires force to actuate them.

On pressing a mechanical switch, the spring gets compressed and the switch stem presses the keyboard PCB and completes the circuit.

This is how a keystroke gets registered by a mechanical switch.

Now, during pressing the mechanical switch, it gets through two positions which are an actuation point and a reset point.

The actuation point represents the position at which the switch registers a keypress, and the reset point represents the point at which the switch no longer registers a keypress. 

Switches vary in resistance and can be classified according to the type of switch they are. Some switches are clicky while others are tactile. 

Each type of switch is classified by its color, and each color has a different tactile bump or audible click when it is pressed.

Types of Switches for Mechanical Keyboards

There are three mechanical keyboard switch types which are: clicky switches, linear switches, and tactile switches.

1. Clicky Switch: Keyboards would give you a clicky feel while you are typing but they are loud.

E.g., A Cherry MX Blue Switch Keyboard.

2. Linear switches: They lack a tactile bump but provide consistent snappy actuation from the key switch of your mechanical gaming keyboard.

E.g., a Cherry MX Red Linear Switch keyboard or a Cherry MX Speed Silver switch keyboard.

3. Tactile switch:  keyboards don’t make much sound but have good bumpy feedback in them.

E.g., Cherry MX Brown Mechanical Switch Keyboard.

There are other manufacturers other than Cherry MX like Gateron, Kailh, Outemu, etc. You will also find clones of a Cherry MX switch too which comes cheaper but does not last long.

So, find the keyboard switch type you want and then choose from the wide range of switches these manufacturers provide.

Advantages of Using a Mechanical Keyboard over a Membrane Keyboard

There are several advantages of using a mechanical keyboard over a membrane keyboard:

  • Durability: Mechanical keyboards are more durable than membrane keyboards. The keys are built to withstand millions of keystrokes, which means they are less likely to break or wear out over time.
  • Tactile Feedback: Mechanical keyboards provide tactile feedback, which means you can feel when a key has been pressed. This can help improve typing accuracy and speed.
  • Customization: Mechanical keyboards often come with customizable keycaps, which means you can change the look and feel of your keyboard to suit your preferences.
  • N-Key Rollover: Mechanical keyboards often have a feature called N-key rollover, which means you can press multiple keys at the same time without any of them being missed. This is especially useful for gamers who need to press multiple keys simultaneously.
  • Typing Sound: Some people prefer the sound of a mechanical keyboard when typing. The sound can be satisfying and can also provide auditory feedback when typing.

Overall, mechanical keyboards offer several advantages over membrane keyboards, including durability, tactile feedback, customization, N-key rollover, and typing sound.

Benefits of Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical Keyboard benefits

There are many benefits to a mechanical switch keyboard. If you spend a lot of time typing on a computer, you will love mechanical keyboards. 

The key switches in a mechanical keyboard are highly responsive. They produce a clicky sound halfway through their travel. 

This helps users type more accurately and comfortably. A mechanical keyboard will last up to 10 to 15 years on moderate usage. Typically, you’ll start with one switch type as you need to find the right type of switch as per your requirement.

Cherry Switches are one of the most popular mechanical keyboard switches. Then you need to look into the keycap material of the mechanical keyboard. If it has PBT keycaps, then it is great.

Also, check the comparison of ABS vs PBT keycaps to know why PBT is great.


A mechanical keyboard has independent switches for each key, which prevents multiple key registrations from degrading feedback.

Additionally, mechanical keyboards are customizable, and you can even customize your keycaps and choose from any type of keycap profile. You can even use custom-designed Keycaps known as Artisan Keycaps.

Pro programmers and hardcore gamers enjoy the tactile feedback a mechanical keyboard provides. 

Not only does this improve typing accuracy, but it can also increase your level of satisfaction. 

So, if you’re planning on buying a new keyboard, think about getting one with a mechanical keyboard.

Generally speaking, mechanical keyboards are more durable than their membrane counterparts. Their build structure and individual switches are more durable. 

In addition, mechanical keyboards feature individual switches mounted underneath each key. Because mechanical keyboards use independent switches, they can last between 50 and 100 million keystrokes. 

So, if you are looking to get a good-quality keyboard that will last for years to come, a mechanical keyboard is the way to go.

Better Responsiveness and Click Accuracy

Mechanical switch keyboards have different key switches in them. The rubber-dome ones are very similar to the mechanical ones, but they offer little tactile feedback. 

Mechanical keyboards are much more responsive, and the different key switches give you different levels of feedback. 

Mechanical switches that are tactile and clicky give awesome tactile feedback if you use them as a switch choice for your keyboard.

These are a great choice to consider for your regular usage if you like the bumpy feedback of the mechanical switches.

They are far better and more enjoyable than a membrane switch keyboard.

Easy on Hands

A mechanical keyboard is designed to minimize the impact on your fingers by reducing the amount of sideways movement you make while typing

Traditional keyboards require a large “activation force” for every key press, which causes your fingers to “bottom out” before the key registers, increasing the strain and impact on your fingers and wrists.


Q: How does a keyboard switch work in a mechanical keyboard?

A: A keyboard switch, also known as a key switch, is the individual component under each key cap on the mechanical keyboard. It’s responsible for registering when a key has been pressed and sending an electrical signal to the computer. Mechanical keyboards use switches that consist of a stem, housing, spring, and switch contact, providing a tactile and audible response for the user.

Q: What sets mechanical switches apart from dome switches in computer keyboards?

A: Mechanical switches in mechanical keyboards use a physical mechanical mechanism to actuate and register key presses, whereas dome switches use a rubber dome to provide resistance and create an electrical contact. Mechanical switches give more consistent, tactile feedback and tend to have a longer lifespan than dome switches found in regular keyboards. Mechanical switches also often allow for faster typing as the switches don’t require the key to be pressed down completely to actuate.

Q: How do keycaps affect typing experience on mechanical keyboards?

A: Keycaps, the plastic covers on individual keys, play a significant role in the overall feel, typing experience, and aesthetic of a mechanical keyboard. Different materials, shapes, and textures of keycaps can influence how your fingers interact with the keys, which may impact typing speed, accuracy, and comfort. When it comes to keycaps, there’s a wide range of customization options to suit different preferences and typing styles.

Q: What different switch types are there in mechanical keyboards?

A: There are various switch types available in mechanical keyboards, including clicky, tactile, and linear switches. Clicky switches provide both tactile and audible feedback, whereas tactile switches offer a bump feel without the clicky noise. Linear switches are smooth and don’t have a tactile bump or a clicky sound. Some popular brands for mechanical keyboard switches are Cherry MX, Gateron, and Razer.

Q: Can I customize a mechanical keyboard’s bottom row layout?

A: Yes, some mechanical keyboards allow users to customize the bottom row layout to suit individual preferences. This may include a different layout for the spacebar, CTRL, ALT, and Windows key, as well as additional keys like Fn and macro keys. Before investing in a new keyboard, check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure it supports the desired customizations for the bottom row.

Q: How does switch type affect keyboard sound?

A: Different switch types have varying sound levels and characteristics. Clicky switches produce a distinct audible click and are generally the loudest, while tactile switches are quieter with a noticeable bump. Linear switches are typically the quietest switch type, with a smooth key press and minimal sound. The choice of switch type often depends on personal preference and the desired noise level for your environment.

Q: Can I change switches in my mechanical keyboard?

A: In some cases, you can change the switches in a mechanical keyboard, depending on the keyboard’s design and the type of switch it uses. Hot-swappable keyboards allow users to remove and replace mechanical switches without soldering. However, not all keyboards support this feature. To change switches on a non-hot-swappable keyboard, you need to desolder the existing switches and solder in new ones, which can be a complex process and might void any warranty.

Q: Why do mechanical keyboards have a WASD cluster?

A: The WASD cluster, composed of the W, A, S, and D keys, is a common layout used by gamers as an alternative to arrow keys for movement control. The WASD cluster’s popularity stems from its ergonomic positioning in relation to other important gaming keys, like the space bar and the shift key. Mechanical keyboards often provide accentuated keycaps for these specific keys to help users locate them more easily during gameplay.

Q: Do mechanical keyboards require additional software for customization?

A: Some mechanical keyboards offer built-in customization options, allowing you to adjust key functions, lighting effects, and macros directly on the keyboard. However, certain keyboards may require additional proprietary software provided by the manufacturer to access advanced customization features. Be sure to check the product information and specifications before purchasing a mechanical keyboard if software-based customization is important to you.

Q: How many keys can be pressed at once on a mechanical keyboard?

A: Many mechanical keyboards offer “n-key rollover” (NKRO) or “6-key rollover” (6KRO) functionality, which means you can press multiple keys simultaneously without missing any key presses or experiencing key ghosting. N-key rollover keyboards can register all key presses at once, while 6-key rollover keyboards can handle up to six keys pressed simultaneously. The rollover functionality is particularly important for fast typists and gamers who require accurate and simultaneous key press registration.

Key Takeaways

Let’s conclude the post on how mechanical keyboards work!

Here are the Key Takeaways:

  • Mechanical keyboards work by using individual switches for each key that register a keystroke when pressed.
  • Mechanical keyboard switches have different characteristics such as actuation force, travel distance, and feedback that affect the typing experience and performance.
  • There are three main types of switches for mechanical keyboards: linear, tactile, and clicky. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the user’s preference and purpose.
  • Mechanical keyboards have some features that make them stand out from other types of keyboards, such as tactile and audio feedback, N-key rollover, and macro keys.
  • Mechanical keyboards offer some benefits over other types of keyboards, such as durability, better responsiveness and click accuracy, and ease on hands.
  • Mechanical keyboards can be customized in various ways, such as changing the keycaps, switches, cables, cases, and lighting effects to suit the user’s style and needs.
  • Mechanical keyboards require some maintenance and care to keep them clean and functional, such as dusting, lubricating, and replacing worn-out parts.

I hope you enjoyed reading the post.

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