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How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work? (EXPLAINED!)

Mechanical keyboards are a popular choice among computer users, due to their responsiveness and overall ease of use. You might be using your mechanical keyboard and thinking about how it works actually internally.

In this post, I would go into detail about how do mechanical keyboards work in detail.

How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work

Why Should you Trust Me? Hi, I am Anirban Saha, an Engineer with a Specialization in Electronics and Communication Engineering. I have experience in Smart TVs, Electronics circuits, and Computer peripherals.

Complete Keyboard and Mouse Guide

Let’s dive right in!

What are Mechanical Keyboards?

Mechanical keyboards are a type of keyboard that uses individual switches beneath each key. This means that they offer a more tactile and responsive feel than traditional keyboards.

They also have a longer lifespan, making them a popular choice for gaming and office use.

There are many different types of mechanical keyboard switches, so it is important to do your research before purchasing one to ensure you get the right feel and feedback for your needs.

How Do Mechanical Keyboards Work?

image of mechanical keyboard

Mechanical Keyboard keys have individual switches mapped to them below. On the top layer, there are Keycaps. Below the Keycaps, lies the Mechanical Switches. Below mechanical switches lie the PCB board which receives the input signal.

Here is how the mechanical keyboards 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 when you actuate totally the switch, 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.

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 a 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 a 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.

How does a Traditional Membrane Keyboard Work?

How does a Traditional Keyboard Work

Traditional keyboards like a membrane keyboard or a rubber dome keyboard use a rubber-dome system under each key.

With each button press, the dome collapses, completing the circuit. This type of keyboard is cheaper to manufacture, but it doesn’t offer the same level of precision or durability as a mechanical switch keyboard.

This keyboard type is a classic choice for users who don’t want to spend much money and want a cheaper alternative. 

typing on traditional membrane keyboard

What’s so Special about Mechanical Keyboards?

What's so Special about Mechanical Keyboards

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

Durability

Mechanical keyboard Switches

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 alike enjoy the tactile feedback that 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

Typing and Gaming on mechanical keyboard

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. 

Conclusion

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

If you’re into gaming, mechanical switch keyboards are the way to go. They let you program your keys to perform certain actions, eliminating the need to memorize and press every key individually. 

These keyboards also give you instant feedback as you hit a key, allowing you to anticipate when your keystroke will register. If you are a keyboard fanatic, working professional, gamer, content creator, or software developer you will love using the mechanical keyboard.

If you already have gamer friends who are using a mechanical keyboard to play their best, you will soon be able to match them with practice with a mechanical keyboard.

I hope you enjoyed reading the post.