2010-11-05

MacBook Keyboard & Trackpad Replacement Fix

My MacBook keyboard and trackpad has worn out to the point where it was hard to use. The trackpad and its button was behaving poorly, and the keys were less than perfect. Furthermore, the "palm rest" was stained and developed a crack.

Figure 1: The Yukky old keyboard/trackpad. Cracked, stained, and worn out.

But excitingly, there is a simple fix! I've replaced the keyboard and trackpad with new ones - and it was easy to do and inexpensive! It was the best thing I've done to my MacBook ever. This article covers what I did.

Figure 2: My clean new keyboard & trackpad! Awesome!


Background: The MacBook Top Case design

The MacBook keyboard and trackpad are integrated into a single part called the "MacBook Top Case". Due to the MacBook's design, you just can't replace the keyboard or the trackpad - you have to replace the entire "Top Case".

That sounds bad, but it really isn't, because the "Top Case" part is relatively inexpensive and readily available.

MacBook Top Case Variations

There are a few different Top Case variations. First, there is the choice of "Black" or "White". Either will do, but some people might have a cosmetic reasons for choosing black versus white. White top cases are generally less expensive, and I have a white MacBook, so I decided to go with white.

The other variation is the keyboard layout. My 2008-vintage MacBook had the "Volume Up" key on F12. Other vintages have the Volume Up on F5. And, of course, there are international keyboards.

Given price and availability, I decided to replace my "F12" MacBook keyboard with an "F5" version. Yes, some of the function keys have moved on me, but the different keyboard works 100% perfectly. (F5 is now my Volume-Up button, and I gained a numlock button on F6 to boot).

My procedure for installing a new MacBook Trackpad
  1. I bought a MacBook Top Case. I bought the one through Amazon, here: Apple MacBook Top Case
  2. Inspect the new purchase. Does it look like the right part? Be careful! The back is stamped aluminum and can be sharp!
  3. Following these instructions to the point of fully removing the top case.
  4. Compare the backside of both the old and new top case. Make sure the aluminum flanges on the new case are all straight. If they aren't, you'll have a hard time getting the new case to fit. (See Figure 3, below)
  5. Plug the keyboard cable into its socket on the main board.
  6. Slowly and carefully put the new top case into place. Don't force anything; You can get it all back perfectly if you are patient and careful. All the little flanges have a home; make sure they're going into them. Forcing things will just bend the flanges.
  7. Reverse the disassembly instructions. All those little screws fit into or through the flanges and sockets and posts in the top case. Don't force anything and do not over-tighten any screws! When you're done, it should look beautiful and perfect! Again, take your time!

Figure 3: These little holed sheet metal flanges should be straight! There are nine of them: six threaded along the perimeter, three unthreaded in the center.


FIgure 4: The backside of the top case.

When I was all done, my MacBook looked and worked like new! I can no longer justify buying a MacBook Air, but I know I can get several more years out of this lovely MacBook!

Good luck!

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