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[How-To] Apple wired aluminum keyboard disassembly

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    The Round One

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Hi there!
I have the above keyboard. Unfortunately it has "died" together with USB connector in my notebook (a short circuit as far as I can tell). The USB connector was an easy thing to fix (had a spare dead motherboard from the same notebook). However things are much more complicated with the Apple keyboard.

So here I have a dead expensive keyboard that is not designed to be disassembled and repaired (at least so it seem judging from how it's made). As I can't (ATM) afford to buy a replacement (even used ones are quite expensive), the only thing left was to repair it. As usual Google is my friend. Found this page:

Opened the keyboard and found that the controller PCB is toasted. While the donor keyboard bought for parts (sold as faulty with "only few keys not working") had the PCB working, at the same time it was also not 100% OK. About 6 keys are not responding (no, not the F* keys)...

So her is an instruction how I did the disassembly (with many pics :) ). Maybe someone might find this information useful/entertaining.

Tools needed:
A putty knife
A Philips screwdriver #1
A solder aid tool (Spudger)
A soldering iron (optional; needed if you want to remove the USB cable/wire)

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This area contains PCB and a thin film with traces. These things are easy to damage!
Be careful handling putty knife - it's sharp.
Be gentle but firm, as plastic things tend to brake then a brute force is applied.

The first step is to find the point where the plastic bottom part may be lift slightly to insert a putty knife. Most likely it would be either in the middle (just near the text), or in left/right corner. Then the weak spot is located, insert a putty knife there and push it inside the keyboard tilting the knife left to right (or right to left if you like). Like this:
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The first things to separate, are the side parts (near the two USB connectors).
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Then this step is complete, the rest should come off with less resistance.
Using the same method proceed along the perimeter of your keyboard. Again there is no need to rush. Eventually you should reach the point when a putty knife would reach the PCB area. At this point, the top and the bottom parts can not yet be separated completely.
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Be careful, as these two parts are connected together. Just open it like a book. If all went well you should get this:
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or this:
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The difference is where a reinforcement steel plate (the grey area in both pics) is located. It may stick to the bottom plastic part or to the metal backplate of keys. I guess it depends on which adhesive layer is weaker (as the reinforcement steel plate has adhesive layers on both sides).

Now it's time to remove the PCB. Take a screwdriver and unscrew these four Philips screws
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Then lift the USB connector side of the board sliding it towards center of the keyboard.
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Repeat for both USB connectors. The PCB should now be off the bottom plastic part.
After you are done with screws and PCB, take a Spudger and disconnect the conductive film ends by releasing the two ZIF (zero insertion force) connectors
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Now remove the plastic part preventing the USB wire (the one that is connected to a computer) and unsolder it from the PCB
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Note that this wire is also held in place by a dent in the metal inserted in the bottom plastic casing and is also wrapped in to EMI protection foil attached to reinforcement steel plate.
That's all for now.

Part two

Now it's time to remove keys.

Have your Spudger handy and insert it between the key you want to remove and the aluminium chassis, then lift the key.
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Then push the Spudger under the key cap until the key cap comes off.
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There is a difference where to insert the Spudger. It should be inserted like this:
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Not like this:
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That is it should be inserted between the key cap and the clip axis. Otherwise the cap won't come off easily. Note that different keys have key clips oriented differently. have this in mind then removing other keys not shown here.

To remove a plastic clips that holds key caps, insert Spudger between the clip you want to remove and the aluminium chassis (in the upper left/right corner) and push the clip upwards. It should click and come off. Then slide the Spudger under the plastic clip towards the other end of the clip. It should click and come off completely.
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That's all!
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Unfortunately there are 7 different types of key cap clips used in the keyboard. These 7 types can be divided in two groups. The difference is how the clip is attached to the metal frame. The clip shown above is used most.

Now I'll show how to remove the other group of a clips. The difference is minor though.

To remove the plastic clips that holds the key cap, insert Spudger between the clip you want to remove and the aluminium chassis and turn the Spudger towards the key clip to release the pin holding it in place. It should click and come off completely.
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Part three

Now it's time to remove the base plate with conductive layers. This part can take 4 or more hours to do, so think twice if you really need this :)

The base plate is welded/soldered to the front chassis/bezel. In order to separate these parts, all (much more then 50) welding/soldering points should be separated. It can be done either with thin drill/Dremel or using a flat 2mm screwdriver.

Using a flat screwdriver, scrub off the solder layer.
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Then try pushing the base plate from inside (that is insert your finger to a empty hole where keys were and push the base plate upwards). It may come off, but most likely it will not. Therefore, using the same screwdriver, scrub off the solder layer twisting the screwdriver back and forth at the same time applying slight pressure.
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The above is valid for all the joints within the inner part of the base plate. There are also joint along the perimeter of the base. These joint seem to be less resistance. These could be removed by using the same screwdriver and scrubbing off the solder layer twisting the screwdriver back and forth at the same time applying slight pressure.
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Some of the joints are covered by a thin layer of clear film. This is needed to isolate the metal base from PCB placed right under it.
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This can be left in place as it's easy to make holes in it and it doesn't aggravate the process at all.

After all the joints were removed, the back plate should come off with ease. It consists of 3 conductive film layers and the metal base to which key clips are attached. All the film layers are joined glued together with rather weak adhesive, therefore can be easily separated. These layers are (from top to bottom):
  • Layer with clear silicon springs (some call this thing a nipple). These layer is aimed to return the key cap in the up most position after it's been pressed. This layer also push the contacts in the layers down under it, those a key press is registered by the controller and sent to a computer.
  • The upper layer with traces (insulated with a layer of thin clear film).
  • The bottom layer with traces (insulated with a layer of thin clear film).
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All the parts with front bezel removed look like this:
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The bezel itself (wiev from inside)
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Back plate with bezel
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All the three layer separated
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There are four layer seen in the pic above. The two layer on the right are actually the same layer (e.g. the protective film was removed by accident). You should not do so, or the traces most likely be damaged beyond repair.
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Here we have a Caps Lock LED and its cover.
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Thanks for watching!

Edited by Mr.D., 15 March 2013 - 11:39 PM.

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