Depending on whether or not you like the feel of clicky keys on a mechanical keyboard, the keyboard may feel like it is getting better to use with time (as in, the keys are sounding quieter and becoming softer to press), but this is just the way the keyboard wears and it will still be physically degrading the more you use it.
Depending on its build quality, the switches (mechanisms beneath the keycaps) on most mechanical keyboards are rated to last between 20 and 70 million keystrokes.
The more you press the keys the more the solders wear and the closer your keyboard will get to the end of its life, so it will not be physically improving with time.
However, switch types, like cherry switches, usually get lighter and smoother as they wear and some people prefer how that feels when compared to new, clicky switches.
If you bought a mechanical keyboard that clicks when you press its keys but you prefer it to have a smoother, softer feel, then you will probably feel like your keyboard is getting better as it ages.
It also means that you bought the wrong type of mechanical keyboard, to begin with.
There are three main types of mechanical switches to choose from when you are picking out a keyboard:
- Linear (smooth and quiet).
- Tactile (moderate click with tactile bump).
- Clicky (loud click with tactile bump).
Each switch type has a distinct feel when you press it and if you prefer a quiet and smooth keypress you should definitely avoid buying a clicky mechanical keyboard.
But, as functional devices, they do not get better over time.
The more the keys are pressed the sooner they will completely wear out.
Mechanical keyboards are a gamer’s or typist’s best friend and both tend to blow through millions of keystrokes in a hurry, especially at a rate of 8 to 10k strokes per hour.
Mechanical keyboards have their switches beneath each key, with a keypress completing the circuit.
The switch beneath each key is spring-loaded and makes a highly audible click on each keystroke.
Because of this design feature, mechanical keyboards are far more resilient than their membrane counterparts.
Membrane keyboards are rated with a lifespan that’s barely a quarter of the minimum rating for mechanical keyboards.
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What Determines How Long A Mechanical Keyboard Will Last?
The main things that determine how long your keyboard will last are how much you use it, how good its build quality is and how well you clean and maintain it.
How often you use the keyboard will be one of the biggest determining factors in how long it lasts.
As to be expected, if you use your keyboard for four hours each day its lifespan will be a lot shorter than if you use it for two hours each day.
Also, some people are naturally heavier typists and pound on the keys a lot harder.
This, too, will cause keys to wear out faster.
Keyboard Build Quality
Mechanical keyboards are generally more expensive than cheaper membrane keyboards.
But you’ll also find fairly significant price differences between the various mechanical keyboard brands and models themselves.
There is usually a direct correlation between price, quality, and lifespan.
The keys on a well-rated mechanical keyboard from a recognizable brand should last beyond 50 million keystrokes and last you 10 plus years.
But a similar-looking keyboard by an unknown brand from a Chinese wholesale website may last nowhere near as long.
How Well The Keyboard Is Cleaned And Maintained
Keeping your mechanical keyboard dust and grime-free will help it to work well for longer.
Blowing dust and debris out from between the keys a couple of times a week, regular wipedowns with disinfectant and a damp microfiber cloth.
You can also give the odd deep clean where you take the keycaps off, soak them in warm, soapy water and clean off the board underneath.
This will help to keep your keyboard in good working order.
And as specific parts of your keyboard begin to fail, there is maintenance you can carry out as it needs to be done.
Switches, keycaps, stabilizers, and the circuit board can all be replaced if broken.
By buying or building a good mechanical keyboard and maintaining it, its keys could potentially last far beyond 50 million key presses.
But some maintenance tasks will be easier than others.
While you might manage to replace keycaps and switches, but jobs like replacing the printed circuit board will be a lot more challenging and may not even be worth doing.
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How Long Do Mechanical Keyboards Usually Last?
The switches on a good mechanical keyboard, like the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum, will last at least 50 million actuations and the keyboard should work well for at least 10 to 15 years.
Keycaps, stabilizers, and switches are likely to wear first and are fairly easy to replace if you want to keep the life of your keyboard going.
But these parts will still last many years under normal and even heavy usage.
50 million keypresses will probably take you a lot longer than the length of time you’ll want to keep the keyboard.
How Often Should You Replace Your Mechanical Keyboard?
A decent mechanical keyboard should last you 10 years or more before you’ll have to consider replacing the whole thing.
Keycaps, stabilizers, and switches will most likely be the first parts of the keyboard to need replacing.
Luckily, these are also the easiest parts to replace.
So, if after a number of years, you find that certain keys are sticking or keycaps are wearing, don’t be too hasty throwing the whole keyboard.
You may be able to replace a few keycaps and switches and extend the life of your keyboard by another few years.
The keys W, S, D, A, Shift, and the Space Bar are often the first to go.
Why Do Mechanical Keyboards Last So Long?
When you press a key on a mechanical keyboard, beneath the key, a stem shifts out of the way of the spring, allowing the spring to complete the circuit.
The friction, force, or frequency only ever requires that slight movement of mechanics, reducing degradation.
In membrane keypads, every keystroke is exponentially more damaging, as the “bubble” beneath—which is coated in metal to complete the circuit when the bubble collapses—is subjected to more movement and nowhere near as resilient to pressure.
Because of that, mechanical keyboards are far superior in durability and longevity, and rightfully so.
It’s a mistaken assumption that mechanical keyboards become better over time simply because they aren’t as loud.
All that means is that the springs beneath each key are adequately worn down enough that the “clacking” sound is no longer as loud.
What Are Mechanical Keyboards Used For?
They’re primarily used for gaming, not only because of their resiliency but also because of their theoretical response time.
In gaming, everything is about speed.
Many games believe that the response time between each closed circuit on a mechanical keyboard, versus the response time of a circuit board beneath a layer of silicone, is a no-brainer.
They’re also more comfortable for gamers because that audible click helps gamers know they’ve successfully depressed a key.
This helps avoid the distraction of looking down at a keyboard whose key you’re not entirely sure you pressed.
Admittedly, the audible click is kind of attractive.
It’s just one of those things like those satisfying videos you see on YouTube that frighten trypophobia sufferers to death.
Finally, since gamers largely prefer mechanical keyboards, that’s where most of the creativity has shifted to.
Multiple features, split keyboards, and LED displays are far more prevalent with mechanical over membrane keyboard types.
Why Are Mechanical Keyboards So Expensive?
Each key in a mechanical keyboard has a circuit beneath it, rather than a membrane keyboard, where one, large circuit board conveys the information from each keystroke.
One circuit for each key is the primary reason that mechanical keyboards are more expensive.
There is a lot more hardware packed into a mechanical keyboard over membrane keyboards, especially considering the number of springs and stems.
Popularity, supply and demand, and hardware all factor into it.
Membrane keyboards are cheaper and easier to roll off of the assembly line.
Also, as mentioned above, since mechanical keyboards are primarily used by gamers, their design aesthetics—lighting, key placement, customization options, and connectivity—drive up the cost even more.
How Can I Extend The Life Of My Mechanical Keyboard?
At between 50 to 70 million keystrokes before the switches on mechanical keyboards begin to give, these keyboards are pretty tough, to begin with, but there are still some things you can do to help them last a little longer.
Keep Your Keyboard Clean
If dust and grime are never cleaned and allowed to build up over years, it can cause keys to malfunction long before they reach the end of their expected life.
However, it’s easy to avoid this with a fairly simple routine.
Use a rocket air blower or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove dust and debris from between the keys and a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the keys every two or three days.
And once every two or three months use a cap remover to take off all the keycaps and give them a wash in soapy lukewarm water.
Don’t Eat Or Drink Around Your Keyboard
The majority of debris that gathers between the keys is going to come from snacking around your keyboard.
Forming the habit of not eating or drinking around your keyboard will be one of the best preventative measures you can take to keep it clean.
Washing your hands before you use your keyboard will also help to prevent much of the grime and oil that might otherwise end up on and around the keys.
Cover Your Keyboard When Not Using It
If enough dust and debris are allowed to accumulate around the keys, it can eventually stop your keyboard from working properly.
To help prevent this, you can place a plastic cover or microfiber cloth over your keyboard when it’s not in use.
Do Mechanical Keyboards Break Easily?
Mechanical keyboards are not known for breaking easily, however, the parts that are subject to break first are generally the keys themselves, meaning the springs beneath them.
The stabilizer and the key face are next in line for parts that may break first on a mechanical keyboard.
That also leads to another unique feature about mechanical keyboards.
Many of the parts on them are interchangeable and easy to replace when something breaks.
You can break down a mechanical keyboard and easily replace the keys, springs, and stabilizer if any of them break.
Mechanical keyboards are just another example of technology that outlasts and outperforms the next generation of technology.
Keyboards got their start with the mechanical version long before the first membrane and scissor keyboards came along.
Yet here we are, decades down the road and mechanical keyboards still maintain a large consumer following.
That’s not likely to end anytime soon, as mechanical keyboards are far more fun to type with and last five to six times longer than their membrane cousins.