MacBook Pro 15" Unibody Late 2008 and...

Released October 2008 / 2.4, 2.53, 2.66, 2.8 or 2.93 GHz Core 2 Duo Processor

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Is it possible to replace JUST the keyboard?

Im wondering if I can replace the keyboard on my MacBook without having to replace the whole topcase. Is that possible?

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Thanks for the info guys. I did see some keyboards on ebay for around 50 bucks that i was thinking of buying. I have the late 2008 MacBook Pro 15 inch. Spilled white wine on the keyboard, the computer works fine, surprisingly, except for the left Shift key and the right arrow key sometimes sticks. Also the backlight is somewhat dim in certain places. So if the new keyboard fixes my shift and arrow key, id be happy with that.

by Charbs

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Yes you can replaced the keyboard on a Macbook Pro Unibody. In fact, I have successfully replaced several. However, it does require patients and the hands of a surgeon. I'm really not sure why some of you "Professionals" who suggest that it is impossible when all of you know that it is very possible to replace the keyboard on a Macbook Pro Unibody. Guess you guys need to sell top cases.

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So basically, officially, and easily, you cannot, however if you think you're at the right skill-set, and have the time/patience, then use the teardown and try to do it yourself. You'll probably also be voiding warranty, so unless you're rather experienced and not under applecare I wouldn't suggest you do it.

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I have done this repair several times. I had somebody say that apple did it for them for $130 but now that I think about it, that HAD to be pre unibody!

When i replaced my own keyboard, I put tinted tape over different groups of keys (yellow alpha, green numbers etc). De-tunes the brightness and makes the mac much more eye friendly.

It's a shame that the film layers on the new keyboards are glued together. I've repaired about 10 keyboards in the past without having to replace by separating the layers and cleaning them.

Usually if liquid gets into MacBook Pro keyboard it will dissolve traces or the "glued" interconnects making the keyboard a total loss.

Fortunately. $35 and an eBay account will get you a new one.

Unfortunately a "level 8" difficulty of repair. Almost impossible to avoid stripping one of the 60 or so screws. One of the ones on the keyboard I just removed had only 40% of the screw indent making it nearly impossible to remove. Use a good set of hardened steel bits!

-awr

Update

See my markup:

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the blue lines are the wire traces you can not disturb.

your best bet is to separate the films where the purple arrows are; get a needle, or x-acto point between the three films of plastic; doesn't matter if between 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 layer. insert on both top and bottom where purple arrow are and then use a 'canned air' to blow the liquid out.

unfortunately there is a good chance that if a 'string' of keys are out, what has happened is that the trace is actually damaged between the layers, where it was 'glued' together.

I had over a dozen keys that didn't work properly but sometimes worked because milk got in there, and on the model of computer, the films were more solid, so i had to cut slits, but in your case, you can see the EDGE of the film sandwich, so you can peel them apart (they are glued), just enough to get an air blast in; if you pull too far you risk tearing the fragile silver trace .

-awr

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As far as I'm aware all 15" unibody use identical keyboards (same model number of computer since 2008). Maybe 2012 model different. That said I was able to remove milk from 20-25 keys using an x-acto knife a very pointy tweezers and "canned air".

The problem with these keyboard and impossible to repair is that the three layers of plastic are glued together! In the old days you could peel apart the layers and clean with dish soap and re assemble.

If you have fewer than 10 affected keys it would be worth the effort of a top-side fix as long as you realize the risk of needing to use an external USB keyboard while the replacement comes should you break it.

If you look at any single key contact you can see the two layers with the crossing traces going to the center. The process to clean out the milk etc. is this:

On the TOP LAYER, determine the direction of the trace, example horizontal. Now make two in incisions on either side of the center cutting in that same direction on either side of that trace. Cut through top layer only and INSIDE the AIR BUBBLE surrounding the center. Now use the likes of a SEWING NEEDLE to lift up the top layer between the slits. Next use canned air to vamoose the contents in the air pocket mucking things up. In my case it was milk. If its thicker like oil you may likely need to use a solvent to flush it out.

I had 100% success with the 20+ affected keys. Took a couple hours. Sadly a cat knocked a whole glass of water on same fixed keyboard 6 months later and killed it.

If you manage to kill your power switch I have a "jump start" process. I have a YouTube video showing how.

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awr, thanks for those detailed directions. 1 question- you mentioned above that a liquid spill can actually dissolve the traces. If that happens, then I guess these keys are not repairable by this method?

by madmaxmedia

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Yes they're selling keyboard on eBay. Unfortunately you can't replace them on the 13" Unibody Macs. The keyboards are so emplaced that removing them without tearing the top is impossible. You have to replace the Upper Case. We would need to know your exact machine to direct you to the exact keyboard.

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Actually, we've managed to pull it off, BUT there are well over 50 tiny tiny screws and it's tricky. See steps 29-32 here.

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Is the backlight part of the keyboard or part of the topcase. Since my backlight is dim in certain places, im wondering if replacing the keyboard will fix the backlight as well.

by Charbs

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I wouldn't recommend removing a key cap from a Unibody Macbook. Didn't work for me - broke device that holds the key cap and now need a new key board. :-(

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The scissor wih key cap is about $6 on eBay. I have almost a whole set somewhere from last unibody keyboard I replaced. There is definitely a trick to removing the key caps without damage. I think I'll post a video. Knowing the trick its pretty easy.

by awr

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At least officially that is not possible, my apple parts supplier can only look up the entire top case including keyboard as a part number, BUT people on ebay are selling the keyboard by itself so perhaps you have hope after all ... if I remember correctly there are many, MANY screws attaching the keyboard to the top cover ..

http://cgi.ebay.com/APPLE-MacBook-PRO-47...

Don't know if its against the rules to post ebay links ... if so sorry ...

So .. yes, you can but its a pain in the backside, get some cups for the tiny screws if you are going ahead with the repair as they are gone as soon as they hit the floor ...

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Not against the rules at all! If you have a source for parts, post it!

by Ben Eisenman

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Hey Charbs, just wondering what happened here. the same thing happened to my mac. same problems aswell. Right arrow key and the left Shift key doesnt work. Any Help would be appreciated.

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if the keys stick that is causing the problem, try to remove the key cap and clean it with alcohol.

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So knowing that the keyboards are the same from 08'-11' are interchangeable, will the F4 function key matter due to the change from 2010-2011, or will it merely be a cosmetic difference?

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Here's an example of replacing just the keyboard on a MacBook Pro 15" Unibody (Mid 2010). It should be relatively similar for years 2009 and 2010.

Replacing keyboard on MacBook Pro 15" Mid 2010

You'll have to disassemble the notebook as it shown in one of the guides on iFixit and access the keyboard. After that you carefully remove the backlight and unscrew the keyboard.

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I'm typing on a MacBook Pro with replaced keyboard. :)

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I also have some non-working keys after a water-spillage 2 days ago. I like AWR's description here, but am not 100% sure about where exactly I should place the cuts in the plastic layers to get all the gunk out.

The way I understand it, I should cut aloong the red lines here, and then flip the centre part over to the left (green arrow), clean things out below, then flip back and put the keys back on. Is that correct?

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see my updated answer; i couldn't post an image as a comment here. oh; for people with just one-two keys not working: download ukelele application and edit the key next to the broken one and assign the option-version to be the key not working, it'll get you through for a while. example: a keyboard i'm soon to replace, I assigned the key press option-1 to be 2 and option-q to be w since the w and 2 keys are dead.

by awr

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Charbs will be eternally grateful.

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