What are hot-swappable switches?
Hot-swappable mechanical switches are switches that can be conveniently removed and replaced on the keyboard. By contrast, most keyboards on the market have soldered switches and cannot be easily replaced.
A hot-swappable keyboard allows switches to be changed with just a switch puller, so you just have to pull out switches and plug-in others.
Be careful when mounting the switches. If you feel a lot of resistance, do not keep pushing, you could break a pin and void the guarantee.
The hot-swap feature of a mechanical keyboard is a very useful feature to customize your keyboard. It allows you to easily swap out the keyboard switches to create your custom keyboard. In this way, we can put switches that best suit our preferences.
For non-hot-swappable keyboards, you still have to disassemble the entire keyboard first, desolder the old switches (usually each switch has 2 pins), solder the new switches, and reassemble the keyboard.
Hot-swappable switches – 3 pins vs 5 pins
Hot-swappable keyboards allow most switches (which are designed to be soldered) to simply snap into place without any tools on the “hot-swappable socket/mount” other than the switch puller. However, there are two variations of switches, which are 3-pin and 5-pin. Interestingly, although the two variations are based on the number of pins, the difference between them has nothing to do with any electrical base pin/connector.
Instead, the simple difference is that 5-pin switches have 2 more plastic “legs” (pins) than a 3-pin switch. The addition of 2 additional “feet” (pins) allows for greater stability when inserted into the keyboard. This ensures that the switch is less likely to come off the keyboard when using it.
However, all hot-swappable keyboards that support 5-pin switches will support 3-pin switches. Although, it is worth noting that 3-pin switches can be less stable, due to their design having 2 fewer plastic pins.
How do I know if my keyboard has swappable switches?
As we have said, the vast majority of keyboards have fixed switches, and as a general rule, if the manufacturer does not mention that the keyboard has hot-swappable switches as a feature, it is not hot-swappable.
Hot swapping is a relatively expensive feature to add, which is why they always advertise it.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 1: What are hot-swappable switches?
Answer: Hot-swappable switches refer to a type of mechanical switch commonly found in mechanical keyboards. These switches are designed to be easily replaceable without the need for soldering or disassembling the keyboard. Users can swap out individual switches without powering down the keyboard or requiring any special tools.
FAQ 2: How do hot-swappable switches work?
Answer: Hot-swappable switches work by using a socket or connector mechanism on the keyboard’s PCB (printed circuit board). Each switch is mounted onto the PCB using these connectors, allowing them to be easily inserted and removed. The connectors make electrical contact with the switch, so when you insert a new switch, it’s ready for immediate use.
FAQ 3: What are the advantages of hot-swappable switches?
- Customizability: Hot-swappable switches allow users to customize the feel and sound of their keyboard by easily swapping in different switch types.
- Ease of Maintenance: They make it simple to replace a malfunctioning switch or upgrade to a different switch type without the need for soldering.
- Cost Savings: Users can extend the life of their keyboard by replacing switches rather than buying a whole new keyboard.
- Reduced Downtime: Since switches can be replaced quickly, there’s minimal downtime when maintenance or customization is needed.
FAQ 4: Can any mechanical keyboard have hot-swappable switches?
Answer: Not all mechanical keyboards support hot-swappable switches. For a keyboard to have this feature, it needs to be designed with a compatible PCB and switch sockets. When purchasing a mechanical keyboard, it’s essential to check if it explicitly mentions hot-swappable switches as a feature.
FAQ 5: Are there any drawbacks to hot-swappable switches?
- Limited Compatibility: Hot-swappable switches are generally limited to keyboards specifically designed for them.
- Potential for Looseness: Over time, the connectors on hot-swappable switches may wear out, causing switches to become loose.
- Variability in Quality: The quality of hot-swappable sockets can vary among keyboard models, affecting the overall durability and ease of switch replacement.
Hot-swappable switches are a convenient feature in mechanical keyboards, offering customization, ease of maintenance, and cost savings to users. While they have some limitations and potential drawbacks, they are a valuable option for those who want to personalize their keyboard experience or perform quick switch replacements.