What are hot-swappable switches?
What are hot-swappable mechanical 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.