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Locked Out of Your Dell Keyboard? Here's How to Fix It

written by: Austin•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 7/14/2011

If your keyboard isn't working but the rest of your external devices are, you may be thinking that your Dell Inspiron keyboard locked up. This is sort of true, but there are some things you can do to fix it.

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    Locked? What is "Locked"?

    Screen shot 2011-07-11 at 4.01.17 PM 

    When I refer to a keyboard being "locked", I don't mean that is has been forbidden for usage by some mysterious computer demon; there is no mysterious code you can input or key you can use to make it work again. What I mean is that it's not working when everything else is working, such as a mouse or speakers. There is, and never will be, such a thing as your keyboard "locking" you out of using it, so don't get too caught up on the semantics here: A locked keyboard is just a keyboard that isn't working.

    A locked laptop keyboard, though? That's a different beast entirely, because it's not nearly as easy to just go out and replace. Here are some things you can try when your Dell laptop keyboard decides to stop working for no apparent reason.

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    Fix #1: Reboot Completely

    The idea of restarting your computer when something has gone wrong is becoming a bit of an old stand by for me because it fixes so many computer problems, and it only takes a few minutes. It's easy to see why it works and I want to pass that help onto you. No matter what the problem is, be it a faulty mouse, a weird-looking desktop, or an unresponsive operating system, rebooting will probably take care of it.

    Now, rebooting completely is a little different from just restarting your computer. With a laptop, I would recommend that you shut down, flip your laptop over, remove the battery, wait a few seconds, put the battery back in, and then start it back up. This process removes all power sources and is known as a hard reset. It can help more than just a simple reboot because it causes the memory to completely flush.

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    Fix #2: Reset Your BIOS


    The second fix here is another sort of "reboot" of things, but it's a bit more in-depth and complicated. For this one, you'll be resetting your Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), which should erase any faulty code or software malfunction that happened while you were using your keyboard. To do this on an Inspiron laptop, there are two ways:

    Method #1:

    - The first way is easier, and requires you to start by shutting down your computer and removing the battery. Make sure the laptop is also not plugged in.

    - Next, open up the lid of your computer and hold down the power button for four to eight seconds. Despite not having a battery in, this should reset the motherboard, and therefore your BIOS.

    - Place the battery back in and then start your computer back up. When it gets to the desktop, open up a word processor such as Microsoft Word or Notepad and attempt to type. If you can now, you're back in business!

    Method #2:

    - The second way to do this is a bit more complicated, but also within reach if you're a computer novice. Start up your computer as normal, and when you see the BIOS splash screen, hit the F2 key until it opens the BIOS menu. Note: If you fail to hit the key in time, you'll need to restart your laptop and try again.

    - Navigate your way around the menu until you find the option that says "Load Defaults". It should be located on the bottom of the screen, and can be activated by pushing the "9" key. This is the option you want to click.

    - Click the "Save" option, accessed by hitting the "F10" key. Follow the instructions, and then exit set up.

    - After it completes, let your laptop restart and then try your keyboard again!

    This should have everything back to normal. If not, try the last fix.

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    Fix #3: Remove and Clean the Keyboard

    I left this option for the end because it's by far the most time-consuming and you'll only want to try it if all else has failed. Gather a screwdriver (one Phillips and one flathead) and the proceed to take apart your laptop's top case by prying off the plastic lining and unscrewing the screws that hold in the keyboard. Lift up on the keyboard and unplug the connecting ribbon carefully before setting it aside.

    To actually clean the keyboard, I recommend using a little dab of rubbing alcohol and cotton swab. Look carefully at each key and check to see that there is no dirt or grime gumming things up. If there is, clean it out using the method mentioned in the last sentence, and then set the keyboard aside.

    After they keyboard itself is clean, I recommend doing a quick blow out of your laptop by using a can of compressed air and on the innards of the computer to get all of the dust and crumbs out of there. Be sure to get all the dust that lumps around the cooling fans. After this, reconnect your keyboard, put it all back together and try it again!

    If this one doesn't help, you'll likely need to take it into a professional. If you have any other ideas or you know another fix for when a Dell Inspiron keyboard is "locked", post it in the comments section below.

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    [Information] eHow, How to Reset the Bios on a Laptop,

    [Information] Dell Help, What is the BIOS?,

    [Information] Dell Inspiron BIOS Menu,

    [Information] Author Knowledge

    [Image] Product Page,,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1280&bih=627&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=11838636399689991065&sa=X&ei=G2UbTvCODIOvsQLE9NXCBw&ved=0CMwBEPMCMAQ

    [Image] Bios Screen,