Keyboard modding refers to making modifications to the way a keyboard looks, feels, or sounds. People have various motivations for keyboard modding. While some pursue it as a pastime hobby, others consider it in order to upgrade a basic keyboard that they bought for cheap.
Gamers are often very interested in keyboard modding because they want to make sure that their gaming keyboard is helping them gain a competitive edge. Switching to the right mechanical switches, for instance, can help them get there (more on this later).
We recently published a guide on how to set up a gaming desk which included tips on the right accessories to buy as well as ways to enhance its aesthetic. Nailing your gaming desk isn’t enough to amp up your gaming setup, though. Your gaming peripherals need to look their best. Hence, we have compiled this guide to help you upgrade the look and feel of your mechanical keyboard.
There are a number of ways to upgrade your mechanical keyboard’s looks. There are also ways to improve its performance and user experience. Factors such as how hard you’re required to press down on a key or how loud your keyboard is all contribute to the overall experience of using a keyboard.
The best mechanical keyboards take most of these factors into account, but they can often be expensive. Keyboard modding is a much easier and budget-friendly way of getting almost the same experience. Let us look at four easy ways to mod your mechanical keyboard.
1. Switch it up with customized keycaps
For the uninitiated, keycaps are the plastic covers installed on top of your keys with their specific functions printed on them. Since they cover a significant area on your keyboard, their look affects the overall aesthetic of your keyboard. Hence, we need to make sure your keycaps are attractive.
Replacing all your keycaps may sound like a daunting task, but it isn’t. You can easily order a set of keycaps of your choice along with a keycap puller online. In fact, most keycap sets ship with keycap pullers as part of the package.
Keycaps also come in a variety of styles (solid, jelly, clear) and budgets to choose from, and you can surely find a great set at an affordable price – and one that will let you get the overall effect and design you want. The process of replacing your keycaps is fairly obvious and straightforward. Gently pull them using the keycap puller, and push the new keycaps in their place.
2. Upgrade your switches
Found under the keycaps, mechanical switches register your keystroke and usually deliver an auditory or tactile response. Upgrading your switches is another way of upping your mechanical keyboard’s feel. This can be an easy or hard task depending on the kind of keyboard you have. If you own a hot-swappable keyboard, all you have to do is pluck out the switches and replace them. If your keyboard doesn’t feature hot-swappable keys, then some soldering would be required to get the job done.
There are essentially three main types of mechanical keyboard switches: linear, tactile, and clicky. These switches have been given certain colors to make things easier for consumers. Linear switches come in red, yellow, or black. Tactile switches are either brown or transparent, and clicky switches are either blue or green. All three types of switches have their fair share of pros and cons.
Linear switches are known for being smooth, consistent, and quiet. Tactile switches are said to be best for beginners, have a bumpy feel to them, and produce moderate noise. Clicky switches are also bumpy and beginner-friendly but are fairly loud compared to tactile switches.
The ultimate decision depends on what your priorities and preferences are. Linear switches are considered best for gaming as they require less force to press, making them ideal for intense FPS games. Tactile switches are considered great for writing as they offer excellent feedback while typing and aren’t as loud as clicky switches, which makes them perfect to be used in public settings. Clicky switches offer the best feedback while typing and are also very satisfying to use; however, they are inconvenient to use in public areas because of how loud they are.
For specific recommendations, feel free to check out our guide on the best keyboard switches.
3. Get a custom cable
Cables have great potential to enhance your work or gaming setup, too. You can replace the bland-looking cables on your desk with custom USB cables. However, you can only do this if your mechanical keyboard features a detachable power cable.
There are various kinds of cables available, and they all come in a range of prices, so you don’t have to worry about your budget too much. There are typically two main types of cables: straight and coiled. The latter is more expensive but looks better. The final decision is dependent on your budget and priorities.
4. Consider O-rings
O-rings are another great accessory that is meant to not only enhance your typing experience but also considerably increase the lifespan of your mechanical keyboard. O-rings are small rings made of rubber that are installed under the keycaps on a keyboard to absorb the pressure applied to them. They prevent the keycaps from coming in contact with the surface of the keyboard, quieting the sound produced by it and delaying keyboard wear and tear. O-rings come in various sizes and hardness levels, and you make a decision based on what you’re using your mechanical keyboard for.
It isn’t hard to mod your mechanical keyboard. With a little research, budget, and time, you can easily take your work or gaming setup up a notch. We hope this guide gave you some clarity in terms of the most important things to consider.
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Dua is a freelance technology writer who's contributed to TechRadar, PCMag and ScreenRant. She's been a technology fan since she was young, and used to pore over the latest product reviews. When not playing with or researching some new piece of tech, you might find her reading, working out or playing the ukelele.