Long time away, Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid Repair/Cleaning

First off, long time away from the blog that apparently people find due to the almighty Google (I’m not worthy)… very busy with moving for the forth time in the past two years and work as well as family and my home theater project (I’ll write a post for that separately).

So I’ve packed up a Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid mechanical keyboard last year when it started to bug out on me – at first I thought I was typing too fast for it as it would randomly disconnect from my Windows dev machine and it started to get really annoying.

One of the features of the keyboard is the removable usb cable and it’s pretty stiff, but annoyingly it is a low profile connector where it fits into the keyboard – most of the usb cables I have that would fit it from PS3 controller charging cables etc. were way too tall and as such I just packed the keyboard up with plans to return it to Cooler Master for possible RMA.

Well one thing led to another and I ended up voiding the warranty and looking into the innards myself because I can’t help myself (and I hate paying shipping charges – no I didn’t call Cooler Master to even find out if I would have to pay them).

Regardless of the above I also noticed some sticky residue on the keys and some of the Cherry MX switches were very sticky – I’m guessing some beer or pop or both but I’m really trying hard to recall a time I would’ve spilled something on this awesome keyboard… anyways (man this is getting long already and no pictures – sorry!).

I began the descent of cracking open the guts and first you’ll want to void your warranty and remove the single screw that secures the bottom and top halves together:
 Warranty!? We don't need no stinking warranty!

Then using an old library card, gift card or if you’re brave credit card or license – pry the lock tabs out of their counterparts to allow the top and bottom halves to open:
Screw seeing a movie, I'm using this card to pry open this keyboard!

There are numerous tabs along most edges if I recall correctly, none of them are anything special but I did really have to force the card in there but once the card was in the tabs loosened (it’s really more ideal to use as thick a card as you can as you can’t really pry at an angle with plastic cards).

Once the halves are split open you can get a better peek at the tabs I was talking about here:
It's broke :(
Oooo, pretty!

By the way you don’t have to remove the key caps at all to get this far, I wanted to remove all of them to clean.

With the halves split carefully lift up on the back of the metal bracket holding the key pcb matrix, (no – not the Keanu Reeves kind!), in place, there is a small pcb underneath connected by a four wire pin header that connects the usb connection.
Small guts

Oddly enough this is where I found my issue – somehow (don’t ask me how), the wire had already come off of the pin header before I had even really lifted up on the key pcb!

But seeing as I still had sticky keys I continued on with the other work, happy that the biggest problem was already solved.

I didn’t take as many pictures of the tools you’ll need to have in order to do this work but here is a quick list:

  1. Soldering Iron
  2. Solder, I prefer thin (0.023” or 0.813mm) for this kind of precise work
  3. Soldering wick and/or solder sucker
  4. Precision screwdriver (flathead is really the only bit/tip needed)
  5. Q-tips
  6. 90%+ Isopropyl Alcohol

At this point the key matrix pcb should be separate from everything else, I found the Cherry MX switch that needed some cleaning and flipped over the unit to start de-soldering the switch from the pcb – this is the only way to take apart the switch for cleaning.
PCB key matrix, no not the Keanu Reeves kind...

The board is very simple and I thought it was actually kind of neat that it had labels on it for all the switch positions – a nice touch that makes repairs very easy!

Basically take the soldering iron, (heated up and ready to go), and start applying heat to the soldering point you want to remove.  I’ve found it’s best to just briefly apply the irons tip to the solder repeatedly until it’s flowing – if the iron tip is just sitting on the solder point constantly it’ll get too hot and the trace will burn up (not good).

Once the solder is flowing, use the wick or solder sucker to remove.
No more solder, I ate it?

It doesn’t have to be completely clean either, leftover solder on the trace is actually a good thing as it’ll make reapplying solder later once the switch is cleaned easier as everything is already tinned.

Now that the solder is removed the switch can be pushed out of the pcb and metal frame easily by pushing on the black knob poking through the pcb.

Once the switch is out there are four tabs, two each on opposite sides of the switch that will need to be lifted in order for the halves to separate.  I found it easy to unlock one pair at a time using a small precision flathead screwdriver:
No I didnt actually do this with one hand dummy!

One the switch top and bottom halves are apart you can get to the inside easily – make sure to open the halves slowly as there is a spring inside that likes to jump!
I want to touch it

Take special care to notice the orientation of the inside components – the white teeth push down against the metal stationary tabs, it’s entirely possible to assemble the switch back together incorrectly and that’s not something you want to notice only after you’ve soldered everything back together and assembled.

Here is the top part of the switch without the spring for a better look, it’s a tad blurry (sorry using my cell phone), but you can see the teeth I’m talking about:
ummm, it's a thing

Moving on to cleaning, use the alcohol and q-tips to gentle rub away any old Coke or Samuel Adams residue from the interior of the switch housing (using anything else is a bad idea as I’m not sure what kind of plastics or metals are used and you could eat away or tarnish the components).

I modified a q-tip by removing most but not all of the cotton part to make it thin enough to reach the smaller areas, in the past I’ve used toothpicks to gently scrub at things but for general cleanup it shouldn’t be needed.
If in doubt, poke it with a stick!

Once the cleaning is done reassemble the switch and solder it back on, but before everything is reassembled it’s wise to test everything while it’s still apart.

As the small pcb usb connection board is really hard to connect to the key matrix pcb I removed the connection board for testing purposes:
Gizmo hooked to the other gizmo

With any luck success will be had and everything will function as expected.

Reassemble and enjoy your keyboard.

For those looking for Cherry MX switches I’ve found eBay is a great place to look.

I also found some bumpers on Amazon that are made to quiet down the key presses on Cherry MX mechanical keyboards which I may get as they are very loud during online voice chatting as well as regular cell phone calls.

That’s all for now folks, I think this was fun – didn’t you? Ok.


2 responses to “Long time away, Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid Repair/Cleaning

  1. So the random disconnect thing was because of the loosened cable on that small usb interface pcb?
    I’m having same problem with my blue switch QFR. I thought it may be because I developed a really weird habit since I got a mechanical keyboard, of pressing Caps lock twice repeatedly when I’m idle (while gaming, or while thinking what to write etc) and I thought maybe the extensive usage has something to do with it but maybe no…
    I have solder equipment but I’m also unsure how did you know which switch needed cleaning, was just a sticky key or something with the soldering as well?

    • The random disconnect was because somehow the cable that connects the main keyboard matrix pcb to the usb interface pcb has come loose. I haven’t had issues since I’ve posted the article originally but if I had to do it over again I’d probably put a dab of hot glue or a bit of electrical tape to hold it on just in case.

      I had inspected the board once removing all of the keys and saw which one to clean and also since I knew what key wasn’t working (unrelated to the one needing cleaned) I was able to quickly determine which one needed replaced.

      Good luck!

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