Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What the ttttttttttttttttttttt?? - runaway phantom T key on Toshiba notebook

I was sitting in front of my Toshiba notebook PC about a month ago and then suddenly, out of the blue, with no activity on my part:


WTF?! Where are all of those extra "T" keystrokes coming from?

First, I blew into the keyboard and ran a card between and under the keys to clean out any dust or debris. That worked! For a while.

But the problem kept popping up on occasion and eventually that did not fix it.

I popped the "T" key cap and made sure everything was clean there. That usually worked.

Sometimes I simply power cycled the machine. That usually fixed the problem, at least for a while.

[I know, I know... the right solution is to get a Mac!!]

On occasion the "T" key would actually die. A reboot seemed to fix that as well.

I started to wonder if maybe the phantom "T" key strokes were due to a virus. Hard to say.

Odd, but only the "T" key has this problem.

I am not sure why, but just the other day the thought occurred to me that heating may be the problem. Sure enough, every time I see the problem and then fan and blow on the keyboard for about ten to fifteen seconds and within a minute the problem stops, at least for a while. This is my current "best practice" workaround for the problem. I do in fact believe it is a heating problem.

I also tried putting something under the side edges of the notebook to leave more space underneath for air flow, but that does not cure the problem.

I have A/C on sometimes, but my apartment is not unusually warm right now in any case.

One possibility is that there are simply four years of dirt and grime accumulated inside the machine (there is a fan) and around the keys that causes the overheating. Maybe I'll look into a professional cleaning.

Or maybe some component has simply aged and is more heat sensitive now.

Or maybe four years of typing has simply beaten the keyboard (and some component) to a pulp.

Another possible cause is that with many Google Chrome tabs open I occasionally run into a low memory condition and this has a side effect that the processor and disk start working overtime, like solid, always on, and maybe that is causing extra heating. I do notice that the fan is running at high speed more often.

One possible solution might simply be to buy a new keyboard. That may in fact "fix" the problem for the short-term.

My machine will be four years old in just under a month, so I am due for an upgrade anyway. I might just use this runaway phantom "T" key problem as my excuse. Alas, I had been hoping to wait for Windows 7 to be pre-installed on a new machine. I will still shoot for that, maybe in the fall or the holiday season or next January.

I just checked my old blog posts and curiously my previous Toshiba notebook PC also started getting "finicky" just short of its fourth birthday. Probably a coincidence. Hmmm...

I have the Toshiba Satellite M55-S325.

Other than the "T" key problem, it works great, although I could definitely use a faster machine and more memory. I am still running Windows XP, but upgraded to SP3.

-- Jack Krupansky


At 3:58 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

your keyboard is probably broken, try plugging in a different keyboard and disabling the one on your notebook, I'm 99% certain it would solve your sticky T

At 6:27 AM EST , Anonymous Jack Krupansky said...

I ended up buying a Belkin Laptop Cooling Stand which provides airspace and a large fan. This completely solved the problem.

Eventually the phantom "t" key would become the dead "t" key, but cooling would still solve the problem. A shot of compressed air would cool my PC enough to make the problem go away, but it would quickly return. That was too inconvenient.

The cooling stand has been 100% effective.

And, it also provides two choices of more ergonomic tilt for the keyboard.

-- Jack Krupansky


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