The bulging Dell XPS 13 keyboard and the solution

In 2018, tired of the lack of horsepower of my existing publishing company laptop, in use with White Cat Publishing, I went out and found a Dell XPS13 laptop on Ebay. I selected it because it was fairly powerful, and it could be used for video processing if we took it on vacation, and the keyboard had good reviews.

And when I first started using it, it ticked all of those boxes.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, when I began to notice that the keyboard was bulging upwards on the left hand side. Most of the left hand side had a noticeable bulge in the D, C, E key area, extending down to the space bar. I had no idea why this was happening, but the laptop did seem to be hot on that side, so I concluded that it was due to internal overheating. I began to power the laptop when I was not actively using it.

The bulge in the keyboard slowly became worse, and started to affect the operation of the keyboard. The space key began malfunctioning, if I tried to use the left hand side of it, nothing happened. More annoyingly, shutting the laptop would engage CTRL Lock on the keyboard, and I could not get out of it using Windows 10 (this is an issue with Windows 10, but the coincidence of the issues was making me…not a happy bunny). The touch pad was also starting to become glitchy.

Now…I can think faster than I type. My typing speed is what limits my ability to rapidly get stuff down, so anything that slows down typing for me, is beyond annoying. Sadly, my better half can attest to the gradual disappearance of my patience with the laptop keyboard.

Also…the laptop would shut down without warning, thinking that the battery was low (no it was not, at least according to the on-screen power management information).

I had resigned myself to the reality that I was going to need to invest in a new laptop. Mary, probably fed up with my cursing swearing and chucking of objects, was researching new laptops online and through Costco.

My sanity was degrading. Something had to be done.

So…I began to look online using “Dell XPS 13 warped keyboard”.

And…paydirt.

The random shutting down of the laptop and the keyboard warp were caused by the same underlying issue.

The modern laptop, with no disk drive, and a lot of pressure to reduce the thickness to not much more than that of a tablet, is designed with an ultra-thin Lithium battery pack, which occupies the entire space between the keyboard and the back panel. There is no space to speak of inside a modern laptop case.

The back panel is made of thin metal. The keyboard base is made of very thin plastic.

The battery pack was failed, and when Lithium packs fail, they overheat and expand. With nowhere to go against the case bottom, the battery was pushing up the keyboard, progressively warping it and degrading its functionality.

So…a search for a battery pack showed lots of them available. I ordered one from Amazon. My thinking was, if the keyboard was thin, it would resume its normal shape after a new battery pack was fitted. With a new battery pack costing $65, this was worth a try. If the keyboard refused to un-warp, a new keyboard could be installed. Beyond that, it would make more sense to spring for a new laptop.

The installation of the new battery pack was fairly easy. Just a case of removing 8 screws from the metal base, pulling the base off the laptop. There are videos like this one on YoutTube that walk through the rest of the process.

So, after pulling the old battery pack, this is what it looks like.

The top side (next to the keyboard):

The pack should be totally flat where the cells are located. As you can see, that’s…not even remotely close to flat. Bulging like a way overweight bar-room boozer.

The bottom side (next to the case):

This side is even worse, but there is some clearance inside the case, so it assumed the contour of the case bottom. I suspect that the pack expanded into that space, then as the expansion became worse, it pushed the keyboard up.

So…new pack installed, and now…a flat keyboard with all the keys working properly.

For somebody who needs a good fast keyboard this is….Nirvana.

 

 

 

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