Noisy keyboards plague the remote video conferencing environment. At least once a week I can hear a coworker in the background aggressively typing away.
Knowing how to make your keyboard quieter can help you avoid an awkward future conversation with your colleagues or clients.
Why Are Keyboards So Noisy?
So, what makes some mechanical keyboards loud in the first place?
In short, mechanical keyboards use what are called “switches”. A switch is really nothing more than a small plastic slider with a spring. They are the mechanisms under the keycaps that resister every keystroke.
When you press down on a key, you are effectively closing an electrical circuit and thereby activating that key input on your computer.
It is the individual action of your keyboard’s switches that are ultimately responsible for the noise.
Tactile feel, required operating force, distance traveled and audible output are all factors that are considered when making a keyboard. And yes, many standard mechanical keyboards are intentionally made to have audible feedback!
You are here today because your keyboard is a bit (or A LOT) louder than you’d like. So what exactly can you do about it? Let’s review your options.
How To Make Your Keyboard Quieter
To make your keyboard quieter, try placing a mat underneath your keyboard and adjust your microphone settings both within Windows and within the videoconferencing application. If the issue persists, place a foam insert inside the keyboard, place rubber o-rings on the key stems, and use keyboard lube.
Read on for more detailed step-by-step instructions.
Keyboard Mat For Desk
This solution sounds too simple. I get it. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I cannot emphasize enough how much of a positive impact a keyboard mat (sometimes called a desk mat) can have.
A fair amount of the noise that comes from your keyboard is due to sounds echoing and reverberating off of your table. In essence, a keyboard mat will help dampen the sound between your keyboard and the table.
Depending on the type of keyboard “feet” you have, a keyboard mat can also help prevent unwanted sliding. It can even slightly elevate your keyboard off of your desk to a more natural resting position.
Reduce Background Noise On Mic
Another really quick and easy option is to manually adjust your computer’s microphone settings to reduce background noise. The basic goal here is to use noise reduction settings to minimize the amount of keyboard sounds your microphone is picking up.
Now obviously this will have no real world impact on the amount of sound your keyboard is creating. But if you are like me, you like your keyboard sounds just fine. You just don’t want your coworkers to hear you typing in the background.
The exact types of integrated sound options you have available will depend on your PC.
How to Reduce Background Noise On Mic – Windows 10
Head over to your Control Panel and select Sound. In the Sound settings select the Recording tab, click on Microphone and select Properties.
Next, select the Levels tab and use the sliding scale to adjust the Microphone Volume and Microphone Boost.
Start off by increasing Microphone Volume to 100 and lowering Microphone Boost to +10.0 dB.
I recommend joining a quick Zoom or Teams meeting with a friend and doing some trial and error. Play around with the levels until you find the pairing of these two settings that minimize the sounds from your keyboard the most.
Popular videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft (MS) Teams now also offer noise-canceling features within the application.
Zoom Background Noise Suppression
Go to Zoom Settings and select Audio. Here you will find Suppress Background Noise settings. Zoom recommends the High setting specifically to reduce typing sounds.
Microsoft Teams Noise Suppression
In the Teams meeting window select More options (ellipses symbol “…”) and then select Device Settings. Under the Noise suppression section select High. The High Noise suppression setting in MS Teams will filter out all background sounds that are not speech.
Google Meet Noise Cancellation
Google Meet filters out background noises automatically (nothing for you to do here!).
Ok, so you’ve tried a keyboard mat and adjusting your microphone settings but you are still not satisfied. Now what?! If you are willing to take some time to dismantle your keyboard you still have a few remaining options.
Keyboard Foam Insert
Adding dampening foam inside your keyboard has the same rationale as using a keyboard mat.
The main difference is you are absorbing the sounds being emitted from your keys closer to the source. Be sure to place the foam insert at the base of the inside of your keyboard.
There is a bit of work involved here.
You’ll need to select and buy the foam, open up your keyboard, cut and install the foam and finally put everything back together.
It is also worth noting, that while it is opened up and accessible, you should also consider thoroughly cleaning your keyboard at this time.
Having said that, if you’re looking for a more impactful reduction in sound, keyboard foam is a great option.
Sorbothane is a material specifically designed for the purpose of reducing sound and vibration and is a top keyboard foam choice.
You can also get really good results without getting too fancy though. Extra material lying around the house like polyethylene (PE) foam will work just fine.
While you may have never heard of PE foam, you have almost certainty used it before. It is commonly used as protective packaging and can be found in many of your amazon delivery’s.
You can even try double ply paper towels if you’re balling on a budget!
Mechanical Keyboard O-Rings
Placing rubber O-rings around the stems of each of your keys is also fairly effective. It can also be incredibly tedious.
To do this, you will first need to remove each of your keycaps.
You can then place the rubber O-ring around the stem of the key or on the inside of each of the key caps.
If you choose to place them on the key stems, once you put your key caps back on and push them down the O-ring will end up transferring to the inside of the key caps anyway.
This transfer will cause the keys to stick for the first few tries but the stickiness wont last long.
The O-rings work by softening the contact between the inside of your key caps and the key stems. The resulting sound coming from your keyboard will be noticeably less harsh.
A bag of O-rings will run you about 10 bucks so its an inexpensive option to try if you have the time.
Keyboard Switch Lube
If you choose to add a foam insert or use rubber O-rings you may want to consider lubing your keyboard switches while you have the caps off.
This option is by far the most time consuming and will require you to remove all of the switches from your keyboard.
For most keyboards, to remove the switches you will first need to desolder them. Hence the significant time commitment!
It is not uncommon for this process to take up to 5 hours and you may end up breaking a few switches along the way.
The end result however is significantly reduced friction, smoother key strokes and dampened sound.
Check out Krytox Lubricants for the best keyboard lube options.
A noisy keyboard is not only annoying, it can also be a distraction to your coworkers. Knowing how to make your keyboard quieter will help save you some embarrassment and get you back in your colleagues good graces.
- Use a keyboard mat
- Reduce background noise by adjusting your microphone settings
- Insert keyboard foam
- Place mechanical keyboard O-rings onto the inside of your keys
- Lube your keyboard switches
You are now ready to get back to work in peace. Did you find these tips useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Chelsea Ashbrook is a Senior Manager of Corporate Digital Experience at Genentech. Chelsea received her B.A. from the University of Connecticut and has spent the last 11 years working in the technology field.