I was forcibly sidetracked yesterday when my trusty Apple wireless keyboard suddenly crapped out. I was trying to change the batteries—don’t worry, they are rechargeable—when a small plastic piece fell out of the battery tube, and nothing I could do after replacing it would make the keyboard power back on (I’m guessing I’m not the first to have this problem).
Now, I like this keyboard. It maps exactly to the Macbook Pro layout so my muscle memory isn’t thrown off by switching back and forth. And I don’t mind shelling out Apple premiums because their products are worth it, but I hate to replace what is otherwise a perfectly good device (sans power source). I happened to have a spare USB charger from some former iPhone, so I decided to see how well the two play together.
Step 1: Strip For Me
I’ve never seen the inside of a USB cable but I know mine puts out about 5V at 1A (which sounds about right for something that normally runs on 3 AA batteries), so I assumed I’d find the good ole red/black combo in there somewhere. I was surprised to find three exposed wires instead of the black, but my guess is that those will do the job.
Step 2: Pull Out
If you pop open the back of the keyboard near the power button you’ll see the brain that runs this show. It is connected in four ways:
- The important-looking blue tape with lots of connection points
- The power plug on the top with wires that head back to the batteries (unhook that from the board)
- The power control with wires that head to the power button
- A small screw near the power button
There was also a piece of plastic near the power button that you need to hold back while you carefully pull the brain up and out of the keyboard after disconnecting everything.
Step 3: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.
Now you cut the original power wires, since you’ll want to reuse the bit that plugs into the brain. Then you just attach that to the USB cable.
Step 4: Finishing Touches
Now we just need to tidy up, plug it in and put it back.
I didn’t have solder handy, so I just wrapped things up with tape.
I cut the end off of the brain’s cover to make it compatible with the new design.
I thought the Apple UX team might frown on exposed wires (nothing extra tape won’t fix).
Step 5: Turn Me On
The moment of truth, fire it up! It turns out that powering the keyboard is easy, but getting the “important-looking blue tape” from Step 2 back into place is a challenge (so you might have power but no functionality without finessing that connection).
Step 6: Happy Ending
At this point you’ll either have a newly functional keyboard or a wasted hour and some extra mac replacement keys. There’s no second place in hacking.