Apple Wireless Keyboard

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.

Exposed USB Cable

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:

  1. The important-looking blue tape with lots of connection points
  2. The power plug on the top with wires that head back to the batteries (unhook that from the board)
  3. The power control with wires that head to the power button
  4. 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.

The Brain

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.

Joining the Wires

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Now we just need to tidy up, plug it in and put it back.

Plug It In

I didn’t have solder handy, so I just wrapped things up with tape.

Wrap Up

I cut the end off of the brain’s cover to make it compatible with the new design.

Put It Back

I thought the Apple UX team might frown on exposed wires (nothing extra tape won’t fix).

Tape It Up

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).

Turn It On

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.

Happy Ending