What Is Keyboard Ghosting? How to Detect and Fix This Annoying Problem

Have you ever been typing away on your computer and all of a sudden, some of the letters on your keyboard stopped working? This is known as keyboard ghosting, and it’s a common problem. It can be very frustrating when it happens, and it can cause you to make mistakes that are difficult to correct.

In this blog post, I will discuss what keyboard ghosting is, how you know if your keyboard is ghosting, and what you can do about it. It’s often a real problem for computer users, but the good news is that it’s often simple to fix.

What is keyboard ghosting?

keyboard up close

When you’re typing on a normal keyboard, all of the keys are connected in a grid-like structure. The number of connections between the keys is determined by how many rows and columns your keyboard has. Each connection from one key to another can be seen as an electrical path that allows current to flow through it when pressed down, and this is what sends the signal to your computer telling it which letter or number to type.

When two keys are pressed at the same time, the current can only flow through one path at a time. This means that if you press two keys next to each other, both of those letters will be typed on your screen. However, if you press a key and then quickly press another key that is located farther away from the first key, the current will have to flow through more paths, and this can cause problems.

One of these problems is known as keyboard ghosting. Keyboard ghosting occurs when two or more keys are pressed at the same time and some of the letters on your keyboard do not appear on the screen, limiting the number of key combinations you can use at any given time.

This can cause you to make mistakes and it is very frustrating when typing something out quickly because you have no way of knowing which letters were missed by your computer until after they’ve been typed into whatever program or text editor that is used (such as Microsoft Word).

I find that this makes the entire keyboard virtually unusable, especially when I’m playing video games.

Let’s identify the many types of keyboard hardware.

colorful keyboard keys
Photo via Unsplash

There are two main types of keyboard hardware: mechanical and membrane.

  • Mechanical keyboards: A mechanical keyboard uses switches beneath the keys to detect when they’ve been pressed. The most popular type of mechanical switch is the Cherry MX switch. Enthusiasts tend to like these keyboards better, as they use premium parts and rarely suffer from the same problems as cheap keyboards.
  • Membrane keyboards: A membrane keyboard uses a rubber dome beneath the keys that collapse when pressed and make contact with the circuit board below, which sends the signal to your computer. They often use cheaper parts, which is why keyboard enthusiasts tend to avoid them. But they’re fine if you’re just a casual web surfer.

There are also a number of variations on these keyboards, with different features and combinations of hardware:

  • Gaming keyboards: A gaming keyboard can be either mechanical or membrane, but most of them are mechanical these days. Keyboard manufacturers like to differentiate themselves by marketing their computer keyboards as being good for gaming, office use, etc.
  • 2-key rollover keyboard: A 2-key rollover keyboard is a keyboard that can detect when two keys are pressed at the same time. This is less common, but you’ll find it on some cheaper USB keyboards and laptops.
  • 4-key rollover keyboard: A 4-key rollover keyboard is a keyboard that can detect when four keys are pressed at the same time. This is the most common type of keyboard and it’s what you’ll find on most laptops and office keyboards.
  • 6-key rollover keyboard: A 6-key rollover keyboard is a keyboard that can detect when six keys are pressed at the same time, which helps avoid the common rollover issues with cheaper keyboards. This is the type of keyboard you’ll find on most gaming keyboards.
  • Full n-key rollover keyboard: A full n-key rollover keyboard is a keyboard that can detect all n keystrokes at the same time, regardless of how many keys are pressed. This is the type of keyboard you’ll find on high-end gaming keyboards and it’s not very common. These keyboards are the best, because they don’t really have an upper key limit.

Most keyboard ghosting occurs on membrane keyboards because they have a lower number of electrical paths between the keys. This is due to the way that the rubber domes are arranged beneath the keys.

Now that we know the different types of keyboard hardware, let’s discuss how to detect if your keyboard is ghosting…

Why does keyboard ghosting happen??

You may have noticed that when you press a number of keys on your keyboard at the same time, not all of them appear on the screen. This is known as “ghosting”. The reason for this phenomenon is that some keyboards are manufactured with an electrical circuit inside them called a diode (often referred to as a ghost). Diodes allow electricity to flow in one direction only and prevent it from flowing backward.

When you press two keys at once, the diodes inside your keyboard will block any electrical signals that would normally travel between those two points. Instead, they create a “ghost” signal that goes into another part of the circuit (and possibly back through some other keys) and causes some of them to not work.

This is why you may find that some keys don’t respond when you try to type on them, or they produce a letter that is not the one you intended to type. The good news is that there are several ways to fix keyboard ghosting.

Does it happen with mechanical keyboards?

Keyboard ghosting is less common with mechanical keyboards, but it can still happen. The reason for this is that the diodes used in (some) mechanical keyboards are often of a lower quality than the diodes used in membrane keyboards. This means that they are more likely to allow electrical signals to pass through them, even when two keys are pressed at the same time.

How do you know if your keyboard is ghosting?

One way to tell if your keyboard is ghosting is to type a sentence and then press the keys one at a time. If you can see the letters that are being typed as you press them, your keyboard is not ghosting. However, if some of the letters don’t show up until after you have pressed all of the keys in a sentence, your keyboard is ghosting.

Is there a way to fix keyboard ghosting?

There are several ways to fix keyboard ghosting. One way is to replace your keyboard, but this can be expensive and may not solve your ghosting issue permanently. Another option is to use software that will disable specific keys so they don’t interfere with typing or other tasks on your computer. This type of software is called a keymap remapper/disabler.

F.A.Q (Frequently Asked Questions)

Here are a bunch of questions I’ve seen people asking about keyboard ghosting, and my in-depth responses to them.

How do I use a keymap remapper/disabler?

To use a keymap remapper/disabler, first, download and install the software (often called “keymapping” or “remap”). Then open up your keyboard’s settings menu by right-clicking on its icon in your taskbar and selecting “Open Keyboard Settings.” Once the keyboard settings are open, click on the “Remap” tab. You will see a list of all of the keys on your keyboard. To disable a key, simply select it and press the red “Disable” button. You can also change how a key is mapped to another key by clicking on the “Change” button. When you are done making changes, click on the “Save” button and exit the keyboard settings menu.

Keyboard ghosting can be very frustrating and can cause you to make mistakes that are difficult to correct. By using a keymap remapper/disabler, you can fix many of the common problems associated with key ghosting.

What is a full N-key rollover keyboard?

N-key rollover (abbreviated as NKRO) is a feature on some keyboards that allows you to press multiple keys at the same time and have all of them registered. This is different from keyboard ghosting, which occurs when some keys are not registered because of electrical interference.

How do I know if my keyboard has NKRO?

There is no sure way to know whether or not your keyboard has NKRO, but there are some ways to test it. One way is to download and install a software called “KeyboardTest.” This software will allow you to test all of the keys on your keyboard for functionality. Another way is to use an online keyboard tester. Simply visit one of the following websites and test your keyboard:

If you can press multiple keys at the same time and they all register, then your keyboard has NKRO. If not, it does not have NKRO.

What is the difference between NKRO and keyboard ghosting?

NKRO is a feature that allows you to press multiple keys at the same time, whereas keyboard ghosting is a phenomenon where some keys don’t register when they are pressed.

Is keyboard ghosting a problem for gaming?

Keyboard ghosting is not usually a problem when you’re playing video games. The reason for this is that most games have built-in anti-ghosting protection, which means they will ignore any keypresses that might be caused by keyboard ghosting.

However, in some games, it can cause problems with the WASD keys, which are what most gamers use to move around.

My shift keys don’t always work. Is that related?

Possibly. If your shift keys sometimes don’t work, it could be due to a problem with the key itself or the keyboard’s ghosting protection. Try testing your shift keys with a keyboard tester to see if they are working properly.

How can I tell if my keyboard has an anti-ghosting feature?

There is no sure way to know whether or not your keyboard has an anti-ghosting feature. However, you can try testing your keys with a keyboard tester to see if they are working properly. If they are, then it’s likely that your keyboard does have some form of anti-ghosting protection. Most high-end keyboards today come with anti-ghosting technology and don’t suffer from the same ghosting issues as standard keyboards from older generations.

What are modifier keys on a keyboard?

The modifier keys are the keys on a keyboard that modify the output of other keys when they are pressed. The most common modifier keys are the Shift, Ctrl, and Alt keys.

Does my laptop keyboard have ghosting issues?

Laptop keyboards often have ghosting issues because of the way they are designed. The keys on a laptop keyboard are usually very close together, which can cause electrical interference between them. This interference can prevent some keypresses from being registered.

How can I fix laptop keyboard ghosting?

There is no sure way to fix laptop keyboard ghosting, but there are some methods you can try. One method is to use a keymap remapper/disabler software that I mentioned earlier, which will allow you to disable the keys that are causing ghosting issues.

Do screen keyboards suffer from ghosting?

Of course not, because they don’t exist! Just kidding. Screen keyboards, also known as virtual keyboards, do not suffer from ghosting issues because they are not physical keyboards. The keys on a screen keyboard are not electrically connected, so there is no way for electrical interference to occur between them.

Is anyone doing further research on improving keyboard ghosting?

Actually, yes. The Applied Sciences Group at Microsoft is currently researching new keyboard designs that could potentially eliminate the ghosting problem altogether. So far, they have developed the Microsoft Sidewinder X4 keyboard, which uses a unique “scissor switch” design that is not susceptible to ghosting.

Microsoft isn’t the only one researching this issue. The Chattering Keyboards project at Carnegie Mellon University is also working on developing new keyboard designs that could potentially solve the ghosting problem.

Additional tips for preventing or fixing keyboard ghosting issues

  1. Check for dirt or dust under the keys. This can prevent keypresses from being registered.
  2. Replace your keyboard, if possible. Modern keyboards rarely suffer from these issues, especially if they’re higher-end and mechanical.
  3. Install a keymap remapper/disabler software

These are the methods that you can use to fix keyboard ghosting. Hopefully, one of these solutions will work for you! If not, please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help.

Closing Thoughts

Next time you’re buying a new keyboard, be sure to check for NKRO. It’s a great feature to have and can save you a lot of frustration down the road. If you’re having issues with keyboard ghosting, try using a keymap remapper/disabler or cleaning your keyboard. And if all else fails, consider replacing your keyboard altogether.

We hope this article has helped you understand what keyboard ghosting is and how to fix it. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. And as always, thanks for reading!

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