Stuck with a noisy keyboard and wondering how to make your keyboard quieter? You’re not alone. The easiest way is to get a new, quieter keyboard, but that’s no fun (and can be quite expensive). Instead, let’s look at some mods that can help reduce keyboard noise and make it more agreeable for you and whoever else has to listen to you type.
These methods range from simple, cheap mods such as installing O-rings or case foam to more involved tasks such as lubing or replacing your switches. We’ve ranked them in order of effectiveness, but we don’t recommend jumping straight in at the top. Instead, read through the list and choose some easier mods to try out first.
1. Replace Your Switches
The most effective way to reduce keyboard noise is straightforward but arguably quite drastic: change the switches. If you’re using a clicky switch like Cherry MX Blues, then moving to a linear like MX Reds might do the trick.
But that won’t help if you’re already using linear switches. In that case, you’ll want to try some of the “silent” switches from companies like Cherry and Gateron. Most switch manufacturers have at least one silent switch in their lineup, such as Cherry’s MX Silent Red. Other companies like Gateron have a range of quiet switches, including Silent Red, Silent Black, and the tactile Silent Brown.
These switches have rubber pads at the bottom of their stems, significantly reducing the bottom out noise. For the unfamiliar, “bottoming out” is when you press a switch all the way down, which creates an audible clack as the switch stem hits the bottom of the switch housing. The rubber silences this clack and helps create a near-silent typing experience.
Replacing your switches can be relatively easy or a time-consuming process. If you have a hot-swap keyboard, all you need to do is to grab your switch remover, pop the old switches out, and install new ones. If you have a soldered board, then you’ll have to take the time to desolder your old switches and solder in the new ones.
While this is likely the most effective way to create a quiet keyboard, it isn’t without tradeoffs. Silent linear switches are slightly mushy. You’re giving up clickiness or tactile feedback for silence, so this isn’t for you if you don’t like linear switches. It’s not always the best choice, even if it is the most effective.
But it is an option if all else fails and you absolutely have to have a silent keyboard. Unsure which silent switch to go with check out our list of the quietest keyboard switches.
2. Install O-Rings or Silencing Rings
If you don’t feel like swapping your switches yet still want a quieter keyboard, you might want to try installing O-rings instead. These rubber rings go around your keycap stems and cushion the bottom-out sound of your keycaps.
O-rings do this by reducing your key travel, thus stopping you from bottoming out. They essentially do the same thing as the rubber pads in silent switches, only these go on your keycaps and not in the switches themselves.
The main downside of O-rings is that they affect the typing feel, sometimes in ways you may not like. To be safe, start with thin and firm O-rings like these 1.5mm O-rings. Install one on each keycap and see if you’re OK with the silence and typing feel. If they’re still not quiet enough, you can stack another O-ring on top and try again. But if you start too thick, then there’s no easy way to reduce the effect other than getting a new set of O-rings.
Note that O-rings also won’t reduce the click of switches like MX Blues. The click sound of clicky switches is a part of the mechanism itself and has nothing to do with bottoming out.
If you’re using a Topre board, the best way to get a quieter keyboard is with silencing rings. These reduce the plasticky noise that Topre switches make on the upstroke after releasing a key. These are a bit more difficult to install than MX O-rings, but the benefits are well worth the effort.
Deskeys make excellent silencing rings in various thicknesses. Start on the thin side and only size up if they don’t offer enough silencing. I use the #3 rings on my Topre boards, which are nigh-on perfect for my tastes.
3. Lube Your Switches
Bottoming out isn’t the only reason you might have noisy switches. Mechanical keyboard switches have a few moving parts that can rub or rattle, creating noise that shouldn’t be there. Your switches may also suffer from “spring ping,” a ringing metallic sound caused by damaged springs.
Lubing your switches eliminates this friction and rattling, so you get much smoother and quieter switches overall. It also reduces spring ping significantly, to the point where you may not even need to replace any potentially defective springs.
Lubing switches is probably the most time-consuming mod here. Firstly, you’ll have to remove or desolder all the switches you want to lube. Then it’s a matter of dismantling each switch and lubing it individually, taking care not to misplace any parts.
Lube stations can be handy here, as they make disassembling switches and keeping track of the parts much more manageable. You can even get ones that come with lube and all the hardware needed to take apart and put your switches back together.
You have a few options for which lube to use, but Krytox 205g0 is a decent middle ground, perfect for tactile and linear switches. As a bonus, it also works for your stabilizers, so a 10-gram (0.35-ounce) tub will work for all your keyboard-related lube needs.
Avoid lubing clicky switches, as that’ll ruin the click mechanism. If you have clicky switches, the most you should do is lube your springs using Krytox GPL105. Many enthusiasts use a bag-lubing method for springs, where you put all the springs in a small sandwich bag with some GPL105.
4. Modify Your Stabilizers
Rattly stabilizers can also cause unwanted noise in a mechanical keyboard. If you’re unfamiliar with them, stabilizers keep the longer keys on your keyboard, like the Space Bar and both Shift keys (on a standard layout), stable. They also let you hit these longer keys on the edges without them binding or getting stuck.
The stock stabilizers on most mechanical keyboards tend to be loose and rattly. This not only means that your stabilized keys are noisier but hurts the key feel. So most enthusiasts tend to perform a three-step mod to their stabilizers: applying band-aids, clipping, and lubing.
We recommend modding your stabs and lubing your switches in one go. You’ll have to take apart your keyboard to access your stabilizers anyway, so you might as well save yourself the hassle of having to dismantle your keyboard twice.
The band-aid mod is simple: cut a small piece of a band-aid and stick it to the PCB right under the stabilizer housings (on each end of the stabilizer). This cushions the movement of the stems and can help reduce noise. It’s a bit fiddly, so a pair of tweezers will help make this much easier.
Clipping involves cutting off small sections of the stabilizer stem, the part that goes up and down when you use a stabilized key. Clipping these feet off reduces rattle, cutting down on noise and making the keys more stable and secure. You want to clip off the long protruding “arm” off of one side and the right-angled curve on the other, as in this photo:
Finally, you’ll want to lube the stabilizer housings and rails. The Krytox 205g0 we linked earlier is perfect for this. Apply lube to the ends of the rails, including the curved sections. You’ll also want to lube the inside of the housings themselves to reduce friction between them and the stems.
5. Install Case Foam
One of the most common enthusiast mods for a quieter and more dampened mechanical keyboard is installing foam in the bottom of your case, underneath the PCB. This takes some effort as you’ll have to take your keyboard apart, but most mechanical keyboards should let you do this without too much hassle.
All you’ll likely need to do is unscrew your case, take the top half off, and pull the switches, PCB, and keyboard plate out together. The process will differ from keyboard to keyboard, so do a quick search if you’re unsure how to disassemble your particular keyboard. Then you can just place the foam in the bottom half of the case and reassemble it. You may have to get a bit crafty and cut the foam up to fit it in and around any protruding plastic or metal.
There are a few types of foam mats available, such as Poron, EVA, and Sorbothane. Each dampens your keyboard differently, and enthusiasts aren’t quite in agreement about which is best. We feel that EVA is a nice balance between the two extremes of an open-cell foam (Poron) and the total deadening of Sorbothane, so it’s what we’d recommend you start with.
Watch out for the foam’s thickness; not all mechanical keyboards will have the same amount of space between the PCB and case. Ideally, you should open your keyboard up first to see how much room there is and how thick of a foam sheet you need.
6. Use a Desk Mat
Finally, the simplest and quickest way to reduce mechanical keyboard noise is to change the surface you type on. Hard surfaces, like the typical computer desk, tend to amplify the vibrations and sounds of your keyboard. You want to dampen this, and that’s where desk mats come in handy.
Desk mats cushion and absorb the mechanical sound from your keyboard. It doesn’t make the mechanical keyboard quieter, but it stops your table from picking up and making them louder. Desk mats can also make your keyboard sound better. They absorb the higher frequency sounds but leave that bassy “thock” mostly untouched for your listening pleasure.
Your desk mat can be as cheap or as pricey as you want. On the affordable end, you have options like the Logitech desk mat, which sells for around $20. If you’re OK with splashing some cash, you can opt for a high-end gaming desk mat like the Fnatic Dash XD, which will do double duty as an excellent mousepad.
Desk mats can also add a welcome splash of color to your desk setup. Varmilo has a whole range of brightly-colored desk mats, like this Lovebirds desk mat. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, whether you’re focused on performance or aesthetics.
Mechanical keyboards don’t all have to be noisy, clicky, and clacky beasts. Sure, that’s a lot of fun, but knowing how to make your keyboard quieter can prove handy in the long run to keep office- and roommates on your side as you code a new program or write your latest masterpiece.
If you’re after some quick fixes, we suggest you first try O-rings, foam, and desk mats. The latter two aren’t as impactful, but they’re easy and affordable to try out. You might find that some combination of these three will be enough for you (or your roommates). But if they’re not enough, then you’d better set aside some time for the more labor-intensive modifications.
Of course, you can always get one of the best quiet keyboards if you don’t feel up for any of these mods. All the best!