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How Change Your Laptop Or Netbook Keyboard To Dvorak

Updated on November 17, 2011

When switching to the Dvorak keyboard layout, sometimes you might want to change the physical keys to match your key maps. This can be done on most laptop and netbook keyboards. Most people would argue that you shouldn't need to change the physical keys because you should be touch typing anyway. I disagree. There are some instances where it may be beneficial to change the physical buttons. For example: If you are a new Dvorak user like me, changing the physical keys will help you visually remember where the keys are. It can also help you stay motivated by discouraging you to revert back to qwerty. Another benefit in changing the physical keys is allowing friends or other people to use your computer without them going crazy.

Fully Dvorak'ed out
Fully Dvorak'ed out

Before we begin, lets look at a quick overview of Dvorak and why I decided to use it.

What's Dvorak

Dvorak is an alternative keyboard layout that is designed to keep most of your English typing on the home row keys. From left to right, the home row keys consist of A, O, E, U, I, D, H, T, N, S, and -. All of the English vowels are on the left home row keys. This allows Dvorak users to type about 5,000 possible words on the home rows alone! How many words can you type on the home row of a qwerty keyboard?

The Dvorak keyboard
The Dvorak keyboard

After I read up on the benefits, I decided to take the plunge and switch to Dvorak cold turkey. After a few frustrating and slow days, I found myself wanting to go back to QWERTY. It was easy to switch back and I was tempted a few times. Then I thought, 'What if I could change the physical keys?” That would keep me focused on typing the proper keys. After digging for a while, I managed to change the physical keys on both my Asus Eee PC and my Dell Inspiron 17. Here's how.

Lets Begin

First, I warn you to do this at your own risk. Be very careful not to break any keys. Lets start with my laptop, the Dell Inspiron 17. First, get a picture of the Dvorak layout and leave it on your computer screen. If you prefer to do this with the computer off, feel free to print out the layout. Now that you have the Dvorak layout, start by removing your keys. For most laptop computers, the keys can be removed by gently prying from the sides of the keys. Take a look below for a demonstration. After removing the keys, arrange them in the proper order. Use the layout to match the positions. When pressing the keys into the new positions, be sure to carefully press them in. you should hear and feel an audible “pop” or “snap.” Make sure the new keys function properly by pressing on it a few times. Repeat this for the rest of the keys and finish up. Make sure to double check if the keys are in the correct places. In summary:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pry from the sidesPops right out
Pry from the sides
Pry from the sides
Pops right out
Pops right out
  1. Get a picture as reference.

  2. Remove the keys carefully.

  3. Reposition the keys and snap them back on.

  4. Double check your layout.

  5. Fix any mistakes.

  6. You're done!

Lets Do The Netbook

My laptop was completed without any problems. Now it was time to do my netbook. Right off the bat, I noticed that the “Z” key and the “?” key differed in size. I left those keys alone and it wasn't hard for me to train those to memory. Everything was set up and I was ready to go. There was only 1 problem. I couldn't get the keys off. After taking a temporary break, I looked to the web for the answer. It turns out, Asus made the Eee PC Seashell keyboards a little different. Instead of prying the keys from the sides, you have to pry them vertically. From the top or bottom. After I figured that out, I proceeded my project and transplanted the keys. I noticed that doing this on my netbook was much easier than my laptop. The netbook had spacing between the keys and they fell into their own “pocket.” In contrast, there were no pockets on my laptop keyboard and there were no spacing.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pry from the topPops outDone!
Pry from the top
Pry from the top
Pops out
Pops out

I am getting used to Dvorak and I do believe changing the keys has helped. I am a visual learner so seeing where the keys are and burning into my memory is a must. I have gotten better at touch typing and have since relied less on looking at the keys. It was still a good idea because now, my brother, girlfriend, or whoever I let use my computers now aren't totally confused! It has also been really fun hearing all the funny reactions. Before I physically changed the keys, my brother was completely confused. In fact, that may be a good prank to play on someone. Switch their keyboard to Dvorak without physically changing the keys.

Try It!

Here's a last tip: If you want to physically remap your keys, gently pry on it from the sides first. If there's a lot of play, chances are that's the correct method. If it doesn't budge, STOP! Don't force it. Try prying it vertically. It should give. Also, this may not work on all keyboards. Don't forget to be patient. Thanks for reading. Please feel free to add your laptop and netbooks in the comment box if you have tried this. Hopefully, we can get a nice list of what computers can do this and what can't.

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I find turning on the On-Screen keyboard is a good way to see what you are doing while getting used to not looking at the keys.

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      6 years ago


      What pasting bug are you talking about? I've gotten rid of my laptop and I now exclusively use my desktop and although I can move my keycaps on my mechanical keyboard, I've decided not to do this. I now have memorized all the keys. Been typing Dvorak for about a year now. You will get it! It will become natural. On typeracer, I can type about 70-80 wpm average and a few times, hit 90. Right now, I'm very comfortable typing at a calm pace. The most important thing when you first start learning is take your time. Take a rest if your hands start to hurt. They say you should rest your fingers on the home rows but I don't do that anymore. I now rest only my index fingers on the nubs and I can find all the keys. Don't be robotic or stiff. You'll get it!

    • profile image

      Logan Kemp 

      6 years ago

      Just learning Dvorak now, but I think I'm beginning to get it. This is the first thing I've typed with it and I have to keep looking at the keys so much I'm glad I swapped the keys. Honestly I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it already. I have a Compaq Presario CQ57 laptop. Now if only Ubuntu's pasting bug would get fixed...

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I put squares of fibreglass tape on my keyboard with the dvorak layout. But they're wearing out now, so i might swap the keys around like this. The keys all look the same size on my eeepc 1005p.

    • alocsin profile image


      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm going to try this out on my Toshiba NB505 Netbook. Great photos and procedures.


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