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How I Cleaned My 800XL Keyboard Successfully

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There have been a lot of good thoughts on how to clean 800XL keyboards here. I decided to follow a more traditional approach and it worked well.


Phase 1 - The Quick and Lazy cleaning:


First I tried cleaning by using q-tips and 91% Isopropyl alcohol to get all of the dirt out from around the keycaps. I was only able to get about 80% down the keycaps because of how tight the keys are relative to each other. I was also certain there was material below the keycaps I could not get to. I wanted a deeper cleaning.


Phase 2 - Prep for cleaning:


- I used a standard keycap puller such as those used for cherry MX keycaps. ($6 shipped in the USA https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TAUJDJK/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1


- I tried to remove all keycaps except for the Spacebars. Spacebars are always special on keyboards as they have extra clips/mechanisms that like to break when removed -- so never try to remove a Spacebar :). The other big keys (Control, Shift, etc) all came out easily and have no extra clips/mechanisms.


- 90% of the keycaps came off completely cleanly with no problem. The 800XL keycaps required less force to remove than most keyboards I've worked with. (Various Cherry MX, Focus 2001, IBM Models). A successful remove looks like the missing 'J' key in this picture: http://blog.pixelpracht.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Atar800xl_06.jpg


- The remaining 10% would come out with a plastic square embedded in the keycap (instead of the keyboard). Underneath this square are two springs - a tall/narrow and a wider/shorter spring. When this happened, I would put the big spring back into the keyboard (there's a ring slot for it). Then I'd placed the tall/narrow spring into the plastic square embedded in the keycap (where it belongs), and push down a good bit on it/twist it a bit so it would stay in place. Then, very carefully I'd make sure I had the keycap oriented the right way, sliding the thin spring into the middle of the wide spring while putting the keycap back in place. Put the keycap back in place in a 'left to right' or 'right to left' orientation as that's how the clips want to attach. If you go in the perpendicular direction you might break the clip. If the spring falls out before the keycap is back on or the key press feels weird, repeat this process until it's better.


- I would then try to carefully/slowly pull the keycap out a second time, and 50% of the time the plastic square would stay in the keyboard. The other keycaps I just left back on the keyboard after a second try.


Phase 3 - the actual cleaning:


The Keycaps -- Fill a bowl with dish soap and hot water. Sprinkle in the keycaps you've removed.. Stir with a plastic brush occasionally. When ready, empty into a strainer (don't lose your keycaps down the drain!) and dry on a towel.


The Keyboard -- With everything verified securely in place on the keyboard (push on each item at least once) -- use compressed air to blow any/all dust out from around the keycaps, keyboard, and 'start-option' keys on the side. The 800XL has a lot of nooks/crannies that make doing this only with a q-tip EXTREMELY tedious. Once the air cleaning is done, follow up with q-tips and Iso alcohol to carefully clean extra dirty spots, including the keycaps that remained on the keyboard. The Spacebar has an amazing capacity for holding dirt. Don't forget to clean the back of the keyboard too if needed.


Phase 4 - Reassemble


Ensure the keycaps are fully dried as any trapped moisture could cause the springs to rust.


Wipe off any remaining dirt with a paper towel on keycaps as needed.


Place the now clean keycaps back on the keyboard. Here's a layout reference if needed: http://atariage.com/forums/uploads/post-8944-1176212341.jpg


Test press on the keys before connecting the keyboard into your Atari. If any keys do not operate normally, remove the keycap carefully and place the key back onto the keyboard. Test again.


Phase 5 - Results


It works, It's clean, I'm happy.



Other recommendations:

- Do not push too hard on the tall spring when placing inside a 'stuck' keycap. If your finger slips off it will fly pretty far away from you.


- You might look into replacing the 'chrome' option/start/reset keys while doing this work as they don't always wear well with time.


- Do not work on the keyboard over your lap -- springs and clips will disappear or get crushed by your chair when you move to try to find them :).


- There are other variants of 800XL keyboards that may have slightly different mechanisms for the keys.


- This is always a good time to clean the plastic 800XL case with dish soap and water, and if needed -- retrobrighting (one pass only) the white parts of the case.


- Atari music such as 'Bad Apple by R0ger', the intro and game music to 'His Dark Majesty', 'Near' by Agenda Demo, and Desire's Arsantica 3 make excellent background music while removing keycaps and cleaning.


- PROTIP --> Don't confuse your water glass with the bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol.

Edited by Xebec

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