Late 2018 I bought a very cheap mechanical keyboard from Aliexpress. Since then, I’ve performed various modifications on it to improve its feel and sound, and basically make it less craptastic overall. I was a beginner when I did these and I appreciated beginners’ guides, so this is me giving back to the community.
This is as simple as it gets and you need to be mentally handicapped to screw it up. You put a towel under your keyboard. Basically, towels are incredibly good at absorbing vibrations, and sound is vibrations. The towel will absorb sound before it reaches your desk, which is made of some hard material. This will make your keyboard less noisy and may change the feel slightly.
Unless you have a really premium, custom-fit case, there will be a gap between the keyboard PCB and the bottom of your case. This effectively acts like a resonance chamber and makes your keyboard louder. It makes your keyboard sound like it’s “hollow”. If that’s all you’ve ever known it’s possible it might not even sound like anything to you, like “this is what every keyboard sounds like.”
The mod is very simple. You fill out the gap with material, usually vibration-absorbing foam. Just unscrew it, fill it up, and screw it back in. There’s speciality foam for sound-proofing which works better but it costs tons. You can use packing foam, including the foam that your keyboard shipped with. Towels also work very well, on par with expensive foam. Make holes where the screws go back in and you’re good to go.
Effects depend on how much gap there was before you did the mod. The keyboard will sound less hollow and keyboard feel may change.
No matter how much you fill your case up, there’s going to be imperfections, especially if you’re working with really cheap keyboards. Remember, I bought my keyboard for like €20 or something. You can remove the problem altogether by removing the case.
Now, it’s generally not advised to have your PCB exposed to the elements, so you should stick something to the underside of your PCB, such as the foam from the padding mod, and/or letting it rest on a towel. This significantly changes the sound and the feel of the keyboard, and IMO it is the way to type.
Now we’re getting to the interesting stuff. First you will need to desolder all the switches of your keyboard. You will need a soldering iron and a solder sucker for this. Then you remove the switches, and using a flat-head screwdriver, carefully, you open them. You take off the top housing and the stem, then you remove the spring and replace it with a different spring that is lighter or heavier. Lighter springs make keys easier to press, making it feel like you’re typing on a cloud or water. Heavier springs make presses harder, making typing a more pronounced and conscious experience.
This significantly changes the feel of the keyboard, and your mileage may vary on which weight you prefer. I swapped the stock 45g springs with 80g springs and I am very satisfied.
Out of all mods listed this is perhaps the single most significant, above and beyond even changing your switches altogether. With your switches disassembled, apply lubricant on the stem and the springs. You can use thin, chain oil or motor grease, I’ve even seen people use whale oil from before the Great War. Thick lubrication has a more significant impact, but in either case be careful with overlubing because you may end up ruining the character of your switches with a distinct “clogged” feel.
Lubrication will eliminate any friction inside the switch itself and make operation smoother. It also changes sound a lot. It’s primarily useful for linear switches, and some people outright refuse to use linears without lubing them. I have tactile switches and I tried it for the hell of it, and I am so impressed by the results that I’ll be using linear switches going forward.
Don’t forget to lube your stabilisers as well.
Some prebuilts come with extra switches in case you ruin some of them, but mine didn’t. If you fuck up, first identify your switch and see if you can buy any extras. If you have a hipster switch, for example the Ajazz has Zorro switches, then identify their characteristics and try buying something similar. Zorro Blues are clicky 45g switches, and I modded them with 80g springs, so that’s basically the same as Gateron Green switches. When I first desoldered my keyboard, I damaged some switches, so I put in Gateron Greens instead, and the difference is negligible, impossible to tell while typing.