How Many Switches for a 65% Keyboard? A Comprehensive Guide

How Many Switches for a 65% Keyboard: Welcome to the world of 65% keyboards, a realm where compact design meets functionality and customization.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of 65% keyboards, focusing on a crucial aspect often overlooked: the number of switches.

Understanding the right number of switches, especially Cherry MX switches, is essential for both functionality and personalization when it comes to switches for a

We’ll cover everything from the basics of what a 65% keyboard is, to the specific switch count required, and even how to choose the best switches for your needs.

IntroductionFocus on the number of switches in 65% keyboards, essential for functionality and customization.
What is a 65% Keyboard?Compact design, 65-68 keys, includes arrow and some function keys, balance between space-saving and functionality.
Comparison with Other Sizes60% (more compact, lacks certain keys), TKL (larger, no number pad), Full-Size (all standard keys, largest).
Key Features of 65% KeyboardsCompact (65-68 keys), includes essential keys, variations in design, efficient space management.
Switch CountTypically 65-68 switches, varies with layout. Critical for functionality and purchasing.
Types of SwitchesMechanical (tactile, durable, variety) and Optical (fast, precise, quieter).
Choosing SwitchesBased on personal preference, environment, usage. Types: Linear (smooth, quiet), Tactile (feedback, less error), Clicky (audible, rhythmic).
Additional ConsiderationsActuation force, user preferences, durability, travel distance, compatibility.
Installation TipsVerify compatibility, prepare workspace, remove keycaps, extract/install switches, reattach keycaps. Tools: switch/keycap puller, soldering iron, desoldering pump/wick. Avoid force, misalignment, overheating, excess solder.
Customization and DIYCustom keycaps (material, color, design, profile, legends), switch modifications, LED backlighting, custom cables, sound dampening, case customization.
Comparison Table60% (60-61 keys, for portability), 65% (65-68 keys, balance), TKL (80-87 keys, functionality without pad), Full-Size (104-108 keys, complete range).
FAQsSwitch compatibility varies, custom keycaps easy to install.
ConclusionSwitch count and types crucial for 65% keyboard functionality and personalization. Ideal for various users.

What is a 65% Keyboard?

A 65% keyboard is a compact keyboard that retains most of the essential keys found on a full-size layout, without the number pad.

It typically includes 65 to 68 keys, striking a balance between space-saving and functionality. Compared to 60% keyboards, 65% variants often include arrow keys and a few additional function keys, making them a popular choice among typists and gamers alike.

They are known for their portability and have gained popularity for their sleek design and efficient use of space.

Comparison with Other Keyboard Sizes

When choosing a keyboard, understanding how different sizes compare is crucial. Let’s delve deeper into how 65% keyboards stack up against 60% keyboards, Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards, and Full-Size keyboards.

60% Keyboards

  • Size and Layout: 60% keyboards are even more compact than 65% keyboards. They typically have around 60-61 keys.
  • Key Omissions: These keyboards usually lack dedicated arrow keys, function row, and navigation cluster (Home, End, Page Up/Down), which are present in a 65% keyboard.
  • Portability: Due to their smaller size, 60% keyboards are highly portable, making them a favorite for users with limited desk space or those who frequently travel.
  • User Experience: The lack of certain keys means users often rely on secondary layer functions (accessed via key combinations) for missing functionalities. This can be a learning curve for some users.
  • Ideal For: Users who prioritize minimalism and portability over direct access to navigation and function keys.

Tenkeyless (TKL) Keyboards

  • Size and Layout: TKL keyboards are larger than 65% keyboards, usually featuring 80-87 keys. They maintain the function row at the top, which is missing in 65% keyboards.
  • Key Omissions: The most notable omission in TKL keyboards is the number pad, which is present in full-size keyboards.
  • Balance of Functionality and Size: TKL keyboards strike a balance between the compactness of 65% keyboards and the functionality of full-size keyboards. They offer more keys, including the function row, without the bulk of a number pad.
  • Ideal For: Users who need more keys for shortcuts or programming but still want to save desk space by eliminating the number pad.

Full-Size Keyboards

  • Size and Layout: Full-size keyboards are the largest, typically featuring 104-108 keys. They include every standard key: the number pad, function row, navigation cluster, and arrow keys.
  • Complete Functionality: These keyboards offer the full range of keys, making them suitable for users who frequently use the number pad or prefer having all keys readily accessible.
  • Desk Space: Due to their size, full-size keyboards require more desk space, which can be a drawback for users with limited space.
  • Ideal For: Users who rely heavily on the number pad for data entry or calculations, or those who prefer having all functionalities without needing to use secondary layers or key combinations.

Each keyboard size offers its unique blend of functionality, size, and user experience. The choice largely depends on personal preference, work requirements, and desk space.

For those who value compactness but still want some dedicated navigation keys, a 65% keyboard is an excellent middle ground.


Key Features of 65% Keyboards

The 65% keyboard layout has gained popularity for its unique blend of compactness and functionality. Let’s explore its key features in more detail:

Layout Description

  • Compactness: The 65% keyboard typically features 65 to 68 keys, making it more compact than full-size and TKL keyboards. This size reduction is achieved by removing certain keys, like the number pad, some function keys, and sometimes the top row of navigation keys.
  • Inclusion of Essential Keys: Despite its compact size, the 65% keyboard layout includes arrow keys and a minimal set of function keys, which are often missing in smaller 60% keyboards. This makes it more functional for users who frequently use these keys.
  • Design Variations: Within the 65% layout, there can be slight variations. Some models might include a few additional keys for specific functions or shortcuts, which can slightly increase the total key count.

Key Count Implications

  • Switch Count: Each key on a keyboard requires a switch underneath it. Therefore, for a 65% keyboard, you’ll need an equivalent number of switches. This typically ranges from 65 to 68 switches, depending on the exact key layout.
  • Impact on Typing Experience: The reduced key count can affect the typing experience. Users coming from full-size keyboards might need some time to adjust to the more compact layout and the different placements or omissions of certain keys.
  • Efficiency and Space Management: With fewer keys, the 65% keyboard allows for more efficient use of space, which can lead to a more ergonomic setup, as users don’t have to reach far for mouse usage.

Customization Options

  • Keycaps: One of the most popular customization options for 65% keyboards is changing the keycaps. Users can choose from a wide variety of colors, materials (like ABS or PBT), and designs to personalize the look of their keyboard.
  • Switches: Users can also customize the switches based on their typing preferences. Whether you prefer a tactile, linear, or clicky feel, there’s a wide range of mechanical and optical switches available to suit different typing styles and needs.
  • Aesthetics and Functionality: Customizations can cater to both aesthetic preferences and functional needs. For example, some users might prefer silent switches for a quieter typing experience, while others might opt for RGB lighting for a more visually appealing setup.
  • DIY Modifications: Beyond just switches and keycaps, enthusiasts often engage in further DIY modifications. These can include adding sound dampening materials, customizing the keyboard’s case, or even hand-wiring their own layouts for a truly personalized keyboard.

The Magic Number: How Many Switches Do You Need?

When assembling or customizing a 65% keyboard, one of the most critical aspects to consider is the number of switches you’ll need.

This number is not arbitrary but is directly tied to the specific layout and design of your chosen keyboard. Let’s break down what you need to know:

Standard Switch Count for 65% Keyboards

Typical Range: For most 65% keyboards, the required number of switches will fall between 65 and 68. This variation is due to slight differences in layout designs across different models and brands.

Key-to-Switch Ratio: Each key on the keyboard corresponds to one switch. Therefore, the total number of keys on your specific 65% keyboard model will determine the exact number of switches you need.

Factors Influencing Switch Count

Layout Variations: While the standard 65% keyboard layout includes 65 to 68 keys, some models might add or remove a few keys for specific functionalities or design preferences. For instance, a keyboard might include a few extra keys for media control or other shortcuts, which would increase the switch count.

Custom Layouts: For those who are building a custom keyboard or modifying an existing one, the switch count might differ if you are deviating from standard layouts. Custom builders sometimes add or remove keys based on personal preference or specific use cases.

Importance of Accurate Switch Count

Functionality: Having the correct number of switches is crucial for the functionality of the keyboard. Each key needs a switch to register a keystroke.

Purchasing Switches: When buying switches, it’s important to know the exact count required. Purchasing too few will leave you with an incomplete keyboard, while too many will be a waste of resources.

Custom Orders: If you’re ordering custom switches, especially those that are more expensive or have longer lead times, having the right count is even more critical to avoid delays or additional costs.

Considerations for Spare Switches

Extras for Backup: It’s often recommended to get a few extra switches beyond the exact number needed. This accounts for any potential manufacturing defects or future replacements if a switch becomes faulty.

Consistency: Having spare switches from the same batch ensures consistency in case you need to replace a switch later on. Switches from different batches can sometimes have slight variations.


Types of Switches Compatible

When customizing a 65% keyboard, one of the most significant decisions involves choosing the type of switches. This choice can drastically affect the keyboard’s feel, sound, and overall user experience.

The two primary types of switches compatible with these keyboards are mechanical and optical switches. Let’s explore these options in more detail:

Mechanical Switches

  • Tactile Feedback: Mechanical switches are renowned for their distinct tactile feedback. Each keypress is met with a physical response, informing the user that the keystroke has been registered. This feedback varies depending on the type of mechanical switch used.
  • Durability: These switches are built to last, often capable of enduring tens of millions of keystrokes. This makes them a reliable choice for heavy typists and gamers alike.
  • Variety of Options: Mechanical switches come in several varieties, each offering a different typing experience:
  • Linear: These provide a smooth keystroke without any tactile bump or audible click. They are often favored by gamers for their consistent keystroke.
  • Tactile: Tactile switches offer a noticeable bump in the middle of the keypress, providing physical feedback for typists. This can help reduce typing errors and increase speed.
  • Clicky: Similar to tactile switches but with an added audible click sound. They are often preferred by users who enjoy feedback from their typing, but they can be loud in shared environments.
  • Customization: Mechanical switches also allow for customization in terms of actuation force (how hard you have to press the key) and travel distance (how far the key moves down).

Optical Switches

  • Speed and Precision: Optical switches are known for their speed and precision, making them a popular choice among gamers. They use light-based actuation, registering keypresses at the speed of light.
  • Durability and Reliability: These switches tend to have fewer moving parts than mechanical switches, which can lead to increased durability and a lower chance of mechanical failure.
  • Quieter Operation: Generally, optical switches are quieter than their mechanical counterparts, which can be beneficial in shared workspaces or for streamers who require a quieter keyboard.
  • Responsive Typing Experience: The lack of physical contact in the actuation process makes optical switches extremely responsive, which can be a significant advantage in fast-paced gaming or intensive typing sessions.

Choosing the Right Switches for Your 65% Keyboard

The selection of switches for your 65% keyboard is a critical decision that can significantly impact your typing or gaming experience.

This choice is highly personal and should be based on your individual preferences and usage habits. Let’s delve deeper into the three main types of switches – linear, tactile, and clicky – to help you make an informed decision.

Linear Switches

  • Characteristics: Linear switches are known for their smooth and consistent keystroke. They do not have a tactile bump or audible click midway through the keypress, which results in a fluid and uninterrupted motion.
  • Sound Level: These switches are generally quieter compared to tactile and clicky switches, making them a good choice for shared workspaces or quiet environments.
  • Typing Feel: The lack of tactile feedback means that you might not feel exactly when the switch actuates (registers a keypress), which can be a downside for typing but is often preferred in gaming scenarios where quick and smooth key presses are crucial.
  • Popular Among Gamers: Their smooth operation and quieter sound profile make linear switches a favorite among gamers, especially those who engage in fast-paced games where rapid key presses are common.

Tactile Switches

  • Characteristics: Tactile switches provide a noticeable bump in each keypress, offering physical feedback to indicate that a key has been actuated. This tactile feedback can help in reducing typing errors and increasing typing speed.
  • Typing Experience: The tactile bump helps in identifying the actuation point without the need to bottom out the key, which can lead to a more comfortable and efficient typing experience, especially for prolonged periods.
  • Sound Level: While they are generally quieter than clicky switches, they are louder than linear switches due to the tactile bump.
  • Preferred by Typists: The tactile nature of these switches makes them a popular choice for typists, writers, and programmers who value feedback from their keystrokes.

Clicky Switches

  • Characteristics: Clicky switches are similar to tactile switches in providing a tactile bump, but they also include an audible click sound at the point of actuation. This click provides both physical and auditory feedback.
  • Audible Feedback: The distinct click sound is satisfying for many typists but can be considered loud or distracting in shared or quiet environments.
  • Typing Rhythm: The tactile bump and audible click can help establish a rhythm while typing, which can be beneficial for accuracy and speed.
  • Popular in Typing Communities: Clicky switches are often favored by enthusiasts who enjoy the auditory feedback and the classic typing feel they offer.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Switches

  • Personal Preference: Ultimately, the choice of switch type comes down to personal preference. Consider what you value most: the smoothness of linear switches, the tactile feedback of tactile switches, or the auditory click of clicky switches.
  • Environment: Where you plan to use the keyboard can also influence your choice. If you’re in a shared office or a quiet environment, quieter switches like linear or some tactile switches might be more appropriate.
  • Usage: Think about your primary use for the keyboard. If you’re gaming, linear switches might be preferable for their smooth and rapid actuation. For typing or programming, tactile or clicky switches can provide beneficial feedback.

Factors to Consider

Selecting the right switches for your 65% keyboard involves more than just deciding between linear, tactile, or clicky types.

Several nuanced factors play a crucial role in determining the best switch for your needs. Let’s expand on these factors:

Actuation Force

  • Definition: Actuation force refers to the amount of pressure required to depress a key to the point where it registers a keystroke.
  • Measurement: Typically measured in grams (g), the actuation force can vary significantly between switch types.
  • Impact on Typing: A higher actuation force generally means you need to press harder on the keys, which can lead to faster finger fatigue. Conversely, a lower actuation force requires less pressure, which can be more comfortable for long typing sessions but might lead to accidental keystrokes.
  • Personal Comfort: Some users prefer a heavier actuation force for a more deliberate typing feel, while others prefer a lighter touch. This is often a matter of personal comfort and typing style.

User Preferences

  • Typing Habits: Your typing habits play a significant role in switch selection. Heavy typists might prefer a switch with a tactile bump for better feedback, while light typists might lean towards a switch with a lower actuation force.
  • Gaming Needs: Gamers often prefer linear switches for their smooth keystroke and rapid actuation, which can be beneficial in fast-paced gaming scenarios.
  • Sound Sensitivity: If you are sensitive to sound or work in an environment where noise is a concern, the sound level of the switch will be a significant factor in your decision.
  • Ergonomics: Consider how the switch affects your hand comfort and ergonomics. A switch that requires too much force or causes discomfort can lead to strain over long periods.

Additional Considerations

  • Durability: The lifespan of a switch, often measured in millions of keystrokes, can also be a deciding factor, especially for heavy users.
  • Travel Distance: This is the distance the key moves down when pressed. A shorter travel distance can lead to faster typing but might feel less satisfying for some users.
  • Compatibility: Ensure that the switches you choose are compatible with your 65% keyboard. Some keyboards are designed for specific types of switches.

Installation Tips for Switches on a 65% Keyboard

Installing new switches on a 65% keyboard can be a rewarding DIY project, enhancing your typing experience and customizing your keyboard to your preferences.

However, it requires careful handling and attention to detail. Here’s an expanded step-by-step guide, along with the necessary tools and common mistakes to avoid.

Step-by-Step Guide for Switch Installation

Verify Switch Compatibility: Before starting, ensure that your keyboard is designed to be switch-replaceable. Check if it’s a hot-swappable model (which doesn’t require soldering) or if it requires desoldering and soldering for switch replacement.

  • Prepare Your Workspace: Set up a clean, well-lit workspace with enough room to lay out your tools and components. A static-free mat can be beneficial for protecting electronic components.
  • Remove Keycaps: Gently remove the keycaps from your keyboard using a keycap puller. This exposes the switches underneath. It’s a good practice to organize the keycaps as you remove them for easy reassembly.

Extract Old Switches (If Applicable):

For hot-swappable keyboards, use a switch puller to carefully unclip and pull out each switch. Apply even pressure and wiggle the switch slightly if necessary.

For non-hot-swappable keyboards, you’ll need to desolder each switch using a soldering iron and a desoldering pump or wick. Heat the solder joints and carefully remove the molten solder to free the switch.

Install New Switches:

For hot-swappable boards, align the new switches with the sockets on the keyboard and press them in place. Ensure they are straight and fully seated.For solderable boards, place the new switches into the holes on the PCB, ensuring they are flush against the board. Solder each switch into place, applying just enough solder to form a solid connection without overflowing.

  • Reattach Keycaps: Once all the switches are in place, reattach the keycaps, ensuring they are placed on the correct switches according to your keyboard layout.

Tools Needed

  • Switch Puller: Essential for safely removing switches without damaging the keyboard.
  • Keycap Puller: To remove keycaps without scratching or damaging them.
  • Soldering Iron (for non-hot-swappable boards): Required for removing and attaching switches that need to be soldered.Desoldering Pump or Wick (for non-hot-swappable boards): For removing old solder from the PCB.

Solder (for non-hot-swappable boards): Necessary for attaching new switches on solderable boards.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Excessive Force: Applying too much force when removing or installing switches can damage the keyboard’s PCB or the switches themselves. Be gentle and patient.
  • Misalignment: Ensure that switches are properly aligned with the holes on the PCB. Misaligned switches can lead to keys not functioning correctly.
  • Overheating During Soldering: If you’re soldering, be cautious not to overheat the PCB, as this can damage the board and the electrical components.
  • Excess Solder: Use just enough solder to secure the switch. Excess solder can create short circuits or cause switches to malfunction.
  • Static Discharge: Be mindful of static electricity, especially in dry environments. Discharge any static buildup before handling electronic components.

Customization and DIY Options for 65% Keyboards

Customizing a 65% keyboard can be an enjoyable and creative process, allowing you to tailor your keyboard to your personal preferences and needs.

One of the most popular ways to customize is through the selection of custom keycaps. Let’s explore this aspect in more detail, along with other DIY options available for 65% keyboards.

Custom Keycaps

  • Keycap Materials Explained: Compare ABS for affordability and lightness with durable, shine-resistant PBT.
  • Color Variations: The color options for keycaps are virtually limitless. You can choose from single-color keycaps, two-tone designs, or even multi-colored sets. This allows for a high degree of personalization to match your style or the aesthetic of your workspace.
  • Designs and Themes: Beyond solid colors, keycaps are available in a wide range of designs and themes. These can range from simple geometric patterns to elaborate artistic designs, popular culture themes, or custom graphics.
  • Profile and Shape: Keycaps come in different profiles (the shape of the keycap), such as SA, DSA, Cherry, and OEM. Each profile offers a different typing experience and aesthetic appeal.
  • Legends and Fonts: The legends (the markings or letters on the keycaps) can also vary significantly. You can customize fonts, sizes, and even use unique legends for a personalized keyboard touch.

Other DIY Customization Options

  • Switch Modifications: Apart from replacing switches, you can also modify them. Lubricating switches can make them smoother and quieter, while adding films can improve stability and reduce wobble.
  • LED Backlighting: If your 65% keyboard supports it, changing the LED backlighting can dramatically alter its look. You can choose from various colors and lighting effects to create a dynamic visual experience.
  • Custom Cables: Swapping out the standard cable for a custom one can add a splash of color and personality. Custom cables come in various colors, materials, and connectors, allowing for further aesthetic customization.
  • Sound Dampening: Adding foam or dampening materials inside the keyboard case can change the acoustics of your keyboard, typically resulting in a more muted and solid sound when typing.
  • Case Customization: Replacing the keyboard case with a custom one can change the keyboard’s overall look and feel. Custom cases are available in different materials like wood, metal, or acrylic, and in various colors and finishes.

Tips for Customizing Your 65% Keyboard

  • Start with a Vision: Have a clear idea of what you want your customized keyboard to look and feel like. This will guide your choices in keycaps, switches, and other modifications.
  • Research: Look into different customization options and see what others have done. Online forums and social media platforms can be great sources of inspiration.
  • Compatibility: Ensure that all the components and modifications you choose are compatible with your 65% keyboard.
  • Skill Level: Be realistic about your DIY skills. Some customizations are straightforward, while others might require more technical expertise.
  • Budget: Customizations can range from relatively inexpensive to quite costly, especially for high-end materials or custom designs. Set a budget beforehand.

Comparison with Other Keyboard Layouts

Keyboard TypeKey CountBest For
60% Keyboard60-61Portability, minimalists
65% Keyboard65-68Balance of functionality and size
TKL Keyboard80-87Full functionality without number pad
Full-Size104-108Complete range of keys, including number pad

FAQs and Common Questions

Q: Can I use any type of switch on a 65% keyboard?

A: It depends on the keyboard’s design – some are compatible with multiple types, while others are not.

Q: Are custom keycaps difficult to install?

A: No, they usually just snap onto the switches.


Understanding the switch count and types for a 65% keyboard is crucial for both functionality and personalization.

Perfect for gamers, typists, or compact workspace lovers, a 65% keyboard blends size, functionality, and customization.

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