What is a Hotswap Mechanical Keyboard? Quick Guide for Beginners

In the world of mechanical keyboards, you might have come across the term “hotswap.” What exactly is a hotswap mechanical keyboard, and why should you consider getting one? Let’s dive into the topic and provide you with a clear understanding of this feature.

Simply put, a hotswap mechanical keyboard allows you to change out the switches without the need for soldering. This acclaimed technology has revolutionized the mechanical keyboard community, making it easier for users like you to customize their keyboards according to their preferences. With hotswap sockets, you can easily insert or remove switches from the keyboard’s PCB (circuit board) without using any special tools or soldering equipment.

This feature not only saves time and effort, but also provides you with the flexibility to try out different switches, ultimately tailoring your keyboard to your typing or gaming needs. Whether you’re a mechanical keyboard enthusiast or someone considering getting your first one, understanding the benefits of hotswap technology will help you make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the perfect keyboard for you.

Hotswap Mechanical Keyboards Explained

A hotswap mechanical keyboard is an innovative type of mechanical keyboard that allows you to replace switches easily without the need for soldering. This feature provides more customization options for your keyboard, such as changing the feel, sound, and feedback of your keystrokes.

Originally, the term “hot swap” referred to digital equipment with a structure that enabled powering on and off devices. Kailh, a leading switch manufacturer in China, developed the market-dominating hotswap socket design. This technology was quickly adopted by the mechanical keyboard community and is now a popular feature among enthusiasts.

The main advantages of having a hotswap mechanical keyboard include:

  • Ease of switch replacement: You no longer need soldering skills or equipment to change your switches.
  • Customization: With a variety of switches available, you can tailor your keyboard to your preferences for typing or gaming.
  • Maintenance: Hotswappable keyboards are easier to clean since switches can be removed and replaced without disassembling the whole keyboard.

There are several hotswappable keyboards available on the market, with different features catering to various user needs. Remember that while hotswap technology makes your keyboard more versatile, it’s essential to consider factors such as build quality, switch compatibility, and keycap design when choosing the best hotswap mechanical keyboard for you.

What are the Two Basic Keyboard Types

When it comes to mechanical keyboards, there are two primary types you should be familiar with. These are soldered keyboards and hotswap keyboards. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, and understanding their differences can help you make an informed decision on which one suits your needs best.

Soldered keyboards are assembled using solder to connect the switches to the PCB (printed circuit board). This method is the most common and cost-effective approach to assemble mechanical keyboards. With soldered keyboards, changing or replacing a switch requires some technical skills, as you need to desolder the old switch and solder in the new one. Given the nature of soldering, it may not be a suitable option for everyone, especially those who lack the necessary expertise or equipment.

On the other hand, hotswap keyboards provide a more user-friendly solution. These keyboards feature a unique socket design that allows you to replace switches without the need for soldering. You can easily remove a switch and insert a new one, making it convenient for those who like to experiment with different switch types or need to replace a faulty switch. Hotswap keyboards have gained popularity in the mechanical keyboard community for their ease of customization and maintenance.

It is important to note that not all hotswap keyboards are the same. Some may have proprietary sockets, limiting your choice of compatible switches. Others might use the widely adopted hotswap socket design created by Kaihua (Kailh), a leading switch manufacturer in China. Before purchasing a hotswap keyboard, make sure to verify its compatibility with the switches you plan to use.

How To Know If Your Keyboard Is Hot Swappable

Finding out whether your keyboard is hot swappable may seem a bit challenging, but by following these simple steps, you can quickly determine its compatibility.

First, use a keycap puller to carefully remove one or more keycaps from your keyboard. Don’t worry if you don’t have a keycap puller handy; you can also use another small tool or even your fingers to remove the keycaps. Just be gentle and cautious while prying up the keycaps to avoid damaging any components.

Once the keycaps are removed, check the switches located underneath. The hot-swappable switches will either have sockets that make it easy to remove and replace the switches or use a modular design that allows for switch swapping. If the switches appear to be soldered onto the board, your keyboard is not hot swappable.

To further confirm, you can look for a keyboard model number or label and search for the product specifications online. It may indicate whether the keyboard has hot-swappable switches. Remember, some keyboards are specifically designed with hot-swap compatibility in mind, so always check the manufacturer’s website or product description for clear information.

In conclusion, determining if your keyboard is hot swappable depends on the switch design and model specifications. By carefully examining your keyboard’s switches and performing some research, you can quickly find out if your keyboard supports hot swapping.

Benefits of Hotswap Keyboards

Why should I get a hot swappable keyboard?

Hotswap mechanical keyboards offer a variety of advantages that make them an excellent choice for keyboard enthusiasts, gamers, and typists alike. They allow for easy customization, effortless repairs, and reduced downtime, ensuring that you get the most out of your keyboard.

Easy Customization

One of the main benefits of hot swappable keyboards is the ability to customize the switches to suit your needs. You can experiment with different switch types for all keys or change just a few to create your ideal typing experience. The process is quick and convenient, giving you the freedom to adapt your keyboard as your preferences evolve over time.

Effortless Repairs

Dealing with sticky keys or malfunctioning switches on a traditional keyboard can be a headache, often requiring you to solder and desolder switches. However, with hot swappable keyboards, these issues are much easier to address. Simply remove the problematic switch and replace it with a new one, all without needing any soldering tools. This saves both time and effort, letting you get back to your tasks faster.

Reduced Downtime

Hot swappable keyboards also minimize downtime, as you can make alterations and repairs quickly without the need for specialized tools or expertise. This is especially valuable for gamers and professionals who rely on their keyboards for high-performance tasks and cannot afford lengthy interruptions.

Overall, investing in a hot swappable mechanical keyboard can lead to a more enjoyable and efficient typing experience, thanks to the numerous benefits it offers. Consider adding one to your setup and enjoy the freedom and convenience it brings.

5-Pin Switches vs 3-Pin Switches

When considering a hotswap mechanical keyboard, you’ll encounter two types of switches: 5-pin and 3-pin switches. Understanding the differences between them can help you make a more informed decision for your keyboard.

Key Differences

5-pin switches come with two additional plastic legs on each side of their bottom housing, while 3-pin switches lack these legs. Despite these legs not affecting the function of the keyboard, they provide more stability to the switches when inserted into the hotswap socket. In comparison, 3-pin switches are easier to manufacture and less costly but may not offer the same level of durability and control over the feel and sound of the keyboard.

Converting a 5-pin switch to 3-pin

If your hotswap mechanical keyboard has 3-pin sockets and you have 5-pin switches, you can convert the 5-pin switch to a 3-pin switch by clipping off the additional plastic legs. This allows the switches to fit into 3-pin sockets, enabling you to use your preferred switches on your keyboard.

Keep in mind that converting a 5-pin switch to a 3-pin switch might affect the stability of the switch within the keyboard. However, it’s a viable option if you wish to have more control over the feel and sound of your keyboard.

To summarize, 5-pin switches offer more stability and durability than 3-pin switches, whereas 3-pin switches are less expensive and easier to manufacture. By understanding the differences between these two types of switches, you can choose the one that best suits your needs for your hotswap mechanical keyboard.

Hotswappable Switch Types

Hotswap mechanical keyboards allow you to change switches without needing soldering, making it easy for you to customize your keyboard to suit your preferences. In this section, we will discuss three main types of hotswappable switches: Linear, Tactile, and Clicky.


Linear switches are known for having a smooth and consistent keystroke. With no tactile bump or audible click, they provide a quiet typing experience. These switches are often preferred for fast-paced games where quick and repetitive keypresses are necessary.


Tactile switches offer a tactile bump midway through the keystroke, giving you an indication that the key has been actuated. This bump provides a more discernible feedback compared to linear switches, making them suitable for typists who appreciate the extra assurance without an audible click.


Clicky switches not only have a tactile bump but also produce an audible click sound when actuated. This distinctive sound provides a satisfying typing experience for many users. However, the noise may not be ideal for quiet environments, such as offices or shared living spaces.

When choosing the type of hotswappable switch for your keyboard, consider your personal preferences, typing habits, and environment. To compare different switches, you can try using a switch tester, which is a small device with various switch types mounted on it, allowing you to experience them before committing to a full set.

If you’re considering getting a hotswappable mechanical keyboard, below are some popular models that you might want to check out:

  • Massdrop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard: A highly customizable choice with a solid aluminum case and a variety of switch options. It is also equipped with RGB backlighting, making it ideal for gamers and typists alike.
  • Redragon K530 Draconic: This budget-friendly option features a compact 60% design, a detachable USB-C cable, and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. It comes with RGB lighting and allows you to swap between different switches with ease.
  • Asus ROG Azoth: A gaming-focused keyboard with a sturdy design and an array of customizable options. It includes software that lets you create macros and personalize RGB lighting animations.
  • Keychron K6: A wireless and portable hotswappable mechanical keyboard that’s perfect for on-the-go usage. It features a 65% layout, Bluetooth connectivity, and an impressive battery life of up to 72 hours of typing.
  • Ducky One 3 Mini (60%): A longstanding favorite in the mechanical keyboard community, the Ducky One 3 Mini boasts improved acoustics and hotswap functionality. Its plastic, geometric case is an updated feature from its predecessor, the One 2 Mini.

While these models are highly regarded by mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, it’s essential to research and compare their features to find the one that meets your specific requirements. Keep in mind that prices will vary depending on the build quality, switch type, and customizable options offered by each keyboard.

Building Your Own Hotswap Keyboard

Creating your own hotswap mechanical keyboard can be a rewarding experience as it allows you to customize your keyboard according to your preferences. In this section, we’ll discuss the process of building a hotswap keyboard, including selecting the right components and assembling the final product.

Selecting the Components

To build your own hotswap keyboard, you’ll need to gather a few essential components:

  • Keyboard case
  • PCB (Printed Circuit Board) with hot-swap sockets
  • Switch mounting plate
  • Mechanical switches
  • Keycaps
  • Stabilizers (for larger keys like spacebar and shift)

When selecting these components, consider your preferred keyboard size, layout, and aesthetics. Additionally, pay attention to switch compatibility, as different mechanical switch types may require different mounting plates or PCBs.

Assembling the Keyboard

Once you have gathered all the necessary components, you can begin the assembly process:

  1. Prepare your work area by organizing the components in a neat, easily accessible manner.
  2. Install the stabilizers onto the PCB as required, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Place the switch mounting plate onto the PCB, ensuring proper alignment of the stabilizers and hot-swap sockets.
  4. Insert the mechanical switches into the hot-swap sockets on the PCB through the designated holes in the mounting plate. Ensure each switch is fully seated and secure.
  5. Mount the fully assembled PCB and mounting plate within the keyboard case, fastening any required screws for stability.
  6. Attach the keycaps to the mechanical switches, making sure that they are properly aligned and secure.

Upon completion, your custom hotswap mechanical keyboard should be fully functional and ready for use. Enjoy your personalized, easy-to-modify typing experience!


By now, you should have a clear understanding of what a hotswap mechanical keyboard is. These keyboards allow you to change the switches without the need for soldering, making customization easy and accessible. With this feature, you have the freedom to experiment with different switches and tailor your keyboard to suit your typing preferences.

Hotswappable mechanical keyboards offer numerous benefits, including cost savings, ease of maintenance, and the ability to prolong the lifespan of your keyboard. As the mechanical keyboard community continues to grow and evolve, it’s likely that hotswap technology will become increasingly popular among enthusiasts and casual users alike.

With so many great hot-swappable keyboards available on the market, now is the perfect time to upgrade your typing experience. By choosing a hotswappable mechanical keyboard, you’re not only investing in a high-quality and customizable workspace essential; you’re also cultivating a deeper appreciation for the nuances of mechanical key switches and their impact on your typing experience.

Remember to choose a hotswappable mechanical keyboard that suits your specific needs and preferences. Keep experimenting with different switches until you find the perfect combination that elevates your typing experience. Happy typing!

About the Author

Dan was initially only focused around gaming reviews and other content back in 2019ish on this platform. Since then he has decided to focus on the hardware and software side of things instead of just the games themselves. He has been focused on PC gaming and wants to give back to his community as much as possible.