Introduction: Clean Your Vintage IBM M2 Clicky Keyboard!

Clicky fever is indeed upon us. It's not hard to find a used one of these, but it is hard to find a clean one, so you'll need to break out the elbow grease. I've found instructions for cleaning the big version, but I haven't found any yet for the M2, which is the smaller version I'm using here. I like this one a lot better, as it has all necessary keys, but is much more compact.

After you read this guide, you'll be able to fully clean an M2 keyboard, so when you find one for sale at a garage sale for $5 you can say, "Yeah, but all those stains..." and take it away for $2, knowing that only a couple hours' work later you'll have a like-new M2! Yeah!

For those wondering, today's keyboard is part number 1395300, manufactured in Feb of 1994. There are no detachable keycaps or drainage channels.

For those with no idea what this is about, the Model M and M2 are keyboards that use a buckling spring mechanism in each key to provide tactile and auditory feedback. When each spring buckles it makes a click, resulting in a machine-gun stacatto of clicky noise, as my wife can tell you. She's sitting two rooms away. Read more here:

Step 1: Unscrew These Screws

Easier than it sounds--people report difficulty finding the correct size square driver. I got lucky, but if you're not so lucky, just try a few small flatblade (minus-shaped) drivers inserted diagonally. These bolts aren't particularly torquey, and if there's something you're going to mess up in this process, this isn't it.

Step 2: Remove the Keys

After the square bolts are done away with, take off all the keys! Oh, wait!! Not all the keys... Use a slot driver, start on the top rows, and pry from underneath to remove ONLY the SQUARE keys.

Once you have the square keys removed, your keyboard should look like the 3rd picture. At this point, remove all keys except the space bar, keeping in mind that they will have rocker bars that may need to be gently pushed out with a driver or lonely mismatched chopstick.

Finally, remove the spacebar. In the 4th picture you'll see a little plastic spring molded into the piece. With a driver, pull that one way and then the other, freeing the retaining post on either side as you go. Click on the picture for details. Then pry the spacebar out from the bottom, in the middle of the bar.

Step 3: Naked Keyboard!

If you don't need to immerse the top face in soapy water to get it clean, this is a good place to stop. Be sure not to drop anything in the holes! Clean up and put the keys back on.

Step 4: Release the Latches

Now it's nice to have an extra hand or two, or a partner to help. Use a DULL flatblade driver to lightly pry the side of the keyboard apart, while your partner pushes the latches open with a driver. After you get one or two latches separated the keyboard will keep itself open and it's pretty easy to release the rest of the latches. I started from the right side of the keyboard, and it worked fine.

Step 5: Now What You Have Is a Mess

Lift the top piece off of the bottom, and you'll have a bunch of springs falling all over the place like sailors on shore leave. Dump them all into a large ziploc bag and zip it up, just like you would with real sailors.

Now take the top piece and all the keys, and put them in a solution of warm water and dishsoap for an hour. Resist the urge to scrub, just let them sit. If you have tar stains or permanent marker, you may want to research other removal methods, but dishsoap will work for pencil, pen, and most other stains.

After an hour, break out a sponge and the q-tips and be as clean-freak as you want to be.

Step 6: Gimme Props!

So now the previously gunky tray piece and all the keys are like new, and you're ready to reassemble. As you can see in the picture, the reinserted springs hang out like sailors still on leave, so you need to prop up the keyboard to give them some slack, just like you would with real sailors. I just happened to have a few L-shaped pieces of cut tile sitting around; you can use books or legos or whatever, but if the keyboard falls off and the springs are pushed out, it's square one! Be forewarned.

Step 7: Don't Panic

Now if you're a star pupil and have actually been working along with me, you're panicking because there aren't enough springs for holes in the keyboard. Sorry, I should have warned you sooner.

Each key gets one spring, even if it's a big one. You can look at your keyboard, the electrical circuitry and the backside of the keys to figure it out for yourself, but here's a shortcut. Just follow the pattern in this pic and you should be fine.

By the way, here's the backside of the long Enter and + keys from the number pad. The spring goes in the top notch, not the fully enclosed one.

Step 8:

After you have all the springs in the correct holes and seated properly, let's put the board back together. First put the bottom half of the keyboard nearby. Then take ONLY the grey liner and flip it over so it's sitting on all those springs that are finally under control, and line it up with the holes. Then take the bottom half of the keyboard, flip it over, and it will slide into place as the latches fall into their correct holes. If anything catches, pull it back out and re-place the grey liner; you didn't come this far to mess up now.

With the keyboard still inverted and resting on the props, click the latches into place. Now you can pick it up.

Step 9: Clean Naked Keyboard!

First, put the space key on. Place it lightly on its spot, make sure the spring lines up, and insert the two retaining latches. Then push it down.

Then, put on all the larger keys, seating the bar first and then pushing down on the key. Your keyboard will look like the 2nd picture.

This is a good time to plug in your keyboard and make sure that you got the springs lined up correctly on the big keys. If they all work like they should, go on to the next step.

NOTE: if any key, space key or otherwise, doesn't go "clacky" like it should, pry it up and push down again. No need to do anything else if you have done all the other steps properly. I had to do this to one key about five times, so keep trying and it should work.

Step 10: All the Keys

Then place all the keys on the keyboard, using for reference the picture of your keyboard that I know you took before you took it apart.

Finally, screw it shut.

Woohoo, new M2! Time to post to eBay, or maybe you're feeling a little more selfish now that you've put all that work into it...

Step 11: If It Really Needs Cleaning

You can take the electronics out from the bottom tray.

Lift on the circuit board while your partner releases the catches. The electronics meet the circuit board at the bottom end of the board, and are tensioned on with foam. You should be able to put this all back together easily, but I didn't want to go there. Good luck!

Step 12: A Note About Adaptors

There's some talk about passive adaptors that don't do the trick; for the whole explanation go here:

Despite all the talk, I started cheap and ordered the one in the pic from this site ( and it works just fine. Free shipping. Go nuts. YMMV.