keyboard ghosting

What is ghosting on keyboards?

This is one of those odd topics that many of you will never have heard of or thought about before today.

But I’m pretty sure every single person reading this has experienced keyboard ghosting at least once in their life.

Keyboard ghosting is that frustrating moment when your keyboard freezes and stops responding. This is typically caused by pressing several keys at the same time, temporarily overloading keyboard circuitry that was never designed to have so many keys depressed at once.

How to tell if your keyboard is ghosting?

You know when you’re typing something important on your computer and your keyboard suddenly locks up?

So you look at the screen and the letters you tried to type have simply vanished.

That’s why it’s called “ghosting” – those stray characters are lost forever in cyberspace.

This probably doesn’t happen to the vast majority of people because it requires that you press several keys either simultaneously or in very quick succession.

How many keys in total?

It depends on the type of keyboard, but cheaper models might only have ghosting protection for 3 – 4 keys at once.

The membrane sitting underneath your keys can be part of the problem too – ghosting is kind of an inherent design flaw with these types of keyboards.

It basically “short circuits” the keyboard matrix in them.

Note: Ghosting can, in very rare cases, be caused by an extremely fast typist “breaking” the typematic rate limit of an operating system…but the system usually catches up with itself and starts typing the letters after you’ve finished. You’re also a complete freak of nature if this happens to you on a regular basis.

Keyboard ghosting is a nuisance while you’re at work but it can get far worse.

Like when you’re playing games.

Ghosting for gamers

Console gamers can skip past this section because it won’t mean anything to you.

But for any PC gamers you know that your mouse + WASD combo is how you get things done.

How you get the game won.

In a given FPS (First Person Shooter) game you might have to hold down Shift+W to sprint forwards, dodging with A or D, and then press Space to jump over an obstacle.

Basically, you’re pressing several keys down at once.

Or if you take your average MMORPG where players typically use keyboard combinations that would dislocate the fingers of a normal human being.

But the end result can be the same – a temporarily frozen keyboard.

That split second is all it takes for your digital enemy to get the upper hand and end you though.

What I’m getting at here is that gamers are far more likely to have issues with ghosting than your average office worker.

Which is why they tend to spend a lot of money on high-quality keyboards.

How to test your keyboard for anti-ghosting

One piece of advice I read was to hold down the Left and Right Shift keys and then type a short sentence.

And if there are any characters missing from what you type, then it’s evidence that your keyboard lacks ghosting prevention.

But typing with both of those keys held down will result in typing errors anyway.

Or it did for me, at least.

So it’s a bit hit and miss – no pun intended.

But I did find a keyboard ghosting test from one of the lovely developers at GitHub.

The Logitech keyboard I’m using here can only manage 6 keys being pressed at once.

Which I’m kinda surprised by.

So that leads us on to our next question.

How can you stop keyboard ghosting?

Honestly, just don’t buy cheap keyboards.

Simply buy a gaming keyboard because they’re sold with a ghosting rating.

The fact that they’re mechanical in nature also means they’re built with higher fault tolerance in mind.

Unlike a $10 membrane/rubber dome keyboard.

Some keyboards specifically state it i.e. “25 keys anti-ghosting”.

This is typical of what you’ll find on high-end gaming keyboards.

But if you really want to never have to deal with ghosting ever again then look for a mechanical gaming keyboard with an “N-key Rollover” or “NKRO” rating.

This means that your keyboard can register every single key press even if you mash every key at once.

So it basically comes down to this.

Find reviews of gaming keyboards that mention ghosting.

And then buy a $50+ mechanical gaming keyboard to cure your keyboard ghosting problem.


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