SideWinder X4 Cleaning

So I was singing and playing with Kiddo and he/we spilled some tea. Well, a good 12oz of tea on my keyboard. The one I’m typing on right now, if you can believe it. The magic solution, aside from my SideWinder being awesome, is it has a water channel. That means when liquid is spilled on it, said liquid promptly exits through the holes near the bottom of the keyboard so that it doesn’t get into the actual circuit board and foul up the electronics. It’s a wonderful idea that kept me using a pretty nasty looking Microsoft 600 set. I’d actually been eyeballing Yseangwen’s keyboard for a while but I never really got used to the feel of it. Then I surreptitiously won a keyboard and mouse from SideWinder_24x7!

From past experiences, I can confidently say that the water tracks work really well to get the fluids out quickly. Problem is, it doesn’t all get out from those channels. I did a quick search using the other computer and found out that no one had posted instructions on how to crack the baby open or clean it. Which I found sorta surprising, I mean pretty much every gadget has been taken apart and put back together on YouTube et al. So I decided to semi-document the occasion by taking pictures of screw holes and where they go and so forth. Immediately following a spill here’s a procedure to follow to ensure your shiny keyboard doesn’t spark out like mad.

  1. Unplug the keyboard as fast as you can! If it does spill into the keyboard this could save you, but only if you’re extremely lucky. I do this every time just in case. I’m a pessimist /shrug…
  2. Aside from the obvious of soak up the mess and save the rest of your desk/table, grab a bath towel and fold it over a few times to fit the footprint of the keyboard. Doing this will help wick away the moisture from the liquid channels and the base of your keyboard.
  3. Take a dull knife and carefully pop off all the keys (ALL the keys). I use a butter knife with the cutting part taped over, if I can find tape which didn’t happen today, just be aware that you don’t want to mar the keys. Sidewinder X4 keys removed
  4. Skip this if you spilled plain water on your keyboard! Dump them into a bowl with warm water and a couple squirts of dishwashing soap. Add the soap to the full bowl of water so you don’t just get bubbles ;). Agitate lightly, making sure that all keys are submerged, and let it soak for about 15 minutes while you take the key tray off.
  5. Flip your keyboard and start taking the screws out. There’s 2 different sized screws, but they both can be removed with a smallish Phillips-head screwdriver. In red you’ll see the longer screw locations, including under the Health Warning label. In purple-ish, the shorter screw holes are visible including under one of the kick-stands. Click to enlarge.SideWinder X4 screw holes
  6. Get out some smooth plastic lever shaped pieces, something you can use to pry open the case, but won’t mess with the keyboard’s finish. I had some pry tools leftover from another repair last week. Pop her open and don’t be afraid that you’ll bust her, if you’ve ever disassembled something, you know the difference between breaking the plastic and just straining it. Light pops are normal, big snapping noises are major uh-oh. Here she is flipped over again and the keytray detached. Sidewinder x4 opened
  7. If you’re crazy like me, you’ll now go grab all the Q-tips in the house and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. If you’re willing to wait a several hours to start assembling: then scrub down the keytray in the sink, set it out to dry, shaking it periodically to make sure all the moisture is gone (ALL!!!). In the meantime, drain and rinse your keys repeatedly and lay them out roughly to dry on a paper towel or 3.
  8. Pop in the keytray and screw in your screws 😛 It might be a little rough to do the later part, try holding the two pieces tightly between your fingers and angle the keyboard to get better purchase with your screwdriver.
  9. Finish cleaning the keys by cleaning out the excess water with a can of compressed air. Wipe ’em down with a dish towel or something equally sturdy and absorbent and pop those suckers in. Check out your On-screen keyboard (Start> All> Accessories> Ease of Access in Vista) if you need a little reminder on what goes where. For those top media keys you’ll probably need a visual aid, this one is the most detailed picture I’d found under a quick image search to satisfy the need.
  10. Plug it in and pray! A computer restart may be required to get the keyboard input working again.

There you go! Hopefully someone who actually NEEDS this walkthrough will find it someday.

EDIT: Pnomolos shares another tip in the comments section, “If you’re having issues with the spacebar getting stuck in the “down” position, open up the keyboard and use a small piece of tape (I used scotch tape) to tape the plastic membrane right beneath the spacebar activation “nipple” to the circuit board. If you game too hard it seems that over time that plastic membrane pushes up and things get jammed.” So thank you to them for that added fix!

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24 thoughts on “SideWinder X4 Cleaning

  1. Nice, glad to see it worked out for you, I have never taken one apart, I actually still have a prototype version of the X4 from about a year before we released it, still works great 🙂

  2. I spilled some soda on my X4 and “V” + “Space” keys are not working anymore.
    Sad that when I type Z, X, C, F, G they type like zvvv, xv, cvvvvvv etc. Space typed “v” at first until they both stopped.

    I’ll leave it until tomorrow (to dry) and maybe there’s no need to return it for repairs/replacement.
    Maybe I should have unplug it from USB ASAP ???

    I have spilled soda (Coca-Cola / Pepsi etc) on much less pretentious keyboards and except for maybe some sticky keys nothing like that happened. After cleaning all was good again.
    The A4Tech X7 and Dell with rotating volume dial are really spill-resistant !

    Thanks for the post. Hopefully everything comes back to normal when it dries.
    I wouldn’t risk opening it up as long I have ~2 years guarantee ! (that includes the occasional spill)

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review « Inspire Fellows

  4. Thanks so much! I was afraid to pop it open to clean it afraid it was going to break. it’s a hardy keyboard. sticky beer all over the keys and not a drop where the pad circuits and boards are at.

  5. I am going to give this a shot, the matter is complicated by the fact that its not strictly *liquid* that was spilled. The baby is apparently ill, and made said illness known all over the keyboard.

  6. Thanks, I took the screws out and then I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to force it open or if there was more screws or c|ips or something. I spi||ed a rootbear f|oat on it D: now not on|y do I have to use this crappy backup keyboard that is missing the key next to ‘k’ whi|e the keys dry, but I don’t get my rootbear f|oat 😥

  7. Excellent guide, but I have one small comment: I wish you specifically mentioned the screw hidden beneath the sticker, in addition to just circling it on the image. I almost ended up ripping my keyboard in half because of that hiding bastard, lol.

  8. Directions unclear. Penis now stuck.
    Jokes aside, thank you so much for this. Just knocked over at freshly made mug of coffee.and luckily this was the first one that popped up on google.

  9. As a followup on a somewhat related note. If you’re having issues with the spacebar getting stuck in the “down” position, open up the keyboard and use a small piece of tape (I used scotch tape) to tape the plastic membrane right beneath the spacebar activation “nipple” to the circuit board. If you game too hard it seems that over time that plastic membrane pushes up and things get jammed.

  10. I accidentally spilled some water on mine, allowed it to dry for a few hours, plugged it in and some of the keys quit working. I allowed it to dry overnight and this morning after plugging it in nothing on the keyboard seems to work. And Ideas?

  11. I spilled a little bit of water on mine and some of keys stopped working. LOL. I would press G and GV would come up instead. The spacebar no longer worked, either.

  12. Well strap a saddle to my back and call me Susie……It’s working now. Spacebar works and the g. Wow, impressive. I almost bought another one.

    Thanks, dude!

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