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Pat SwatekFlag for United States of America

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Keyboard types wrong letters, symbols, and brings up menus

We have a Dell Inspiron 1000 laptop running Windows XP.  Some of the keys on the keyboard are typing the wrong letters, or a string of letters and numbers, or bring up a menu.  For example, the P key types QWERU and the semicolon brings up the Save menu.  It seems to be only the keys on the right side of the keyboard that are affected.  

We tried switching keyboards, and it does the same thing, but when we plug an external keyboard into the USB port, it types correctly.  

We also uninstalled and reinstalled the keyboard driver (several times), which Windows says is working correctly.  We checked the language setting and it's set to United States English.  Is there anything else in the language and/or keyboard settings that we should check?

Any other suggestions would be appreciated before we end up buying a new motherboard.
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Krzysztof Pytko
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Have you checked if there is no "function" key(s) enabled such as NumLock, Scroll or "sys req" ?

Most likely this goes back to having either touched one of the Windows Keys or any of the Function keys that switch the keyboard into a different layer/function.

Most of the cases when I see "menus" popping up it is one of the damn windows keys that kept active.
Has anything recently (or at some point in the past) been spilt on the laptop?  

If you have ruled out software problems and confirmed with the extrernal KB that the system responds properly then the next step I would try is to physically look and/or clean if necessary the KB area.

This may require some disassembly, but I would check for foreign object (dust, corrorison, etc...) under or near the KB area and shield.

I'll look for the manual and post that back.

If there isn't a physical problem then it may be a connector is faulty/loose/or damaged and either needs to be replaced or repaired which may require a bit of soldering  (worst case).  Go for the easier fixes first and confirm what you can 'see' and easily blow-out before major disassembly.
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I meant to mention as the 'First' thing to do is confirm you no longer are under warranty.  Because if you have any bit of warranty remaining, than by all means contact Dell and have them walk you through the steps to acquire parts if it does prove to be defective parts.
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Hmm.  Interesting.

He's swapped keyboards.

I presume this is on the Dell Inspiron.

External keyboards work OK.

I do like Mark911's suggestion of using Ubuntu  That is a Live CD and you don't install.

If it works OK there then it is your software installation.  If it doesn't either both the keyboards tried or the motherboard is faulty.
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Thank you all for your suggestions.

The laptop is not under warranty, my brother recently purchased it as used from someone who knows nothing about it having any problems (of course) so a spill or some other damage is a possibility.  Everything else works fine and he didn't realize the keyboard issue until he got it home.    

I forgot to mention that we already tried cleaning inside the laptop including the underside of the keyboard using compressed air and alcohol swabs.  We don't visually see any evidence of a spill or other debris but who knows.

I also forgot to mention that we did check that function keys were off. However, when he turns the Numlock key ON, it types the P correctly the first time and the Scroll Lock light comes on.  Then when we type P a 2nd time, it types P correctly again and the Scroll Lock light goes off.  Typing P the 3rd time results in the original QWERU.  The Numlock key light remains on throughout.  

We thought maybe this was a problem with the Word program, but it does the same thing in Notepad.

I'm not sure about the virus protection but we'll check that and we will also review the manual and the ubuntu site. Please allow us a day or so to try all this and we'll post back. Thank you all so much!
Please keep us posted.

I would not be as suspect of a virus if the external KB works...this sounds more of a physical problem and swapping a Dell Notebook KB is a fairly inexpensive correction if it turns out to be the problem.

Do test the virus issue, but you should experience problems regardless of the KB connection it it is a virus        , not always, but it should be similar for both.  I've seen what you have discussed above and it typical involves replacing the notebook KB.  Good luck and let us know what you see and test out...
When you write  "we tried switching keyboards" we are left puzzled, did you REALLY change out altogether the built-in keyboard in the laptop?!  It's really not clear.  If so, was  the ribbon cable changed with it?

Did you mean you tried a PS2 style keyboard in the PS2 round keyb/mouse port and experieced the same misbehaviour, BUT that a USB keyboard worked fine?  If so, it might be the keyboard I/O chip on the motherboard.

It really does seem like a physical hardware issue, especially that press P the scroll lock light weirdness, seems like the electrical signalling is right messed up.  So more likely the keyboard element, the ribbon cable connecting between keyboard motherboard, (worth trying those) or worse the chip on the motherboard that makes it function.

Your brother might now be the  proud owner of a slim portable desktop that requires a USB keyboard now (not unlike when the battery won't hold a charge so AC is a must).   If so, perhaps shop for one of those smaller footprint USB keyboards that are similar in size and layout to a laptop that is more portable, would conveniently accompany the laptop wherever he goes and fit in the laptop carrying bag.
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get this file and burn it into a cd with nero or any other cd burning software...
Ubuntu Desktop 10.10
To ocanada_techguy - Yes we switched keyboards with a replacement Dell built-in keyboard with its own ribbon cable but it had the same problem.  

Thank you to everyone for your solutions and suggestions.  My brother said he tried all but the Dell Diagnostic CD and, unfortunately, it looks like it is either the keyboard I/O chip or the motherboard..