What Is a Butterfly Keyboard?

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Updated July 29, 2022

When searching for a good laptop, the keyboard is always one of the most crucial elements. But finding a model with a fine keyboard can be difficult. There are many different styles and models, with Apple products being among the most popular. Depending on what model you’re considering, a Mac may come with a butterfly keyboard. If you’re unsure what is a butterfly keyboard, keep reading as we explain.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The butterfly keyboard was a new key switch design created by Apple that allowed them to make a thinner laptop.
  • After its release in 2015, there was widespread customer complaint about key malfunctions.
  • Apple continued producing butterfly switches until 2019 and returned to the traditional keyboard scissor switches.

Additionally, if you’re still in the market for a new keyboard, we have a great guide outlining the leading chiclet keyboards available, as well as troubleshooting guides, such as how to reset a Mac keyboard.

Insider Tip

For those who purchased some of the later Apple keyboard models with butterfly switches, Apple has offered to fix faulty switches free of charge for up to four years after purchase.

Butterfly Keyboards Explained

The first thing to know is that “butterfly laptop keyboard” refers to a specific type of keyboard switch. Prior to 2015, Apple used scissor switches. The scissor mechanism is commonly found on most mechanical keyboards. Instead of having a wing-like structure, it uses two interlocking pieces that cross each other, like a pair of scissors.

Then, Apple introduced the controversial butterfly switch in 2015 and made three generations of laptops with it before stopping production in 2019. It’s called a butterfly switch because the structure beneath each key looks like it has two wings that flap every time it’s pressed down.

Initially, Apple created the butterfly mechanism because it allowed them to make thinner keyboards. Soon after its release, however, Apple users began to voice concern over problems they were experiencing with their keyboards.

Many found that they experienced keys that weren’t working and others that were repeating commands. The keyboard issues became so common that Apple offered to fix all butterfly switch keyboards for up to four years after retail purchase.

Why the Butterfly Keyboard Is Faulty

The flaw turned out to be simple but serious. The shape of the key made it much easier for dust, debris, dirt, and crumbs to get trapped underneath the key. Furthermore, because there was much less room, once a small particle got trapped in the switch, it would sometimes jam the entire mechanism.

Warning

Those with earlier Macbook models (2015-2017) are no longer eligible for the free repair guarantee on their keyboards.

If you found this article interesting, you can check out another one of our Apple-focused articles that compares Apple’s magic keyboards to butterfly keyboards. You might also be interested in our troubleshooting articles, such as what to do if your Mac keyboard is not working correctly and other common fixes. We even have a guide on cleaning your laptop after a spill, and another explains how to replace keyboard keys.

STAT: Apple claimed that their keyboard was 40% thinner by using butterfly switches than the average scissor-switch keyboard. (source)

What Is a Butterfly Keyboard FAQs

Did all Macs from 2015-2019 have butterfly switches?

While not every Mac user experiences issues, every model from this period has butterfly switches.

How is Apple's new Magic Keyboard different?

The new Magic Keyboard used with Apple computers returned to scissor switches. As a result, they are much less likely to develop problems from debris or dust.

Do butterfly keyboard switches make for a better typing experience?

When working correctly, users report a great typing experience. But there's hardly any difference between the quality of butterflies and traditional switches.
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