What is Flash Keyboard? Flashing a Keyboard in Simple Steps

In order to Flash your keyboard, you will need advanced tools that can install firmware on your keyboard. Flashing a keyboard is necessary to get your keyboard up and running.

To understand flash keyboards, you must first understand some technical terms like mechanical keyboard, PCB, QMK, MCU, and Firmware.

These terms might seem complex to you, but once you understand them they will be really simple. In this post, we will share a complete step-by-step guide to help you flash your keyboard.

Let’s start with the basic concepts.

Printed Circuit Board or PCB

In simple words, PCB is the motherboard for your keyboard. Just like your PC has a motherboard, the keyboard being an independent entity also has one.

MicroController Unit or MCU

MCU is the alternative to CPU in a keyboard. Just as the CPU is responsible for all the processing on a PC, MCU is responsible for all the processing activities on a keyboard.

Firmware

Firmware is the operating system or software that is installed on your keyboard. Basically, it is installed in the Micro-Controller of your keyboard’s PCB.

QMK Toolbox

QMK Toolbox is one of the most efficient tools that can be used to flash a keyboard. You can also use this tool to create a keymap for your keyboard.

Keymapping

Keymap is the interface that helps the PC understand what pressing a specific key on the keyboard means. You can change the keymap to insert “k” when someone presses “a” to cause confusion or play a prank.

Now that you understand all of these terms, let’s get to the steps for flashing a keyboard.

How to Flash a Keyboard?

Although the process is a bit complex, you don’t need to be a programmer to flash a keyboard. Just follow these simple steps and you will be able to flash your keyboard successfully.

Step 1: Download QMK Software

First of all, you have to download the QMK software from QMK GitHub. Simply go to the website:

Scroll to the bottom of the website and download the QMK Toolbox.

For Mac, you have to download the file with the .pkg extension, while for Windows you have to download the .exe file.

Step 2: Launch QMK Toolbox

This is a one-time step that you have to do in Windows. If you are using Mac OS, then you can skip this step.

Launching the QMK Toolbox is a bit tricky. You will have to install the drivers and also update your antivirus settings to run it.

First of all, disable the antivirus or add the QMK folder in exclusions and run the application as administrator.

Once you open the QMK toolbox, you will receive a notification to install drivers. Click yes and give the computer a few minutes to install the drivers.

If the notification doesn’t show up, you can right-click on the bottom bar of the opened window and click on the option install drivers from the drop-down menu.

Once you have successfully launched the application, close it and restart your computer.

Step 3: Download or Create the Keymap Firmware

There are plenty of ways you can download or create the keyboard firmware. The most efficient ways are:

  • Copying source code of a QMK firmware and editing it.
  • Create your own keymap from the QMK configurator.
  • Download a pre-created QMK firmware from the internet.

Step 4: Open Firmware in QMK Toolbox

Launch the QMK Toolbox and click on the Open button. A dialog box will appear. Navigate to the folder in which you have downloaded the firmware. Click on the firmware and click on open.

Make sure you have selected the correct firmware file.

Step 5: Select the Micro Controller Unit

Once you have selected the correct firmware, then you have to select the Micro-Controller or MCU in the next tab.

If you don’t know the current MCU model of your keyboard, you can open the keyboard back panel and read the information written on the MCU chip.

Step 6: Reset Your Keyboard

There are multiple ways to reset your keyboard. Here are some of the easiest ones. Use whichever works.

  • Check if there is a reset button on your keyboard. For that, you will have to check the keymap of your keyboard. If there is a button, press it.
  • Press and Hold Spacebar and “B” key while plugging in your keyboard.
  • Press and Hold the “Esc” key while plugging in your keyboard.
  • Open the back panel of your keyboard, and locate the reset button on PCB.

Once you have successfully reset your keyboard, you will see a message in QMK Toolbox. One of these methods will surely work.

Step 7: Press Flash

In the final step, simply press the Flash button and wait for a few seconds for the QMK toolbox to finish installing the firmware.

If you had selected the wrong firmware, your keyboard will stop working. However, this is not a serious drawback. You can simply repeat the steps with the correct firmware and it will start working normally.

Bonus Step: Selecting Keyboard Firmware from QMK Toolbox

If you are unable to download desired firmware from the internet or create one yourself, you can select it from the pre-installed firmwares in QMK Toolbox.

There is a wide range of keymap firmware in qmk.fm. The tab is right beneath the open file tab in the QMK toolbox. You can load any keymap from this tab.

The default keymap will work normally. But, if you have task-specific needs, then you will need to create your own keymap.

Final Words

Flashing your keyboard is a simple task, which might have seemed complex to you before reading this guide. In the above post, we have shared a detailed guide to help you understand what is flash keyboard and how you can flash your keyboard successfully.

If you have any queries regarding this process, you can let us know in the comments.

References:

1. BY CANSU,How To Flash PCB/Keyboard With QMK, JANUARY 16, 2021

2. BY MechMerlin,QMK Tutorial: QMK Toolbox (Flashing Firmware On Your Keyboard),Jan 21, 2021

3. BY Lubed Linear,reddit.com,Aug 08 2020

4. BY Ryan,QMK Toolbox,May 20 2022

Brandon S. Lee

Hi, My name Brandon S.Lee and I am a professional Gamer, I also worked with the keyboard making company called Logitech. I was the quality check manager of the Logitech keyboard department. Here we have a team of people who researched on the keyboards, talked with keyboard users and analyzes the user reviews and then write the product reviews.Linkedin ,Reddit

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