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 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 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.
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.
Click To See Content Of This Post
- 1 How to Flash a Keyboard?
- 1.1 Step 1: Download QMK Software
- 1.2 Step 2: Launch QMK Toolbox
- 1.3 Step 3: Download or Create the Keymap Firmware
- 1.4 Step 4: Open Firmware in QMK Toolbox
- 1.5 Step 5: Select the Micro Controller Unit
- 1.6 Step 6: Reset Your Keyboard
- 1.7 Step 7: Press Flash
- 1.8 Bonus Step: Selecting Keyboard Firmware from QMK Toolbox
- 2 FAQ about Flash 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.
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.
FAQ about Flash Keyboard
What does it mean to flash your keyboard?
Flashing a keyboard typically refers to the process of updating the firmware or software on the keyboard. Firmware is the low-level software that controls the basic functions of the keyboard, such as the layout of the keys and the way they communicate with the computer.
Flashing the firmware on a keyboard allows you to update it with new features, bug fixes, or improved compatibility with different operating systems. The process usually involves downloading a firmware update file from the manufacturer’s website, then running the update on your computer while the keyboard is connected. This process is also commonly known as “reflashing” or “updating the firmware”.
It’s important to note that flashing a keyboard may erase any custom settings you have made, so it’s recommended to make a backup of your settings before proceeding with the update. Also, flashing the firmware can be a delicate process, if done incorrectly it can brick the keyboard and make it non-functional, so you should be careful and follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.
What is flashing a PCB?
Flashing a PCB (printed circuit board) typically refers to the process of programming the microcontroller or microprocessor on the PCB with new firmware or software. This process is also known as “burning the firmware” or “programming the microcontroller”.
A PCB is a board that contains the electronic components of a device, such as a keyboard, and the microcontroller is the chip that controls the functions of the device. By flashing the firmware onto the microcontroller, you can update the device with new features, bug fixes, or improved compatibility with different operating systems.
The process of flashing a PCB involves connecting the PCB to a computer using a programmer and running specialized software on the computer to transfer the firmware to the microcontroller. This process is typically done by developers or advanced users who have experience with microcontroller programming.
It’s important to note that flashing a PCB can be a delicate process and if done incorrectly it can brick the device and make it non-functional, so it is important to have experience and knowledge of the device and the firmware before attempting to flash the PCB. Also, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when flashing the firmware and make sure to use the correct firmware version for the device.
How to flash a mechanical keyboard?
Flashing a mechanical keyboard typically refers to the process of updating the firmware or software on the microcontroller that controls the functions of the keyboard.
The process of flashing a mechanical keyboard can vary depending on the specific model of the keyboard and the firmware you want to use. Here are the general steps you can follow:
- Research and choose the firmware you want to use for your keyboard. It’s important to use the correct firmware version for your keyboard model and to check for compatibility issues.
- Download the firmware update file from the manufacturer’s website or from a firmware repository.
- Connect the keyboard to your computer. Some mechanical keyboards use USB-C and others use a USB-A, make sure you have the correct cable and it’s connected properly.
- Install the necessary software and drivers to flash the firmware. This typically includes a firmware updater and a USB driver.
- Run the firmware updater software, and follow the on-screen instructions to flash the firmware to the keyboard’s microcontroller.
- Once the firmware has been successfully flashed, the keyboard should be updated with the new firmware.
It’s important to note that flashing a mechanical keyboard can be a delicate process and if done incorrectly, it can brick the keyboard and make it non-functional. So, it is important to have experience and knowledge of the device and the firmware before attempting to flash the firmware. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when flashing the firmware and make sure to use the correct firmware version for the device.
If you have any queries regarding this process, you can let us know in the comments.
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3. BY Lubed Linear,reddit.com,Aug 08 2020
4. BY Ryan,QMK Toolbox,May 20 2022