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5 Pin vs 3 Pin Switch: How Do They Differ?

Two major mounting styles are available when purchasing switches for the mechanical keyboard: Plate-mounted and PCB-mounted. It can be challenging to distinguish the distinctions, but we’ll clarify what each signifies.

Switches installed on PCBs have five pins, whereas switches located on plates have three. By clipping its extra pins present on the switch’s bottom, a switch for the PCB-mount can be altered to fit the plate-mount.

We’ll examine each of the switch types, as well as their unique characteristics and explain how to adjust the switches so that they fit your circuit board.

PCB Mounted vs Plate-Mounted Switches: What’s the Difference?

Consider the quantity of pins present on its bottom to see the primary distinction between the PCB-mounted as well as a plate-mounted switch. A switch put on the PCB will come with 5 pins, however the plate-mounted which comes with three.

What Does the PCB-Mounted Switch Mean?

Because there are 5 parts altogether on the bottom of PCB-mounted switches, they are known as 5-pin switches.

The switch is held together by four pins: two metal that enable this switch to function, two plastic ones that ensure stability, as well as a central “pin” that more closely resembles a sizable round knob.

These switches could be directly mounted to the Circuit board using solder, making installation rather straightforward.

Guiding pins are also included with the switches to make it easier to install them on the PCB. The keys would typically bounce a little bit more with this style of installation because it generally feels lighter. Smaller keyboards typically employ the PCB mounting approach since they flex less easily and require less support.

Possessing a plate, however, is fairly typical in contemporary boards. Without the plate, a keyboard can be constructed, but the reliability of these switches depends on the soldering job.

What Does a Plate-Mounted Switch Mean?

Switches that are plate-mounted are known as plate-mounted switches. The central circular knob and the two pins made of metal are the only three pins on the switches’ bottom. The pins for stability are absent.

The plate enters the picture here. When the button is pressed, the plate would steady each switch thus lessening side-to-side shaking.

PCB mounting vs. Plate mounting

Switches are mounted to the metal plate which is placed above the Circuit board using the plate-mounting technique. After being inserted into this metal plate, these switches are subsequently soldered to your circuit board.

Due to the keyboard’s tendency to bend more, the plates are frequently utilized with the larger keyboards in order to provide additional support. Also, t he plate makes the keyboard more solid and aids in improving security.

The switches differ significantly from PCB mounted type in that they are put in the plate rather than the PCB, eliminating the requirement for the extra guiding pins. Just bear in mind that the switch plate is going to be challenging to remove once you’ve soldered the switches.

To remove the plate as well as re-solder each of the switches to the Circuit board, you must first remove all the switches. This may not be your best choice if you anticipate making several alterations and revisions.

These plate-mounted keyboards, generally have higher quality as well as have a longer lifespan. This type of installation gives the keys a less rocky and more stable, which some people prefer. Just bear in mind that this arrangement usually costs more because there are more parts and assembly required.

Understanding the 5 Pin vs 3 Pin Switches


While the 5 pin switches feature two tiny plastic legs present on either side of the bottom housing, the 3 pin switches do not. On Circuit boards with the 5 pin compatibility, there are holes for the legs. On either side of your socket, they are situated. The function of these legs is unaffected, but they help to keep this switch more securely placed in its hotswap socket.

Some hotswap Circuit boards do not support the fifth pin. To put the switch on these Circuit boards, you must use miniature hobby clippers to help in clipping the legs. There should just be two legs of plastic that need to be clipped. Keep all metal pins unclipped.

There is no need to take any step to install the 3 pin switch if you already have the 5 pin socket.  However, after removing keycaps, then you could realize the switch is relatively simple to remove from the socket.

There is no clear advantage to one type of switch over another. There will be less support on your switches if you are mounting them without any plate, though. The absence of reinforcement will make the keyboard feel ricketier and also less stable.

You might wish to include a plate to your construction if you type quickly or prefer the feel of the really stable keyboard. Although some people might see it simpler to manufacture, the PCB-mounted version of keyboards are often less expensive to construct because it doesn’t need the additional reinforcing plate.

They support mostly 3-pin switches in majority of hot-swappable boards. In this case, having the 3-pin switches would be useful. This becomes less concern if you’re creating a bespoke keyboard because you may choose which PCB you use.

More on 5 pin vs 3 pin switch

With the exception of its switch puller, most switches on hot-swappable keyboards may be quickly and easily inserted into the “Hot-swappable Mount/Socket” even though they are actually intended to undergo soldering. However, there are two types of switches: 5 pin vs 3 pin switches.

Interestingly, despite the fact that both variations are dependent on the pin count, there is no electrical basis for the differences between them.

A 5 pin switch has 2 extra plastic “legs” (or pins) than the 3 pin switch, which is the real difference. Two additional “legs” (or pins) give the pins of the keyboard more rigidity when inserted. This makes it less probable for the switch to slip from the keyboard whenever in use.

However, 3 pin switches would work on any hot-swappable keyboard which supports the 5 pin switches. However, it is important to note that 3 pin switches could have less stability because they are designed with 2 fewer plastic pins.

In addition, most people are unaware that the switch itself is NOT hot-swappable; rather, the socket or mount on the Circuit board to which the switch connects is. This is because the switch is not soldered into place.

Converting the 5 Pin vs 3 Pin switches

The legs protruding out is the main distinction between the 5 pin vs 3 pin switch connector, as we’ve previously mentioned.

You can cut out the two side legs by using cuticle cutters, flesh cutters, nail clippers, or other ordinary household tools. These metal pins must remain in place for this switch to function and convey signals to the computer, so avoid clipping them.

Take Precautions with the Switch Pins

5 pin switch

Let’s first dissect the parts that make up the hotswap socket present on the PCB of the mechanical keyboard. The metal pins of the switch make contact with and attach to the board through the two bigger holes.

Make sure the pins aren’t deformed during installation. The key may not register properly if they don’t fit into its slot properly. We advise applying light pressure and installing the switches on the softer surface.

Switches should fit into place without requiring excessive force. Remove this switch and inspect the pins if it seem like you have to push firmly to insert it.

Before attempting to reinstall the switch, you can utilize tweezers to help flatten any bent pins. This time, take extra care because the pin has become weaker and will more likely bend.

Slow down and also be intentional

The final piece of advice we have is to proceed slowly and cautiously. Perform study on the hotswap sockets, switches, and particular keyboard you are now using. While it could be tempting to rush the process of installing your switches on the new hotswap boards, doing so increases the likelihood of making mistakes.

Watch several YouTube lessons on the procedure if there’s no extra legs or bent pin to make sure your switches are not severely damaged. Again, be cautious to work slowly when repairing them.


There are two types of switches: 5 pin vs 3 pin switches. Interestingly, despite the fact that both variations are dependent on the pin count, there is no electrical basis for the differences between them. The legs protruding out is the main distinction between the 3-pin and the 5-pin connector. This instruction should have made it clearer to you how to add mechanical switches to a hot-swappable keyboard. Although the procedure is simple and easy, it doesn’t hurt to know about any potential issues and take steps to prevent them. Use hot-swap keyboards yourself? What switches are there on the circuit boards? Please let’s know in the comments section below; we’d love to hear your response!

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