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What is Keyboard Ghosting

What is Keyboard Ghosting?

Stephen Mash
Reading time: 7 minutes
In this article, we'll look at keyboard ghosting and how it can become a problem for your gaming experience.
The keyboard is an indispensable component of any computer setup, and they come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors. Yet, not all keyboards are the same regarding the technology that turns your key presses into information your computer can process.
For most typical office applications and general internet browsing, just about any keyboard will suffice. However, for online gaming applications where you may be pressing lots of keys rapidly, a keyboard's underlying technology can make a huge difference. We see these differences most commonly with keyboard ghosting effects.

How keyboard ghosting happens

Keyboard ghosting is simply when a user presses a key on a keyboard, but the computer does not perform the key command. This problem is generally because of limitations with the keyboard itself, failing to tell the computer that you have pressed the key. However, occasionally it can be an issue with computer software being unable to handle the information received from the keyboard.
For just about any keyboard, pressing one key at a time will not cause a ghosting issue. Instead, the problem occurs when you press multiple keys simultaneously, and the keyboard cannot recognize each different key press. This issue may be due to the keyboard's design or restrictions in the device's electronics that process key presses.
This problem typically occurs in budget keyboards using technology that can only detect a few simultaneous key presses. As a result, if the user presses more keys than the keyboard can handle, it simply ignores the additional keys. This is keyboard ghosting in a nutshell.
Typical general-purpose keyboards can recognize around three to six simultaneous key presses. Often, control-alt-delete is the most complex key press action users require. However, very few commands require three or more key presses due to the dexterity needed by a typical user.
However, when it comes to serious gaming, the player is often required to press multiple keys simultaneously to perform some complex operation or sequence of actions. Therefore, a keyboard that can recognize and respond to these key presses promptly is vital for smooth gameplay.

Why preventing keyboard ghosting matters

Why preventing keyboard ghosting matters
In fast-paced games, players typically need to perform multiple actions simultaneously. For typical role-playing games, this can be directing the movement of your avatar, shifting the aiming point of a weapon, and initiating action. These individual actions may require users to press more than one key to select the necessary option. Added together, the user may be simultaneously pressing quite a few keys.
If a player needs to press four keys simultaneously, but the keyboard only recognizes three key presses, something the player wants to happen will not. As a result, the player's character may come to a premature end, spoiling any game.
This failure to recognize key presses is why keyboard ghosting can be infuriating for gamers. The last thing they should focus on during immersive gameplay is keeping track of how many keys they are pressing at any time.

How to fix keyboard ghosting

How to fix keyboard ghosting
Keyboard ghosting results from cost-saving measures in the underlying keyboard design, so there is no simple keyboard ghosting fix. Instead, each key needs dedicated wiring and processing logic to guarantee detection and eliminate the problem. For example, lower-priced keyboards save costs using matrix-based wiring where a key press connects an X-axis wire with a Y-axis wire. Logic within the keyboard scans the matrix to identify which keys correspond to any detected connections.
This approach relies on the electronics determining which keys the user has activated from multiple matrix connections. However, when the user presses numerous keys simultaneously, the electronics may be unable to detect all the keys. Hence ghosting occurs.
You can observe this effect by conducting a keyboard ghosting test. Open up a text editor such as Windows Notepad, simultaneously press as many keys as possible, and watch the results. On a typical wireless keyboard without 100% anti-ghosting capability, pressing eight-letter keys together may add only six letters to the text file. The added characters and their order can be different each time.
It's essential to recognize that not all anti-ghosting features are the same. For example, some keyboards will offer anti-ghosting on groups of keys, such as those typically used in games for movement commands. However, this does not guarantee keyboard ghosting will not occur when you use these keys with other keys outside the anti-ghosting group.
Keyboards that offer 100% anti-ghosting will ensure that keyboard ghosting cannot occur on any combination of simultaneous key presses. Ensure that your keyboard has this capability to prevent unforeseen issues and future-proof your keyboard for games that use non-traditional keys for common commands.
Keyboard ghosting may still occur on keyboards with a 100% anti-ghosting capability if physical interference prevents a key press from being registered. Typically, this is caused by dust or fluff inside the keyboard that prevents keys from moving correctly. Always ensure that your keyboard is kept clean, but if your gaming environment is naturally dusty, consider a keyboard with a membrane-based shield, such as spill-proof protection, to keep dirt out.
If you are looking for an anti-ghosting keyboard, it's also essential to look out for any specified rollover rating. For example, an anti-ghosting keyboard with a 10-key rollover will handle ten simultaneous key presses, but no more than that. However, an N-key rollover-rated keyboard will cope with the simultaneous activation of all the keys, a true 100% anti-ghosting capability.

Anti-ghosting keyboards from HP

Anti-ghosting keyboards from HP's range of options offer serious gamers the performance and features they'll need to get the most out of their PC rig.
Of course, you may have specific keyboard requirements that need fulfilling. In this case, the HP website offers a set of filter options to help in your search for the perfect product.

Budget membrane gaming keyboard

HyperX Alloy Core RGB Keyboard
The HyperX Alloy Core RGB Gaming Keyboard offers entry-level anti-ghosting keyboard technology with six-key rollover capability. In addition, the matrix polling rate of 1 kHz ensures that the key presses are responsive enough for this budget gaming keyboard.
It's manufactured with a durable, reinforced plastic frame to provide a stable platform for gaming to handle the demands of rapid, enthusiastic operations. In addition, it features responsive soft-touch keys with a tactile feel for low-noise key presses.
It has the additional benefit of including a spill-resistant layer in its construction that can handle spills of up to 120 ml of liquid.
This keyboard has six different lighting effects and three brightness levels for its in-built radiant light bar and dynamic RGB lighting effects. This feature includes allowing you to customize five keyboard zones with your choice of colors.

High-performance mechanical gaming keyboard

HyperX Alloy Origins Core
The HyperX Alloy Origins Core Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a high-performance keyboard with 100% anti-ghosting and N-key rollover capabilities.
It's constructed with a whole aluminum body to provide a fully rigid and stable platform to meet the most challenging gaming demands.
The Alloy Origins employs mechanical switches rated for 80 million keypresses with no loss of quality, delivering the required performance and reliability gamers need.
The stylish keys balance actuation force and travel distance to offer responsiveness and accuracy for gaming. Exposed LEDs offer stunning, bright, and luminous RGB lighting effects for each key. In addition, users can create three different custom-designed light shows using macros for bespoke lighting effects.

High-performance gaming keyboard

HyperX Alloy Elite 2
The HyperX Alloy Elite 2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard offers an option for gamers looking for a high-performance keyboard with 100% anti-ghosting and N-key rollover capabilities.
It uses HyperX mechanical key switches rated for 80 million keypresses to deliver reliable performance with a lightning-fast response time. Featuring a solid steel frame, this gaming keyboard will hold up to long hours climbing the leaderboard.
You can customize the RGB LED backlit keys and stay comfortable with three angles for wrist support. You'll also love controlling volume and media with dedicated keys.


Having the right keyboard is essential for serious gamers. You don't want critical key presses ignored at a vital point in the gameplay because your keyboard is overwhelmed by commands.
Keyboard ghosting is a phenomenon where limitations in the keyboard may prevent all key presses from registering. A keyboard that offers 100% anti-ghosting and N-key rollover capabilities will eliminate these limitations. Keeping your keyboard clean can also help prevent ghosting from occurring.
The recommended gaming keyboards from HP have been chosen based on the needs of gamers and their ability to deliver. If keyboard ghosting affects your gameplay, these top picks can help eliminate ghosting from your gaming setup.

About the Author

Stephen Mash is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Stephen is a UK-based freelance technology writer with a background in cybersecurity and risk management.

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