Key Rollover Limitations in Mechanical Keyboards

April 25, 2024

On your keyboard, how many keys can you press before you encounter issues like unintended key presses, no key registration, or abnormal behavior? That is the key rollover limitation of your mechanical keyboard.

It's a hidden boundary that determines the number of keys that can be pressed at the same time without causing ghosting or blocking---a frustrating instance where your keystrokes get lost or mixed up.

Your keyboard's rollover capacity significantly affects your user experience. Let's get under the hood and learn about these limitations.

Understanding the Basics of Key Rollover

Key rollover, often abbreviated as "KRO," refers to the ability of a keyboard to register multiple key presses simultaneously. In mechanical keyboards, key rollover determines how many keys can be pressed at the same time and still be recognized by the computer.

A combination of hardware components, firmware/software algorithms, and communication protocols power up a keyboard's key rollover feature. They all work together to ensure accurate and responsive input from the keyboard.

  1. Matrix Layout: Most keyboards use a matrix layout where rows and columns intersect to form a grid of key switches. Each key on the keyboard corresponds to a specific intersection point in this grid.
  2. Diodes: Diodes are often placed in each key switch to prevent ghosting, a phenomenon where simultaneous key presses cause unintended keystrokes to register. These diodes isolate the signals of each key press, ensuring that each press is uniquely identified by the keyboard controller.
  3. Controller: The keyboard's controller scans the matrix of key switches to detect which keys are pressed. It continuously polls the key matrix, checking the state of each key switch.
  4. Firmware/Software: The firmware or software running on the keyboard's controller interprets the signals from the key switches and determines which keys are pressed. It implements the logic for key rollover, ensuring that the keyboard can accurately register simultaneous key presses up to its specified limit.
  5. Buffering: In keyboards with limited rollover capabilities, a keypress buffer may be used to temporarily store keypress information until the keyboard controller can process it. This helps prevent missed keystrokes when multiple keys are pressed simultaneously.
  6. USB Protocol: For USB keyboards, the USB protocol also plays a role in key rollover. The protocol specifies how key press information is transmitted from the keyboard to the computer. Higher rollover capabilities may require specific USB protocols or additional features like "boot mode" to bypass limitations.

Why is Key Rollover Important in Keyboards

an image of a mechanical keyboard

A key rollover feature is important, especially if you're a gamer, coder, or a fast typist. It makes your keyboard responsive and accurate:

  1. Accuracy: Key rollover ensures that all key presses are registered by the keyboard. Accurate input is important for optimized performance and productivity.
  2. Prevention of Ghosting: Ghosting happens when simultaneous key presses cause unintended keystrokes to register. Key rollover helps prevent ghosting by ensuring that each key press is uniquely identified.
  3. Gaming Performance: In competitive gaming, fast and precise inputs are important to win against an opponent or the game's AI. They are needed to accomplish a mission. Key rollover allows gamers to perform complex combinations of key presses without any input lag or missed keystrokes to win or achieve the game's goals. 
  4. Typing Speed: For fast typists such as writers, programmers, or data entry professionals, key rollover allows them to type at their maximum speed without encountering input limitations. This improves their efficiency and reduces fatigue during long typing sessions.
  5. User Experience: A keyboard with good key rollover capabilities provides a smooth and responsive typing experience, improving overall user satisfaction and comfort.

Comparison Between Key Rollover Limitations

There are two main types of key rollover:

  1. Simultaneous Key Rollover (SKR): Also known as "n-key rollover" (NKRO), this type of rollover allows the keyboard to register an unlimited number of simultaneous key presses without any ghosting or key blocking. In other words, each key press is individually recognized, regardless of how many other keys are pressed at the same time. SKR is ideal for gaming and other scenarios where complex key combinations are common.
  2. Sequential Key Rollover (SKR): Also known as "6-key rollover" (6KRO), this type of rollover allows only a certain number of keys to be recognized simultaneously. Typically, it's limited to six keys including modifiers like Shift or Ctrl. If more keys are pressed simultaneously, some may not register until one of the pressed keys is released. SKR is common in many keyboards and is generally sufficient for most typing and gaming tasks.

Exceeding Key Rollover Thresholds

Pounding on your keyboard at breakneck speeds can sometimes lead to surpassing the key rollover limit, resulting in some issues:  

  1. Simultaneous Key Rollover (SKR): If the keyboard supports SKR (NKRO), it should ideally be able to register all key presses simultaneously without any issues. In practical terms, however, limitations can arise due to hardware constraints such as the USB interface or the keyboard's firmware.
  2. Sequential Key Rollover (SKR): If the keyboard supports only a limited number of simultaneous key presses (e.g., 6-key rollover), exceeding this limit can result in certain key presses not registering until one of the pressed keys is released. For example, if you press seven keys simultaneously on a keyboard with 6KRO, the seventh key press may not register until you release one of the other keys.

Troubleshooting Key Rollover Problems on a Mechanical Keyboard

a man checking on the mechanical keyboard keys

Key rollover issues can happen even in top-quality mechanical keyboards. Here are some tips that can help you tackle these issues:

  1. Check the specifications: Review the specifications of your keyboard to determine its key rollover capabilities. If it claims to support NKRO (Simultaneous Key Rollover), ensure that your computer's USB port also supports NKRO as some USB ports or hubs may have limitations.
  2. Test individual keys: Use software or online tools designed to test key rollover and keyboard functionality. These tools can help identify any specific keys or combinations that may be causing issues.
  3. Update firmware and drivers: Updating the firmware or drivers may resolve compatibility issues or improve key rollover performance.
  4. Try different USB ports: Connect your keyboard to different USB ports on your computer. Some USB ports may have better compatibility or higher bandwidth, which can affect key rollover performance.
  5. Use a different computer: Test the keyboard on a different computer to see if the issue persists. This can help determine if the problem is specific to your computer's hardware or software configuration.
  6. Check for interference: Ensure that there are no sources of interference near your keyboard such as wireless devices or other electronic equipment. Interference can affect the signal transmission between the keyboard and the computer.
  7. Clean the keyboard: Dust, debris, or spilled liquids can interfere with the contacts of the key switches, causing key rollover problems. Clean your keyboard regularly using compressed air or a soft brush to remove any buildup that may affect performance.
  8. Contact manufacturer support: If you've tried troubleshooting steps and are still experiencing key rollover issues, get in touch with the manufacturer's customer support for further assistance. They may be able to provide specific troubleshooting steps or offer a replacement if the keyboard is defective.

How to Test for Key Rollover

Testing for key rollover can be done using various methods, including software tools and online websites specifically designed for this purpose. 

  1. Online Key Rollover Testers: Several websites offer online tools that allow you to test key rollover by pressing multiple keys simultaneously and observing the results. These tools display a visual representation of the keyboard layout and highlight which keys are being pressed. Some popular online key rollover testers include Keyboard Tester ( and WASD Keyboards' Key Tester (
  2. Keyboard Testing Software: Some keyboard manufacturers provide software utilities that allow you to test key rollover and other keyboard functions. These software tools may offer more advanced features and customization options than online testers. Check the manufacturer's website or support documentation for any available keyboard testing software.
  3. Manual Testing: You can also perform a manual test by pressing multiple keys simultaneously on your keyboard and observing whether all the keys are registered correctly. Start by pressing each key individually to verify that it works properly. Gradually increase the number of keys pressed simultaneously. Pay attention to any keys that don't register or cause other keys to stop working when pressed together.
  4. Key Rollover Specifications: Refer to the specifications provided by the keyboard manufacturer to determine the maximum key rollover supported by your keyboard. You can compare the specified key rollover limit with the results of your testing to ensure that the keyboard meets its advertised capabilities.
  5. Different Key Combinations: Test various combinations of keys including modifier keys (e.g., Shift, Ctrl, Alt) and non-modifier keys to assess how key rollover behaves in different scenarios. This can help identify any limitations or inconsistencies in key registration.


Knowing key rollover limitations is an important element to keep your mechanical keyboard primed for gaming. Overstepping these limitations may result in ghosting or blocking issues. Don't fret, though; figuring out these hiccups is part of the thrill. Being aware of your keyboard's limitations will allow your fingers to flutter on the keys without skipping a single note!

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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