Early 2011 model, A1278 / 2.3 GHz i5 or 2.7 GHz i7 processor.

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Some keys stopped working

At first some of the keys in the middle row stopped working intermittently, but now 'asdfghjk' doesn't register at all. I bought replaced the battery last year which already has a status of 'Service battery'. Is there an easy way to fix this - or should I just buy a new computer?

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Check the keyboard connector, on the logic board where the keyboard plugs in, to see if any pins look corroded or burnt. If not, it will need a new keyboard, you can plug one in to test it.

Regarding the battery, sounds like a bad 3rd party battery. Contact the seller to see if their warranty will cover it. If not, buy a second hand genuine battery, or buy from a good 3rd party brand (Runpower is quite good).

Definitely worth fixing if the MacBook has value to you. If not, sell it on eBay.

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It definitely sounds like a 3rd party battery. It sounds like a 3rd party battery has gone bad and started swelling. Swelling against the keyboard would cause that specific row of keys to no longer function.

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Not familiar with how keyboards are attached to Apple laptops, but, I'm sure they can be taken out.

This is the last thing before just buying another keyboard.

Take it out, soak it in warm water with Dawn soap for an hour. Rince with hot water while scrubbing.

Pat dry and then let dry in rice for 48 hours.

After that, re-instal it. If it still doesn't work, it's not dirty, just worn out.

This might sound stupid, but in the last 20 years of fixing computers, it's brought back around 60% of keyboards that were considered "A Lost Cause"...

As for the battery, you need to get a genuine Apple battery.

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