Plate Mount Switches

Every now and then I come across a listing for a switch that states it is a “plate mount” switch. While I understand what this means in a literal sense, it leaves a couple of questions:

  • Does this mean that these switches cannot be used in a plate-less build?

  • Are there switches that are PCB mount only?

  • Is this typically something you see in 3-ping switches since they wouldn’t be very stable in a plate-less build?

  • Does this have any bearing on using a socketed PCB (ie hot swap) versus a solder PCB?

I’ve been under the impression that these days all Cherry MX style switches will work with a plate. And I can see where working with a plate-less build could make the switch choice a little more important for stability.

Do I understand the details correctly? Or is there something that I am missing (like possibly some history in this area)?


Plate mount switch is another name for 3-pin
PCB mount switch is another name for 5-pin

U can use 3-pin without a plate but u will have a bad time aligning the switches.


PCB mount switches are the same as plate mount switches but with 2 extra pins meant for securing the switch into the PCB by friction, and making sure they sit straight and not crooked.

Are there switches that are PCB mount only

If you meant to ask if there are switches only made in 5 pin version then yes, if you ask in terms of comptability, then no, you can use switches with or without a plate regardless if they’re PCB or plate mount switches.

Is this typically something you see in 3-ping switches since they wouldn’t be very stable in a plate-less build?

I’m not sure what you meant by that but yes, plate mount switches (3 pin switches) can be used plate-less but will be loose and/or crooked since there’s nothing to secure them.

I’m not too sure about the use back then and why 3 pin switches were made in the first place, maybe it was invented to cut cost on making more holes on the PCB but then why make a plate in the first place?

But today it’s irrelevant as plate are enough to secure switches as long as they’re in the right dimensions, 5 pins is only relevant when using plateless, and mostly soldering, since you can use a plateless hotswap keyboard but the switches wouldn’t be that secure (I personally don’t like it).


Yep, you’ve pretty much got it and the other answers are accurate - I think all I can add here is some trivia stuff about socketed hot-swap boards. Maybe also that the occasional plate is loose enough to allow inconsistent positioning, in which case the fixing pins can help with alignment even when the plate is there. Looking at you, trusty GK61.

@Cloud983 I think you’re probably right about the 3-pin models being there to facilitate lower production costs PCB-side. Not only is it more complicated to drill more holes, but it’s more complicated to route traces around them - and in an industry where saving a few pennies per unit can make a big difference in profit, well, I can see why lots of PCBs

On that note, the first handful of hot-swap boards on the market that I know of all had 3-pin PCBs; plate-mount only. There was celebration at being able to try different switches without having to commit to a whole new board or having to de-solder anything, but also some frustration at having to chop bits off of some of those switches to make them fit. With enough consistent feedback, 5-pin hot-swaps pretty quickly became common - though some notable (and not cheap) exceptions remain. cough DORP cough

The CTRL was my first hot-swap board, and I got it as a test-bed for switches… before I knew what plate-mount, PCB-mount, pins, or any of that was about. I’ve gotten hundreds of hours of good use from that keeb, but I nipped the tips from exactly one set of switches before deciding any platform I use for testing is going to need 5-pin support.

These days you can get a socketed 5-pin keeb for $50 or less if you just want to try all the switches, and a great many middle-market and custom keebs alike also support the feature. Drop updated the CTRL’s case so its feet stay in place better and added a high-profile version (both of which I think look great, by the way), but the PCB remains unchanged with only plate-mount / 3-pin support, incomplete advertised features, and power delivery issues.

I find this a shame for a keeb that starts at $200 and serves as the base for some much more expensive pre-configured versions.


Yup, that’s the short way of stating what I thought.

Right, because without fixing pins the switches will rotate in the sockets…which would make it a very painful experience trying to solder the switches in while keeping them properly aligned.

Which is what I thought.

Thanks for the insights.

Hah. Yeah, there are manufacturers that aren’t known for their abilitiy to produce products with proper tolerances.

And when you have the addition of features like RGB for mass-produced products, those costs tend to compound themselves. I’m sure it’s also these costs that were the reason it took a while to see mass-produced socketed PCBs.

A lot of people don’t understand how the relationship between design and cost to manufacture works. Every little detail that an engineer has to take into consideration when designing a PCB, or writing firmware, tends to compound itself when it comes to the manufacturing process.

This is why I appreciate the companies that will step out of their comfort zone and produce something unique. It can be a big risk in a market that has thin margins.