Hot swap sockets are a neat thing to have, as it allows you to easily swap out switches. This means you're not locked into your choice. Installing them can be a bit tricky, however. In this guide, you'll find some tips and tricks to installing these little sockets succesfully.
The first step is to click the sockets in place on your switches. This makes installing the sockets easier.
If you have them, use switches you don't intend to use for this build to install the sockets. You might accidentally solder a socket to the switch, and that's very annoying to desolder. Using "throwaway" switches makes it a little less sour if you accidentally solder the socket to the switch.
To click them in place, it's easiest to use pliers. Grab the socket with the pliers, and slide them in place carefully.
If you need to use much force to install the switch, look at the width of both switch legs. Is one leg wider than the other, then that is likely the cause of having to use much force. Consider using a different switch type when that happens, as it's easy to bend switch legs when forcing the installation.
Next up, seat the switches into the PCB. If your switches are so-called "5-pin" or PCB mount switches, you can seat them directly, but the most fool-proof way to seating them is through the plate. This ensures your switches will be lined up correctly, making the end result look nice.
Here comes the meat of the action: actually soldering the sockets onto the PCB. Using a very small amount of solder, you can form a joint between the socket and the PCB. Using a thin diameter solder wire, such as 0.5mm, helps to dose the solder.
You solder the sockets from the back of the PCB, on the same side the switch pins are.
Be careful: if you use too much solder, the heat and surface tension will draw the molten solder into the hot swap socket. It's easier to add solder than to remove it, so work slowly while you get the hang of it.
To form a strong joint, only a little amount of solder is needed. You might apply two drops evenly spaced, so the solder envelops the side of the socket. There should be no solder on top of the socket, or within it.
Testing the sockets
With the soldering out of the way, it's time to test the sockets, where you check whether the switch can be replaced, and thus is not joined with the socket itself. This is different from testing the switches and the keyboard, where you check if the key does what you expect.
To test, simply pull the switches out. This shouldn't take much force. If you feel you need to strain to pull a switch out, it'll likely be fused to the socket, in which case you need to heat up one or both sockets, pull out the switch while the solder is molten, remove the excess solder and try the installation again.
You should use desoldering braid (also known as desoldering wick) or a desoldering pump to remove excess solder. These are both affordable and useful tools to have when doing any soldering job.
Installing the switches
Now that you've installed the sockets and checked whether the switches can be removed, you can now insert the switches for your build. Check the alignment of the pins - they shouldn't be bent when installing them.
You shouldn't need to apply much force to install the switches, if you feel like you need to strain, look at the orientation of the switch legs, unbend them, and try again.