Difference between revisions of "Install Classic Keyboard on xx30 Series ThinkPads"

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Revision as of 23:59, 21 August 2014

You can have your cake, and eat it, too!

The Lenovo Thinkpad xx30 series (T430, X230, T530) was the first generation to use chiclet style keys. The keys generally feel the same in regards to actuation, but they use a new "chiclet" style shape, and the new 6-row layout is missing keys compared to the 7-row layout used on the T420. (Comparison: T430 | T420)

Many ThinkPad fans end up recommending the xx20 series (T420, X220, T520), because they were the last Thinkpads to feature the old keyboard. However, the xx20 keyboards actually fit into the xx30 chassis, so you can have your cake, and eat it, too!

This guide will explain exactly how to replace your xx30's keyboard with a T410/T420 keyboard. (Personally, I used a T410/T410p keyboard, but the T420/X220 keyboards share the same FRU and should work as well.)

Please experiment, and if you get it working, feel free to email me.

Required Components

A compatible ThinkPad

The disassembly process below is designed for the T430.

Other xx30 ThinkPads are capable of the same keyboard replacement, and even use the same keyboard FRUs, (X230, T530, W530, etc.). Of course, the disassembly process will differ, so check the Lenovo Hardware Maintenence Manual for those.

I will only help you with issues if you're using a T430, because that's all I have experience with.

Due to the changed touchpad/key structure in the T440, there is no room for the lip on the bottom of the T410/T430 keyboard that houses the TrackPoint's clickers, so it will not fit in a T440, even if it were to work. Similarly, they have completely removed the top overlay that houses the power and audio keys, making the fit even more impossible.

A compatible keyboard

ThinkPad T410/T420 Keyboard
FRU 45N2071
approx. cost $45 + $4.99 shipping (Amazon)
suppliers - IBM/Laptop Parts Plus (Amazon) (USA)

I personally ordered a T410 keyboard, but you can also order a T420 keyboard; they have the same model number. Please be sure to look at the part numbers here in order to assure you buy the right region-specific keyboard. I used the U.S. English keyboard, model number 45N2071. Use the first model number listed - for example, the first model number for the Polish region is 45N2092, NOT 45N2162. If you use the second or third model numbers, you'll get the correct region keyboard, but it will be made by a different manufacturer, and will use different key switches. Additionally, the T400 keyboard will most likely not work, for a variety of reasons. It fits to a different footprint in the chassis, and its overlay keys (Mute, Power) do not have LEDs. It would both not fit, and the additional power being sent to the power/mute keys in order to power the LED would go nowhere. The feedback might actually cause an error.


Key Functionality

Please note that the installation is not perfect. Since the BIOS interprets keypresses, some keys are not detected at all, others have different functions; and all Fn commands are the ones listed on the T430 keyboard.

  • The T410's keyboard is printed to have Fn+PageUp activate the Thinklight.
    • However, because this action is actually bound to Fn+Space on the T430 keyboard, you will need to press Fn+Space to activate the ThinkLight after installing the T410 keyboard.
  • Fn+F8 does not toggle the TrackPoint/touchpad input, it actually dims the brightness.
  • Fn+F4 makes the computer sleep, as that is the combo on both keyboards.

Possible BIOS Mod

It should be possible to modify the BIOS to enable these keys. The T430 Japanese keyboard has 4 extra keys, and Middleton made an Fn-Ctrl swap a standard feature of his custom BIOSes in past ThinkPads. Unfortunately, nobody has attempted to make such a modification; especially since a hardware BIOS flasher is required to modify the BIOS in Ivy Bridge motherboards.

Keymap Table

A full table of keys and their compatibility is listed below.

DNF means Does Not Function.

Key Function after install Notes
0-9 0-9
PrtScr/SysRq DNF The Menu Key functions as PrtScr
ScrLk/NumLk DNF
Pause/Break DNF
Insert DNF Can be rebound to a combo if needed
Delete Home Can be rebound to Delete using SharpKeys
Home DNF Can be rebound to a combo if needed
End End
PgUp Delete Can be rebound to PgUp using SharpKeys
PgDown Insert Can be rebound to PgDown using SharpKeys
F1-F9 F1-F9
F10 DNF Can be rebound to a combo if needed, but will never work in the BIOS
F11-F12 F11-F12
Esc Esc
Tilde Tilde
Tab Tab
CapsLk CapsLk The T410's LED indicator does not work - uses the T430's built-in onscreen indicator
R&L Shift R&L Shift
Fn Fn The BIOS LCtrl & Fn swap does work
R&L Ctrl R&L Ctrl The BIOS LCtrl & Fn swap does work
R&L Windows R&L Windows
R&L Alt R&L Alt
Space Space
Menu PrtScr This key is actually PrtScr on the T430 keyboard, and functions as such when the T410 keyboard is installed. Because of this, there is no Menu key. For me, it appears that this causes the Menu Key to turn on and off at will. Please see this section for more detail.
PgLeft PgUp Can be rebound to PgLeft using SharpKeys
PgRight PgDown Can be rebound to PgRight using SharpKeys
Enter Enter
Backspace Backspace
Punctuation Punctuation Too excessive to list, but all work normally
Power/Mute/MicMute/VolUp/VolDown/ThinkVantage All work All of the overlay keys work, as well as their LEDs
TrackPoint/left/middle/right All work The TrackPoint works perfectly on the X230. It should work on the T430, but wasn't tested; the original author's T430 had soda spilled on it, shorting out his TrackPoint socket.

The replacement (T430)

Removing the old keyboard

Removing the old keyboard will require you to remove the memory module cover (RAM cover), after which you must unscrew two long screws above and below the mSATA slot. From there, you just need to push the keyboard up, and remove it from its place. You should follow the official instructions in order to do this.

Making the new keyboard fit

A comparison of the nubs from the T430 and T410 keyboards
A comparison of the nubs from the T430 and T410 trackpoints

The new keyboard will not actually fit correctly. Along the bottom edge of the T430 keyboard are four small nubs that fit into place along four idents in the chassis. These nubs help secure the keyboard into place, and make sure it is aligned correctly. The T410 keyboard, however, has five nubs - and they're much thicker. Whereas the T430 nubs are only extensions of the metal plate covering the back of the keyboard, the T410 nubs actually extend upwards and fit the entire thickness of the keyboard. The T410's fifth nub is located under the TrackPoint keys.

I was able to flatten these nubs enough that my T410 keyboard slides into place, although it is a very ugly seam.

An alternative method is to clip off the TrackPoint key's nub, and sand away the extra thickness off the other four nubs using a $20 Dremel. Then, use a black Sharpie to color the exposed metal.

Installing the T410 keyboard

Installing the new keyboard

After the nubs have been taken care of, the rest of the keyboard installation should be very simple. Just follow the instructions from the Lenovo official guide in reverse, being sure to bend the keyboard connector back the way it was done on the T430's, and NOT twisting it to match. You'll know your keyboard was installed correctly when you can actually install both screws completely.

Handling mismatched keys in software

Not all of the keys work correctly, as detailed in the Keymap Table. However, if a key performs an action, that action can be rebound on a system-wide level to any other action.


This can be done using udev keymap. I don't use Linux, and so I won't provide instructions for that here, but that page should give all the information you need to get it working, along with the Keymap Table's stock remaps. Note that keys that are labelled DNF will never work - this is a BIOS-level issue and no operating system tweaks will fix it.


Remapping with SharpKeys

On Windows, we can use a nifty program called SharpKeys to rebind keys. The program is creates a registry entry in order to remap. Despite the fact that it is portable and does not run upon starting the machine, I suggest you keep the application handy in case Windows overwrites the remap key - this has only happened a few times for me while tweaking things, but it's enough reason to keep the 500kb application installed.
Once you've installed SharpKeys, add four remaps corresponding to the ones on the right, and then click "Write to Registry". Log out of Windows, and when you log back in, your PgUp, Delete, and PgDown keys should be functioning as normal.

Menu Key

The last remap in SharpKeys, Unknown > Turn Key Off, corresponds to disabling the Menu key (key 0x0075). Without this entry, my keyboard was making all left clicks act as though the Menu key was being held down. You may not need this entry, but if you do, be sure to add it. I believe this stems from the fact that there is no Menu Key on the T430 keyboard, but I'm not sure why it was constantly signalling itself as on.


The T430 master race.

While some keys won't work, it is completely possible to transplant a T410/T420 keyboard into a T430 and use it almost as if nothing ever changed. Now you too can have an Ivy Bridge ThinkPad with a classic keyboard.

If this guide helped you at all, feel free to send me an email, and if you have any comments or criticism, be sure to send that, too! I'll try and keep this guide up to date as best I can in order to support users looking to make the switch.