Install Classic Keyboard on xx30 Series ThinkPads

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Revision as of 18:49, 15 August 2015 by Antonizoon (Talk | contribs) (Differences)

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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 classic keyboard. However, the xx30 series uses Intel Ivy Bridge processors, with greater power savings and the vastly improved Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU.

Since the xx20 classic keyboards fit into the xx30 chassis, you can have your cake, and eat it, too!

This guide will explain exactly how to replace your xx30's keyboard with an xx20 Classic 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. The rest of the xx30 series (X230, T530, W530, etc.) use the same T410/T420 keyboard, but 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.

The T440 is not supported, since the chassis, palmrest, touchpad and Trackpoint keys were completely redesigned. Thus, there is no room for the lip on the bottom of the T410/T430 keyboard that houses the TrackPoint's clickers.

A compatible keyboard

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

I used the T410/T420 U.S. English keyboard, model number 45N2071. Please be sure to look at the part numbers here in order to assure you buy the right region-specific keyboard.

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.

The T400 keyboard won't work. It fits to a different footprint in the chassis, has different screw holes, and it's overlay keys (Mute, Power) lack LEDs. 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.

Warning

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
A-Z A-Z
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.

Method 1: Replace the xx30 Palmrest with a xx20 Palmrest

The least invasive method is to replace the entire xx30 (T430/X230/W530) Palmrest with the xx20 (T420/X220/W520) Palmrest. The palmrest costs about $10-20 on eBay, search for these FRU numbers:

  • T420 Palmrest
    • No fingerprint reader - 04W1371, 04W1372
  • X220 Palmrest
    • No fingerprint reader - 04W1411
    • With fingerprint reader - 04W1410

It's pretty simple:

  1. Remove and unplug the original palmrest.
  2. Install and plug in the xx20 palmrest.
  3. Then insert the keyboard; it should fit perfectly.

Method 2: Sand down the nubs to fit in the T430 Palmrest

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

If you're a cheapskate, you can modify the keyboard to fit your T430 palmrest instead.

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 classic 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 classic nubs actually extend upwards and fit the entire thickness of the keyboard. The classic's fifth nub is located under the TrackPoint keys.

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

An alternative method is to clip off the nub near the TrackPoint key, 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.

Linux

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.

Windows

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.

Conclusion

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.

Experiment: T430 Keyboard in a T420 with BIOS Mod

While it would require a hardware flash, many people would probably be willing to modify their T430 BIOS to use the old keyboard layout. There is no electronic IC in the keyboard, so all keylayouts are defined in the BIOS. The key is to figure out exactly how to change the keyboard layout.

The Japanese T430 keyboard has more keys than the typical T430 keyboard, yet is autodetected and works perfectly fine. Could it be possible to put in support for the T420's extra keys by registering it as a "new" keylayout? The FN and Ctrl keys could be swapped thanks to the Middleton BIOS, so it's perfectly plausible.

In order to work more freely (rather than struggle under a hardware BIOS flash), we can experiment the other way around: install a T430 Keyboard layout on the T420 BIOS.

Differences

There are a few differences and missing keys between the T430 Keyboard (at least for the Japanese layout) and the T420 keyboard when installed on the T420. For the most part, every single F1-F12, character, number, and symbol key is detected in the right place. However, all the function key combos will stay the same as on the T420, and there are only 4 keys representing the now missing 7th row, so here's their functions:

  • Home - Delete key.
  • End - End key. Still can be used as a function key to reduce the brightness.
  • Insert - Page Down key.
  • Delete - Page Up Key. Still works for ThinkLight function key combo.
  • PrtSc - Context Menu key.

The missing keys are: PrtSc/SysRq, ScrLk/NmLk, Pause/Break, Insert, and Home.