ThinkPad T430 Modding: Classic Keyboard

If you had a laptop in the 2000s or earlier, chances are that you'll remember the ThinkPads of old- the practically indestructible devices, with awesome keyboards and easy to customize. They were (and still are) widely seen as the go-to laptop for productivity due to it's utilitarian design choices. Fast forward in time, IBM sold the designs and schematics to Lenovo and the ThinkPad of old is no more... or is it?

The ThinkPad T430 is the first ThinkPad to have island-style chiclet keyboards, and to be the first in a long line of devices to ignore the tried-and-true design of 20 years. However, it's fully compatible with the T420 Keyboard, which provides the old keyboard design.

Things You'll Need

Below is a list of required items for this mod: – A T430 Thinkpad (of course!) – A working T420 keyboard for installation – A large white towel – A set of precision screwdrivers – Wire cutters – A file – needle-nose pliers


Take a white bath towel and spread it over my desk. This provides a nice, white surface to be able to see screws and helps prevent damage of components from unexpected dropping. Once that is done, put the ThinkPad (ThonkPad?) on the towel and open the lid of the device and flip it over, screen facing down. Lastly, pull out the tools and have them at the ready.

Violating The Keyboard

Wait, What? Yes, you heard correctly- it's time to take the wire cutters to the T420 keyboard. But hold on! Let's take care to tweak the right things.

So there are 4 tabs in the bottom stock T430 keyboard, and the T420 has 5 of them. Remove the one in the center, under the mouse buttons and file it smooth:

Deleting Center Tab Take this slowly! Don't destroy your mouse buttons!

With this completed, now the existing tabs at the bottom of the keyboard need to be modified to accomodate the ThinkPad chassis:


KeyboardMod3 You will need your needlenose pliers and the file to obtain this shape.

With this all done, put the keyboard to the side and let's crack open the laptop.

Death To Ye Olde Keyboard!!!

Thinking ahead, we will want to temporarily remove the laptop's palmrest along with the keyboard. To do this, COMPLETELY open your laptop and flip it over, so it lies flat, and remove the battery. Then, use your precision screwdriver set to remove middle panel in the back and the usb port cover in the bottom right corner. Remember to save these screws, as they will be necessary for reassembly.

Now, we need to remove the screws that keep the chassis held together:

KeyboardMod4 The screws circled in red underneath the middle cover can be thrown away or reused, as reinstalling them will kill your classic keyboard. Otherwise, save the screws.

Now, flip the laptop over so the screen faces up and is fully opened to 180 degrees. Use a flathead screwdriver and pry the bottom of the installed keyboard forward. Once that is accomplished, there should be enough space to pry up on it, allowing you to remove the chiclet keyboard. It will be attached to the motherboard with a ribbon cable, you will need to detach this as well.

Now use the smallest flathead screwdriver (or a guitar pick if you care about avoiding scratching the plastic) and pry the palmrest away from the device. The touchpad is also connected to the motherboard via a ribbon cable and this will need to be reconnected upon assembly. Once this is removed, the palmrest will look something like this:


Das Keyboard

Now it is possible to take the classic keyboard and install it into the palmrest, taking time to ensure a proper fit. Once this is accomplished, connect the touchpad and keyboard back into the motherboard. Now, reattach the palmrest to the laptop, making sure to apply pressure to the edges of the device. You should hear “click” sounds where you reconnect it. Don't worry, this is normal.

Finally, flip the laptop over one last time and reinsert the chassis screws. Lastly, reattach the USB port covers and the cover for the center, screwing them back in. Now re-insert the battery and flip the laptop right-side up.



The keyboard should work, but some keys will be swapped out of place and it won't behave 100% properly. It should be bearable for day-to-day use.

However, if you want to get it working fully, you can install the thinkpad-ec mod, found here:

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