ThinkPad Button Customiser

A program for reconfiguring the ThinkPad button on IBM ThinkPad computers.


Download ThinkPad Button Customiser by clicking on the filename below. (440 KB)
Version: 1.0.2
Last updated: 16/04/03

Please ensure you have read the conditions for downloading and using this program.

Webmasters: Please link to this page and not to the files directly. Thank you.


The ThinkPad button on IBM ThinkPad laptops is normally reserved for running the Access IBM help system. This is all very well, but if you’re an IT professional who doesn’t need this help system, wouldn’t it be nice to have the button do something more useful to you?

Well, yes it would. And now you can.

Please bear in mind that this program requires the ThinkPad Utility software to be installed. This is the software that allows the volume control buttons to work, so if they do, you’ve got it already. If not, get the appropriate software for your model here:

Model Download Location
  • ThinkPad A20m, A20p, A21m, A21p, A22m, A22p
  • ThinkPad A30, A30p, A31, A31p
  • ThinkPad G40
  • ThinkPad X22, X23, X24
  • ThinkPad X30, X31
  • ThinkPad R30, R31, R32
  • ThinkPad R40, R40e, R50
  • ThinkPad s31
  • ThinkPad T20, T21, T22, T23
  • ThinkPad T30
  • ThinkPad T40, T40p, T41, T42, T42p
  • Newer models than those listed here probably use this package too; check the link for details
ThinkPad Hotkey Features
  • ThinkPad A21e, A22e
  • ThinkPad X20, X21
  • ThinkPad s30
  • TransNote
ThinkPad On Screen Display Utility

So far this program has been used successfully tested on many T-Series and R-Series ThinkPads. Technically it should work on any of the above systems, as long as they have the ThinkPad button. You could give it a try (at your own risk remember!). The worst it can possibly do is cause you to have to reinstall the Utility / Hotkey Features Software (a 5 minute job), and even that’s unlikely.

Future development (and how IBM has stolen my thunder)

I’d like to thank the many people who have sent me email praising my little piece of code here; those of you who develop freeware software will know how much of a boost such a thing gives.

Since I no longer own a ThinkPad I am not able to continue development on this program. IBM have also now released a program which steals my thunder slightly. The ThinkPad Keyboard Customizer Utility allows the user, amongst other things, to remap a chosen key (e.g., AltGr) to act as a Windows key. Many people regard remapping the ThinkPad button to partially emulate a Windows key as my program’s most useful feature, and the complete remap that the IBM utility manages does surpass my program. However, for as long as it remains unable to allow you to customise the ThinkPad key, my program will remain.

Many people have asked whether my program could be modified to remap other keys, such as the ‘Forward’ and ‘Backward’ keys found on some new ThinkPads, or to make the ThinkPad key work exactly like a Windows key so that key combinations such as Win+E can be used. Neither of these are possible, since the way I have remapped the ThinkPad key is actually quite rudimentary and is a special case that only works for the ThinkPad key. The ThinkPad key only works as a ‘hotkey’, and can only detect whether it has been pressed, not whether it is being held down, so key combinations cannot be detected. Remapping any other key would require a completely different method that is far more complicated than I have used in this program.


Unzip the two executable files (TPadCust.exe and TPCLnch.exe) into a directory of your choice, and run TPadCust to begin.


Since the program alters the behaviour of the ThinkPad button, you should reset the button action to Default using the procedure below. Then, simply delete the two executable files.


Upon running the TPadCust.exe file, you will be presented with the screen shown here. The selected option is to have the ThinkPad button perform the default action. If you have the Access IBM package installed, this will be the default action, otherwise it will almost certainly be set to nothing.

Default behaviour

By clicking the Specified Action option, you can choose from a list of actions to perform when the ThinkPad button is pressed:

  • Shutdown Shuts the computer down
  • Restart Restarts the computer
  • Log Off Logs off the current user
  • Power Off Shuts down and powers off the computer. This may be the same as Shutdown on your system.
  • Windows Key Acts as if the Windows key on the keyboard has been pressed. Useful if you do not have this key on your keyboard.
  • Applications Key Acts as if the Applications key (context menu key) on the keyboard has been pressed. Useful if you do not have this key on your keyboard.
  • Lock Workstation Locks the workstation against unauthorised use. 2000/XP only.

Specified Action

By clicking the Specified Application option, you can choose to run any executable file when the ThinkPad button is pressed.

Click the Browse button to pick the desired application.

You can specify any parameters with which to run the application in the Parameters box. You can also specify how the application should be named on the on-screen display (if you have this enabled) in the Display Name box, and whether it should run as Normal, Minimised, Maximised, or Hidden.

Specified Application

Click OK to implement the settings you have chosen, or click cancel to revert back to the settings in place before you ran the application.


Version Date Changes
1.0.2 16/04/03
  • Fixed the UI font so that ClearType works properly under Windows XP.
1.0.1 18/03/03
  • NEW: Added two new actions: the Windows Key and Applications Key.

6 Replies to “ThinkPad Button Customiser”

  1. thinkpad fanboy

    I can’t believe that with all the Thinkpad fanatics out there with a non-working Thinkpad button on their prized machines, that not one of them has thanked you for writing this wonderful little program. Kudos!!

  2. James Post author

    I have had some thanks over the years by email, but my old website (when the software was in its prime) didn’t have a commenting system.

    Thanks for your praise though!

  3. Jon

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have an A21e running a Windows XP and I have missed the Windows button. Thanks again!!!!

  4. BlueV

    This app is the first I install on any new lenovo I get… (ps: it works on T420 and T410 perfectly). A humble thank you, comming from an IBM-er…

  5. Pingback: Hello world! | Thinkpad R31

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *