Can I mod my Thinkpad Keyboard to work in another laptop?

I have a Clevo NV41MZ, which is sold by Novacustom and they, together with 3mdeb develop Coreboot for the Clevo Laptops.

Its pretty great as their Distribution (Dasharo) as well as Heads run on it, I guess theirs is better optimized and it looks secure and feature complete.

So very great laptop, also did a Benchmark against my T495 and was shocked about literally twice the performance! Its pretty loud but Dasharo actually fixes that.

Keyboard problem

So… bad part, the keyboard.

Its crap, not unusable, but my T495 is the best Keyboard I ever used. Lower travel than on my (also corebootable) T430, nice rubbery keys etc.

Interesting though, you cant replace the keycaps, while you can on the Clevo boards.

Also Novacustom sells the Clevo keyboards and you can get custom engraving, layout, font, everything, you can literally design your own keyboard, its pretty damn cool.

But… they keyboard is still a huge deal, and as I only want to have one Laptop (lol you wish) it should be good for writing Bachelor thesis stuff on it.

Keyboard to USB

There is a like 10 years old video of some guy hacking such an internal keyboard to USB, sniffing the keypresses and all.

The easy solution here would be to get a USB Thinkpad keyboard and disassemble it, but its costy and not sure about the quality and compact laptop size.

Keyboard 1 to Keyboard 2

So I imagine it pretty badly, two proprietary connectors talking gibberish and very differently, and you need to solder two random ebay parts together and hope it doesnt need translation.

I imagine you could remove the need for the arduino, as it doesnt need USB.

Maybe the OS could handle the keyboard layout changes?

Is this possible? I imagine getting a T495 keyboard and putting it in my NV41MZ, needs some cutting but should work?

fl42v ,

Technically, you can try, but I doubt it’ll work ootb even if the connectors are the same. It would be kinda easier to use smth like an arduino/rp2040 board and connect it to one if thr unpopulated USBs on the board (check if there’s a schematic available, they often leave stuff like ribbon cable connectors for, day, a smort card reader, which is basically USB but 3v3 power)

donio ,

There is a fairly compact Thinkpad USB keyboard which would be much easier to connect if you can make it fit somehow. It has the trackpoint but no trackpad.

Pantherina OP , avatar

Oh that looks like my T430’s. Damn old tbh. And it is veery loud, even though better than the Clevo’s

Skelectus , avatar

I’m sure it’s feasible, with enough knowledge and effort. How does the connector of each keyboard look? Do you have an oscilloscope or at least a multimeter to poke the keyboards with? And you’ll be needing that Arduino, either for translating it to the builtin kb port or to USB.

Physical fit is out of the scope of this comment.

aodhsishaj ,

You could ssh to your clevo from your thinkpad, or get a bluetooth keyboard, the keychron or royal kludge are great and can be had for under a 100, or you could desolder the keys on the clevo and replace them with scissor switches like in this article…/kailh-laptop-switches-scissor-…

Pantherina OP , avatar

Hahah the point is that my Thinkpad is not trustworthy as the firmware is garbage and not updated since forever. Like, this is a security nightmare?

Pantherina OP , avatar

Interesting project, but desoldering keys? That sounds like a hell of pain…

just_another_person ,

You’d have an easier path just modding the existing keyboard to something more like you want. You’re likely not going to fit any other keyboard in your machine for a long list of reasons.

Pantherina OP , avatar

This is so sad. I was pretty sure this is the case. Fuck proprietary keyboards. Thinkpads kinda suck but they have great chassis and keyboard

just_another_person ,

Look up replacements for the key actions bits and such and see if there is anything out there that gets you closer. Laptops are made to be portable, but not very customizable. Good luck 👍

Pantherina OP , avatar

True, I should probably leave the tech of the keyboard alone, and “just” replace switches etc

humanplayer2 , avatar

Get a bigger ThinkPad.

Pantherina OP , avatar

Still proprietary garbage Bios and a VEEERY shitty company behind it.

Try to get free support for a product you paid. Bot possible. They dont even answer a question like “Windows doesnt want to install, you support Windows, how the hell do I do that”.

humanplayer2 , avatar

Get an older ThinkPad.

Pantherina OP , avatar

I have one. But its too slow

humanplayer2 , avatar

SSH into a stronger machine.

Pantherina OP , avatar

Thats not the purpose of a laptop haha

humanplayer2 , avatar

It’s the purpose of the laptops where I work :D We run everything on development servers, so the laptops just run your editor of choice, basically.

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