Lock the function keys on a Lenovo Thinkpad

Depending on your age and experience with computers, you may need to find you need to lock the function keys on a Lenovo Thinkpad. Or you may find the opposite, that you need to disable the function keys on a Lenovo Thinkpad.

Here’s how to do both.

On modern Thinkpads, the function keys across the top of the keyboard all have secondary uses. To many people, those secondary uses are more valuable. They do things like change the volume, the brightness of the screen, and toggle Wi-Fi on and off.

Why you’d want to lock the function keys on a Lenovo Thinkpad

lock the function keys on a Lenovo Thinkpad
The green LED on the Fn key in the lower left indicates whether you locked the function keys. To toggle this and unlock or lock the function keys on a Lenovo Thinkpad, hit Fn-ESC. Oh, and if you like my laptop desk, you can build one of your own.

To someone like me who’s been using Windows since the early 90s, the original keys are more valuable. I must hit Alt-F4 to close a program a dozen times per day. I might use one of the secondary functions once or twice a week. For me, Alt-Fn-F4 just isn’t nearly as convenient. The extra key makes it almost as obnoxious as Ctrl-Alt-Del. And I frequently use a full-sized keyboard too, so that makes me prone to forget to hit the Fn key.

If you rarely do things like hit Alt-F4, but you change to a projector or change your volume a lot, you’ll probably want the opposite behavior I do.

Fortunately, computers today have more than enough power to adjust between the preferences of a curmudgeon like me and a whippersnapper who thinks only game consoles need optical drives.

How to lock the function keys on a Lenovo Thinkpad

Fn+ESC locks the secondary purpose of the function keys across the top of the keyboard. It’s marked on my Thinkpad but not in the most clear fashion. It turns out that key combination is a toggle. Hit the key again to switch the keys back to the other purpose. The Fn key has an LED light to indicate which mode the keys are in, so you can use the same key combination to enable or disable the function keys. It’s just a matter of how many times you have to hit them. Then the keyboard adjusts to your preferences, which is how things should be.

Locking and disabling the function keys aren’t the only mystery to experienced Thinkpad users. If you’re wondering where the Scroll Lock key went, I have that answer too.

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