Thinkpad function keys randomly pressed

Update: See the bottom of this post for updates.

I have a work-provided Thinkpad X60 tablet PC. Great little laptop.

It has an annoying software bug. With certain drivers installed on a Vista OS, the laptop will randomly do one of the following every 2-30 minutes:

  • The speaker mutes.
  • Keyboard light tries to turn on.
  • Screen zoom activates, drastically changing the screen resolution from the native 1400 x 1050 to 1024 x 768 then back.
  • Screen brightness goes to lowest setting.

When these happen, a green indicator briefly shows on the screen (except for screen zoom). It’s just like if I activated the function manually. For example, if I press the mute button, I’ll see this on the screen:

And if I hit Fn + 12, I’ll see this:

(It’s for a keyboard light, which is actually not on this model!)

Two drivers cause this bug:

  • Thinkpad Tablet Shortcut Menu, available through the ThinkVantage System Update software. (Strangely, it’s not available at this laptop’s software download page on their web site.)
  • “Lenovo – Other Hardware – PS/2 TrackPoint” as available through Windows Update. Even though Windows Update says it was released by Lenovo in April 2007, it never showed up until the following September.

As long as I don’t install either, I am fine.

Unfortunately, I did install “Lenovo – Other Hardware – PS/2 TrackPoint” a few days ago. Immediately after installing, I got the random function key activations. Worse yet, after uninstalling the driver and rebooting, my mouse stopped working. Installing the TrackPoint driver off Lenovo’s web site didn’t fix it, either. Neither did using System Restore to revert my system to before the Windows Update session that installed the driver.

Somehow I futzed around enough to get a working mouse, but it doesn’t work the same as before. I will probably just reload Vista soon.

Update: I wiped and reinstalled my ThinkPad in mid-December. I allowed System Update and Windows Update to install everything, and no problem recurred. I figure that Lenovo finally worked kinks out of its drivers or I had some unknown interaction with my laptop’s prior configuration.

7 thoughts on “Thinkpad function keys randomly pressed”

  1. I actually had a problem with my webcam’s driver, automatically installed from their website! After installing a week ago, I didn’t reset my computer until 2 days ago or so. When I finally did restart….nothing happened…….so it seemed. Quickcam’s drivers installed upon opening. Alright, no problem. I restarted again for another reason that same day. Black screen. Vista stopped loading! Safe mode didn’t work. Reparing from the Windows Vista CD didn’t work. I had to use System Restore to before the install. Boo!!

  2. Don’t you just love people who make blanket statements like “Vista sucks”? What better way to say “I’m too ignorant to troubleshoot issues and need to pass the buck on something… ”

    If it WERE Vista, you’d see this behavior on ALL Lenovo’s, not just the X60 Tablet. There’s a T61 here with Vista that runs with no error whatsoever, as well as a Dell Inspiron and HP tx1000 (which sucks for HP reasons) that don’t randomly invoke Fn-key functions.

    This seems more of an implentation of drivers from Lenovo. I’ve seen a few sites indicating this issue, but no resolutions. We should really push the issue back to the OEM rather than ignorantly blame Microsoft for everything like a classic “penguin cultist”. :-)

    Sorry for rant, just hate seeing ignorance in action.

    If you find a resolution, I’d love to hear it.

  3. Thanks. I just updated to reflect the resolution. I hate that I don’t have an easy answer.

    I generally agree with your comments. Nothing in the [.]+n[iu]x crowd can hold a candle to ease of use and “it just works” factor of Vista or even Apple’s OS X.

    These modern OSes are so complex that it’s possible to have a bug that only gets exposed with one vendor’s drivers. But I agree, though, that it’s likely from Lenovo’s drivers.

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