Running Archlinux on the Lenovo Thinkpad T430

In sum, Archlinux is working beautifully. What follows is a rough run down of my notes while installing, configuring, tuning and using Archlinux on the Lenovo Thinkpad T430.


  • i7 3520M (Dual core, Four threads, 4M cache, 2.9GHz)
  • 14” 1600x900 display
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000, no discrete graphics card
  • 4GB memory
  • 128GB Crucial m4 2.5” (7mm) SSD (laptop came with a 320GB 7200rpm platter)
  • 9 cell 70++ battery
  • Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2200 (2x2 BGN)

Software that I typically use

No desktop environment. Openbox/pytyle3/pager-multihead. Gkrellm. Konsole. Google Chrome. Vim. Konversation. Wicd.

Battery life

On 66% brightness, about 8 hours seems to be the sweet spot for typical usage (web browsing and vim). 100% brightness seems to knock this down to the 5-6 hour range. I’ve only had the laptop for a couple of days, so these numbers are pretty rough and based somewhat on extrapolation.

I have all of the tweaks suggested by powertop enabled. This includes wifi, audio, SATA link and usb power management.

I also have the ondemand CPU frequency governor enable, which is the default nowadays anyway. Changing governors (tested powersave, performance and conservative) works perfectly.

Disable KMS when using the current Archlinux installer

The current default Archlinux installer uses an older kernel that doesn’t include the updated drivers for Intel’s HD 4000 graphics (and possibly wifi?), so KMS fails once it tries to load—which ends up borking the display. To get around this, add ‘nomodeset’ to the kernel boot parameters to disable KMS. You’ll have to do this again on initial boot if you install the kernel that comes with the installer. Once an updated kernel is installed, this boot parameter is no longer needed since the driver for the Intel HD 4000 graphics chipset is included. The available snapshot installers have an updated kernel, and therefore disabling KMS is unnecessary if you’re using them.

Most of the current T420 wiki page is relevant

And by that I mean, most things just work. Wifi, graphics (with xf86-video-intel), CPU frequency scaling, screen brightness, keyboard backlight, and excellent two finger scrolling (out-of-the-box with xf86-input-synaptics, no configuration necessary despite what the T420 wiki article says).


I installed thinkfan and added the thinkpad_acpi kernel module to MODULES in /etc/rc.conf. I also added the thinkfan daemon to DAEMONS in /etc/rc.conf. To allow thinkfan to control the fan, enable fan_control by creating /etc/modprobe.d/thinkfan.conf with:

options thinkpad_acpi fan_control=1

And this is my thinkfan /etc/thinkfan.conf:

sensor /sys/devices/virtual/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp

(0, 0, 40)
(1, 38, 43)
(2, 41, 50)
(3, 44, 54)
(4, 51, 63)
(5, 55, 67)
(7, 61, 32767)

The settings are tweaked (a little less aggressive) from Thinkpad T420 thinkfan settings. I’ve tested it with the utilities in the cpuburn package and it seems to work well. For me, the fan stays off when idle and kicks into its lowest settings on typical usage (web browsing and vim, for me).

Recall that I do not have discrete graphics (i.e., nvidia) and have an SSD, which both have impact temperature.


This also worked out of the box with one small tweak. In /etc/acpi/, I replaced

    case "$2" in


    case "$2" in

This was needed because ac_adapter ACPI0003:00 are the first two arguments used when the ac_adapter event is triggered.


Works beautifully. Literally no problems.


I don’t use it. acpid, pm-utils and powertop’s recommended tweaks are enough for me. (I use acpid to raise and lower the brightness when the AC adapter is [un]plugged, and make sure that on wakeup/boot, the brightness is set appropriately.)

Sleep button

For whatever reason I haven’t been able to discover, I cannot detect any power button presses (neither through acpi_listen or xev). However, the T430 has an extra unlabeled button to the right of the “turn microphone on/off” button that shows up in xev as XF86Launch1. Thus, I put this in my ~/.xbindkeys:

"sudo pm-suspend"

And it’s now a sleep button, as long as you set ‘pm-suspend’ to require no password using visudo. For example:

%wheel ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: /usr/sbin/pm-suspend

Web cam

I installed guvcview and then ran it. It worked. (It looks like the uvcvideo kernel module is automatically loaded.)


Alsa just works. Speakers sound good enough to me. (I’m no audiophile though, and have never been too picky over audio quality. My ears aren’t very discerning.)

What I Haven’t tested

VGA. Mini display port. Mic. USB 3.0. mSATA. Memory card slot.

I don’t anticipate any problems with these things, though.


Archlinux works beautifully on this machine. I literally could not have imagined a smoother experience. I’ve installed Arch on several laptops, and this was by far the easiest. Having the wifi driver included in the kernel is an especially nice thing that I’m not used to. (Been a victim of broadcom for many years.) Also, the integrated graphics works beautifully, although I am not doing any compositing beyond xcompmgr transparency.

The laptop also has excellent ventilation and actually stays cool enough for it to be bearable to sit directly on my lap indefinitely. Even when the CPU is chugging.

This laptop also comes with the option of adding nvidia via Optimus. I recommend staying away from this unless you’re willing to deal with Bumblebee or absolutely need a dedicated graphics card. Early reviews seem to indicate that Intel’s HD 4000 Graphics is quite excellent for integrated graphics, particularly compared to the available nvidia option for this laptop (NVIDIA NVS 5400M).

There is also a 1366x768 screen option, and based on preliminary reviews, it isn’t that great. Go with the 1600x900 screen—it seems like the sweet spot.

Finally, this is my first Thinkpad. Incidentally, this is the first time that the T-series has had a “chiclet style” keyboard. Personally, I love it and have been partial to chiclet style keyboards in the past. The reviews already out there are not lying when they speak highly of its quality; it’s on the best-feeling keyboards I’ve ever typed on.

With that said, it seems like most of the complaints revolve around the layout. The one bugger that has got me so far is the location of the ‘fn’ and ‘control’ keys. It feels like they should be swapped. xev actually picks up ‘fn’ key releases but not key presses. I was unsuccessful in swapping the keys using xmodmap, but perhaps there is a BIOS option somewhere that will allow a swap. (EDIT: Indeed, there is a BIOS option that successfully swaps the ‘fn’ and control keys.) This is my only complaint with the keyboard layout. (But remember, I was never used to the old layout!)

In sum, this appears to be a great laptop to run Linux on.