What does the "Access IBM" button do on old IBM laptops?


What is the function of this key?

  • 13
    Press it, I dare you...
    – pcdev
    Mar 12, 2018 at 3:45
  • 1
    Why didn't you look it up in the manual? Mar 12, 2018 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


What is the function of this key?

It provides access to IBM specific system utilities and information.

The ThinkPad Button is a button situated in the upper left corner of the keyboard on modern ThinkPads. It is intended to be a means of quick access to help and support. Technically it is nothing else than a button that can be configured to launch a certain piece of software. While originally it was grey and labelled ThinkPad, IBM later made it blue and called it the Access IBM Button. Lenovo relabelled it as ThinkVantage after it took over the ThinkPad line from IBM.

Source ThinkPad Button - ThinkWiki

An Access IBM button is conveniently located on many IBM keyboards to provide one-touch access to the IBM on-system utilities and information.

Hierarchical organization of the software simplifies access to a universe of information and function specific to ThinkPad notebooks or ThinkCentre desktops.

This helps individuals set up, learn, and better use their systems. Access IBM is available on ThinkPad notebooks through one touch of the dedicated hardware button, and on both ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops through the Start menu and a desktop icon to accommodate multiple preferences.


Access IBM includes unique onboard utilities and self-help tools to assist with key tasks and resolution of common system problems. The tools are machine-specific and designed to help save time and reduce the organization’s user-support burden.

Source ThinkPad_comfort.pdf

It was used, for example, to perform an OS recovery.

How to Restore the IBM ThinkPad T42

Restart the computer and press the "Access IBM" button above the top row of keys on your keyboard when you first see the IBM logo screen. The correct button on your keyboard depends on the model ThinkPad you own.

Press the down-arrow key to move the cursor to the "ThinkPad Product Recovery Program" option and press the "Enter" key. Once the "ThinkPad Recovery Menu" appears, press the "F11" key to start the recovery and restore process.

Follow the on-screen prompts to restore the ThinkPad T42's hardware settings and software to factory defaults. When prompted to do so, press any key on the keyboard to restart the laptop. Allow the recovery process to finish and wait for the computer to boot into Windows.

Source How to Restore the IBM ThinkPad T42 | It Still Works | Giving Old Tech a New Life

  • 6
    So it doesn't instantly hack into IBM then? :( Mar 12, 2018 at 11:56
  • Please note that the special key on startup only does special things if you never removed the recovery partition from the harddrive. It forces the bios to boot into the recovery partition in stead of the normal OS. If there is no recovery partition it (on most models I encountered) acts as an extra Enter key.
    – Tonny
    Mar 12, 2018 at 14:52

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