Display brightness function keys do not work on Thinkpad X1

If you are using a Thinkpad X1 your display brightness function keys likely do not work out of the box.


Here’s how you can confirm, if this solution will help you:

(1) Try running this as root:

echo 12000 >> /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness

It should set your brightness to about 50% screen brightness.

(2) Now try running this again as user:

echo 24000 >> /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness

This is supposed to maximize brightness, but will fail with a permission error.

If (1) worked, and (2) did not work, here’s how-to get this working as user, and by keyboard shortcut.


First of all, install light (as user; not as root):

guix package - i light

Light makes it easier to interact with these brightness controls:

# increase
light -A 10
# decrease
light -U 10

This won’t work at this point, as you do not have permissions yet. Let’s configure permissions: Login as root and open the system configuration with

nano /etc/system.scm
# of if you prefer
emacs -nw /etc/system.scm

(1) First of all, add a new backlight udev rule below (use-modules) and (use-service-modules) section:

;; Allow members of the "video" group to change the screen brightness.
(define %backlight-udev-rule
   (string-append "ACTION==\"add\", SUBSYSTEM==\"backlight\", "
                  "RUN+=\"/run/current-system/profile/bin/chgrp video /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness\""
                  "ACTION==\"add\", SUBSYSTEM==\"backlight\", "
                  "RUN+=\"/run/current-system/profile/bin/chmod g+w /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness\"")))

Next, look at your user account, and make sure you’re actually in the video group (if you do not see the video group, simply add it. Don’t worry about the other groups shown here):

  (users (cons (user-account
                (name "franz")
                (comment "default")
                (group "users")
                (supplementary-groups '("wheel" "netdev" "docker" "kvm"
                                        "audio" "video" "lpadmin" "lp"))

Lastly, look at your (services) section, and add the new udev-rules-service:

(services (cons* 
                   ;; You probably have other stuff here already
                   (udev-rules-service 'backlight %backlight-udev-rule)

Alright, puh … almost a little too complicated, huh? Let’s reconfigure:

guix system reconfigure /etc/system.scm

If everything goes well (no errors scream at you), go ahead and reboot.

You can confirm that this worked, by opening a terminal, and try changing your brightness:

# increase
light -A 10
# decrease
light -U 10

Of course you don’t want to do this manually each time.

  1. Open “Settings” in the Menu and look for “Shortcut Keys”
  2. Add 2x new shortcuts, one to increase, and one to decrease
  3. Enjoy