Bring New Life to an Old Laptop


Introduction: Bring New Life to an Old Laptop

About: I consider myself an average guy. I have a bachelors in graphic design and an associates in web design. I like tv, movies, music, video games, and anime. I do some video editing and animation as a hobby, ...

Every now and then things happen that you cannot control. One of the most disheartening things is when your laptop stops working.

I had a laptop that stopped working a while ago. It sounded like it was working fine, but I had no picture. Just out of curiosity I plugged it into an old monitor that I had laying around. My laptop still worked, but the screen had gone out. I had this setup for a while, but wanted something better. This is the solution that I came up with.

What you need:
- A laptop that you don't mind tearing apart.
- A monitor (I would assume this would work with a flat screen, but I won't promise anything)
- A precision screwdriver set (Laptops have various sizes of screws inside them)
- A drill of some kind
- A pen, pencil, or marker
- [Optional] You may need a soldering iron, depending on the condition of your laptop.
- Ingenuity and patience

IMPORTANT - Go ahead and unplug your monitor of choice before you start doing anything! Monitors can be very dangerous and are normally classified as high voltage devices.

I cannot be held responsible in the event that you destroy your laptop, break your monitor, or harm yourself.

This is my first attempt at making an instructable. I apologize for the lack of process photos. I did not think to make an instructable until after I had completed this project.

Step 1: Get It Open

1. If you have not done so already, once the laptop is powered on, make sure it is working. Most newer laptops will automatically detect an external monitor. For older ones, you may have to use the load/crt toggle button. This is normally one of the options on the F1-12 keys. Mine was F3. After that works, make sure that the USB keyboard and mouse are installed and working. When it works, shut the computer down and unplug the monitor.

2. Carefully take apart your laptop. You can normally find a guide on how to take apart your specific model by searching on Google. Normally if you were taking apart a laptop you would need to remember where each screw and component go, but not this time.

Set all important parts to the side as they become available.

These include, but are not limited to:
- Motherboard (Make sure to set aside the screws and posts that hold it in place)
- Hard drive
- Keyboard (I recommend a USB keyboard though, as the laptop keyboard will be quite awkward to use)
- CD/DVD drive
- Any other important parts (Card readers, internet cards, speakers, etc.)

I would get a USB mouse instead of the touch pad too. If it's not usable, that doesn't help you much.

3. After you have it taken apart, put the important parts on a piece of cardboard or some other non-static surface. Put it together and power it on to make sure you kept all needed parts. If it does not turn on, you probably left something out. Take everything apart and try again. Maybe it is just a loose cable or something.

Step 2: Put It Together Again

1. Now that everything is working, turn your former laptop off and take it back apart.

IMPORTANT - If you ignored my warning on the first step, be sure to UNPLUG the monitor you plan to use and let it sit for a while. Computer monitors, like tvs, are normally considered high voltage devices.

2. Using the motherboard, test out different orientations on the monitor and find the one that you like best. Mark the spots with a pen/pencil/marker where the mounting screws will need to go. Depending on the shape of your monitor, you may not be able to use every mounting spot. My monitor is curved, so I was only able to use four of the holes.

3. Carefully drill the holes for the mounting posts. They do not need to be very deep, so go slowly and once you get through the plastic casing, stop drilling.

4. Put the mounting posts into the holes you drilled. My holes were not perfectly straight, put since plastic is a little flexible, it did not matter too much.

5. Put your motherboard in place and screw it on. On mine, the posts straightened out as I tightened the screws.

6. Put on the other parts (CD/DVD drive, hard drive, internet card, probably go ahead and hook up the USB mouse and keyboard too). Some of these will need to be secured with a screw or some tape.

7. Plug it in and test it out. Like before, if it doesn't work try again, something is probably missing or loose.

Step 3: Enjoy Your Laptop Again!

Now that it is up and running, enjoy your laptop now that you can see what you are doing. It is not exactly pretty, but it is definitely something most people haven't seen.

There are some optional things you can do to improve performance too, now that you don't have that case to worry about. I have a small desk fan to aid in cooling. This laptop had always had overheating troubles, so now that is under control.

One thing to be careful about is the monitor hook up. It should be fine, but it will have less support than it used to. Mine was already loose before I took apart this laptop, so I added some solder to strengthen it.

There are a few things you can do with the leftover parts. You can sell them, donate them to computer repair shops, or even make something creative out of them. It's really up to you what to do with it.

I forgot to say this earlier, but keep track of the circuit that used to have the power button on it. You will need to plug that back in to make it work! It would be a good idea to learn which button is power too, because without the case they are no longer labeled. My button strip is shown in this picture on the bottom next to the video hook up.



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    I actually plan to do this with an old laptop mounted on a piece of plywood with all the parts arranged artistically and the whole thing hung next to my flat-screen TV as a multimedia device. Throw in a wireless keyboard with a trackball and you can watch movies and Youtube from the comfort of your couch and it'll look fairly cool too. i live in a metal trailer in the woods so the neighbors are not a concern.

    It is easier and cheaper to put your rf shielding around the computer than around your room. But maybe you live way out in the country where the stray radio frequency noise from your laptop won't disturb your neighbor's TV. Cute idea though. It stirs my imagination ;) Could it all go in a picture frame so you could hang it on the wall?

    3 replies

    I do sort of live in the country at the moment.  So, when I move out I should be worried about RF shielding?  I usually watch tv in other rooms, and I've never noticed any problems with that before.

    I also have several game systems without RF shielding inside this project what problems can happen without the shielding?

    I just put together a small multimedia computer using a Chumby Hacker board beta. Because I plan to use it a lot I built a foil lined case for it. The rf shielding is not for my benefit, but for my neighbors who might be using broadcast radio or TV. Unwanted rf can give them artifacts on their screens and noises in their headphones. Every piece of equipment that is to be sold as a product has to pass your country's testing for rf emissions to prevent this problem. Any equipment that uses electronics can theoretically be affected by rf. Now having said that, we hobbyists know we use a lot of unshielded electronics and get away with it. Maybe the neighbors don't know where the spots and lines on their TV screens come from. Or maybe they have cable and are relatively immune. If you have a TV with an antenna or a small transistor radio (AM is best) try moving your working unshielded electronics around it. You will see and hear changes. Some of them might be amusing. In the old days people used to put AM radios close to mainframe computers so they could hear the memory access cycles. Some even wrote programs that played tunes this way. Hm, sounds like another hobby!

    Wow, thanks for the information. I'll have to test that out sometime and see just how much interference this old laptop creates.

    you could also make a super slim tower :P it almost sounds like an artistic type of thing. if made right it could be pretty slick

    4 replies

    Yeah, you could make a really thin tower. I bet that would be pretty nice!

    It makes me want to do it :P if I ever gat my hands on a laptop with a dead screen Ill make an 'ible shud be awesome

    Sounds like a plan. I hope it works out for you. The best thing about starting with a broken object is that if it breaks it doesn't matter as much. A laptop with a broken screen should be pretty easy to find though. It seems to be a common issue.

    Ya,I was thinking about a high powered gaming laptop off of ebay. I like the idea because of the power in a small package

    i have been trying something like that with an mac 7200 and a pc motherboard. unfortunately, nothing shows on the screen. i have just set it aside for a future project

    You may need to adjust the screen output.  If you are using a laptop motherboard like I did, there should be a Load/CRT button (or something like that.  It will be one of those 'hold Fn key' buttons.

    If that isn't the problem, it could be bad wiring or you may need a video card or something like that.

     I'm seeing some serious overheating problems here if you use a crt monitor.

    2 replies

    I think that is why he has that fan where it is..... 

    Yep, that is exactly what that fan is there for.  This setup works infinitely better than the actual case did as far as heat goes.

    That laptop had always had heat issues, but not anymore.

    very good :D I am gathering some courage to do a "rugged" laptop using a funcional old Pentium M I have :D

    1 reply

    Yeah, it took a little bit of courage to do this project. But sometimes you just have to go for it. My laptop was not really in working condition as it was. So if I broke it, it didn't matter that much to me. Good luck with your "rugged" laptop

    My instant reaction was "oh ()!". Top marks to you, I love this L

    1 reply