Instructables

Build a Home Theater PC from a Broken Laptop and a Tivo

Picture of Build a Home Theater PC from a Broken Laptop and a Tivo
In this instructable, I'll show you how to make a home theater PC out of a (somewhat) broken laptop and a mostly empty Tivo chassis.  This is a great way to score a home theater computer (or extender) that looks great and performs better than a store-bought product for around $100. 
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Why do this?

Picture of Why do this?
What makes a laptop a good candidate for a home theater PC?  More and more people are looking for smaller, cooler and quieter home theater components for their living room, and as computers and consumer electronics continue to converge, that's exactly what companies are putting out, but at a steep premium.  Laptops are already built to consume less power, make less noise and be smaller and lighter than their desktop counterparts, while achieving performance nearly on par with their clunkier brethren.  With some soldering skills, creativity and perseverance you can make a pretty sweet home theater computer from a dead laptop and a housing made out of practically anything.
C. Wheeler1 year ago
That's pretty cool! I have a question. Can I buy a home theater control box without the speakers? My home theater system control box broke and I finished it off by taking it apart and goofing with it. Now I have the speakers and the other two speaker looking things which I don't know what they are called. Will I have to buy a whole new sound system? Any suggestions? Thanks
fessional2 years ago
Use XBMC,
Open-Source,Free&Awesome :)
Hi, what operating system did you use?
Looking at the screen, it looks like windows xp media center edition, but i cant be 100% sure.
XBMC - Xbox media Centre.

May i recommend anything else in a linux variety?
windows would be my absolute LAST choice mac os9 3d linux 2nd os x first!
By the way in the way of linux what would you recommend besides ubuntu fedora suse and mandriva?
MythUbuntu, my friend. i will need to try it out in a vm
X#01 harry5993 years ago
It looks more like windows 7 media center edition to me
it's xp mediacenter edition
kbhasi harry5993 years ago
Definetly does not look like XP. Looks more like windows 7 to me
shockamp2 years ago
awesome keep it up,i'll also start uploading mine soon.
techboy4112 years ago
Na, win 7 media center rocks
sspeed3 years ago
Awesome idea! I've had an obsolete TiVo Series 2 that I've been looking to repurpose as a Squeezebox player for sometime. The only options of MIPS debian images didn't instill a whole lot of confidence in me, I admittedly never thought of this, it's a great idea. I have an old laptop with a failed hard drive controller that we boot to a Live USB that would work great.

Anyway, I run http://www.homenetworkenabled.com and will probably write up an article on this when I attempt it over Christmas. I'll definitely link back to you with credit to the original ideas as it is great!
Really cool, but I have one question:
Can you strip down Windows 7 to just have Media Center, and if you can't, can you run Media Center in Linux's WINE?

Thnks
Media center needs windows media player, windows 7 libraries, some internet stuff and some usb stuff
kbhasi3 years ago
found a pentium 3 laptop with 256 mb ram, no hard drive or its adaptor. audio, vga, and ps2 are working. other features not tested. the broken yet working dvd drive is easily removed.
kbhasi kbhasi3 years ago
i can live with windows 2000 and it needs a special smart card to boot the pc which luckily came with it. its an acer travelmate 612txc but came with an ibm power supply which is sufficient to power him up sans the screen and inverter.
bbear43 years ago
I did that to my laptop. Screen looked exactly like that. It'll make a sweet media computer when I have some extra money to work on it with. Too many projects :)

Thanks for the great ideas.
abadfart3 years ago
im using an old xbox with xbmc on it and am planing on adding a bigger hard drive then i find a suitable one
awesome job man, i think i will actually do this over these holidays
stuffman (author)  cheesewookie4 years ago
Cool, I'm excited to see someone else's finished product.  I found another dead laptop that has all of the connections at the rear and is in better shape than the one I got of eBay, so I'm thinking of doing version 2.0.  Let me know if I can be of assistance.

Shawn
Hi,
It was inspiring. I need your help / guidance. I am having a laptop with chipset issues and damaged dvd combo. Its having 15" TFT, 520 MB Ram, 160 HDD, AMD Turion Processor, Web Cam, etc. It can boot up, but dies off very fast. To repair is also costing too much. I got a VCD player which is good. Can I convert the laptop to something usefull.

Looking 4 support..

Ram
 Have you concidered 1 of two options. 

1: a simple remote (either IR or AM-radio) connectiong through the little 9-pin vga-like connection at the back? With a little software and most likely under $5 bits, could have you tivo remote encased remote 

2: Buy a ready made one. But thats no fun. Or a PS3 controller. Or a wii controller. ETC
seolfor5 years ago
Pretty cool.  I've got a P4 Sony Vaio that had the lid/LCD ripped off by an angry end user, and I've been trying to find a good use for it.  This gives me a good idea.
good the vaio is a peace of junk that deserves to be mercilessly ripped into pieces if you are doing this use linux on a pc
jdhome4 years ago
the xbox media center is the best
sudoka5 years ago
oh man thanku for this instructable....
my sisiter broke my older sisters laptop by dropping it on the floor (just the screen broke)...
and i have an old flat screen lcd monitor just lying around and a key board..which i can use...this is perfect and now i can finally get that stuff working again :D
stuffman (author)  sudoka5 years ago
Awesome, let me know how it turns out.

Shawn
sudoka stuffman5 years ago
well my first problem was that the laptop wouldnt sense the monitor when i plugged it in through the vga..but i got that figured out out and im about to gut an old dvd player and put the laptop parts into it....i already know my second problem will be to get the wireless networking problem solved...but its all good :D
sudoka sudoka5 years ago
so it turns out my problem is not the wireless networks but my monitor...i can only get my monitor to work in safeboot...but when i start windows normally it wont show anything on my monitor..can u help?
stuffman (author)  sudoka5 years ago
If you have access to the keyboard (at least while building/testing), use the key combination for your laptop that toggles between internal and external displays.  I'm not exactly sure what it is for you, but most Dell laptops use the Fn+F8 combination.  Once you have the laptop up (not in safe mode), play with the video drivers and see if there's an option to make the external monitor the primary display permanently.  This should work for you if you have access to the built-in keyboard.  If not let me know, I may have another idea but it's more of a long shot.  Good luck!

Shawn
sudoka stuffman5 years ago
yes i it worked but my key combination was fn+f4..thank you for the help!!...
now i can finish the rest of the project...

Ryan
sudoka sudoka5 years ago
how did u get the video plugs attatched to the motherboard of the pc?
stuffman (author)  sudoka5 years ago
That's the lamest part of my build.  I just connected a 6' vga cable to the header on the systemboard and ran it through the back of the box.  If you want you can make it cleaner with two vga cables and one of these.  Good luck, and put some pics up when you get done, okay?  Thanks,
shawn
cforrest5 years ago
 Probably a stupid suggestion, but why not use an external wireless adapter that plugs into the ethernet port on the laptop. A little more money, but saves you some major headaches with trying to make the on board wireless card work properly.
PSPerson5 years ago
betamax. lol. i love references to dead technologies. like HDDVD. your 'ible: clean, simple. if you had a DVD player enclosure you could hack together a DVD drive similar to the one in this instructable. or build this and have that other instructable on top of it or next to it.
stuffman (author)  PSPerson5 years ago
I really like the instructable you linked to, and would go that route if this wasn't the bedroom PC.  I'm trying to keep everything as simple as possible, and contained within the Tivo chassis.   I'm waiting on a slimline optical drive enclosure (USB) to arrive from eBay as well as a couple of antenna cables.  I'll reuse the original DVD writer that came in the laptop as an external DVD drive.  Thanks for the comment,
Shawn
great Idea - i was trying to think of a way to make a cheap htpc