Introduction: Convert a Laptop Screen Into a Smart Screen.

Picture of Convert a Laptop Screen Into a Smart Screen.

I had several broken laptops sitting around, so I decided I would make a smart screen out of one of them.


1. Laptop Screen

I pulled mine from an old laptop.

2. 2 Picture frames, larger than laptop screen

I bought these two from Michael's when they were having their "buy one get one" on these frames.

3. LCD controller Board Kit, and Kit Power Supply

Ebay is your friend here. I purchased mine from here:

EDIT: Many Many people have asked how to get the correct LVDS board. This is what I have to say about it.

The way I found my board was to search the ebay stores selling the LVDS boards for my LCD screen's model number. as an alternative I have heard and read many times of people emailing the ebay store with details of thier LCD screen, and letting the seller help them find the right one. I know they sell many different boards, each with it's own set of features. Some of them have VGA only, some of them have no audio, some of them have HDMI, audio, VGA and RCA. Know what features you want your board to have and your LCD screens model number and send them an email.

4. Raspberry Pi/Amazon Firestick/Chromecast (whatever you want to display)

5. Short HDMI cable

At the time I am writing this I don't actually have it, but I got one for a couple bucks on Amazon.

6. Frame Hardware

I bought the hinges and the hanging eyelets from ACE, and I pulled the lock off of a craft box from Jo-Ann Fabrics.

7. Foam Board

Purchased this at Michael's as well, you can get it at any craft store.

8. Miscellaneous Wires

I had mine left over from other Raspberry Pi / Arduino projects

9. Laptop Speakers

This isn't a requirement but is cool if you want to do other things than just display photos.

10. Velcro

Tools Used:

  1. Drill
  2. Soldering Iron, Solder
  3. Micro screwdriver kit
  4. Laptop (for programming the raspberry pi and testing)
  5. X-Acto blade
  6. Ruler
  7. Hot-glue gun
  8. Glass cleaner

Step 1: Prepare the Screen and Frames.

Picture of Prepare the Screen and Frames.

1.You need to make the LCD screen sit center in the frame and not move around.

I used foam board, and cut it to the size of the inside of the frame. The frames I bought had a double mat that was approximately the depth of the LCD screen, and the thickness of the foam board. I removed the double mat, cut a center hole in the foam board the size and shape of my screen, and it fit perfectly.

2. Cut a mat for the screen.

Using the frame's demo photo page, I cut a thin mat to fit the screen as close as possible. An easy way to do this is to use the old laptop's bezel.

3.Secure the glass on the back frame.

On the second frame, I hot-glued the glass to the inside of the frame so it wouldn't come out, and would cover but show the electronics on the back of the frame.

4.Add your frame hardware.

I added the hardware hinges, clasp, and hanging loops, being careful to drill pilot holes so the thin wood frame wouldn't split.

5.Clean the glass and put the LCD in place.

I cleaned the front glass of debris from drilling with some glass cleaner then put the thin mat I cut from the demo photo into the frame. I then placed the screen centered in the foam board on top.

6. Prep the front frame back and lock in place.

After placing the front frame's backer on the stack, and marking where the LCD cables are, I cut holes in the backer, threaded the cables through the the holes and put the backer in place, locking the screen into the front frame.

Step 2: Prepare and Attach the New Hardware.

Picture of Prepare and Attach the New Hardware.

1. Lay out and plug all your hardware in to make sure it works.

I plugged everything into the controller board, the data cable and back-light power cables from the screen and power inverter, and the menu button pad. I plugged the controller board's power supply in, and the HDMI cable from the Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi was powered off of a USB charger, even though I knew that was going to change later. I wanted to test it to make sure it all worked.

2.Solder and test the connections to the speakers, and to the Raspberry Pi.

I wanted to power the Raspberry Pi off of the LCD controller board, but I didn't want to make the Raspberry Pi permanent so I used cables that could plug into each other and soldered two to the Raspberry Pi's power pads (before the fuse) , and two to the +5v and GRD pads that were marked "Power Output" on the LCD controller board. I also soldered two speakers I salvaged from a laptop onto the LCD controller boards pads marked for "Audio Output" I then plugged everything in and tested to make sure it worked.

3. Attach the hardware to the front screen's backer.

I wanted a way to easily disassemble the boards from the backer, so I decided to use Velcro. I attached strips to each board and stuck them in place so they would stay in place. After the main LCD controller board was in place, I decided to drill a hole in the side between the two frames to allow for the power cord.

Step 3: Decide What You Are Going to Display and Enjoy!

Picture of Decide What You Are Going to Display and Enjoy!


I used Raspberry Picture Frame Slideshow OS for the Raspberry Pi OS because I wanted to make sure it was dead simple for someone to add photos to the frame if needed. This OS allows you to add photos via a USB drive, or by configuring WiFi and downloading them from a web album. You can get Instructions for download and installation here:


Alternatively I plugged in a Amazon Firestick running KODI so I could listen to my music while testing. I used this Instructable here :


Beemoney (author)2016-02-23

Hey there @JakeS8(author), I just would like to give a shout out to you and the others, on this proj. thread and the 'dyi'-theme in general? ???☺ Your ALL AWESOME !!!!
You all seem to have snapped me, both motivationally and inspirationally. Your proving what I been taught since 1965. You can be or do whatever you inspire to do.
No sob story here...but, I'm an injured worker being screwed around by the system. Basically, they're trying to starve me, before any benefits kick-in.
So... Money is tight and sparse.
I'm going to build my own custom 'Smart tv'.
I understand the led screen to be the most expensive piece is this correct.
I have learned by reading your comments.
Can I not use my samsung s4-as my computer catalyst in junction with a chromecast device(or perhaps when buying the controller kit buy samsung compatible-eliminating chrmcst device).
Am I clarifying my intention? thx.
peace. Godbless

JakeS8 (author)Beemoney2016-02-23

I feel like the LCD controller board is actually the most expensive. You can literally find a broken laptop for parts anywhere, and if it has a good screen, your good to go! You sure could use a samsung S4 , which would use the chromecast to display on the screen, or to connect directly you will need what is called an MHL adapter. It takes signals from your phone and converts them to HDMI. It looks like a Micro USB cable you would use to charge your phone but instead of regular USB it has an HDMI output.

Beemoney (author)JakeS82016-02-24

Thankyou JakeS8,
I HAVE A 1995- 33' RCA Stereo Monitor crt tv would a tv from 1995 have hardware to support adding an hdmi connection of some sort. aI know this sounds hairbrained but what do you think? peace. Godbless

chrwei (author)Beemoney2016-03-02

no, but you can get active adapters. what to get depends on your inputs are, vga, component, svideo, etc. it won't be a great picture though, 640x480 at best, or else it'll be really fuzzy. would likely be fine for watching SD videos, but not much else.

Beemoney (author)chrwei2016-03-02

Thankyou, Chrwei.
So, if I picked up an older flatscreen tv, I should be able to add in the vga-android compatible to support wifi thru my SamS4? I'm really determined to show my buds that you don't gave to spend a 1000k to buy. what ultimately is just a BIGGER MONITOR if you use a smart mobile device as your pc/tuner-relay from a wifi signal. REALIZING THE LCD/LED PANEL ARE EXPENSIVE OR MANY WOULD HAVE DONE THIS BEFORE. If one did find a good panel would I just need the powerboard(motherboard?) and a samsung vga device add-on. Could you clue me in the right direction. Or be kind and say the idea isn't feasible. Thx guys. Peace. Godbless

JakeS8 (author)Beemoney2016-02-25

seems hairbraned, but I like hairbrained!

mpulliam1 (author)2016-03-02

I have an old HP Touchscreen that I have kept just for a project like this. I recently came across Remix OS that I would like to run on it with Raspberry Pi and mount it in the kitchen cupboard for the wife. Great job!

cts_casemod (author)2016-02-23

This looks good and Ive used it in the past to interface LVDS screens. But back then monitors were small (15-17-19) so not much difference from laptop to desktop. Nowadays I have to ask whats the feature that a simple USB powered monitor like those sold on ebay couldnt do that this can? Most even accept HDMI inputs and have LED backlight as default

JakeS8 (author)cts_casemod2016-02-23

I would say that the feature is re-use. The fact that you are re-cycling old technology that you may already have, into something new, is something I would prefer to buying new. Not only that, but a new monitor can cost upwards past $100, a LVDS board is usually $30-$50. Another good feature is that the LVDS board has options for output power and audio. You can certainly do the same thing here with one of those USB monitors you can find on e-bay but it is cost effective and better for the environment to use something that you may already have just sitting around.

mighty1ro (author)JakeS82016-03-02

All the points taken! Best comment ever!

gakhacksaw (author)2016-02-23

BRILLIANT! I have two laptop screens (both around 13") hanging around that I took out from old laptops and I have wondered what to do with them. This is one of the more impressive Instructables I have found on this site so far! You sir, are my hero.

JakeS8 (author)gakhacksaw2016-02-27

Thank you, I appreciate it! :)

juan232 (author)2016-02-23

Awesome project. I literally have a disassembled laptop sitting my closet and have been wondering what to do with the screen. Thanks for sharing.

JakeS8 (author)juan2322016-02-23

do it!

canoerick (author)2016-02-23

This looks like a great project and exactly what my wife wants! My problem is that the only thing that you're using that I'm familiar with, is the picture frame. Does the LCD controller board come with a power supply, or do I take one from the laptop? Then I need a Raspberry Pi and the picture frame Operating system? So, is $70 a good estimate for the electronic items? Thanks!

JakeS8 (author)canoerick2016-02-23

the controller board does not come with a power supply, but you can buy one from the same vendor. send them an email with your lcd screen model number and they will point you to the board you need.

GaryS115 (author)2016-02-23

Hi JakeS8.

This is a fantastic project and could make use of a couple of screens of different sizes from laptops I have too. Not being familiar with the other hardware (LCD controller etc) how would I determine which controller would drive any given LCD screen please? I see a number of variants on ebay and do not know which will drive what, or do they have a standard connector which the controller will accept?

JakeS8 (author)GaryS1152016-02-23

The ebay store I have linked Is selling them by features included. e-mail them with a list of your needed features and your LCD model number (on the back of the LCD panel), and they will point you in the correct direction.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2016-02-20

This would be a great design for a monitor that hangs on a wall.

It is! some of the features that I thought would be a great addition would be to put switches on the front of the frame to change functions. one switch would activate photo mode, one would be a calendar, another a webcam of outside my home, and another would do a media player of some sort.

MadOtis (author)JakeS82016-02-22

Hmmm... Switches... I wonder how hard it would be to do a little custom programming to add software buttons instead of hardware switches... Kind of like a swipe up on the touchscreen would pop up a menu of buttons, then perform an action on each button press. This would negate the need for hard buttons.

JakeS8 (author)MadOtis2016-02-23

but hard buttons are so cool! JK. a Software UI would be pretty cool. I bet you could host a website, display it fullscreen, and use buttons on the site to preform certain functions...

I have always thought that it would be fun to make a moving picture frame like they have in Harry Potter. All you would have to do is record a short video instead of taking a picture and set it to loop. Then you could actually see people waving and gesturing.

Cool idea! You could make 2 or more so they could move from one frame to another. Think I just found a use for 2 old laptops that are laying around ;)

SalvadorM10 (author)2016-02-23

Hi. Amazing project but you should change the title as I thought it was another project.

JakeS8 (author)SalvadorM102016-02-23

can you please elaborate?

mikesmithfl (author)JakeS82016-02-23

I got the same idea as these folks, but after reading the text I thought it was more like an "All-in-One" PC. The use of "screen" in the title is what made it seem more like a touch device, probably just because of what I'm used to hearing about screens.

SalvadorM10 (author)JakeS82016-02-23

Yep, if you read the GeorgeL41's comment you will see what I meant. I thought you could control let's say a Domo house from the screen and not just a photo screen. Sorry did not meant to hurt you.

GeorgeL41 (author)SalvadorM102016-02-23

I agree - what's a "smart screen"? I thought you were adding touch-capability to a standard monitor, like a smart phone. Otherwise, it could be this smart screen:


JakeS8 (author)GeorgeL412016-02-23

Well guys, I'm sorry but this wasn't labeled "Touch Screen" . It Is however not just a screen, it is smart, as there is a computer attached to it at all times. A Great use for this would be to display IOT data from around your house, and sound warnings through the speakers as like a Stat monitor. You couldn't do that with just a Photo frame. Thanks for the input guys!

JakeS8 (author)2016-02-23

you can use this as a display for arduino, but I don't recommend it. You will have to hack something together for it or use something like this :

I think it would be much easier and cost effective to use a rapberry pi, chromecast, or android stick, or a media device like the amazon firestick.

Ralphxyz (author)2016-02-23

with the frame one could instal a grid of leds and photo detectors and easily make a touch screen!

JakeS8 (author)Ralphxyz2016-02-23

Great Idea!

Ggungaby (author)2016-02-23

I have an old laptop sitting in my sun room. I should try this.

JakeS8 (author)Ggungaby2016-02-23

It is super easy, and a way to reuse those old electronics components that still work.

bonelifer (author)2016-02-23

Instead of an Amazon Fire, you could install OSMC on a Raspberry Pi 2. They just updated to Kodi Jarvis.

JakeS8 (author)bonelifer2016-02-23

This works great too. This is actually the first thing I tried. the problem I ran into was that I didn't have a mini keyboard, but I did have the small remote from the Amazon Firestick.

GrymThor (author)2016-02-22

Do you think you could add a touchscreen window to it too? such as the USB Touchscreen Overlay Kits I've seen on ebay. The touchscreen could add extra functionality to it allowing to swipe past pictures or zoom in etc.

JakeS8 (author)GrymThor2016-02-22

I don't know why not, you could use the overlay kit in place of the front glass within the frame. I'm sure it wouldn't take too much effort, you may have to modify the frame, but it should be pretty straight forward. and of course, whatever you are displaying will have to be able to use that USB touchscreen. It is a great Idea!

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