Instructables

Dell Inspiron 600M reborn as a Homemade Tablet pc

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Goal:
Convert a Dell Inspiron 600m laptop to a touch screen tablet.

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Update 9/7/12

About two weeks ago i wiped my tablet and installed Windows 7 Pro on it. Wow, what a difference in performance. Everything seems to be a little faster, a little smoother, nicer graphics. Over all the tablet runs great with Windows 7. Start-up time is around 30 sec. Wake from sleep is instantaneous. The on-screen keyboard is much nicer the one in XP.  And much easier to tune Windows 7 for the touch interface and SSD. Most applications rocket to the screen. The tablet runs a little bit hotter and battery time is a bit shorter. but well worth upgrading. Check out the 'Disk data transfer rate - 5.9'  The SSD makes all the difference on this computer. Memory usage is about as low as i can get it: 450MB on boot.

Note: I built this computer almost a year ago. And it's still impressive and really cool to use. The shell has also proven to be quite durable. The case is as structurally sound as the day i finished it.


Specs:
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 SP3
1.8Ghz Pentium 4m
14" LCD touch screen
32MB ATI Radeon 9000
2GB RAM DDR PC2700
64GB SSD 2.5" ide interface
internal USB hub
Bluetooth reciever
GPS Reciever
2 Batteries  Primary Dell Battery and secondary CD-ROM bay battery (7+ hours runtime)

Results:
Boots in 15 Sec., Firefox launches in under 1 sec.

Changed:
WIFI antennas and locations for better reception and relocate power button.

Removed:
Palm rest, Keyboard, trackpad and buttons, modem, PCMCIA Slot Cage and HDD Cage.

Parts:
Most of the parts were purchased via eBay.com

Dell Inspiron 600m in decent condition. (had on hand)                         eBay.com -$50.00-$100.00
Wireless mouse (had no hand)                                                                  eBay.com -$10.00-$50.00
Globalsat USG-ND100 USB Dongle GPS Receiver for Laptops          $40.95
Kingspec 2.5'' IDE PATA MLC 64GB SSD PC Disk Hi-speed                $144.05
SECONDARY MEDIA BAY BATTERY INSPIRON 500m 600m              $34.95
14.3" inch USB Panel Kit Set Add Touch Screen Function                     $50.99
Vantec UGT-MH304 USB 2.0 4 Port Mini HUB Mini Power                    $12.99
2GB DDR PC2700 Unbuffered NON-ECC DDR333 Crucial.com        $84.00
Extra plastic
Wire (USB cable works great from an old mouse)
Heat-sinks

Docking Station:
Old 20" LCD monitor stand (had on hand)
Dell Docking Station Port Replicator (had on hand)

Tools:
Solder iron & solder
Good set of screw drivers
Razor blade –sharp knife
Dremel tool –good assortment of bits
Hot glue gun –lots of glue sticks. (Isopropyl alcohol releases the glue)
pliers, snips, forceps, tweezers and wire strippers are all helpful
J-B KWIK Weld

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Update 12/20/11
This computer was quickly become my web-surf ‘n machine. I have 24Mbps DSL in combination with this Solid State tablet web pages render instantly and videos are smooth. I've only drained the battery a few times, and that was on purpose.  And a cool interface, it’s like having a 8.5” X 11” trackpad. I do use the mouse sometimes but for the most part just the touch screen. Win XP SP3 includes a bunch of new games including Internet Backgammon. Which is one of my favorites, the touch screen is perfect for that game.

The computer barely gets warm after watching TED Talks videos for an hour. I ran a burn-in test using BurnInTest from PassMark software and the computer passed every test.  Also I have added heat-sinks to the RAM both DIMMs both sides. This is a 6 year old computer with pretty impressive performance in it's new configuration.

I do have a fair investment in both time and materials in this project. I think it was worth it. I’ll use the computer and the knowledge I gained from building it for years. I’ve been thinking about my next tablet maybe a Mac?

Update: 12/05/11
Added a few more heat-sinks over the chipset and video processor.

Update: 12/04/11
A few more mods inspired by a USB hub failure. The GPS dongle was drawing too much power and killed the hub. So I found another hub (powered). Had to do some cutting and relocating of 1 USB port. I can pull 5 volts dc off the PCMCIA slot to power the USB hub. That’s next… I have also removed the SSD housing and added the 2 green heat-sinks from an old video card. And added the black heat-sink for the processor.

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My name is Brian --> briPad

A few OS tweaks for better SSD performance that should be noted:

1.          Disable winXP prefetcher
              http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307498
              search for Disable_Prefetcher.reg

2.          Disable the 8.3 Name Creation on NTFS Partitions:
              fsutil.exe behavior set disable8dot3 1

3.          Disable timestamp for last access to a file to speed up Windows
              fsutil behavior set disablelastaccess 1

4.           Turn off Indexing on All Drives
               fsutil usn deletejournal /d c:

5.           Turn off Virtual Memory
               Set to No Paging file

6.           Disable Write Cache and Power Protected:
               http://support.microsoft.com/kb/Q811392
               c:\dskcache +p c:

7.           Verify write caching is disabled:
               Device Manager --> Disk drives --> Policies un-check Enable write caching on the disk

8.           Disable Services:
              Error Reporting Service
              Help and Support
              Remote Registery

9.           Disable System Restore:
              Set to: Turn off System Restore

10.        Disable Windows Hibernation
             Power Option Properties -Un-check Enable hibernation

11.        XPLite to clean up Windows update caches:
              http://www.litepc.com/xplite.html


WOW. Nearly the fastest computer I’ve used. And I have quite a few fast computers.
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How did you get the keyboard to pop up
telluridetech (author)  instructamaker1 year ago
Hi instructamaker –Nothing to fancy: I ‘pinned’ the On-Screen Keyboard to the Taskbar. You can find the keyboard under Accessories/Easy of Access.

Thanks for checking out the tablet.
Thanks do you know if I can get similar results with a dell latitude d630 from 2008?
telluridetech (author)  instructamaker1 year ago
I’ve found that the Dell Laptops are easy to work with and readily available. The Latitude d630 should work fine. A couple things to keep in mind: you will need extra plastic and other misc. parts so you will need a spare laptop or two. And this will not be an easy project no matter what laptop you use. Take your time and pick the right donor computer.

Good Luck
telluridetech (author)  telluridetech1 year ago
...I choose the Inspiron 600M for a few reasons:
1) I had 3 working 600Ms
2) 14” screen
3) On this model you can remove the CD-Rom and replace it with a 2nd battery.
3 working laptops !!!!!!! WOW
telluridetech (author)  instructamaker1 year ago
1 was fully functional with an OS installed
1 had a dead screen but the computer worked to an external monitor
and
1 had no HDD cage and missing keys but was in basically running condition
Do you have to use a wireless mouse on this or can you just touch the buttons on the touch screen.
telluridetech (author)  instructamaker1 year ago
Hi instructamaker -- the answer is: i use both. The screen works great as a touch interface and i have a Bluetooth mouse. You don't quite have a accuracy of a mouse with the touch screen. so the mouse is nice to have but not necessary.
Thanks
Thank you very much
I was just wondering where you got your touchscreen overlay?
telluridetech (author)  ElectricPryo1 year ago
Hi ElectricPryo --the touch interface i found on eBay.com. it's just a sheet of glass about 3mm thick with a small controller board that is connected to the computer via USB.
wedged_mind2 years ago
Hey there, I'd just like to say that this is an awesome Instructable and just need to ask a small question.

Is the touch screen kit you're using is multi-touch capable? Been toying around with the idea of my own laptop to tablet conversion project and I came across this little program, BlueStacks (bluestacks.com) that allowed you to run Android apps natively on a PC. While others who have attempted this sort of project all say that you're not really losing much by not having multi-touch on a laptop-tablet running on Windows 7, I think it becomes somewhat necessary now that I plan to run Android apps on it.

Could really use an answer on this as I've been looking for a touch screen kit that's multi-touch and capacitive for quite some time now but to no avail.
telluridetech (author)  wedged_mind2 years ago
Hi wedged_mind –Thanks for the comment! Yes –the touch screen kit that I am using was advertised as capacitive multi-touch. Running Linux, Mac OS or Win 7 you can take advantage of this feature. I’m currently running Win XP Tablet witch does not support the multi-touch capability. Of course multi-touch would be nice, but the computer is very usable without it. At some point I may install Win 7. I have some 40+ hours installing and setting up the OS for the tablet. That unless I clone the SSD it’s too much work the install Win 7 and have issues…then have to go back to XP. My tablet is a P4 single core. It might be a little slow for 7. And it runs great now.

I had the same idea: running iPhone apps on my tablet using a development kit. Even a step further: Integrating the iPhone into the tablet to take use of the Sensors, GPS and apps.

Good luck -it’s a fun project.
Shiny! Multi-touch!

Another question though, I read through the comment and you mentioned it responding to a pencil eraser and I'm wondering now if it's really capacitive. Don't they require a special capacitive stylus? I would have been willing to settle for resistive multi-touch but the idea that the touch screen you're using might actually be capacitive is really exciting. Are you certain it's capacitive?

I had the same idea as well! But I was unsure as to whether I'm actually capable of integrating the sensors. The guy running the carbon fiber tablet was able to fit in an accelerometer but doesn't provide any real guide as to how to integrate it into the setup, unfortunately.

Thanks! I'm really excited to get working on this once the details have been sorted out and the parts are ordered and landed!
telluridetech (author)  wedged_mind2 years ago
Hi –you could be right about the capacitive interface. I only have 1 other touch screen device, the iPhone 4. And it will not respond to the pencil eraser???? But I’m pretty sure the touch screen I have, said it was multi-touch. I haven’t had a chance to test that yet.
jlawrie2 years ago

I found 14.1" Capacitive touch screen kit here:

http://kingtouch.en.made-in-china.com/product-group/LMVmWwobnARS/-HOT-Capacitive-Touch-Screen-catalog-1.html

It is however a Chinese supplier but after exhausting all of the USA Suppliers I was refereed to them by a company called North American Semiconductor.

I will be posting my Tablet build after i get all of the other components collected. Am having a hard time finding a way to Encase it all after.

Like how this guy did his, but i just don't know...

http://carbontablet.blogspot.ca/
telluridetech (author)  jlawrie2 years ago
Careful, that blog for the Carbon Fiber DIY might be a scam. No internal pics, no clear methods of construction. And the blog owner seems to have an attitude. I posted a nice comment and a link to my tablet and he REMOVED IT. Why? I was hoping it might spur some good conversation…it’s not easy to build a tablet. Guess not. My first thought is that the tablet is a fake. Or he’s hiding something.
telluridetech (author)  jlawrie2 years ago
Hi --Thanks for checking in. It took awhile to track down all the parts i needed. and i looked at quite a few laptops before I hacked the 600m. With the Dell 600m I was able to use both the face and bottom intact and just build the sides.

eBay auction #320657251642 (14" USB Panel Kit Set -add Touch Screen Function For PC) is basically what i ordered. Mine also came from China. I was very surprised when it showed up, un-broken and it worked perfectly.

Cool tablet on the blog... I’ve been thinking about building my next tablet. One thing I’ve found is that the 14.3" screen is awesome for reading, although my tablet is a little heavy. the screen size is worth it. I think the 11" screen is too small and 15" a bit too big for a tablet. 13" might work but the aspect ratio is not quite right for a full page.

I've been considering installing Win 7 on my tablet, but so far XP Tablet Edition is running great.

Good Luck on your project.
I have an old 600m that I was considering modding as you have, but my screen is broken. I was looking to see if maybe I couldn't just replace it directly with a different manufacturer's screen instead of having to buy the new 600m screen and a touch kit. I found a Gateway m275 screen on ebay that is the same size so I looked up the specs. I'm not sure if you would know offhand whether crossing brands like this is possible, but I found out that almost all of the specs of the two screens were either identical or extremely similar. The signal interface was a different pin configuration, instead of the 600m's LVDS-30P1C6B-030C, the Gateway's was LVDS-30P1C6B-030B. For the life of me I don't know the difference, or if there is any substantial difference. No idea if you could help me out on this one but I thought I would ask, thanks for reading!
telluridetech (author)  herendinger132 years ago
Hi –it sounds like you took all the right steps. If the connector does not match: there’s NO chance you’ll get it to work. And you will have to buy the touch kit anyway. I know from experience that Gateway used inferior components and outdated technology witch is why they are no longer in business. A screen for the 600m should be a very common LCD panel. I think Dell is one of the best computer makers out there. I’ve found parts easy to find and easily swapped with other systems. I just did a eBay search and found LCD screens for the 600m from about $15.00 to $30.00 that’s pretty inexpensive. Be prepared to spend some money this project was not cheep or easy. And if you really get stuck let me know. I think I have 2 or more 14” Dell LCD panels.
Okay thanks, I've decided to go with the Dell LCD due to possible inverter compatibility issues. The ones I saw were about 30 bucks and yeah I'm def prepared to spend some money on this, still cheaper than buying a brand new tablet. I'll keep you posted on my progress, (although I prob won't be starting this for a couple weeks hooray college finals). Thanks for the response and the advice, hopefully I'll have some luck with this. If you're willing to part with one of your panels maybe we can discuss that in the future as well
Can you please tell how can I change the laptop screen to a new screen (HD LED)? From where I can easily get it ?
account3r22 years ago
That laptop looks almost exactly like the laptop I am using, a Dell Latitude D600! Same shell, but the lights are a bit different. Nice 'ible, by the way, I was thinking about doing this on my old(er) laptop, but that laptop is very old and heavy. It lasts about 30 min. max on battery and is ~2.5 in. thick at about 10 lbs. I don't think that would make a very good tablet... http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/psyd/
I for one actually dont care about thinner. Thinner = smaller fan = noisier cooling.
And I want better screens in tablet pc, with good black values and contrast, matte displays, good res...there are virtually NO laptop displays for sale right now that arent glosse, and dont have the awful color shift and awful black levels (black = grey? Also, make laptops feel less plastic...and there are alternatives to aluminium, if you're eyeing that macbook.
telluridetech (author)  account3r22 years ago
Hi –thanks. Your right, D600 has the same shell dimensions and even the internal layout as the 600m. I have other laptops older, newer and with different screen dimensions then the 600m. But the 600m had the best combination specs for me to do the conversion. Really the big one was the ability to add a second battery. I would not recommend going through the effort unless you start off with a decent machine. Batteries can be replaced easily to get you time back up. 10 Lbs tablet does sound a bit heavy. Use the D600 you’ll love it; I use this computer every day.

The tablet is slightly lighter then the original 600m because I’ve removed many parts including the palm-rest and keyboard. It also has the exact same dimensions as the original laptop closed.
sk8addict2 years ago
Question for you, I'm thinking about doing this as an alternative way to hold my e-textbooks and take notes during my classes at my university, do you use a stylus with it? or can you recommend any that could work well with this setup?
telluridetech (author)  sk8addict2 years ago
Hi –No I don’t use a stylus with mine. The touch screen is designed more for finger-touch, unlike a Watcom tablet. But, I have tried pencil eraser and it worked very well. All though the screen gets kind of dirty with an eraser. The touch interface is glass, so you would need to find something the wont scratch it. It’s the same type of interface that the iPhone and iPad use. The digitizer was advertised as being multi-touch, though Win XP doesn’t support it.
alright and does the xp tablet edition come with any "tablet oriented" programs like can you write out notes, say to use as a replacement for a notebook for myself?
telluridetech (author)  sk8addict2 years ago
Win XP Tablet Edition does come with a nice on-screen keyboard and a few tablet based apps. Windows Journal works pretty well with the touch interface.
alright thanks for the info, ill let you know if i start on it any time soon'
zeosrule2 years ago
Im currently doing this and I have a few questons
1. Where and how did you relocate the power button
2. Is the touchscreen under the screen bezel
3. How did you fill the side gaps

Im doing this on my old D610
telluridetech (author)  zeosrule2 years ago
Hi, The D610 has almost the same shell as the 600M. You might want to check if the D610 can use a second battery. 7 hours of battery time is really nice.

1. The power button was moved to the top right. I used the reset button form an old Netgear router. I drilled a ¼ hole in the laptop shell and hot-glued the button in place. The surface of the button is flush with the outside of the computer. (pic added)

2. Yes, the digitizer is in between the bezel and the LCD Panel. It’s only about 2mm thick, I got it to fit pretty easily.

3. The gaps where a pain in the a##. I did it with a 4 step process.
A. Using a peace of paper wrapped around the side of the tablet. I made a pencil rubbing of the space I needed to fill.
B. With a razor blade I cut out the templates. (pic added)
C. Overlay the template on plastic and using a Sharpie trace the layout on the plastic.
D. Cut the plastic peaces with a Dremel tool and wipe clean with Isopropyl alcohol

The filler peaces came out Okay. At some point I’ll make new ones, but for now they work fine.

Good luck
Thank you. Also was it easy to flip the latch around backwards?
telluridetech (author)  zeosrule2 years ago
Good question. I had left the latch off at first because I thought it would be trouble to mount. Across the top edge of the laptop screen is a peace of steal connecting the hinges on either side. I had to flip that peace over to fit the digitizer in. It happened that by flipping and remounting that support it gave me a perfect place to attach the latch.

NOTE:
The original laptop latch is not doing much. The 2 upper corner screws and the 2 bottom hinges are holding it together. The latch was more for a finish look.
I have a new problem I need to deal with, how did you add the internal USB port?
telluridetech (author)  zeosrule2 years ago
The internal USB hub posed a few challenges:
1. Sacrifice an external port and solder a USB cable directly to the motherboard. Be careful solder points on the motherboard are very small.

2. Mounting: find a place for the hub and a new external USB port. For the external port, I had to un-solder 1 and flip it over.

3. Power the Hub: I had removed the PCMCIA slot cage and used the space for the USB hub and touch screen driver board. By hacking down the PCMCIA cage I was left with a small circuit board that connects the motherboard to the PCMCIA card. I then identified the 5 volt power lead (bottom row center pin) and ran it to the hub.
I was thinking more like the internal bluetooth cable do you think that would work
telluridetech (author)  zeosrule2 years ago
Not sure what your intention is with the Bluetooth cable. But the USB hub has to be wired to a USB port. If you’re talking about using the cable to power the USB hub. I would not pull power from any device or cable that the computer is using. You could overload the circuit.
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