Introduction: Dell Laptop Into Digital Photo Frame

Picture of Dell Laptop Into Digital Photo Frame

These are the steps I used to create my Digital Photo Frame from an older Dell 1150 laptop.
EDIT: thanks for the Feature!

Step 1: Software Overview/Gut the Lappy

Picture of Software Overview/Gut the Lappy

Before I did anything, I planned it out. I knew I wanted a fully-functioning laptop on the wall mainly to be used as a DPF.
The software I used for the slideshow was Slickr, a screensaver that downloads pictures of any specified subject, flickr user, or set of photos on the fly. It works really nicely if you put a shortcut to it in the Startup Folder.
I also use TightVNC to connect to it across the network so I can have total control over it when I need to. I also wanted some control over it without VNC, so I also have the touchpad available, but more on that later.

The first thing I did was to really commit to the project and begin dissecting the laptop to see really what I needed. You'll find lots of extraneous plastic and metal brackets, and knowing what's what will help you decide what you need and what you don't.

Step 2: Take Out the Garbage

Picture of Take Out the Garbage

Here are some pictures of the shell of the laptop that really isn't needed for the final project.

Step 3: Frame and Mat It

Picture of Frame and Mat It

I was able to find a decent frame from wally world that suited my needs. The laptop's (15 in. diagonal) lcd was approx. 9 in. tall by 11 in. wide. I found a 10x14 in. that worked nicely. It worked especially nicely when I got rid of the maroon-ish inner frame that was a whopping 1/4' thick.

Step 4: Cut the Mat

Picture of Cut the Mat

Cutting a Mat can greatly improve the look of the frame, or, it can make it look like a Diy project (just because it IS one doesn't mean it has to Look like one). I've had some experience in cutting mats and i had access to a decent one in order to cut this one.

Step 5: Foam Core

Picture of Foam Core

Foam core is a good tool to make the area outside the lcd even with it. Since we don't want any excess pressure on the panel itself, I also used some corrugate that came with the frame to minimalize any dangerous pressure on the lcd. At one point I dropped the lcd panel, so I started it up to make sure it was still working.

Step 6: Seal the Frame With It's Original Backing

Picture of Seal the Frame With It's Original Backing

Since I had a piece that I removed, there was room enough for me to seal the original frame with the LCD inside. I had to cut a slot in the back for the lcd cable, but other than that, you'd never know there was an LCD in the frame.

Step 7: The Rest of the Computer's Guts (all of Them That Matter, Anyway)

Picture of The Rest of the Computer's Guts (all of Them That Matter, Anyway)

For my project, I used a board of 1/8" thick Masonite to mount the Motherboard and remaining hardware such as Hard Drive, RAM, and Wireless Card. Initially, I had #6 screws to come through the opposite side of the board to use as stand-offs/mounts, but those were too large and I downsized to #4. After a test-fit, I cut the screws off so they wouldn't stick out too far.

Step 8: Touchpad and Side Wall Stand-offs

Picture of Touchpad and Side Wall Stand-offs

I thought it would be nice to have access to the touchpad, so it is being held to the masonite and can be slid to the top if need be. The Sides are partially covered by some white pine that has been painted to hide any of the guts from being seen (remember what I said about professionalism?)

Step 9: Put It on the Wall

Picture of Put It on the Wall

hang it up, plug it in, and watch it go.


A good name (author)2008-05-29

Okay... but who the hell wants to give up their laptop to build a picture frame?

claudiad2 (author)A good name2017-09-20

I'm actually regretting donating my old 'rubbish' laptops because I really want a LARGER DPF.

people with rubbish old laptops.

dummy1977 (author)electronic boy2011-06-09

I milked my 366mhz/10gb/256mb Compaq Armada running Win2k til about 2007 (bloatware free) without issue for basic surfing/portability, electrical tape holding some of it together and all ; ).

Something like this would make a perfect netbook and hardly be considered rubish, but I'd do it if it was faulty and was just left with parts.

Unbelievable to see someone calling his specs rubbish in 2008.

pablo_z (author)2015-01-30

excellent work and great instructable.

mixun0 (author)2013-11-13

Thanks!!! I have 4 old laptop dell d630 :) i will try that!! :)

blckthng (author)2008-09-03

I have a really really old laptop(its friggin ancient) its spec are as follows Pentium 3 or a celeron 64 MB ram 4.5 gig hard drive and one usb port(one, hard to imagine innit) so any point trying this out? +this should theoretical work for any laptop on earth right? or it there something special in a dell.

phreakincool (author)blckthng2010-09-09

I'm converting my Dell Inspiron 7000 (how's that for ancient?) into a digital frame. I'm using Damn Small Linux. It takes up only 50MB. The 7000 cannot boot from USB, so I'll be installing DSL to a CF card which will be plugged into the 2.5 ide interface via a CF-ide adapter. Photos will be stored on 1GB flash drive plugged into a 4 port USB micro hub, which is plugged into the single USB port. I'll be using the 2Mbit wireless card I bought for it almost 13 years ago. I'm hoping VNC or SSH will be enough to configure it.

wingl (author)blckthng2009-11-19

If you could get a cd drive to this, you could try Puppy Linux. It only takes 100M of space.

vorin (author)blckthng2008-09-03

Nothing Special about tearing apart a dell, It's just that your dissection will probably be much different than mine. But if you know your way around a computer, you should be able to do the same thing with any functioning laptop

blckthng (author)vorin2008-09-05

Thanks and btw nice 'able!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cybergeek004 (author)2010-01-28

Where did you put the keyboard and if you left it out did the PC not say to attach a keyboard?

Lubeck (author)Cybergeek0042010-01-30

You can configure the bios to ingnorere all errors and boot up even though it can´t find the keyboard.
Think he might have done that :o)
And if you need at keyboard at some point... Just use an USB type

Cybergeek004 (author)Lubeck2010-03-01

Thanks I will try that what slidshow program can I use rather then flicker. A program that I can just add pic. that it displays at diffrent transisions.

Lubeck (author)Cybergeek0042010-03-02

Well, XP have a screen saver that does just that.. and so does vista and Win 7.. But if you want something more fancy, then here is some top rated programs

But im sure you can finde som free ones if you browse the www 
Google is you friend :o)

electronic boy (author)2010-01-12

thanx for the help a bit back and yes i finaly got one working gr8 instructable

FelixTheCat-etris (author)2009-12-08

It's funny, I have the exact same laptop and I went to Walmart and got the exact same frame. I tested my old laptop, worked, disassembled it (not the first time I have done this) and when I put back the bare necessities for a boot, I get nothing on the LCD or an external monitor. Also, it turns off after 30 seconds-1 minute. Any ideas?

tieguy (author)2009-05-10

ha, I used the same laptop for mine.

Thecoolguy123 (author)2009-04-01

Awesome project btw i was just wondering how do i get the motherboard out of the casing because i took off the top half with the lcd and i am stuck there? Also how do you turn the thing on and off? Thanks a bunch dude!

also i have the dell 1100 but yours looks the same

GeekyAdam (author)2009-03-30

I looove how cleanly organized the hardware is mounted on the back of the frame. It's not easy to remove all laptop internals and mount elsewhere like it is with desktop internals. Very nice work! I'm not a fan of the touchpad hanging out in the open so much, but that's just my $.02.

vorin (author)GeekyAdam2009-03-30

if you noticed the wooden pieces on the back, you could see that the touchpad slides completely behind the frame when it's in use. I just wanted a picture to show that the touchpad was there.

Yerboogieman (author)2008-05-23

wha are the specs, just wondering

vorin (author)Yerboogieman2008-05-24

it was a Dell 1150, so if you need more info, you can find it elsewhere, but here are some quick specs: Pentium 4 Intel Celeron 2.60 GHz 256 MB RAM 30 GB 2.5" Hard Drive 14.1 in TFT active matrix Intel Extreme Graphics 2

Hal The Hacker (author)vorin2008-05-29

what the hell is a p4 celeron? it is either a p4 OR a celeron and celerons tend not to come that fast so my guess would be a p4

Xial (author)Hal The Hacker2009-01-17

Nearly a year later, here's your rebuttal: "N5379: 2.8GHz Celeron, D-Step" That's a part number for that 1150 used, for its fastest Celeron processor, available from its manufacturer. :)

Yerboogieman (author)Xial2009-01-17

...For dell.

jbulldog_11 (author)2008-11-28

Okay, I'm in the middle of making one of these with an old Toshiba, but I cannot for the love of God figure out how I'm going to be able to get to my power button to get it on. I could flip the mobo around but then the fans wouldn't get any air flow. How did you solve this problem??? Thanks!

jbulldog_11 (author)jbulldog_112008-11-28

Never mind, I just soldered a switch onto the other one.

vorin (author)jbulldog_112008-11-29

nice, i would have liked to use that method to make a decent-looking switch on the front or side for easy access, but i guess i'm not that smooth, lol.

jbulldog_11 (author)vorin2008-12-01

haha, I'm usually not. But I actually did some good soldering for once. I actually had to do like surgery on the lcd connector as I stupidly clipped like 4 tiny wires and bent a connector. Now I'm just waiting on my custom shadowbox!!! I'll post a pic when it's done.

vorin (author)jbulldog_112008-12-02

do it!

vorin (author)jbulldog_112008-11-28

on the pictures in step 8 you can see the slim silver circuit board that connects to the bottom of the frame, facing the wall. Look for the black connector on the MB. I left that button there, and although it is not an elegant solution, it does work.

sexyterry (author)2008-06-04

awesome instructible~! ive ripped my laptop apart and installed it similar to yours but it doesnt boot up now. wat is that white white in the 3rd pic of step 7? i dont have that.. everythign else is the same. thanks

vorin (author)sexyterry2008-06-06

the thing with the white label is the hard drive. it's essential for the computer to work. all of the software is saved on the hard drive and it certainly will not boot up without it.

electronic boy (author)vorin2008-10-18

not true,you could use a bootable CD korora or anything else providing you have the ram.

vorin (author)electronic boy2008-10-18

for this project, it is essential. If you wanted to see my opinion of using an optical drive as a boot source for a different project, you can read my more recent comment I posted on Oct. 6th.

mythbusterma (author)sexyterry2008-06-15

you know that you do need a hard drive to boot right? what you would be looking at now would be the bios trying to find a hard drive to boot from. ;)

mythbusterma (author)2008-06-15

i was looking at this and think about making one of these with a multitouch display. if i could fit that on a wall...

try using the wiimote and ir leds to get a proper 3d image[try jonny lees wiimote projects] it should be useful, right now i am using a wiimote.

vorin (author)mythbusterma2008-06-19

multitouch would be impossible (prob), or at least Much harder than a (single) touchpad control over the front of the display.

mythbusterma (author)vorin2008-06-23

hmmmm maybe a hole in the wall would work

greatscotmagic (author)2008-09-25

Neat radio, what kind is it? Thanks.

vorin (author)greatscotmagic2008-10-06

I'm not sure, it's a keepsake from my dad's childhood. Unfortunately, it is no longer working.

electronic boy (author)2008-10-06

i have a laptop but its a Toshiba tecra 8000 with no hard drive has anyone got any ideas of what i could use instead/memory sticks are not recognized.

vorin (author)electronic boy2008-10-06

assuming it has a functioning CD drive, one route could be a boot-from-CD OS that is entirely run from the CD and RAM. This could be a noisier solution, but it could work just the same.

mspark400 (author)2008-08-20

while dismantling my laptop i seem to somehow caused the backlight to fail. all connections are still there except for the shielding ground wires which i disconnected. Any thoughts anyone? thanks, mspark400

Detman101 (author)2008-07-03

Um....3 hands?!? Scary... Dm

zjharva (author)2008-06-18

i shouldn't of done the fanboy comments :( i got carried away. i was going to remove them, but you beat me to it. nice instructable!

About This Instructable




More by vorin:Dell Laptop into Digital Photo Frame
Add instructable to: