Introduction: Digital Picture Frame

Picture of Digital Picture Frame

Adding to the million already in circulation, here is the Digital Picture Frame that I built for about $100.. yes, its expensive for what it is but the coolness factor is high in my opinion.. And on the geek scale, it can't get much better than this.

Here is the summary:

Take an old (really old) laptop apart. Cut a couple pieces of Plexiglas, add a bunch of screws to hold it all in place and then add the laptop parts. What you end up with is seen below.

Laptop: ($20)
CivilNote, P266 MMX (OMG its MMX), 160mb of ram (32 onboard + 128 upgrade), 10" LCD

Hard Drive: ($20)
5gb CF Microdrive (completely silent)

Touchscreen ($40)

Two relatively small pieces of Plexiglas ($10)

Bunch of screw (depends on the motherboard of the laptop your using) ($1-2)

4 nicer looking screws (I used brass.. all available at a local hardware store)($5)

NOTE: I'm assuming that windows/linux/macOS is already installed on your hard drive and you can boot into it without needing to enter a password.. because it would be kinda strange having to log into a picture frame :)

Step 1: Tools Needed.

Picture of Tools Needed.

Obviously you will need small enough tools to take apart the laptop.. Sadly hammers don't have a great effect on laptops.. We'll skip this part as I'm assuming if you are willing to go any further, its because you know how to take things apart...

For building the Picture Frame, I used a small portable screw driver and drill bit.. Photos below.

You can use any screw driver as its only going to be used for mounting the parts.. not a lot of work..
For the drill bit, I would suggest using a 1/4" as I bought 3/16" screws. This can also be changed to your liking.

Step 2: Chose Your Prey

Picture of Chose Your Prey

As I stated in the intro, I used an old CivilNote laptop.. (seen below).. I actually purchased 5 of them on ebay for $50.. so parts were easy to come by.

- Gut the laptop for usable parts.

You will need to keep the motherboard, and everything on it.. thus RAM, CPU, and any cards (mini PCI) that may be included.

You will also need to remove the LCD from its casing and unplug it from the motherboard.

You can either keep the hard drive or use a CF card like I did.. the CF card is nice because its silent.

You will not need the keyboard, mouse, battery or any part of the casing.
You will not need this as you will be adding a touch screen and can control the computer with that instead.

Step 3: Parts Needed.

Picture of Parts Needed.

From Laptop
- Motherboard +CPU
- Hard Drive (Pre-installed OS that can load without password)
- Laptop AC Adapter
- LCD + all related parts (power converter and backlight plug)

- Touchscreen (same size as your LCD); easy to find on ebay.
- PCMCIA Wifi card if its not integrated in your laptop.
- IDE to CF adapter; no need for this if your using the original hard drive.
- Plexiglas 2 pieces(add 2 inches to the height and width of the screen so that you end up with a 1 inch border around the computer); you can get this pre-cut at your hardware store or use a jigsaw to cut it.
- Mounting Screws; some of the screws can be salvaged from the laptop and used for fastening the motherboard to the Plexiglas, if you need more they can be found at most computer stores (future shot, best buy, circuit city)
- 4 mains screws+more that will hold everything together. Again this is something that you will need to determine based on the laptop your using.. Mine were 3 inches long. (see picture)
- Various other items (two sided tape, foam tape, usb extension, wall mounting cable) ALL OPTIONAL and can be changed with whatever you have lying around that you think will do the same job.

Step 4: Line Up and Drill Plexiglas

Picture of Line Up and Drill Plexiglas

Line up the two pieces of plexiglas and drill the 4 holes that will be used to hold them both together. I drilled mine exactly one inch from the corners.

You can test how well lined up you are by sitting the two pieces together, attached with the brass tipped screws, on a counter. If properly lined up, it should sit without any "wobble" (sorry, no better word to describe it).

Mount the screws (not thumb screws) to one piece of plexiglas. This will be the rear piece. All depending on how you are wall mounting your finished product, I added a picture frame cable between the two top screws and 4 foam feet so the frame would sit on the wall without any rattling. By doing this, you can continue mounting all other steps, without ever having to flip this part over.

Sorry that I dont have a better photo of this step as I had already completed the project before thinking of creating an instructable to go along with it. I'll know for next time.

Step 5: Mounting the LCD and Touchscreen

Picture of Mounting the LCD and Touchscreen

Attach both the LCD and the Touchscreen to the same piece of plexiglas on opposite sides using double sided tape.

IMPORTANT: Ensure that the touchscreen is mounted so that it can be used.. Its very easy to confuse which side is the right side without testing it first.

Using double sided take, attach any LCD components to the rear of the LCD. In the images below you can see that the power converter is taped to the back.

IMPORTANT: only add the tape to the outer edges of the screen and LCD to not interfere with the image.

MAKE SURE your LCD is mounted in a way that by just flipping it onto the motherboard, you will be able to connect it without having to bend any wires.

After mounting both items, attach the touchscreen adapter to the inner part of the plexiglas using foam tape (about a half an inch of foam and doublesided tape on each side)
Use a USB extension cable to attach the touchscreen to an available USB port after the screen is later mounted to the motherboard.

Step 6: Mounting the Motherboard

Picture of Mounting the Motherboard

1. Center the motherboard on the 2nd piece of Plexiglas and use a permanent marker to mark where to drill the holes that will be needed to mount it into place. Make sure the motherboard is positioned in a way that it is aligned with the LCD attachment. See photo below.
2. Drill the holes
4. Mount hard drive, RAM and any other part that can be mounted to the motherboard. Make sure everything is securely in position before mounting the motherboard as getting to these items afterward can be complicated.
3. Mount the motherboard and all needed or related items. I had speakers that were in the laptop that I also mounted above the motherboard. I used double sided tape to mount the speakers.

- Use at least 4 points so that the motherboard is mounted securely.
- Make sure the motherboard is not touching the Plexiglas as the heat could melt it. Use typical mounting screws. These can usually be salvaged from the laptop. See mounting screws below.
- I used a motherboard that does not require a fan, but make sure to include all original heat dissipation equipment (fan, CPU heat-sink)

Step 7: Power Button

Picture of Power Button

After mounting the motherboard, determine where the power button is and drill a small hole that will allow for easy access. See image below as an example.

Step 8: Mount Front and Back Together

Picture of Mount Front and Back Together

1. Plug the VGA cable into the motherboard, this may need to be done earlier if your motherboard is mounted in reverse.
2. Insert PCMCIA wifi card.
3. Mount front and back together using the thumb screws. (see below)
4. Plug the USB cable from the touchscreen into an available USB port.

Step 9: Complete Installation

Picture of Complete Installation

1. Plug your finished product into the AC power supply.
2. Power it on
3. Hang it on the wall and enjoy.


pfaulkner1 (author)2015-10-26

Neat project! I wonder if this could be done a bit tighter (slimmer), as
in the guts of my slowly disintegrating laptop (currently used as a
desktop pc, lid removed) fit in an inch or less thick case, display,
hard + dvd drive and all, so it shouldn't be any thicker than that. I'm
also playing with the idea of incorperating a laptop or netbook into a
ring binder. I wished there was already an instructable for that. It would be
perfect for, say a college student.

JustinS7 (author)2014-09-29

I have an idea to turn a fully functioning Bulova clock/standard picture frame (has hinges, folds in two, etc.) into (on the frame side) a digital picture frame. I like what you did here, and am hopeful it can work for what I need. Will this work for near about whatever size screen I need? Thanks.

mrussell12 (author)2011-10-17

I wonder if you can actually mod this into a tablet, that would be freaking cool, i mean, all you really need is a battery at this stage and say perhaps...ubantu. I am going to look into this.

nerd7473 (author)mrussell122014-03-09

I wish my laptop wouldn't have wiped... I had Ubuntu 13.10

AgentSplurge (author)2010-04-26

Just wondering where you got these 'extention' screws and stuff from stage 3 image 3? Other than that im ready to go!

micahdear (author)AgentSplurge2010-04-26

Hi there

I got them all from my local hardware store.


AgentSplurge (author)2010-04-13

Awesome, might do this next time I get my hands on an old laptop. Even if I dont, still a usefull to keep in mind when making a new mini case for my original xbox (media centre in teh lounge :) )

Cybergeek004 (author)2010-03-01

Can you please tell me what slideshow program you used?

micahdear (author)Cybergeek0042010-03-01

Hi there

There are two that I use. One is the windows pictures folder screensaver but my all time favorite is Mosaica:

Thanks for the question.


tdwp1122 (author)2010-02-18

 can you add a link to where you got your touch screen from?

wee_man (author)2010-02-14

Is there any heat issues with running this for hours on end?

micahdear (author)wee_man2010-02-15

It depends on the laptop you use for this project but in the case of the civil note, no, it runs 24/7 without ever rebooting and it has not frozen since being built. The old P266MMX didnt make a lot of heat though.

D4V!D (author)2010-01-13

I am in the middle of making this.  I am using a Dell Inspiron 1150.  The display will no longer stay up and the power supply is frayed near the brick and the plastic flexes a lot so it is no longer useful as a laptop.  I am mounting the power supply behind the glass and extending the power cord.  I would rather shorten the power cord and extend the DC power cord but the Dell power supplies are made poorly so I figure it would be best this way.  I will be using spare plexiglass to make a box for the power supply mounted between the frame.  I am also leaving the battery in so I can transport it to the kitchen for recipes without having to reboot.  Thanks for the graet idea.  I was concerned with other projects posted on instructables due to lack of air flow (my Dell doesn't exactly run cool).  I will post pics once I am finished.

micahdear (author)D4V!D2010-01-16

 Great idea!!! Looking forward to seeing the photos!

Thank you for sharing!


alexanderbly (author)2009-03-11

I just got a copy of windows XP pro, though I haven't had a chance to run it yet. Does it have different install options? How can I install it to take up the least amount of space? Thanks.

blurofred (author)alexanderbly2010-01-02

try linux, there are several verstions that are really small.

ReCreate (author)alexanderbly2009-05-22

Windows XP May Be A little Heavy For Old PC's. Windows XP Requires at least 1.3GB of disk space to be happy,You Could Try Windows 95,Visit They have it there,Windows 95 Will Be happy with anything larger than 150BM,And IT can Run With as little as 4MB or RAM.

zim_256 (author)ReCreate2009-07-30

You could try to install XP Embedded, it's more lightweight than xp pro.

ReCreate (author)zim_2562009-07-30

Windows XP Embedded comes only in preinstalled packages for emulators, Like virtual PC. I would recommend MicroXP, Or tinyXP

zim_256 (author)ReCreate2009-07-31

XP Embedded is a commercial, modular version of windows XP. It comes in 2 setup cd's + 1 update. It can be installed on any x86 system. Even the ones with little storage or RAM. You can get a reduced installation in about 200 MB.

ReCreate (author)zim_2562009-07-31

Really? Anyways, MicroXP is 200MB

zim_256 (author)ReCreate2009-07-31

I googled microxp and it looks fine, just a 100MB cd and it uses very little memory, it's already slipstreamed and available on a 99MB CD so it's a drop-in solution, easier than building a runtime image for XPEmbedded. BUT, it's a modified version with uncertain source so i don't really know what i'm installing and using with microXP, ¿what about malware?. With XPE i can select what to install and is a official release, plus, it has advanced features oriented to slimline pc's like little footprint, hibernate once, resume many, integrated "deep freeze" like feature from ms, the possibility to run from ROM saving only changes to other drive (it can be a optical CD drive for example), etc. Microxp is illegal donwloadable software, but considering the licensing fee for XPE, i'ts out of the target of this instructable (The license cost is higher than the best quality digital photo frame.). Anyway, i'm downloading it to test it in my netbook, the 4 gig ssd is a little tiny for a full XP. Right now i'm using XP Performance Edition and i thought that there wasn't any better o slimmer.

ReCreate (author)zim_2562009-07-31

Yeah, Some people consider it legal being stripped down so much that it lacks so many features, such as eyecandy themes, Multiple users and such. Windows has been modded in many ways Original XP>TinyXP>MicroXP MicroXP has so far ran every program i have ever wanted it to, it installed in like 5 Minutes.

opanocat5 (author)alexanderbly2009-04-10

Get Ubuntu! Its smaller and better for small gadgets like this

micahdear (author)opanocat52009-04-10

a typical ubuntu installation is much larger then the performance xp build (200mb). Please on older machines like this, sure you can install linux, and then you either have to be a linux guru to resolve the numberous problems you will have, or you can spend weeks reading forums that tell you 20 ways to resolve one problem (that usually doesn't work) or you can take 30 minutes out of your day and install XP... It all depends on if you like living your life or prefer being in solitude in front of your ancient computer that you just want to act as a picture frame... Sorry to vent, but I've been working with Linux for years and I'm just so tired of the time I've wasted trying to resolve the simplest of problems that are not even problems with XP... and yes I know there are a bunch of Linux guru's or even amateurs that are going to hate me for this comment, but if your honest you know I'm right!!!

ReCreate (author)micahdear2009-05-22

Yeah,I have Had So Many Problems with Linux,I tried So Many Distros On my PC. Ubuntu - Applacations randomly Exit Slax 5XX-6.10 Konqueror Becomes unstable DSL Linux,NOthing Works. Puppy Linux,This One worked the best,On an other PC. Reactos Is probably the Only Free OS that works the Best,Its not Linux Based though. And Windows,IT works like a Charm,The Only Problems i have On them are Problems i know How to Fix,And that arent too bad. And Windows 7,It Beats Ubuntu Big time.

opanocat5 (author)micahdear2009-04-11

Ah, i get you on the size factor but i have never ever had a single problem with ubuntu

micahdear (author)opanocat52009-04-11

I'm envious.. I've never met anyone that has never had a problem with Ubuntu.. I'm assuming that means your a Linux guru.. As a problem to a typical PC user is everyday life to a Linux user and yes even with a build as as seemingly strait forward as Ubuntu.. I have found that the moment you move away from a "amateur computer use" installation, problems follow.. What I mean is if you have a very typical hardware build (Intel processor, Asus Mobo, Nvidia gpu) and you only want to use your computer for word processing and checking your email, then yes, in most cases, its as simple as installing Ubuntu or many other debian builds and your good to go. Personally I've never used Linux for anything typical.. I wanted to setup a FTA Media center using an EPIA mobo (30 days of major issues), tried using one of the machines in this Instructable for a web based weather station, (30 days of problems)... Granted I don't consider myself an expert but I'm not a novice either.. It just shouldn't be that complicated! Again, sorry for the ranting :) I respect the "open-source" aspect the most and I will be the first to jump onboard when any Linux build is even close to as user friendly as Windows.. and YES I do get a chill down by back saying something nice about Microsoft... :)

micahdear (author)alexanderbly2009-03-11

Legally I have no idea..... However I have heard that some people download these different windows builds from torrent sites and then change the CD key within to a legal one that was already purchased by the user. There may be actual software out there that can do this as well but I'm not aware of any. Micah

zack247 (author)2009-12-11

no offense, but technically, its just a laptop in a different shape

micahdear (author)zack2472009-12-11

 great observation!

blurofred (author)micahdear2010-01-02


Awesome Possum (author)zack2472009-12-11

Plus touchscreen.

eiloxcn (author)2009-08-14

……Too expensive……

micahdear (author)eiloxcn2009-08-14

I challenge you to build something this cool for less and post it on instructables.

TyMan210 (author)micahdear2009-12-18

Like a bust of Spock?

Broom (author)TyMan2102009-12-26

In carbonite?

thebigreddude (author)2009-01-07

i am not as familar with laptop motherboards, but is the psu built into it or where did the power come from?

CyborgGold (author)thebigreddude2009-11-17

Depending on the size of the PSU and the components you use, you may be able to mount the brick inside the frame.  WARNING DANGEROUS:  You could also... if you dare... break open the PSU and mount it (guarding for electrical protection mind you) as to take up less space, though I do NOT recommend this, due to the nature of PSUs.

micahdear (author)CyborgGold2009-11-18

Its actually better to leave the PSU seperate because you can then use thin trasparent speaker wire running to the picture frame.. If you interalize the PSU you then need 10-12 guage wire and its going to stand out quite a bit.

micahdear (author)thebigreddude2009-01-10

Hi there, Just like any laptop, the PSU is external. I kept all laptop components intact so the same adapter that was used before the transition is still being used. Thanks for the question.

netspec (author)2009-02-25

hi - where did you purchase your touchscreen? I can't seem to find one for $40. Thanks.

CyborgGold (author)micahdear2009-11-17

Might I suggest eBay.. but instead of looking for a touchscreen, look for a tablet PC, I just found one for about 25 bucks including shipping, as an added bonus you can flip the screen around and mount an aesthetic frame to the screen, and if you need a keyboard, just lift the screen and use it.

ReCreate (author)micahdear2009-02-27

it looks like i am going to go with keeping the mouse pad on i will probably put it in the back or something

CyborgGold (author)ReCreate2009-11-17

You could Bluetooth a mouse/keyboard to it as well actually, put a dongle into the usb when you want to access it.  There are some rather compact keyboards and mice that run bluetooth now, and if all you need is a mouse, design a hangar between the panes and get some mini mice ;)

Tux_Fan (author)2009-11-12

I actually built one very similiar to this. It was not a touchscreen but it had a wireless keyboard and mouse, speakers, 12 inch screen, wifi, HD, DVD rom drive. It was built out of an averatec 3150 but it died. This one looks a fair bit fancier though.

Chromatica (author)2009-10-18

Hpw did you make the touchscreen

micahdear (author)Chromatica2009-10-19

Hi there

As explained in the instructable and many many replies to other comments, the touchscreen was purchased on ebay and mounted on a peice of plexi glass.


Chromatica (author)micahdear2009-10-19

Oops sorry, I was too lazy to look at other comments. How much was the touchscreen?

Well thank you and very creative project!

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