Introduction: Hanging Laptop Digital Painting

Picture of Hanging Laptop Digital Painting

Take your old laptop, matte it, frame it, and convert it into a hanging framed digital lcd screen to do with as you like.

Step 1: Remove Hinges (free the Display)

Picture of Remove Hinges (free the Display)

Caution: The first thing to realize with this project is you can easily destroy your laptop. Weigh your options carefully. I actually made mine smoke and thought it was destroyed for a few hours, this was quite depressing.

I used my first generation G4 powerbook for this project, which already had the hinges broken, so this was a bit easier for me than it will be for you. Although, you can easily break the hinges off by folding the monitor back. I also ripped off that little back flap before I began, but be WARNED a little piece of metal might fall into your laptop when you do this, ruining it. I would finally suggest doing all the work on a soft surface, I used a towel on my bed.

To remove the hinges on this laptop take a torx-8 screw bit and remove the two screws in each hinge. (You can get these bits at radio shack if you dont have them.)

Pull off the hinge caps, though you may need a small flat head screw drive. NOTE: always be careful of the cables that carry the data (little and green). They're actually very small coax cables and can easily be ruined.

Now remove the inner metal hinges with the same screw bits. These should just come off after you unscrew them.

Step 2: Ditch the Battery, Fold It, Tape It

Picture of Ditch the Battery, Fold It, Tape It

Take out your battery, there is no need, this thing is going to be plugged in and removing your battery will give the laptop a bit of extra ventilation space, if you dont agree, dont do it.

For me I had to tape the bottom of the display back in place with electrical tape. After that I went ahead and taped up all of the display wires with electrical tape.

Finally I used some clear packing tape and blue painters tape to keep the thing together. Make sure you dont tape over the vents or fan openings. Use the tape sparingly, your gonna need as much air flow as you can get.

Step 3: Framing Challenges

Picture of Framing Challenges

So before you can go any farther you need a wooden frame. I looked at a few options and realized that buying a semi-beatup "shadow-box" would be the best option. I went to a frame shop near my work and looked through a stack of semi-beatup frames. I found a nice deep maple frame that was a bit too tall for what I wanted. So for a couple bucks I had the owner cut the frame down to the size I wanted.

I ended up going with about 5/8" matte around the screen and the frame. I thought this was enough to leave a nice border without getting ridiculous. As well, the matte holds the laptop in ever so slightly from the front, so i didnt want it to be too weak.

I would suggest just taking your laptop to a framer and trying out some frames there. Then tell the owner what you want.

Step 4: Matting It

Picture of Matting It

So now that you have a frame, you need to cut a matte to size. I used number 4 black matte board, but you could use white or a number 8 matte if you wanted to. I had my friend cut it for me at work because he knows what he's doing with the matte cutter. If you don't know what your doing, measure out what you want and have a framer cut it out for you.

After getting it cut out, I did a dry fit just to make sure everything looked right and fit, do this with the computer on! So that your looking at the actual displayed image.

Upon doing the dry fit, I realized that the electrical tape I had used to mask the display would reflect light and slowly come up. So I sliced down the middle of the electrical tape that was masking the display, and removed the inner section.

Using blue painters tape and a piece of paper mask the whole display as well as around all of the edges of the computer. Lay it down on some newspaper, and spray two coats of semi-flat black spray paint. This will give it a nice matte finish that wont reflect.

Remove all the tape.

Finally, epoxy on the whole matte with a thin bead of epoxy around the outer edge of the display DONT GET IT ON THE LCD! Make sure its all square before you leave it to dry. I used 5 minute epoxy which I love.

Step 5: Vent It, Set It, Hang It

Picture of Vent It, Set It, Hang It

Sit your laptop/matte combo into the frame and mark where your power cord connects to the laptop. Drill a hole! For this powerbook I needed a 1/2" bit. I like these bits instead of regular drill bits because they leave a nice clean edge.

Next drill holes for ventilation purposes. I did little holes where the vents for the laptop are, and a 1/2" hole on the bottom in the middle where the fan is.

Next I used small pieces of foam board to secure the laptop into place. At first I was scared about this but then realized that unless there was an earthquake, these wedges wouldn't come out. It also leaves a lot of room for ventilation in the back which is very important.

Finally I screwed in two eye-screws and ran some picture frame wire. Using two hooks on the wall so that the nail wouldn't hit the track pad.

Step 6: Software Setup

Picture of Software Setup

Currently I am using the screensaver as the picture display software, but there are so many options, from videos, to flash things, to art, to whatever, it is limitless.

I would suggest using the energy saving features in mac os x that allow you to set when the computer turns on and off, this was a great feature because the display is in my office at work.

I set the laptop up on a wireless network with my desktop and I have access to it, so i can upload pictures into the screensaver folder whenever I want, and I don't have to take the frame down.

I hope you have fun building your own, its a great project, and a great thing to do with your old laptop!

Go to town!


ewilhelm (author)2007-12-31

Digital picture frames are a really popular gift project here on Instructables, and lots of people are searching for digital picture frame how-to's. So, in addition to this great project, check out this guide to some of the best digital picture frames we have:
Instructables Digital Picture Frame How-to Building Guide

synksynk (author)2015-05-25

Nice !

This project is really neat, minimal, looks amazing. Reminds me of one of my favorites in digital art framing, FRAMED* which is more than just a frame. Google it.

benster3332 (author)2006-06-16

Hey, I was wondering, all I have is an old Dell laptop screen (without any wires). I dont want to turn it into a wall mounted screen because I dont have the computer to go with it. I want to turn it into a desktop monitor. Any ideas of what I could do?

SteveA1 (author)benster33322014-10-08

Yes you can turn it into a desktop monitor you just need to buy the correct lvds mine off of ebay. I used an old dell monitor stand and JB welded my old hp pavillions lcd to it...

SteveA1 (author)SteveA12014-10-08

pics cuz it did happen.

moopet (author)benster33322007-06-10

You can't. It's driven by a raw signal, and nothing bar the graphics interface inside a laptop or the beefy circuit inside an lcd monitor will drive it. You can't adapt it to vga, svideo, anything like that.

Numb-Nuts (author)moopet2009-05-27

Since you seem to know what your talking about, what parts from my laptop are need to turn it into a lcd monitor for my 360? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Numb-Nuts (author)Numb-Nuts2009-05-27

I have a dated toshiba if thats any help.

cotton (author)Numb-Nuts2009-12-19

didnt u understant u cant! well in my case i can :D i can get hsync vsync r g b contrast and more :D the thing is its realy hard to do with my monittor....

tyaktu (author)moopet2009-04-09

Hey, so what I can do my laptop screen ? how I can utilize my screen?

moopet (author)tyaktu2009-04-10

Without spending about five times what the screen is worth, not a lot. You can use it to make a lovely flat-panel light - arrange a couple of these in picture frames and just power them up with no data cable attached and it's very spacey. Other than that... not a lot.

rjc3000 (author)2011-11-28

For a mac if you have Timbuktu installed on the G4 you can control it from any other computer with Timbuktu (or other remote desktop app). I happened to have Timbuktu installed on the G4 to be used so it was a logical choice. Great idea!

kingsface (author)2009-12-13

How long do you keep the screen on ? 24/7 ? Anything to worry if you do so ?

There is absolutely nothing wrong in that. You can keep it on as long as you want!!

RanDUM (author)2009-12-10

Very nice instructable, I'm gonna do it with my old laptop.

I feel bad for the MacBook though. (Apple rules!)

albylovesscience (author)2009-08-16

wow this is extremely easy

Apple Rule (author)2009-06-05


superjames (author)2009-03-21

Did you shave your arms? Green shirt = hairy Black shirt = hairless

oh yeah, cool instructable too!

codongolev (author)2009-01-11

I have an old windows 95 lappy (I got it from a friend) and I wish to do this. I have one problem, though: my brother took it apart, and when he put it back together, it would boot, tell us it overheated, then shut off. he later realized he accidentally removed the heatsink. is there a way to bypass the overheat shutdown cycle?

ham4fun (author)codongolev2009-01-11

You had best replace the heat sink. Running it longer than the overheat warning would make it quit permanently :(

codongolev (author)ham4fun2009-01-15

well, it's not that much of a problem, I could just make it shut down with the wall switch (a lot of the stuff in my basement does that) and it's cold down here. I just want to know how to disable it.

SpaceShipOne (author)codongolev2009-02-08

I think the overheat function is built into the BIOS and the motherboard, so trying to disable it would be almost impossible. Another thing, just because the air in your basement is cold doesn't not mean that the CPU will be. It needs air flowing across it to stay cool. Just out of curiosity, how does one forget to reinstall the heat sink? Its probably the largest single thing in there

codongolev (author)SpaceShipOne2009-02-09

me bro assumed it was something that didn't need to be there. HOW DO YOU OPEN A COMPUTER AND JUST DECIDE THAT SOMETHING DOESN'T NEED TO BE THERE?!?!?

ATImaster005 (author)2008-11-24

I bought an iBook G3 Clamshell that I'm doing this with right now. This guide is helping me out so much!

zimmemic25 (author)ATImaster0052008-12-17

i did something like this with an ibm thinkpad T30, u dont need a 3G, just use a notebook you have laying around (so u dont need to buy it)

ATImaster005 (author)zimmemic252008-12-17

I know, but I got it for $20, it works perfectly, and I already have a MacBook, so it doesn really matter if I use it.

Joe Martin (author)ATImaster0052008-12-22

Nooooooooo! not a clamshell (Unless it's the blueberry one!)

puffyfluff (author)2008-08-13

Nice. Looks great.

crestind (author)2007-10-13

Yours looks very nice, but where is the power brick? The problem with the laptop I'm planning to use is that the power brick is less than a foot away from where it plugs into the laptop, so hanging it on a wall seems impossible for mine :(

puffyfluff (author)crestind2008-08-13

You could always extend the power cord.

crestind (author)crestind2007-10-13

And if you wanted to change the images and such, this would require removal from case to attach mice and such?

cotton (author)2008-02-27

your laptop smoked because theres is bad ventilation they holes need to be bigger

Invisible Kid (author)2007-12-15

I have an idea... Why don't you make this digital painting, a complete media center, by adding a connection to your LAN, and using ssh you could control the frame remotely and also play some videos or music on the frame. =)

...or you could upload and download some files using SFTP

nonbrewer (author)2007-12-12

wireless keyboard and mouse usb adapter and you can still use it as a computer.

mawalien (author)2007-09-04

Great idea there. I'm working on one of these for my in-laws. Do you know of a Live-CD (Any 'Nix flavour, really) that could be set up to boot up the laptop, and slideshow pics that are burnt on the CD? That way, all they need to do is get an "Update" cd from me with new pics, pop it into the fram, and press power button. Cheers!

BluePlanet (author)2007-07-02

Great Idea for recycling those old laptops! However if you want to make it slimmer ( and you are REALLY good with computers ) you can remove all of the unnessesary hardware and the case from the laptop. When I did this I took out the keyboard, CD drive, and ALL of the casing from the monitor and the computer, oh and and the fans. I then heatshrinked the area where the monitor back would be touching the exposed parts of the circut board. I hand built the frame for it with stereo speakers so I could play sound clips and movie files over my wireless network. I vented the back and sides of my frame and mounted a whisper fan with a heat sensor over the CPU as well as a flat heatsink. I also made holes in the bottom of the frame so I could plug in USB keyboards and etc. So far The fan seems to be keeping the thing cool, and it seems to work, BUT Whatever you do DONT let anything touch what it shouldn't touch, and if you cant find a heat sensitive fan, DONT remove the original fans because they change speed depending on the temperature of the CPU.

BamfBacon187 (author)2007-04-08

Is there to do this if you only have a screen? Could i hook up a digital camera and display it on the screen?

GunBlade (author)2006-08-08

This is by far the best idea I ever got for my very very old Pentium 133mhz IBM laptop. Thank you!

erazar (author)2006-06-02

Is it possible to cut the wires that goes from the base to the monitor, and make them a bit longer? or would this weaken the signal to much?. would like to "hide" the base in a cabinet and make a slim frame hanging at the wall.

taylorlightfoot (author)erazar2006-07-02

It is not a good idea to cut the wires since each of the small wires are really coaxial wires, meaning each wire is really 2 wires (consisting of two concentric conductors separated by an insulator.)

benster3332 (author)2006-06-16

If you need pictures, i can sent some to you. I just don't know if it is possible.

vivacharlietuna (author)2006-06-09

Very cool! These look really beautiful. I've made a similar one, but with a much older laptop. Yours are much slimmer. I've added this page to my digital picture frame resource site. I think it will really help people out.

eyaldtz (author)2006-05-02

somthing is wrong with my screen. As if I disconnected something ( which I didn't) I have Toshiba AS45. The computer comes up and the screen comes "clear". Any suggestion ?

led555 (author)2006-04-27

great project! I made one of my own a while back... I also suggest using a WiFi card to transfer pictures. This project can definatelly save you a lot of money... a digital picture frame like this could go for as much as $800!

drware (author)2006-04-24

Well you got me inspired to do my own write up. I now have two digital picture frames made from old fujitsu laptops. Main difference with my set up is that the frames sync with a central Linux server running SAMBA.

s300pmu1 (author)2006-04-18

For non-mac projects, a neat utility called RM Clock can be used to undervolt the processor (Intel ior AMD). If you are a geek, it should be clear to you that this reduces power consumption and hence minimizes heating; if you are not a geek, or at least a semi-geek, don't try it - the utility has no user manual and you have to use some common sense and browse through their forum to get an idea how to set it up and running... A search in google using the "RM Clock" search string should bring it up. BTW, this utility might be also of use for Intel/AMD based notebooks including CoreDuo. I personally use it on my Pentium M and I am pretty satisfied with the power savings it provides.

s300pmu1 (author)2006-04-18

For non-mac projects, a neat utility called RM Clock can be used to undervolt the processor (Intel ior AMD). If you are a geek, it should be clear to you that this reduces power consumption and hence minimizes heating; if you are not a geek, or at least a semi-geek, don't try it - the utility has no user manual and you have to use some common sense and browse through their forum to get an idea how to set it up and running... A search in google using the "RM Clock" search string should bring it up. BTW, this utility might be also of use for Intel/AMD based notebooks including CoreDuo. I personally use it on my Pentium M and I am pretty satisfied with the power savings it provides.

phatatude (author)2006-04-17

I did a power outlet right behind it into the wall. I figure if its ever moved, I can hang a picture to cover it. I will take pictures of mine and post a link. I also kept my battery in because on some machines you can have pram issues without it. I'll try to post pretty soon.

phatatude (author)2006-04-14

Pletty Cool, I designed a high end enclosure for mine that I may adapt for other style laptops and sell them. I may post my frame made with an 800 tibook. I have NO cords running from mine... Its wireless and alos runs on bluetooth key/mouse...

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