Introduction: Laptop to Desktop Conversion

Picture of Laptop to Desktop Conversion

          In this instructable, you will learn how to transform an old, broken laptop into a nice desktop. This project involves a total rework of the computer case. With this mod, you can give new life to an old laptop.In order to do this, you do not need any advanced craftmanship or tools (but if you have them, they will come handy).

Background: a friend of mine gave me a laptop for free. It had a totally broken case (hinges and all) and a dead battery. So i said... what is this useful for? A desktop, of course.

PS. This would look great wall mounted. It can also be made into a tablet (although rather heavy) by adding a commonly available touchscreen kit.

PSS. I'll add more pictures this week.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

To accomplish the mod, you will need several materials and tools. The materials are:
          -Enough acrylic to cut three scree-sized panels (varies on laptop size and craftsmanship--read below)
          -Four screws at least the size of the expected thickness (depending on laptop, see next steps)
          -Eight nuts for the above screws; four of them normal and the other four locknuts.
          -Enough screws to secure the motherboard; depends on laptop.
          -Spacers (the screws used to secure the motherboard must fit in the, the size depends on the motherboard.
          -A pushbutton (the new on-off switch)
          -About three feet of wire.
          -The most important material: a laptop.
          -A drill
          -A hacksaw
          -Soldering Iron
          -Elbow grease

Step 2: Dissasembly

Picture of Dissasembly

        Disassemble the laptop. Each laptop is different, so I cannot provide specific details. From my experience, there is almost always a screw under the keyboard that prevents you from separating both halves. At the end, you want to end with the screen, the motherboard, and things such as the hard drive and the ram. The touchpad, keyboard, and webcam will not be installed, these will be external. (Common USB keyboard)

Step 3: Front Face

Picture of Front Face

       Measure the screen and cut an acrylic pane larger than the screen's border. The exact amount you must leave to each side depends solely on your craftsmanship. The better you are, the less margin you will need. (Bear in mind that there must be a margin in both sides, so the final size would be the screen size plus two times the margin)

       If you are like me (aka bad), leave a wide margin, around an inch to each side of the screen. This gives you a large margin in case you need to drill something again. This large sheet will be the front cover.

       Then, cut some strips such that they overlap the bigger cover on the margin. This means that if you left a 1 inch border, you must cut four 1-inch thick strips and place them along the corner. The void in the center is the place where the screen will be, the strips will maintain the screen centered.

       Drill four holes, one in each corner of the cover and their corresponding strip,  and insert the 4 main screws. Do not insert any nut in these screws yet.

Step 4: Middle Cover

Picture of Middle Cover

       Cut another acrylic sheet, the same size as the one that corresponds to the main cover (which is the screen size + your selected margin) drill four holes at the exact same location and make sure the screws go  through.

    Make a slot for the screen's cable. to do this, drill four consecutive holes using the drill, and then file out the irregularities. Insert this cover on top of the screen, which should aready be residing in the front cover between the strips.

      This is similar to a sandwich. At this point, you can insert the normal nuts into the screws.

Step 5: Back Plate

Picture of Back Plate

        Now, we are going to make the back cover. First, cut an acrylic plate the same size as the front cover and middle cover. Drill the same four holes you have done with the previous layers. Then, place the motherboard over the middle cover in a way you can connect the video cable to the motherboard; the side that faced up in the original laptop (keyboard side) will most likely be facing down, towards the screen. Connect the cable from the screen to the motherboard and position the motherboard in a way such that the connectors (USB, ethernet, etc) just at the border of the sides of the acrylic.
       Then, position the backplate over the motherboard and mark in the acrylic the positions where the motherboard screw holes are. Take off the back cover and drill the holes. Then, reposition the plate over the motherboard and insert the screw.

     There are many screw holes in the motherboard, but if you have a bad craftmanship, you can have the consolation that you only need to line up three holes (of the eight or more that the motherboard has). Use the spacers to keep the motherboard level with the middle acrylic layer. The spacers must be present both below and above the motherboard Use the smallest spacers that can be used while still keeping everything level.

Step 6: Fan Holes

Picture of Fan Holes

First, print a fan hole template. I used this one , resize it to your laptop's fan size.  In my case, the fan was 4cm tall and 4cm wide. 

Place the pattern over the fan and place lots of transparent tape over it, so that when you drill through it, the pattern does not move.

Now, remove the backplate from the rest of the assembly, place it on  bench and drill the fan holes with the largest bit that you can comfortably use without risking breaking the pattern and/or the acrylic.

Step 7: Power Button

Picture of Power Button

       Most likely, you will have to relocate the power button.  To do this, first determine where the power button was originally located. Then, solder a pair of wires to this button.

       After this, solder the other ends of the same wire into the pushbutton that will act as a replacement, and then stick it through a hole drilled in the acrylic. The exact dimensions of the hole will varie on the button you choose to employ in your laptop (or desktop, as you want to look at it.

Step 8: Finish

Picture of Finish

       Put all the acrylic and computer pieces together in their respective order. The top layer must be between a normal nut and a locknut . This applies only the screws at the four corners. I know my explanation is a bit unclear, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
Now you have a nice desktop (or tablet with a touchscreen kit), sit back and enjoy.


TmA5 (author)2017-02-02

is it possible to convert the laptop to desktop even if the charging ic is dead?

ihazshuvel (author)2016-12-16

I wonder if this will fit inside an old xbox gutted case

MicaM2 (author)2016-04-13

awesome. im planning to do this to my old one but im going to put the fans from my cooling pad (which is connected via usb) so that's what im tryin to figure im gonna do that

MelvinD8 (author)2016-02-14

I have the same laptop.

AitbekM (author)2015-08-25

Hi. This may be too late, but still. I want to do almost the same thing as yours, however I think laptop cooling system wouldnt be enough. So the question is can I mount a PC cooler onto laptop motherboard?

thylvin (author)AitbekM2015-12-11

I don't think it should be a problem. Keep the original Laptop heat sink, then use thermal paste on top of that to attach a normal heat sink and fan how you going to attach it without the laptop motherboard making provisions for it, you have to workout yourself. But the thinness will greatly increase.

You can of couse do what I did. I got hold of several old laptops in a junkyard, removed the head sinks and see which would fit nicely with the original heat sink. Then I clamped the two together and attached that to the board. This means I have twice the amount of heat sinks and twice the amount of fans. (I connected the wiring of the second fan to the first fan's wiring.

smadsen1 (author)AitbekM2015-10-26

What he said :D

Sir_Gen (author)2015-06-02

Hi, great instructable. I have a problem though and was wondering if you could help. I have the mother board, LCD screen, hard drive, charger and have made a case for it. It lights up, the fan spins but theres no picture coming up lights stay steady. I've tried plugging it into another screen and there is still no picture. Is it buggered or something else?

aravindk4 (author)Sir_Gen2015-06-17

The gpu or graphics processing unit is damaged...You can fix it by using reflow ..After reflow dont use it for heavy hd gaming

Q-ro (author)2011-06-23

Ok, this question may sound idiotic, but i really feel like i missed something, ¿how did you cut the acrylic?¿did you use a laser cutter or was it with a saw? (again, sorry if it seems idiotic)

JakeD5 (author)Q-ro2015-05-07

He probably scored and snapped it; that's what I'd do

Skyriam (author)2011-06-09

Congrats on your project mate. Just one thing, how did you get pass the dead-battery issue? I have an old laptop with broken lcd and dead battery but I dont wanna spend like $150 in fixing it, how can one get pass the battery issue? Thanks!

Presentteck (author)Skyriam2011-06-09

if it's gonna be a desktop you just plug it into the charger and it'll run no problem.

as for the broken screen if it has a screen output, witch almost all laptops do,
(i mean even the $150 ones) you can just plug a screen into it. Voila!

Skyriam (author)Presentteck2011-06-10

No problem with the LCD, it does have an output, but without battery the laptop won't run. And I dont mean dead as in "it wont charge anymore" or "will only last 5 minutes", I mean dead as in DEAD, no charge, no power up, no nothing. What to do?

jjmcgaffey (author)Skyriam2011-06-11

Unfortunately some laptops route the power through the battery - so dead battery means no power reaches the power supply. Fixing this requires a bunch of electrical work, adjusting where the power comes in and goes out - I've run afoul of this before, and given up in disgust (I'm no electrician!). The easiest way is to try again with a different laptop; or buy (or find) a battery, even one that won't hold a charge for more than a minute (anyone around you have a laptop the same brand?). Or find someone with electrical and computer skills and get them to reroute the power. No easy solution...

Presentteck (author)jjmcgaffey2011-06-11

what if you opened the battery case and shorted the positive and negative leads? then the power would get through right? put it back together and try. whats the worst that could happen? it's already useless

danprima (author)Presentteck2015-02-09

lol true i did that on my old one and it worked!! i would try....hahaha 3 years later

Presentteck (author)Skyriam2011-06-10

i ment leave the charger in at all times, won't that work?

if that doesnt work you could tear all the batteries out of the pack and solder some wires into the pack and plug a power supply into that.

Michael Chen (author)Presentteck2011-06-13

With most laptops, it should work. Shorting the batteries wont do it, although cutting off the cells might do the trick.

Skyriam (author)Michael Chen2011-06-13

So bottom line, crack open the battery, remove the cells and just short the + and - of both the batt and the power cord? Bypassing everything else... right? Thanks for your tips!

Presentteck (author)Michael Chen2011-06-13

ahh... live and learn :D

techboy411 (author)2012-11-13


ibuycheaprice (author)2012-02-29

I'd like to do this with my laptop largely because of the cooling benefits of the open case. Do you think it would be worth it? Also my laptop already has a touch screen so should I cut a hole out of the front acrylic panel to expose it?

It's not really worth it if the only problem is cooling. This one had its case broken at multiple points as well. I'd say the only thing you need to do is to open it up, remove the fan, and clean the heat sink underneath if you have overheating issues.

Most likely the heat sink will be clogged with dust. (At least mine was)

I recently cleaned the fan and heat sink and replaced the thermal paste on the cpu and it still runs at dangerously high temperatures so I'm willing to try anything. Does your converted laptop run noticeably cooler than most laptops?

Cant compare, as it was originally broken when given to me; no reference point. Nevertheless, i'd say something else is wrong and opening up will be useless if you dont identify the problem.

-Has it always been this hot? (since bought/or is it recent)
-Is it over clocked in any way?
-Is the laptop constantly processing stuff (check processor usage in task manager)

hcaz-301 (author)2011-12-06

Would be good, and if you made a Screen about the same size in the same way it could be a great Dual screen

tinmankingkinney (author)2011-08-28

This has truly inspired me. My broken laptop will now become the precursor to my ultimate P.C. Thanks for the instructable!

bengus (author)2011-06-06

Is there any problem deriving by the heat produced by the cpu and the low distance with the lcd?
anyway..NICE WORK ^^

Alderin (author)bengus2011-06-09

With the sides open I'm pretty sure this will run much cooler than it did in it's original case. Standing as a monitor the fan holes won't get blocked by a lap, and the hot "exhaust" will exit out the top easily from all components, not just the CPU fan.

I have a laptop in a very similar condition (broken hinge), but I'm thinking carputer more than desktop. :-)

Michael Chen (author)Alderin2011-07-11

Make it an instructable

Michael Chen (author)2011-07-11

Anything works. In my case, I used a hacksaw. Nevertheless, if you have something better, by all means, go ahead.

Viktorin (author)2011-07-09


doomday341 (author)2011-06-27

love it, i got afew broken laptop's i could do this with

onemoroni1 (author)2011-06-09

This is a good use for a damaged laptop. My wife dropped hers a year ago on the corner and the hinge has gradually deteriorated to where you can't close it. A couple more pics would be helpful. For those who are more skillful the acrylic encasement has lots of possibilities. Did you eliminate the battery? Talk about the power connection more. Thanks!

Michael Chen (author)onemoroni12011-06-13

I eliminated the battery, but the laptop works as long as it is connected to the charger. I connected it just as you would connect any charger to a laptop, through the default port. Nothing fancy.

pkmaster109 (author)2011-06-11

Hey man i really just gotta know. What is that background in the first image that says Back | Track? That looks sweet. Let me know thanks!

dude300 (author)pkmaster1092011-06-12

back track is a linux operating system, this is the default wallpaper i think,

pkmaster109 (author)dude3002011-06-13

thanks man! Cool build by the way. I am always interested in seeing how people use plexi for almost everything these days.

Windows Guru (author)2011-06-10

It's also nice to see someone else uses BackTrack 3/4/5.

projectbronco (author)2011-06-10

Great idea, and I love the clear acrylic! If you wanted to keep the laptop functionality, you could also buy the same model lappy on ebay with a good case, but broken innards. Then just swap the like parts.

Fred82664 (author)2011-06-09

looks good love the Linux Distro. lot of cool tools in Backtrack

ortega805 (author)2011-06-09

I agree with @onemoroni. its a really great idea, but with a bit more pictures and instructions, it'll be awesome

WhyIsThisOpen (author)2011-06-09

Backtrack on a stationary computer? That sounds like a recipe for trouble.

cerebender (author)2011-06-07

You might recommend cutting all three panels at once (unless they get cut from a single large sheet). Once they are cut to equal size, clamp them together and drill the screw/bolt holes through all three at the same time to make sure they all line up nice. Oh, and don't forget to tell people to peel off the protective plastic wrap stuff before final assembly. I guarantee you somebody might not do that (d'oh!). I'm assuming other materials can be used instead of acrylic panels but I'm drawing a blank outside of metal sheets- which might not be so great or easy to work with without the right tools. Any suggestions? I'm also wondering if I have any scrap/leftover housings (old toys, boxes, etc.) that might work but I don't know if they'd add too much weight or bulk to the project. Great work! (and please recycle the scrap from the laptop, everyone!)

Michael Chen (author)cerebender2011-06-07

In my case, they were all cut from one single sheet. As you said, it is recommendable to drill the all at once, but I kinda improvised the laptop as I went, hence the steps aren't exactly the easiest way, but nice suggestion. I'll update soon.

TTAMREKRAP (author)2011-06-07

Nice intractable, the only things that would make it better is to add more pictures and fix a couple of spelling mistakes. other than that, very good, 5*

markyb86 (author)2011-06-06

How did you get around the VGA out option? or does that laptop automatically switch to the output if it is present?

markyb86 (author)markyb862011-06-06

nevermind, I didn't think the screen worked..

Michael Chen (author)markyb862011-06-06

Had a broken backlight cable due to the broken hinge, but once fixed it was up and running.

About This Instructable




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