Introduction: MacBook/iMac Rack Hack

Picture of MacBook/iMac Rack Hack

How to get all the benefits of an iMac/All-in-one PC from your Macbook/laptop without sacrificing portability or desktop space.

I basically modified a wire mesh office file holder to mount on back of a 22in. LCD to hold my Macbook for desktop use, conveniently hiding the computer while providing easy port access.

You will need:
- a laptop
- an LCD monitor
- external keyboard and mouse

- an office file rack/holder
- 2-4 screws with washers
- pliers, perhaps a metal file
- foam (optional)


Step 1: Select an LCD

Picture of Select an LCD

You need an LCD that is bigger than the laptop you want to use and that has the mounting holes available on the back. Some of Acer and Dell's models mount their stands in these holes. This won't work for my design.

I chose the Asus VK22H (about $200 from There are lots of LCD's that work for this and and only a few won't. The easiest method is to look at the pics on Newegg or Amazon to confirm available screw holes and room above the stand.

Step 2: Select a File Rack; Hack It!

Picture of Select a File Rack; Hack It!

There are lots of these at your local office store. I like the steel mesh ones because they are strong and leave lots of room for ventilation which will be an issue when running your laptop with the lid down behind your LCD. That said, they area a bit more expensive than other plastic options. This one was about $17.

In my zeal to mod the rack I just pulled off one whole side (making sure it corresponded with the port side on my macbook). In retrospect it would have been better for the structural integrity of the rack to clip out the mesh. That said, this method still works fine.

A little file work smoothes out the spots where the welds tore.

Step 3: Mount the Rack

Picture of Mount the Rack

First you'll need to make some mounting holes. I used needle nose pliers to twist a hold in the mesh and bent back loose ends. These holes should correspond to the holes in the back of the monitor. I used small magnets to mark where the holes should go.

I chose to only use the top two screws to mount it and it works fine. If you want you can mount it using all four, though the bottom two screws are harder to reach. Selecting the screws can be tricky. You need them to be only slightly longer than the depth of the hole. The washers are a must to hold the rack securely.

My Asus didn't come with screws so I took one out of another LCD i had to the hardware store and matched it, buying four of the most likely lengths to work. Sadly, I didn't take note of the size. Screws are cheap so trial and error isn't too hard.

The foam pieces are optional. I've since taken the top one off as it seemed to interfere with cooling. The bottom piece is helpful as it protects against scratching the face mostly likely to take the most wear.

Step 4: Insert Laptop: Enjoy!

Picture of Insert Laptop: Enjoy!

Here's the finished product: desktop functionality when you're at home and easy portability when you need to go.

I angled the foam to pitch the laptop forward, however, I've since found that this isn't ideal for dissipating heat. If you lean the macbook all the way back but leave an inch or so clearance between it and the wall, it runs cooler than sitting on the desk.

Again, if I had it to do again I would leave the frame on the port side and trim out the mesh. Also the optical drive isn't accessible under this configuration without lifting the macbook up slightly. However, this happens so rarely that it's not been work developing a better design.

Enjoy I'd love to hear/see how you implement/modify this idea.


kurt.haines (author)2010-04-12

 Are you able to provide a profile photo of the your revised laptop position in the stand?

Going to be doing this myself to watch TV in my room using a USB TV Tuner and external speakers and just want to make sure I get the orientation right as the TV Tuner can sometimes make the fans run a bit.

mattlumpkin (author)kurt.haines2010-04-13

 It's basically what you see, only I position it so the bottom leans back agains the steel mesh for maximal heat dissipation.

That said, two years into this setup my fan started to get loud.  I still insist it doesn't run any more than normal, but I did decide to replace the fan with one from ifixit.  No problems since and I'm still using it daily.  Just know your mileage may vary.  Good luck on the TV setup.  I like it.

kurt.haines (author)mattlumpkin2010-04-13

 Awesome.  Thanks for the iFixit idea.  Going to open up the Macbook and checkout the fan situation and give it a clean.  Might as well clean the whole laptop out, I think it needs it!

Will let you know how it goes.

limpport (author)2010-03-14

 So I've figured out that the Macbook HAS to be plugged in for this to work.

I take the battery out when I have it plugged into the monitor, so I have to take a long piece of tape, wrap it once around the power cord near the plug, and tape it plugged in.

limpport (author)2009-12-03

 Nice bookshelf!

Yerboogieman (author)limpport2009-12-13

Shelf? All I see is Books!

Yerboogieman (author)limpport2010-01-10

I know, I was kidding.

abinadab12 (author)2010-01-07

where can i get or how do i look up where to get that mesh file rack. just came from office depot only found a plastic one.

mattlumpkin (author)abinadab122010-01-07

 I think mine came from Office max and was their own proprietary brand. 

Genetastic (author)2009-12-16

I'm not sure where vents are located on an iBook, but when the laptop lid is closed, is heat an issue when running the machine? 

sypage (author)2009-02-26

Clever idea, but just one suggestion: Why couldn't you rotate the laptop 180 degrees in the stand so you could access the optical drive from the top? Seems like that would work with my MacBook Pro, as there are no ports on the rear edge. I'm not sure about the MacBook's port configuration, as I don't have one.

mattlumpkin (author)sypage2009-02-26

Yeah, the ports are all on the left side as pictured, vent on the top, optical drive on the right. I don't use my optical drive much (once a week or so?) so it's not a problem to pull it up. Also, it would be possible to build the rack in such a way as to leave both sides open. But it hasn't been enough of an issue to spur me on to such action.

limpport (author)mattlumpkin2009-12-13

 I was thinking about what sypage said.  If you cut out in the bottom of the basket just enough to access the ports, the optical drive could stick upwards.  This also means that both sides of the rack can stay on, keeping it stronger.

And if your keyboard has quick keys you can set, just make one of them the eject button.   Apple keyboards are basically the exact same as the ones on their laptops, so they have the eject/volume/brightness/etc.

Yerboogieman (author)2009-12-12

Sweet. I just got a new Asus widescreen monitor a few months ago. Good deal.

Solifluktion (author)2009-11-26

Great idea. Gotta try this with my Acer Aspire One (although I still habe a "real" Computer). btw I have the 24inch Version of your Display ;)

bernardomed (author)2009-10-29

Great Idea.

But using Snow Leopard (10.6.1) I had to use InsomniaX to keep my MacBook Pro from sleep.

Man I must get me a 30" monitor. Or at least a 24". :)

gmjhowe (author)2008-10-27

Nice work, though, let me ask, do you just pull out the laptop open it and turn it on normally, or have you found some other way to do it? i want to know, as im thinking of running my laptop on its side, to give me more room!

mattlumpkin (author)gmjhowe2008-10-27

Thanks. You've rightly identified the main problem with this design. I haven't found any alternative method for powering on (though you can shut down in software) with the macbook closed. That said, I usually leave the machine on in sleep mode when not in use and I am in grad school so I take the macbook with me almost every day which gives me an opportunity to power it on. So far it hasn't been too frustrating and sometimes helps create an added incentive NOT to turn the computer on when I don't need to.

flio191 (author)mattlumpkin2009-02-27

Use InsomniaX it keeps your mac on even when it's closed.

fnnw7777 (author)flio1912009-09-13

if you have a wireless keybored or mouse you just move your mouse or randomly type and your macbook should wake up if you have your display is connected

flio191 (author)flio1912009-02-27

The only problem, of course, is that it will heat up your computer because it's designed to dispel heat while open. But if you install something like smcControl or some other fan controlling application, and you run that while running insomniaX, im sure it would be fine. Also attaching the USB fan would be good especially for this.

mattlumpkin (author)flio1912009-02-27

I was concerned about heat and monitored it closely for the first few weeks but it actually runs COOLER than open on a tabletop because of the greater surface area exposed to open air (and steel mesh acts like a big radiator). The monitor really doesn't put out a lot of heat.

flio191 (author)mattlumpkin2009-02-28

oh, cool, good to hear. yeah, that makes sense, especially because some of the heat would be dispersed through the metal basket.

gmjhowe (author)mattlumpkin2008-10-27

haha, i get you with the not turning it on. Well, when i looked into the option previously, there was no solution. I was hoping that you had found a solution! ah well, i will have to give it some more thought! Another idea, it might be worth adding a usb hub and fan to your rig? More usb ports are always good, and the macbooks work a bit faster when cooled externally. Plus with the extra heat being kicked out the back of the monitor!

mattlumpkin (author)gmjhowe2008-10-27

I acutally have a usb hub under the desk in a rack that holds all my wires. I have my keyboard, mouse and a few other peripherals plugged in there that way I have a free usb port easily accesible. I like the fan idea, but I'm a huge fan of how silent the macbook is when doing normal computing tasks (esp. compared to my aging desktop PC across the room). Honestly, it really runs almost as cool as when sitting on the desk when leaned back on the rack, away from the monitor. Both sides are open to air to dissipate heat and the heat from the LCD is minimal.

gmjhowe (author)mattlumpkin2008-10-27

indeed, alot of pc laptops sound like v8 engines compared to the macbook. however, it might be worth looking into some of the 'gaming' pc fans, that are actually very quiet. If and when i take to have the macbook in its vertical position, i intend to rig up at least 1 or two fans.

VanTurenhout (author)2009-02-26

Nice, but how about switching the laptop on? I don't know how it works with an iBook, but with my Lenovo I have to open the lid to switch it on. So I have to take it out, swtich it on and put it back...hmmm

mynameinc (author)VanTurenhout2009-07-29

If you were using Linux (or any *nix) you could, theoretically, go 180 days without shutting down or rebooting. If you want Windows (for what reason, I'll never know), you could take a coat hanger, and bend it properly so a shift of it would depress the power button.

bradmurray (author)2009-04-22

Why wouldn't you just open the laptop and position the basket such that the laptop screen is visible above the monitor? I'm always looking for extra screen space and this seems like the perfect place to put it.

watchurmouthyoungman (author)2009-02-27

what if your laptop is REALLY heavy? and old? likes 5 pounds... wont the monitor tip backwards? :(

apmc5d (author)2009-02-27

How do you get the lap top not to go to sleep when you close it.... even when it is hooked to the VGA cable i can not get my mac to not go into sleep mode?

mattlumpkin (author)apmc5d2009-02-27

Simply plug in a usb cable, wiggle a usb mouse, or hit a key on a usb keyboard and it wakes up the external display but not the macbook display. I like the idea of cutting a slit in the mesh on the optical drive side but I use it so little that I haven't done it. Re the power on problem, on commentor on the lifehacker post mentioned that you can power on and off with the remote. I can't find mine to test it but it sounds like the solution I've been looking for.

podginater (author)2009-02-27

That's Crazy. Great idea. Couldn't you ,if you had the latest macbook, just cut a slim line in the mesh to make the superdrive accesible.

Punkguyta (author)2009-02-27

Yeah? You should see what I did to my ibook :D

mattlumpkin (author)2009-02-26

However, you do make a good point, that each laptop you did this for would have unique port issues and you would have to design or modify the rack accordingly. I do like that I can swap out other laptops and use them just as easily with the setup like I use the macbook. I have an old dell laptop I occasionally use for gaming, for example and it fits right in with no problem.

neuralstatic (author)2009-02-26

if only the MBP had all the ports on one side like that, i'd do it in a minute. a little less elegant if the power is on one side and the monitor cable on the opposite etc.

phant0m_sp00f3ra (author)2009-01-11

Hey mate this a great idea!!! i really gotta do it with a 30" display :P (gotta break into the neighbor)

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Bio: Grad student in theology in Pasadena, CA into photography, tech, music and integrating them all with my studies.
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