Introduction: Secured MacBook Air With Portable External Monitor

Picture of Secured MacBook Air With Portable External Monitor


Splitting my time between the lab on campus, the office, and home left me wanting to have one consistent development setup so that I could reduce my productivity volatility.


  1. Dual Monitor - Having been spoiled with multiple monitors for too long, I am not going back.
  2. Light and Portable - The whole setup needs minimal assembly and be able to fit in my backpack.
  3. Secure - There have been a number of laptop theft notices on campus in recent months. While theft is not totally preventable, a simple lock should reduce this risk to acceptable levels. However, the MacBook Air does not have the standard Kensington Security Slot, so I will need an alternate means of securing the setup.

Outcome Features

  • Vertically Stacked Dual Monitors
    • The ASUS HD Portable was almost exactly what I was looking for and gets you 90% of the way there. However, since it must be put to one side of the laptop or the other, I never seemed fully utilize its capacity. This was further compounded by its lower resolution relative to the Air.
    • Raising the monitor to eye level shifted it's use to almost 50%.
  • Non-Invasive Theft Deterrence
    • Most Macbook Air lock systems either require buying an expensive special case, a large mount, or installing a special clip that has a chance of scratching the laptop.
    • While the Snake Laptop Lock is slightly bulky and will prevent the laptop lid from being closed while engaged, it is well engineered and gave me a solid base upon which to mount the monitor. In addition, it also allowed me to use whatever case I wanted.
  • Minimal Size and Setup
    • The only real additional components necessary to setup the monitor are the two aluminum rods since all of the brackets are epoxied.
  • Balanced
    • The monitor is placed just far enough forward to put its center of gravity at a point to where the setup can stand on its own without tipping.

Step 1: Materials

Step 2: 3D Printing

Picture of 3D Printing

3D printing was amazingly inexpensive, quick, and convenient.

  • The original STL files for the project are available on github.
  • I used 123D Design, which is a free (i.e. basic) designer made by Autodesk. It worked well enough, but the native Mac app was a little buggy, so I would suggest checking out some of the standard modelers like 3dtin, Sketchup, or OpenSCAD.
  • Initial iterations of the brackets did not include the extended wings, but it became very apparent that I was going to need to increase the surface area in order to get a firm bond.
  • The print material is PLA and was produced on a MakerGear M2 (medium resolution).
  • The 3D Hub I chose had everything printed and ready for pickup in 36 hours.

Step 3: Asus Bracket Mounting

Picture of Asus Bracket Mounting
  • Trace out the areas where the brackets will be mounted.
    • As seen from the picture above, this will be about 5mm from the side and 40mm from the top of each corner.
  • The finish on the back of the monitor is pretty slick, so I used a fine grit sand paper to prep the area before applying the epoxy.
  • A little epoxy goes a long way, so try to apply as thin a layer as possible to prevent overflow.
  • Let it cure for 24 hours.
  • The brackets add a little bit of bulk to the original case, but the monitor still fits securely.
  • The small side bracket and cable is really only designed to prevent walk-by theft, but it is better than nothing.

Step 4: Snake Bracket Mounting

Picture of Snake Bracket Mounting

  • Mounting the snake brackets is relatively straightforward.
    • As seen from the pictures, the brackets are fixed 40mm in from the ends of the mount.
    • Remember to clean the area before applying the epoxy.
    • Let it cure for 24 hours.

Step 5: Aluminum Rods

Picture of Aluminum Rods

  • The original rod from Home Depot was 36 in. and the final length I went with was 17 in.
    • This length provides just enough clearance for the webcam to still be visible while keeping the center of gravity low.
  • Getting the lengths to be equal is much easier if you first cut 2 in. off the 36 in. bar and then cut that in half. Even a small difference in the lengths will cause a slight tilt of the monitor.


tomatoskins (author)2015-02-24

This is a great idea! 2nd monitors are the best!

About This Instructable




More by wangles:Secured MacBook Air with Portable External Monitor
Add instructable to: