Introduction: Transform an Old Laptop Into a MP3 Player

Picture of Transform an Old Laptop Into a MP3 Player

These instructions (my first, so be nice) show you how I transformed an old laptop with a broken screen (white strips on the screen) into a design MP3 player.

Step 1: Opening the Laptop

Picture of Opening the Laptop

The first thing you'll need is a laptop.
I used an old 700MHz laptop with a color screen. The screen has 2 large white bands because some connections are broken. For this reason, I decided to hide these bands behind a painted glass. You will see that later.
Open the computer and remove as many pieces as you can. Often test the system to be sure that the last device you removed was not too important...
/!\ Do never turn your computer on without the fan over the CPU, I burned the last project I tested like that...
The laptop in pieces:

Step 2: Setup the Computer and Test the Skin

Picture of Setup the Computer and Test the Skin

The easiest way to setup your laptop is to make it before dismantling it. You will need a keyboard, the screen connected... make sure your soundcard, CD player, network is configured.

Step 3: Re-wiring the Computer

Picture of Re-wiring the Computer

Modify the wiring: I plugged a USB cable to hide the plug behind the box.
Here is a view of the interior of the box. I kept the wifi adaptor to be able to play songs over the network.

Step 4: Wiring the Command

Picture of Wiring the Command

I plug a modified keyboard into the keyboard input. I will (it's not finished) connect 5 buttons to play, stop, control the songs.

Step 5: Painting the Frame

Picture of Painting the Frame

Buy a glass frame and paint one side with the color of your choice (for me black). I painted a frame around the glass to hide the double face tape I sticked from behind.

Step 6: Modifing the Screen

Picture of Modifing the Screen

Remove the screen from the box and find a way to make the glass really attached to the LCD. The two broken strips of the screen are hidden by the paint.

Step 7: The LCD Panel Behing the Glass

Picture of The LCD Panel Behing the Glass

Once taped to the glass, we cannot see the bands anymore...

Step 8: Modifing the Box

Picture of Modifing the Box

The most difficult part of the project is to have the screen + frame attached to the rest of the box. I cut a plate of metal (cover of a VCR) and made hole to let the cable pass through. Connect the screen

Step 9: That's It...

Picture of That's It...

Once you tested your connection, hang your creation, turn it on and enjoy your music. I used windows XP. I designed a small interface that fits to the reaming size of the screen. I plug a wireless mouse to remote control the playing.
I can run visualization plug-ins.
Let me know about your ideas, comments to improve it...


Guitours (author)2014-10-03


I'm about to complete a similar project from an old eepc (+ touchscreen from ebay). I still have to find a nice box to host it (an old vintage radio would be nice) but the main point is I'm still not decided regarding the best OS.

I tried xbmc (via openElec or android-x86), but FM usb key are not supported (yet).

If you have any suggestions for something running under linux and handling touchscreen.. ( I'd rather not develop a music player UI from scratch :p )

Idea for others: An HDD + synchronization of the music from a NAS (if you have one) via a cron job, would allow to be always up to date and still working offline.

muddog15 (author)2014-01-21

I would leave the laptop whole and hack it.

martiro7 (author)2012-08-31

I would be interested in how you skinned WMP to get the cool look!

DIY Dave (author)2011-11-27

Great job! I may have missed something, but how did you get the screen to work vertically instead of horizontally?

dangerD (author)DIY Dave2012-01-26

you change it in the control panel under screen resolution.

dfalk (author)2012-01-25

It's cool good job :).

dpdonohue (author)2008-11-08

very cool, indeed! I was thinking you could maybe buy a wireless remote like for media enter, And i think using Linux/UNIX would allow you to have more flexibility over the user interface.. creating your own GUI for damn small Linux would be awesome.. or using XPe (Windows XP Embedded) for embedded devices to run your MP3 player. and btw i think its more of a media center than a MP3 player! Awesome Idea... Thanks, Lol

junits15 (author)dpdonohue2010-02-26

Whos to say one couldn't make theirmown gui for windows, or heck even mac osx?

There are a ton of themes for any Windows version supporting it, and that was Windows 3.1. Even Windows 8 will get that.

my photo (author)2011-11-13

i have to do that with my moms old laptop!!!

jkoe52 (author)2010-09-18

maybe you could put a touch screen over the original and make it like a more powerful ipad.

koopatroopa (author)jkoe522011-09-30

You mean a less powerful iPad

Depending on the iPad version. 700 MHz is not an uncommon tablet processing speed, plus, this computer may or may not have more RAM. Running Linux will make it faster and add more GUI options.

olliedent (author)2011-10-03

i think it would be nice if the screen sat on top of the computer to make something more like a tablet. fantastic toy !

zapper067 (author)2011-08-05

You can add internet explorer and add some wireless network hardwares and go to surf the web.

DarkDelorean (author)zapper0672011-10-01

And then he could hinge a laptop keyboard to it to make typing easier. Then extend the screen to match the keyboard! Wait.. no, this isn't right. lol

profpat (author)2011-09-30

nice idea!

dpdonohue (author)2008-11-09

your all talking rubbish a bit now, lol! i love this idea & i intend to do so with a laptop with a complete working screen, and i think this is more of a media center than anything else (btw the giant iPod idea was a load of sh*t) im gna use Windows XP Embedded (XPe) on it and im going to install a TV Tuner Card so it can function as a complete media center to hang on the wall in my room at uni.. to make flat m8s jelous! lol, another gr8 thing about it is its got battery backup for when the electricity goes!

Skor459 (author)2008-08-31

This is pretty much an idea I had thought up of making a huge ipod touch/iphone thing with a touchscreen. I have an old 12.1" compaq presario 1900-XL160 which I plan on converting to a touch-panel thing. My question is what you used for an enclosure, aside from your glass panel on the front. I've been looking up metal enclosures on google for a while, but I may need to go for some custom built stuff from a metal shop. Did you just use your laptop's case or what?

gomalopa (author)2008-06-28

Why don´t use GEEXBOX??, its pretty cool. There are several linux solutions for this issue. Saludos!!!

menace (author)2008-04-27

I don't really get this project because this mp3 player is too big to be portable so why not just use windows media player on the laptop?

saites2001 (author)2007-08-09

Nicely done. I agree with the iPod comment, though only for its irony (I'm against iPod's)

i was once too, but alas, my little brother got one, and they're just so freakin easy to use!

Yeah, but so are a ton of other great MP3 players. Many are cheaper, offer more features, and don't encourage a lock into iTunes. I'm not saying that they're terrible, but there are other reasons I don't really like Apple. But even despite that, the main reason I say that is because people just assume that they're great MP3 players because everyone has one.

the thing that turned me to apple was my crappy experience with iriver coupled with the sheer lack of annoying features the ipod had (compared to my out of date mp3 player). no firmware load times at every startup, no faulty jacks, and no cheap software. simply put, the click wheel is super nice and the ease of use is unparalleled.

Yerboogieman (author)saites20012008-04-01

i fix them at school for money, those people pay pretty good for a broken cable.."yeah i had to replace the hard drive and the rotator splint got caught up with the micro cooling valve" lmao

Yerboogieman (author)saites20012007-08-15

they may not be the best but they do look nice i like the touch wheel but thats it

Yerboogieman (author)2008-04-01

wow a 700 with windows XP, my old one crashed because of the iloveu virus and some trojan, it sucked, windows 98 Plus, although it did work better than windows ME, like windows 98 on steroids, tried to work harder and harder and harder and kept crapping out

jongscx (author)2007-08-13

Does anyone know of a way to have windows actually SCALE so that it doesn't display on the broken area? So that even though you are masking half of it, none of your icons will ever fall into the broken part, your task-bar will be at the "bottom" of the screen, etc.

blindskull13 (author)jongscx2008-02-11

comon guys your over thinking, just resize the resolution of the screen with the buttons on the keyboard(if its a laptop) or the controls on a computer monitor. or just change it by going to the desktop right clicking and changing the settings in properties.

jongscx (author)blindskull132008-02-11

I have yet to find a laptop that has hardwired buttons that will directly control the screen resolution to exact custom resolutons. Right-clicking will indeed change the resolution, but they will be in a 3:4 or 16:9 ratio... That is how the manufacturer wrote the device drivers to work. None of them really assumed you'd try to do something like this when your screen broke. (Plus, it's be liability hell if you broke your monitor with a tool that they gave you...) What we need is a custom driver that will let the video card or chip display at odd resolutions. Trust us, if it were this simple, we'd have figured it out already.

PKM (author)jongscx2008-03-14

If it wasn't such an old machine, you could run Windows in a windowed virtual machine with VMWare or similar, and set the resolution to less than your screen resolution, but that's quite an involved solution...

sanity (author)jongscx2007-08-18

There is a way, you know the usable area of the desktop (client area) is reduced if you scale the taskbar and add additional bars to the other sides of the screen. These additional bars will reduce the client area and thus if you maximize the application it will only use the masked area of the desktop. The only disadvantage is that games in particular that do not have a windowed option (a lot actually do if you read into the command line options have an option to run it on the desktop) may not be ok - but alot will be! So its all good!

jongscx (author)sanity2007-08-18

Oooh oooh ooh... that crazy idea of yours works. Only I gripe I have is that the start menu doesn't show up still, but it works. Mini-instructable: This is for XP 1)Move the Start-menu taskbar to where you can see most of it on your broken screen. 2)Click and drag any folder on the desktop to an edge on the screen. It can be My Documents, or even an empty folder. Windows will make a toolbar for that folder, so that all the contents will be shown. 3)Right click on the toolbar and make sure that "always on top" is checked. 4)Repeat for every side that you want to scale.

tonypascal (author)jongscx2007-08-14

I am insterested too, for the moment, when I need to make modifications, I have to rotate the screen 180° to see the task bar... not very easy too use...

jongscx (author)tonypascal2007-08-16

what really ticks me off is the old, really old, monitors had dials that you could do that with... I remember one that could actually go to 1/4th of the whole screen...

Zajax (author)2008-03-05

how do you do that??

tonypascal (author)Zajax2008-03-06

do what ?

Zajax (author)tonypascal2008-03-07

oh I apologize. I was wondering how you connected the screen, thinking you used some strange internal connection, but then I looked at the picture and realized you connected it using the external monitor. my mistake

tonypascal (author)Zajax2008-03-09

To be precise, this is just the winamp skin running on another computer during testing, but, I could plug the laptop on the external screen

hcold (author)2007-11-12

There's also a program called "SpeakMedia" which plays music in WMP 11 (a bit of a downside), but it works on voice command, so all you need is the program, WMP 11, Windows XP/Vista and a microphone and don't need a mouse. The downside is that it costs money, I'm sure you could find someone that wrote a similiar program for Winamp or something.

wolfy02 (author)2007-10-28

thats totally awesome! It looks like a giant Ipod. Maybe you could move the touchpad somehow to the front and use that as your control. for that though you'd need linux and a bit of know-how with firmware hacking.

ScienceWiz (author)2007-08-10

Great Instructable, but "Broken" has no "c" Kudos

gooddiehl (author)ScienceWiz2007-08-21

He said he was French... So play nice children.

PCvsMac (author)2007-08-19

Fantastic! Here is an idea though: (Although might be unrelative): If you can try and scale down what you see on screen. (Or if it already does that). (I.e. It might be something you are running on full screen, make it smaller so that it only covers, let's say, 1/8th of the screen now). Find a way to slice it down to size without breaking it. Now you are left with a small monitor. Rewire the monitor so that it is now works as an ordinary monitor, but on the smaller side. Now fit into a cigar tin or an Altoids tin, poke a hole through it. You now should have some bare wire. Attach the part that comes on ordianry monitors (scavenge from your old one) and connect to your computer. ***Not guarented to work Somebody let me know if this could work. Phew! I'm going to get a biscuit...

esotericguy (author)2007-08-18

Instead of using that pivaot software (TRIALWARE!)
i HIGHLY recomend iRotate.
it works on any version of windows too! =] i have it running on my windows vista as i type.

esotericguy (author)esotericguy2007-08-18

oh, and it's FREE as in beer.

heyzuphowsitgoin (author)2007-08-17

great idea! isnt it a bit big to fit in your pocket tho? haha

robog2 (author)2007-08-14

Would you mind providing the winamp skin? Thanks.

Yerboogieman (author)robog22007-08-15

winamp lmfao

About This Instructable




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