Introduction: How to Make a Raspberry Pi Laptop
In this Instructable, I will show you how to make a Raspberry Pi laptop with a touchscreen display. I will have all the programming and step by step instructions to create this easy to use laptop. This tutorial will show you how to download the software (Raspbian Buster) using a very simple program called NOOBS lite. You can get creative by designing the box to make it look cooler and to make it more appealing to everyone. In the pictures, I may have used different brand items but they are basically the same as the products as I suggested in the 'Supplies' section.
Before you buy anything, please read the whole instructable because there are some things you may not need to buy depending on what you want to do with it - Please check.
You definitely need:
Raspberry pi 3b (Pretty much any raspberry pi)
A computer (Preferably Windows)
Micro SD card-16gb (Basically 8gb and over)
LCD display 3.5-inch OR 5-inch OR 7-inch (The 7-inch is a lot better than the 5-inch screen. The 5-inch screen is also a lot better than the 3.5-inch screen), (this is optional if you want to make it a portable/touchscreen but if you buy this then don't buy the Fan case in Optional)
You may need:
Scissors/knife (Basically a sharp object that can cut through cardboard)
Wifi-dongle (Check the packaging that the Pi came in and if it has built-in wifi, then don't buy this)
Powerbank-5v 2A (If you want to turn this into a portable laptop)
Double-sided foam tape (This comes with a lot of tape but it's very useful for many things)
Fan case with micro USB charger cable (Don't buy this if you are buying the LCD display, buy one or the other. This comes with a charger so you won't need to buy a Micro USB 5v 2A charger if you buy this.)
OR (Get either one above, below or neither)
Case with space to insert a 3.5 inch LCD display (Doesn't include the display or a fan)
Step 1: Setting Up the Micro Sd Card
You will download this software called Raspbian Buster using NOOBS lite (download the zip file) and download it to the desktop. Get your micro SD card and plug it into your laptop. Open File Explorer and click on the drive. Right-click on the picture of it and select Format... Choose the option of FAT32 and choose Default allocation size. Choose Quick Format and press Start. Once it has downloaded then open the folder in Downloads containing the files for NOOBS lite. Copy all the files in the NOOBS folder by holding down Ctrl and the letter a which selects all the files in the .zip folder then drag and drop them on the removable drive (the picture of the sd card on the lefthand side of File Explorer). Safely remove the micro SD card and plug it in the bottom of the raspberry pi with the brand facing the ground. Plug in the micro USB charger cable into the raspberry pi and the other end into the wall socket and leave it to boot up. Plug the HDMI cable to a screen (a tv or a monitor) and wait till the screen shows a gradient of colours like the last picture.
Step 2: Downloading the Software on the Pi
Once the software has booted up, it will show a screen and follow the instructions (like connect to wifi). Connect the USB of the keyboard and mouse to the raspberry pi and control it to select Raspbian FULL. Click Install at the top and wait for it to finish (this may take an hour depending on your internet connection). A tab will open showing 'Your OS(es) have finished installing' and then press Ok.
Step 3: Setting Up Debian Raspbian
After some time, the Pi will boot up and will show the desktop like one of the pictures. There will be a tab open called "Welcome to Raspberry Pi" so follow the instructions to finish the setup of the computer. It will ask to restart so click restart and then on the desktop, open terminal by clicking the picture of a monitor on the taskbar or by clicking the menu button and selecting terminal. Type:
sudo apt update
sudo apt full-upgrade
This will update the Pi and all the packages needed.
Step 4: Setting Up the 3.5 Inch Display
If you bought the 3.5 inch mini display then follow these instructions. It will just show a white screen till you set it up (only 5 small lines to type!)
Get the 3.5-inch display and insert it onto the Pi as shown in the video (download it). Open terminal and type:
sudo rm -rf LCD-show
git clone https://github.com/goodtft/LCD-show.git
chmod -R 755 LCD-show
The Pi should reboot, you will see it boot halfway on the HDMI monitor/TV but the rest will boot on the 3.5 LCD display on the raspberry pi and you can unplug the HDMI cable because the pi will boot and display on the 3.5 inch LCD display. If you are using the 3.5-inch display, and you want to swap back to the larger HDMI (a monitor/tv) then plug in your HDMI cable from the pi to the external monitor and open the terminal and type this:
chmod -R 755 LCD-show
The pi should reboot and select Debian Raspbian and click boot. It will boot on the TV/monitor so the 3.5 inch LCD display will turn white so you can unplug it from the top of the Pi if you want to (not necessary). Once you have switched from HDMI to the LCD display and back again, then you only need to type the last two lines of code to swap e.g:
sudo ./LCD35-show or sudo ./LCD-hdmi depending on what you want to change to.
Step 5: Setting Up the 5-inch LCD Display
Open the box and get the display and place the Pi vertical with the SD card side pointing towards the top and place it on a flat surface. Turn the display so the black screen is facing the roof and where you see the HDMI slot on the display, turn it so it lines up with the HDMI on the Pi. Carefully place it down so the GPIO pins on the pi fit on the black cuboid underneath the display. Push it till it fully plugs in and then get the HDMI plug and plug it in both of the HDMI ports. Get the micro USB cable that the display came with and plug it into the powerbank and in the micro USB port of the display. Try to boot up the Pi and if the display just shows a white screen (wait 1 whole minute) then follow the instructions below:
Take out the micro SD card and plug it into your laptop/computer (not the Pi) and open File Explorer and click on the SD card on the left-hand side. Click on boot and then on 'Config.txt'. Scroll down to where it says '#Uncomment to force a specific HDMI mode...' and edit it to make it look like this:
#Uncomment to force a specific HDMI mode (this will force VGA) max_usb_current=1 hdmi_group=2 hdmi_mode=1 hdmi_mode=87 hdmi_cvt= 800 480 60 6 0 0 0
Click Save and exit the file and safely remove the drive. Plug the SD card back in the Pi and it should boot up on the screen.
Step 6: Setting Up the 7-inch Display
Open the box and get the display and use the micro USB cable that the display came with and plug it into the powerbank and in the micro USB port of the display. Use the HDMI cable and plug it from the display to the Pi. Try to boot up the Pi and if the display just shows a white screen (wait 1 whole minute) then follow the instructions below:
Take out the micro SD card and plug it into your laptop/computer (not the Pi) and open file explorer and click on the SD card on the left-hand side. Click on boot and then on 'Config.txt'. Scroll down to where it says '#Uncomment to force a specific HDMI mode...' and edit it to make it look like this:
#Uncomment to force a specific HDMI mode (this will force VGA) max_usb_current=1 hdmi_group=2 hdmi_mode=87 hdmi_mode=87 hdmi_cvt= 800 480 60 6 0 0 0
Step 7: Turning This Into a A Portable Laptop (optional)
This step will show you how to make this into a portable laptop using the box that the LCD display came in (my brand is different to the 'elegoo' one I suggested but they are basically still the same box. You may have to change the design that I used depending on what display you are using. Take off the display and unplug anything connected to the Pi. Get two strips of double-sided foam tape and stick them parallel to each other along the long side of underneath the Pi and peel of the plastic layer so the stickiness is shown. Stick the Pi in the base of the box with the HDMI port facing up like in the pictures. Get a pair of scissors or a knife and cut holes where the HDMI, micro USB and the audio jack. Place the powerbank under the pi so you can take it out for other daily uses (don't stick it down unless you don't mind not being able to take it off without breaking the box). My power bank wedges under my pi easily. Get a USB cable and plug it in the power bank and get the micro-USB end of it into the Pi from the top where the holes are for the port. I made an extra hole to poke my white wire out and then plugged it back in the micro USB port. Get some sellotape and lightly tape the mini keyboard the inside of the lid so you can easily take it out when needed. I put the Pi in the place shown in the picture so I can easily plug in my chunky HDMI cable and audio jack into the pi without any hassle. The flap on the lid of the box acts as a cover for the ports when shut so dust can't reach inside when not in use. I got a tiny piece of double-sided foam tape and stuck it above the keyboard but the piece of tape I used is so small so I can easily take the stylus off to use on the touchscreen. Attach the LCD display to the raspberry pi as shown in the video (download it).
Step 8: Get Creative
Design the box to make it look more appealing by printing off or drawing pictures and sticking it around the box. Colour some paper or draw patterns on it and stick it with a glue stick on the laptop to make it look cooler and to make it not look like an ordinary box.
Participated in the
Raspberry Pi Contest 2020