Introduction: How to Convert a Laptop LCD Into an External Monitor.

Hello there. This is my first Instructable

A while back I was sitting around and wondering what to do with my dead laptop. I knew the mother board was fried but everything else was still in working condition. As a result, I decided to make an external monitor from my dead laptop and proceeded to do the research to find out if this was possible. Below is what I discovered. Unfortunately, there was no way to use the motherboard's VGA connector. The VGA connector on a laptop is used to connect to an external monitor. In any case the VGA connector is output only and wouldn't work for an external screen. As a result, I found that I needed to buy a controller board for the LCD screen, to make it work as an external monitor. This was the main cost but was still less than half the cost of buying an external monitor.

The controller board cost me about $42 not including tax and shipping. However, there are various types that cost less.

I also built a stand for the LCD panel but as you will see, I decided to go a different route.

The information below will illustrate the steps I took to convert my laptop LCD screen into an external monitor.

Step 1: Getting Started

Lets get started.

Materials needed::
Dead Laptop hopefully with a good and working LCD screen.
LCD controller board
Hobby electronics screwdriver
wire cutters optional
5 inch section of wood 2x3
two 3 inch sections of wood
self tapping wood screws
cordless drill
drill bit for drilling metal
Dremel and cutting disk optional

Note: if your LCD is damaged then don't proceed any further. This instructable will not fix a damaged LCD screen!

Disclaimer: Due note, I take no responsibility for your actions, implied or otherwise. I am not telling you to do anything, This instructable is informational.

Step one. Unplug the dead laptop from any power source AND remove the battery!. The laptop battery is located, usually, on the bottom and can be removed by sliding a release lever. These are lithium ion batteries and can hold a few Amps. The risk of shock might be minimal. However, there is no need to take the risk.

Step 2: Removing the Screws

Step Two. To Remove the LCD screen from the laptop, you will need to remove the screws. There are rubber pads on the front of the LCD screen to protect it when the laptop lid is closed. Behind the rubber pads are the screws. Find and remove all the screws holding the front plastic frame on the laptop lid. Keep track of the pads and screws as you will need them to reassemble everything.

Step 3: Removing the Frame

Step Three. Remove the plastic frame from the LCD screen. Here is where you need to be careful. The screws are not the only thing holding the plastic frame on the LCD screen! The plastic frame is snapped into place. Carefully pry loose the frame from the LCD screen. Pry it loose gently. Try to keep it as close as possible to the LCD panel while you are prying it loose because you may also find that you need to slide it to the left or right to completely remove it from the laptop. There is a small protrusion of the plastic frame where the hinge is. Because of this protrusion you need to slide the frame, in this case, to the right, to detach it from the laptop.

Step 4: Remove the LCD

Step Four. Locate and remove the screws holding the LCD panel to the laptop. These are located on the bottom. The screws are attached to a small metal hinge. this is the component that is attached to the keyboard frame.

Next you will need to remove the LCD screen. Note that there is a cable attached. This is the LVDS cable. It is best to take apart the rest of the laptop and unplug it from the keyboard. However, the cable can be cut at the bottom. Take care not to cut the two wires going into the inverter (that's the slim circuit board at the bottom.

Step 5: Removing the Cables

Once the LCD panel is removed, you can remove the LVDS cable and unplug the inverter at the bottom. Unplug the inverter from both ends. Do not cut it. The LVDS cable is taped to the back of the LCD screen at the top. It is the flat cable running up the back. Remove the tape and slid the cable down. Since you need to buy an LCD controller board, you will no longer need the LVDS cable the laptop came with or the inverter. At this point you should just have an LCD screen with a pair of wires coming out of it.

Keep track of the plastic front frame and the plastic backing. You will need them to resemble the LCD screen. On the other hand, you have different fingers, just kidding. On the other hand, you can buy a picture frame and put the LCD screen in the picture frame.

Step 6: The Cables

Here is a picture of the LVDS cable and the inverter detached from the LCD screen. Since we will be buying an LCD control board these cables will not be needed again.

Step 7: Buying the LCD Controller Board

Next, once you have removed the LCD panel. Flip it over and look for a model number on the back. You will need this model number to order the correct LCD controller board. I went to E-Bay and found one for $42.00. I bought the LCD controller board and then received an email from the seller requesting the model number of the LCD screen and manufacturer. This is because each controller board is flashed, (programed to run a specific LCD) I gave him my model number, LP171WX2 A4K1 and told him it was made by LG Phillips. Since the board was coming from China, I received my order about 2 weeks later. Due note to buy one with a power cord! The LCD controller board has the VGA input connection which allows you to connect it to another computer and use it as a second monitor or as a back up in the event the one on your working computer goes out.

I bought my LCD controller board DIY kit from e-qstore on Ebay. Here is a link:

Mention Instructables they might give you a discount.

The LCD controller board is real easy to connect. It comes with all the required cables, except a VGA cable which you will need, in order to connect your LCD to another computer. You can buy a VGA cable from Best Buy or a computer parts store.

Step 8: The LCD Control Board

The LCD control Bard comes with all the cables except the VGA cable which you will have to buy. Once you have received your kit, proceed to connect it to the LCD screen. Plug the LVDS cable into the LCD panel where you removed the original from. The two wires at the bottom of the LCD screen that were connected to the inverter need to be unplugged from the old inverter and plugged into the new inverter below. Then, plug the power in. Make sure that the LCD control board is not sitting on anything conductive, like metal or it will short and fry. Next connect the VGA cable to the LCD control board and plug the other end of the VGA cable to another computer. Make sure the computer is on before you plug in the VGA cable. At this point you should have the same image that is on the computer you plugged the VGA cable into, on the LCD panel.

To recap:
1. Plug the LVDS cable into the LCD panel.
2. Plug the LCD panel into the inverter. See picture.
3. Plug the transformer into the LCD control board.
4. Connect the VGA cable to the LCD control Board.
5. Connect the other end of the VGA cable to an operating computer.
6. Press the power button on the LCD control Board-it sits next to the LED.

Step 9: Prepping for a Stand

Next, I attached a 4 inch section of two by four on the outside back of the laptop lid. I needed this in order to attach my stand to the LCD screen. I used 5 screws and screwed them in place from the inside. I did splice and extend the cables going from the LCD controller to the inverter it came with just to have a little more room.

Step 10: Attaching a Stand to the LCD Panel

Originally, I built a nice wooden stand for my LCD panel but was not satisfied with it. So, I took a broken florescent desk lamp and dremeled off the section holding the florescent tubes, leaving enough metal to screw on to the two by four on the laptop lid. Before attaching the stand, I drilled four holes in the metal to make it easier to screw it on the two by four. 

Step 11: Attaching the LCD Control Board to the Back of the Laptop Lid.

Next you will need to attach the LCD controller to the laptop lid. To do this, screw in a few sections of wood from the inside of the lid. Then on the outside of the lid attach the LCD control board. Place the wood in an area where the control board can reach.

Step 12: Putting It Back Together

Next you will need to find all those screws you have been saving and reassemble the LCD screen. I also added some surgical tubing to the top springs for added strength.

By the way a store bought swing arm half the size of this one, I found, cost around $400.00. If you choose to use a swing arm like this one, go with the one that has a magnifier on it and dremel off the magnifier leaving enough metal to attach to your LCD lid. You need one of this caliber to hold the LCD screen. Swing arms with the light attached are not strong enough.

Step 13: The End.

Here is what it looks like on the stand. And Yes, I made the frame for the picture hanging on the wall in the background.

Step 14: Passing Thoughts

By the way, I did remove the web cam from the laptop lid, wired it to a USB cable, and turned it into and external peripheral. I wired the two microphones that I found next to the web cam and  turned them into external peripherals. I dremeled the batteries open and wired them into a 3 million candle power flashlight made from spare parts I had. I have a lithium ion battery charger, so it worked great.

I didn't like the first stand I made. I included some pictures of it above.

Since I was asked about the web cam, I though Should add it to the instructable. There is a nice instructable here at this site showing how to convert a web cam from an LCD screen:

But be careful the guy that did the mod, reversed the power cables.

The USB cable has 4 Wires.

Pin 1 on USB 1. Red- VCC +5V
Pin 2 on USB 2. White- Data+
Pin 3 on USB 3. Green- Data-
Pin 4 on USB 4. Black- Ground

Note, I sourced the web cam from the LCD screen which was a dead HP DV 9000 laptop, working on Windows Vista, originally.

I'm not sure if the web cam wire colors change for different models. However, for the DV 9000 here is the color schematic.

1. Red wire from web cam goes to Pin 1 on USB, Red USB Wire.
2. Light Blue wire from web cam goes to Pin 2 on USB, White USB Wire
3. Black Wire from Web cam goes to pin 3 on USB, Green USB Wire
4. White or faded yellow looking wire goes to pin 4 on USB, Black USB Wire.

The web cam is now wired for plug and play. However, it only works on another computer running Windows Vista. There are no drivers for windows 7, yet. Since I don't have Windows XP, I don't know if it would work on it. Once you have wired it, open Skype on Vista and click on change profile pic. It will show two web cams in the drop down menu. If your web cam starts getting hot then you have revered the power cables.

I have attached some images of the web cam, it's slightly longer than the shift key on the laptop but about half as wide.

There you have it.

Mine works great on my Vista laptop. If you want to use it for checking plumbing pipes, I suppose you can put a small prism on the web cam aperture so you can insert the web cam in a pipe and view images directly ahead--this would be good for archaeology where you need to investigate tight spaces. 

Step 15: Last Pic

Last few pics.

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