Introduction: How to Turn a Old/Damaged Pc or Laptop Into a Media Box
In a world where technology Is advancing fastest than we are, our beloved electronics all too quickly become obsolete. Perhaps your ever loving cats knocked your laptop of the table and the screen broke. Or maybe you want a media box for a smart TV like experience. What ever the case (No pun intended), This is a reliable way to breath new life into dying electronics. In this Instructable, I will run you by the ins and outs of creating your own media box at home with minimal background in electronics.
Your Will Most Likely need the following:
- Multiple sizes of screw drivers
- A light of some kind (Headlamps are always nice)
- An obsolete/damaged PC, Tower, Desktop, or Laptop
Step 1: What PC or Laptop Should I Use?
Most PCs of all kinds will work, but there are somethings to take into consideration. These include, but are not limited to:
- Is your PC a Laptop or a Tower/Desktop? (Laptops are very limited in the upgrade ability compared to desktop and towers, but desktops and tower cases can be harder to hide.)
- How old is your PC? (If the PC is In a state where the Boot up sequence is longer than 10 minutes, I would suggest looking into a Google Chrome Cast, or Amazon Fire, as a PC would need expensive upgrades.
- Does your PC have Wireless Connections? (If you are wishing to use Internet applications without a wired connection, you need a Internet card. You can still you a CD drive, or downloaded movies without any such connection. Bluetooth needs Bluetooth to run! If you don't want a wired keypad and mouse, check for Bluetooth! Many laptops have both these integrated, but towers are a hit and miss.)
- If It is damaged, how so? (If the screen or case has been damaged, there shouldn't be a problem, but if there is damage to the mother board, or other essential components, It won't work!)
Step 2: Open Up Your Case or Laptop
If Using a Tower Case:
Open up the right hand side of the case. Often this is a sliding plate, Held in place by thumb screws.By removing the screws, this should allow the panel to side off, it may take so pressure, but if it feels wrong, stop and reevaluate.
If Using a Desktop Case:
The methods used on the tower cases all can be applied to a desktop case, but desktop cases are less standardized in my experience. The removable plate may be the face, top, or sides!
If Using a Laptop:
Unless you have background in electronics, I would suggest not taking apart a laptop. In the event you do need to in the following steps as to increase performance, Screws are often behind little rubbers, and hidden by other components or stickers.
Step 3: Evalute What You Have to Work With
The Insides of a PC are often jumbled together, that at first, can seem over whelming. Ignore the wires for now (but don't go pulling them out) and look for key components, Including:
- CD/DVD/Media ports (These are often seen from both the inside (seen in Image 2) and out (seen in Image 3), If you what to use DVDs and CDs though media box, you will have to install a reader. Note: This does not stop you from using a separate DVD player if you do not have one one your media box. Laptops, if one is not included, can not have one internally. If one is wanted, you will need an external reader.)
- The CPU (This is one of the most imported parts of a PC, as it handles all the computing. A CPU may support integrated graphics, allowing it to render an image on its own, without the use of a video card. Many laptops are like this. If such is the case in a tower, you may want to look in to getting graphics card to take the strain of rendering an image. If it does not, you need a graphics card. The CPU may be a bit harder to find, as it is under a cooler, because it creates a lot of heat (Seen in images 4 & 5 & 6 shows the CPU after removing the coolers). In a laptop it is the same, though the cooler tends to be smaller and flatter. If you find yourself replacing the CPU, and I cannot stress this enough, use fresh thermal paste, and only use the size of a pea on top of the CPU.
- The Graphics Card A.K.A a GPU (Another easily Identified component, as it can be seen from the inside (seen in Image 7) and the outside (seen in Image 8) renders the image on the screen. The graphics card may have many different plugs.You may what to purchase an adapter to a type your TV supports, or instead upgrade to one that has the the plug you need.)
- If you want Bluetooth and and don't have it integrated, this is the time to install the card. (Note: Check your Bluetooth products, some have USB Drivers that run the Bluetooth for that product.)
- Ram is rarely a problem in Towers or Desktops, but depending on the laptop you have, you may want more than your current amount. (Seen in Image 9)
If your PC meets your standards, this step may be skipped entirely.
Step 4: Give the Case a Good Blowout With Dry Compressed Air
Cleaning the dust out ensures that your device lasts long as a media box. Use dry compressed air to clean internal workings to avoid damage to them.
Step 5: Seal the Case Back Up
For both Tower and Laptops, Reassemble anything you had to take apart, and slide the panel back into place. Use the thumb screws to secure.
Step 6: Plug In, Power Up, Set Up
Find where your case or Laptop will be set up. Make sure the fan's airflow are not blocked. Plug into power (most common for Towers is a AC cord (seen in Image 1), or for a laptop, a 9-15volt cord. Connect to your TV via chosen method of cord (In mine at home I use HDMI as it carries audio and video) from the socket on the graphics card. (Please Note depending on your setup of ports, you may have to run a sperate audio line, as many video cords don't have audio.) On laptops there are ports for such. After signing in, go to Windows Settings (seen in Image 2) and enter the display tab. It should look something like this (seen in Image 3). If using a laptop (screen broken or not), scroll to the bottom and Click "Duplicate Displays". A drop down should come up and choose "Only show on display two". If the TV turns black, don't touch anything until it turns back. If the image is still on the screen, choose "Keep". This is very imported, especially if the laptop display is broken. If that didn't work choose "Only show on display one". If the TV screen turned black both times, leave it on "Duplicate Displays". If you are using laptop or Tower/desktop, choose the proper settings on both the computer and TV to allow for optimal viewing. (Note: I used TV because it is common, But your media box should work with most monitors and projectors with out an issue)
Step 7: Internet and Debloating
If you are using an earlier version of Windows, don't update to Windows 10 unless absolutely necessary. If you are Using Windows 10, go to settings (seen in Image 1), and click "Update and Security". Next click "Pause updates" (seen in Image 2) to get the maximum amount of time. This is done to avoid getting an unstable update from windows. Now Connect to the Internet Via wireless or Ethernet cable (seen in Image 3).
This next step is optional, but will greatly improve overall performance.You Debloat your PC. The act of Debloating a PC is done going though and deleting all apps that are not necessary. A quick way of having this done for you contrary to you running it by hand, is using a Debloater. A Debloater quickly and efficiently does this for you. Here is a link to the one I often use:
(seen in Image 4)
Step 8: Enjoy!
Create Desktop Shortcuts to the web apps you use most for quick access though your preferred browser, download any music or movie apps you wish (be careful though, as some may slow down your new Media Box), and voila. Now all that is left is to bring your key board and mouse, remote, or chosen method of controlling to your seat, sit down with a snack and enjoy!
Step 9: Final Words...
Thank you for your time in viewing this, I hoped this helped you in some way and has inspired you to think of creative green uses for products nearing the end of there useful lives. I also saw a friend of mine take the one I set him up and make a great case out of wood, that blended seamlessly with his furniture, so if you feel up to the challenge, there is always another project for the future!
I wish you all well.
I will not take responsibility for anything on your end.
As always, Sincerely,
Basic Cover image from:
Getty Images / Dmitriy Moroz
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