Intro: Convert Your Laptop LCD to External Monitor
This tutorial is for enthusiasts who are in the idea of using their old laptops which have some issue other that LCD issue like MB damaged.
Note: I will not be responsible for any loss or damage of any kind if caused by this project.
I have an Acer Aspire 4520 Laptop which is liker 10 years old and has been dead for at least 6 years now. I salvages the hard disk from it and converted it to a External USB Hard Drive. I have been planning to convert the LCD to something useful. So I did my research on how to convert it into a external monitor. After a months study, I started to procure all the required materials needed for me to build this. I will provide step by step guide to build this.
List of Items/Tools Required:
- Old Laptop (Unused/Not Working)
- LCD Driver Board for specific LCD Display
- Screw Driver
- Some screws/nuts/washers/spacers
- Wooden Plywood plank
- Some vinyl wrap (Not Mandatory)
- Wire Cutter/Stripper
- Soldering Iron/Flux/Lead
- Drilling Machine with 3mm drill bit (Used 3mm screws/nuts/spacers through out my project)
Step 1: Start by Salvaging LCD From Your Problem Child
First try and detach your LCD display from the laptop. To do this I had to remove the battery under which I found some screws which are holding the panel above the keyboard. Once I removed the panel I got access to the Hinge Screws which are holding the Display of the laptop. Along with holding the display you will also find the LVDS cable running into the mother board which is pretty easy to unplug. Once you remove the screws and LVDS cable, the display is detached. Now Save the bottom part of the laptop for future salvaging.
Now remove rubber padding on the front side of the plastic casing to expose the screws. By removing them, you must separate the out cover from the inner between which you see Bare LCD screen, an LCD Inverter at the bottom and a camera module at the top with a mic right next to it. Of course there are 2 metal hinges screwed to the Bare LCD display. Keep them as is for now.
First disconnect the inverter which is connected using 2 connectors. One is input/control connector from Motherboard which controls the CFL for screen brightness, Screen on/off and the second one is the 2pin output going to the CFL tube. Then, disconnect the camera module connector. Now, Carefully lift the LCD display behind which you will be seeing the LVDS cable connected to the display. Disconnect it carefully.
Step 2: Getting the LCD Controller Board
Turn the display to the back where you will see the LCD part number.
This is important to get the Datasheet for that specific display. This information is required for procuring the LCD Controller board which will match your display configuration. I ordered mine from Ali Express for which the link is provided below:
You can message the seller to find if the LCD Controller board can be configured to fit your display model. Share the LCD model number so that the seller will confirm and you can place the order.
This package consists of a main board, an Inverter, Control key pad, an IR Receiver and a Remote.
Step 3: Connecting to LCD Controller
In this step we will connect the LCD Controller board to the
Display and test the functionality.
First carefully connect the LVDS cable from the controller to the display. This LVDS cable provided by the seller is very short like less than 30cm, so carefully deal with the cable.
Now Connect the Control Keypad and IR Receiver connector on to the board. Provide a 12V DC power supply to the main board. Anything less than 12V may not work as I tried giving a 9V DC, the circuit is powered on but as soon as I press the power On button, display turns On and goes off immediately. The reason for this is that, the LCD Inverter need minimum of 12V to generate enough voltage to light the CLF on.
Once the screen is successfully switched on, you will see a small box icon moving all over the display with some Chinese font. Now from the remote click the Menu Button, Select Settings in the screen using the navigation keys in the remote. Change the language to which ever you are comfortable with. You can also do this with the Control Keypad, but I felt it a little annoying.
You can check by connecting different inputs like a USB, a HDMI input or a VGA input to check.
Step 4: Building the Structure Part I
Now that the preliminary checks and validations are done, it’s time to plan to put things together. I decided reuse the plastic casing that came with the display. But considering the fact that all the electronics cant fit into the plastic casing, I tried to squeeze as much as I could into the plastic case. After removing the stock inverter, web cam module and other wiring from the plastic casing I realized that I could only put the IR Receiver PCB inside the plastic case and all others need to be outside. Even the IR PCB is slightly bigger in size to fit exactly inside the casing. So I had to trim some of the moldings inside the casing. I also had to de-solder the connector that was there on the IR PCB and directly solder the wires into the PCB to reduce the height. This can be seen in the images.
Now for the other electronics I decided to attach them behind the plastic casing. You can also make a separate box to hold all the electronics but due to the LVDS cable length limitation I decided to put the electronics as close as possible to the display.
Step 5: Building the Structure Part II
For holding all the electronics outside, I decided to screw all the electronics to a small plank, small enough to fit the main board, inverter and the keypad PCBs. For this I cut out a 3mm think cardboard sheet with 12cmX22cm in size. I arranged the PCBs on the sheet and marked the PCB screw holes on to the sheet. Now using a drill with 3mm drill bit make holes at the markings. Also mark wholes on the four corners of the sheet to screw it to the plastic casing.
Now for the cables to run inside and out of the plastic casing, I made a cut in the outer plastic cover just below where the LVDS cable connects the display. This will ensure that the cable is not bent irregularly while routing them outside the cut. Now place the cardboard sheet on top of the outer plastic cover and mark the corner screw holes and the cut that we made to run the cables. Now drill holes where necessary on the plastic outer case and make a cut in the cardboard sheet so as to match the cut on the plastic case.
Now to check if everything fits, screw the PCBs on to the cardboard sheet. Run the cables through the cut. From inside the plastic casing pop 4 3mm screws out and tight them with 3mm nuts. The length of the 4 screws I used is around 20mm. The screws projecting out of the plastic case backside will act as pillars to hold the cardboard sheet with PCBs. Carefully insert the cardboard into the pillars and tight the board with 3mm spaces of 30mm length.
We need to cover this electronics with some kind of cover. So now cut out another cardboard sheet (from now on I will refer this as OUTER CARDBOARD SHEET) with 13cmX24cm. Place this outer cardboard sheet on top of the pillars and mark the sheet to drill holes at appropriate places. Drill holes at the marks points and place on top of the circuit board and using 3mm screws of 15mm length fix the board to the pillars.
With this we are good with the structural part, where all the electronics are fixed and wires and cables running to all needed places.
Step 6: Giving a Rich Look
It’s not done yet. Now we will give the entire project a rich look so that it doesn’t look like just another lab project. To give that look I decided to wrap all the visible parts of the project with some black 3D vinyl wrap which you can get it from ebay.
Now disassemble everything as you now know how to assemble everything again. Wrap the inner and out plastic covers in vinyl wrap. Once done proceed on to the cardboard sheets. I found it difficult when wrapping the plastic casing as the surfaces are curved. But it’s damn easy with the cardboard sheets. Refer to the images for more clarity.
Once done with wrapping, use a screw driver and expose the screws holes which are covered by the vinyl. This takes a little time as we need to work with our sense of touch to figure out where the holes are.
Now, place all the PCBs back in place and fix the board to the plastic casing. Run the wires through the cuts and connect the LVDS cable to the screen. Place the IR PCB in the webcam slot exposing the IR Sensor from the transparent area provided for webcam. After everything is in place carefully place the top plastic casing over the assembly and screw it tight. Now the assembly is rigid. Cover the electronics with the outer cardboard sheet. With this 90% of the project is done it should also be looking great.
Step 7: Making It STAND
Now that the External Monitor is ready we need some kind of base to make it stand on its own. There can be different ways to make that. The only limitation is your imagination. For me, I wanted to make this look creative and at the same time reuse as much as I could. So I decided to use old laptop hinges as a base. Long time ago when my laptop is working I had hinges problem for which I had to replace them with new ones. I saved them and luckily they are of use to me now. To make the stand I just had to screw ends of both the spare hinges to the ends of the existing hinges. I will not bore you by explaining about it more as the images will give a clear picture on how it’s done.
Step 8: The FINAL PRODUCT
Here are the images of the final outcome of all the previous steps.
And I am not going to stop with this. There are few other things I am planning to do for this which are listed below and as and when I complete them I will update my post.
- Multi-Mode Display
Description: Provide various mounting options to use it either as an external monitor by mounting on desk or as a wall hanging digital photo frame.
- Added Sound:
Description: The current setup doesn’t show anything on provisioning speakers to the system. However the main board has an inbuilt audio amplifier with 4 pin slot for connecting the speakers. I salvaged small 4W 8Ohms speakers from an old TV and connected it to 2 channels provided on-board.
Thanks for reading till the end. Please provide your suggestions and feedback. It will help me improve myself.