Convert an Old Laptop Into a Media Center





Introduction: Convert an Old Laptop Into a Media Center

How to take and old Laptop and convert it into a Home Theater PC that runs XBMC on Openelec.
I have used a Acer Aspire AMD motherboard with 1gig RAM.

How to install Openelec with windows.

Note: Openelec and XBMC are Open Source programs. Credit goes to the developers for a awesome program.

Step 1: Requirements

An old laptop with the motherboard, processer and RAM in working order.
2x Flash Drives, 512mb min. (Both drives will need to be formatted, so back them up first)
IR remote control (optional).
USB Hub (optional)

2x 500mm x 75mm perspex or acrylic
Pack of  60mm x 3mm bolts with nuts
Dremel (optional)
Side Cutters
54mm holesaw
10mm holesaw
5mm nylon tube

Step 2: Strip the Motherboard

Strip off the entire case.
Remove all cables and connectors. Be sure to leave the heat sink attached ; )

Step 3: Measure Up and Cut

Once the MB is down to its barebone, measure up the holes for the four corner mounts. And drill through both pieces of perspex.
Vary the size and shape of the perspex to suit you liking. I cut this down right up to the HDD bay for a snug fit.

I used a 54mm holesaw to cut out the cpu fan and 10mm for the bottom intack.

Step 4: Assembly

Once all the holes are drilled through both pieces of perspex, thread the 60mm bolts through and screw a nut in place.

Cut the nylon tubing to act as a spacer between the MB and the perspex. Cut the same size for the top half.

Place the motherboard between the spaces and screw on the top half.
Cut down any extra thread with the Dremel.

Screw it all together and connect up the power, Video and audio cable.
I extended the power on button to a switch on the back. Bit trickey to do the soldering but works great.
Note: Use a multimeter to test continuity on the power switch to see which pins to extend. Solder carefully.

Step 5: Install Openelec

This is where the 2 flash drives come into place.

We are going to use one drive to boot from and the other for the OS to be installed onto.
Change the BIOS settings to boot from USB media first. then boot from the drive created with the windows installer.

Get the software here:

Follow the install instructions:

If you are not sure which version do download use the Generic OSS Build. It has the most generic drivers.

Remember. the drives will be formatted, so make a back up.

Step 6: Boot Up

Insert your media hard drives and IR remote and get watching. (XBMC has a remote app for iOS devices)

Happy Hacking :)



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    20 Discussions

    Nice Work Asilay

    i have setup my old laptop to openelec media center. its work fine on Laptop screen. i need to forward display to my Sony Bravia LCD. would you please help me how can be possible. or link forward any work you have done on it.

    1 reply

    Sorry for the late reply.

    Once you connect the LCD then in Kodi/Openelec settings you can choose witch monitor you would like to use.


    1 year ago

    any suggestion about IR remotes with integrated headphone port?


    And android...remote app...

    Nice work, love it. But how do you boot en turn it off?

    Nice work, love it. But how do you boot en turn it off?

    Is there a wiring diagram or do you just connect the mains adapter to motherboard


    4 years ago

    How do you navigate it after it's been striped? Also do you use some sort of remote instead of a keyboard/mouse to navigate?

    1 reply

    Yes I use a USB IR receiver called Flirc. It learns any IR remote and is only programed once.
    But there are a few other options you can use. XBMC has a remote app that runs on Android and iOS.
    Or there are a few cheap remote controls on ebay. Otherwise a standard wireless keyboard works cool.



    I'm not sure... Did the same to me earlier.. Even if I do a google search for openelec it still won't open.. Wiki must be down ; )

    This is quite a old spec machine, so it only has VGA out.
    The LCD ribbon cable got damaged so i ended up just using the external monitor out but the laptop was too bulky with a broken LCD. Thats why i stripped it down to be more compact.

    And to answer you question:
    HDMI is better but this gives old hardware a new design and beautiful functionality.
    Can be done with motherboards that support HDMI but will have to wait till my new lappy breaks ;)
    Openelec with embedded XBMC boots up on this motherboard in 10sec. (so its fast)
    I can get down to 5sec (after POST test and BIOS) if i use a SSD.
    Full software installation is only 150mb.
    With the motherboard completly stripped down to its bone, there are no other compontents to waste power, so comsumption is very low.
    Its super silent with only the one fan running.

    I must admit, The VGA out is still great quality. I run 720 and 1080 rips on this with out a hassle, at a breezy 56 degrees (CPU and FSB)

    Great answer, thanks. And yes, I run VGA out to various old projectors and get an excellent picture.