Dell Laptop Into Digital Photo Frame




These are the steps I used to create my Digital Photo Frame from an older Dell 1150 laptop.
EDIT: thanks for the Feature!

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Step 1: Software Overview/Gut the Lappy

Before I did anything, I planned it out. I knew I wanted a fully-functioning laptop on the wall mainly to be used as a DPF.
The software I used for the slideshow was Slickr, a screensaver that downloads pictures of any specified subject, flickr user, or set of photos on the fly. It works really nicely if you put a shortcut to it in the Startup Folder.
I also use TightVNC to connect to it across the network so I can have total control over it when I need to. I also wanted some control over it without VNC, so I also have the touchpad available, but more on that later.

The first thing I did was to really commit to the project and begin dissecting the laptop to see really what I needed. You'll find lots of extraneous plastic and metal brackets, and knowing what's what will help you decide what you need and what you don't.

Step 2: Take Out the Garbage

Here are some pictures of the shell of the laptop that really isn't needed for the final project.

Step 3: Frame and Mat It

I was able to find a decent frame from wally world that suited my needs. The laptop's (15 in. diagonal) lcd was approx. 9 in. tall by 11 in. wide. I found a 10x14 in. that worked nicely. It worked especially nicely when I got rid of the maroon-ish inner frame that was a whopping 1/4' thick.

Step 4: Cut the Mat

Cutting a Mat can greatly improve the look of the frame, or, it can make it look like a Diy project (just because it IS one doesn't mean it has to Look like one). I've had some experience in cutting mats and i had access to a decent one in order to cut this one.

Step 5: Foam Core

Foam core is a good tool to make the area outside the lcd even with it. Since we don't want any excess pressure on the panel itself, I also used some corrugate that came with the frame to minimalize any dangerous pressure on the lcd. At one point I dropped the lcd panel, so I started it up to make sure it was still working.

Step 6: Seal the Frame With It's Original Backing

Since I had a piece that I removed, there was room enough for me to seal the original frame with the LCD inside. I had to cut a slot in the back for the lcd cable, but other than that, you'd never know there was an LCD in the frame.

Step 7: The Rest of the Computer's Guts (all of Them That Matter, Anyway)

For my project, I used a board of 1/8" thick Masonite to mount the Motherboard and remaining hardware such as Hard Drive, RAM, and Wireless Card. Initially, I had #6 screws to come through the opposite side of the board to use as stand-offs/mounts, but those were too large and I downsized to #4. After a test-fit, I cut the screws off so they wouldn't stick out too far.

Step 8: Touchpad and Side Wall Stand-offs

I thought it would be nice to have access to the touchpad, so it is being held to the masonite and can be slid to the top if need be. The Sides are partially covered by some white pine that has been painted to hide any of the guts from being seen (remember what I said about professionalism?)

Step 9: Put It on the Wall

hang it up, plug it in, and watch it go.

Let It Glow!

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    77 Discussions

    claudiad2A good name

    Reply 2 years ago

    I'm actually regretting donating my old 'rubbish' laptops because I really want a LARGER DPF.

    I milked my 366mhz/10gb/256mb Compaq Armada running Win2k til about 2007 (bloatware free) without issue for basic surfing/portability, electrical tape holding some of it together and all ; ).

    Something like this would make a perfect netbook and hardly be considered rubish, but I'd do it if it was faulty and was just left with parts.

    Unbelievable to see someone calling his specs rubbish in 2008.


    4 years ago on Step 9

    excellent work and great instructable.


    6 years ago

    Thanks!!! I have 4 old laptop dell d630 :) i will try that!! :)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I have a really really old laptop(its friggin ancient) its spec are as follows Pentium 3 or a celeron 64 MB ram 4.5 gig hard drive and one usb port(one, hard to imagine innit) so any point trying this out? +this should theoretical work for any laptop on earth right? or it there something special in a dell.

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm converting my Dell Inspiron 7000 (how's that for ancient?) into a digital frame. I'm using Damn Small Linux. It takes up only 50MB. The 7000 cannot boot from USB, so I'll be installing DSL to a CF card which will be plugged into the 2.5 ide interface via a CF-ide adapter. Photos will be stored on 1GB flash drive plugged into a 4 port USB micro hub, which is plugged into the single USB port. I'll be using the 2Mbit wireless card I bought for it almost 13 years ago. I'm hoping VNC or SSH will be enough to configure it.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    If you could get a cd drive to this, you could try Puppy Linux. It only takes 100M of space.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Nothing Special about tearing apart a dell, It's just that your dissection will probably be much different than mine. But if you know your way around a computer, you should be able to do the same thing with any functioning laptop


    9 years ago on Step 9

    Where did you put the keyboard and if you left it out did the PC not say to attach a keyboard?

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 9

    You can configure the bios to ingnorere all errors and boot up even though it can´t find the keyboard.
    Think he might have done that :o)
    And if you need at keyboard at some point... Just use an USB type


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks I will try that what slidshow program can I use rather then flicker. A program that I can just add pic. that it displays at diffrent transisions.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 9

    Well, XP have a screen saver that does just that.. and so does vista and Win 7.. But if you want something more fancy, then here is some top rated programs

    But im sure you can finde som free ones if you browse the www 
    Google is you friend :o)

    thanx for the help a bit back and yes i finaly got one working gr8 instructable


    9 years ago on Step 7

    It's funny, I have the exact same laptop and I went to Walmart and got the exact same frame. I tested my old laptop, worked, disassembled it (not the first time I have done this) and when I put back the bare necessities for a boot, I get nothing on the LCD or an external monitor. Also, it turns off after 30 seconds-1 minute. Any ideas?


    10 years ago on Step 2

    ha, I used the same laptop for mine.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome project btw i was just wondering how do i get the motherboard out of the casing because i took off the top half with the lcd and i am stuck there? Also how do you turn the thing on and off? Thanks a bunch dude!

    1 reply