Digital Picture Frame




Adding to the million already in circulation, here is the Digital Picture Frame that I built for about $100.. yes, its expensive for what it is but the coolness factor is high in my opinion.. And on the geek scale, it can't get much better than this.

Here is the summary:

Take an old (really old) laptop apart. Cut a couple pieces of Plexiglas, add a bunch of screws to hold it all in place and then add the laptop parts. What you end up with is seen below.

Laptop: ($20)
CivilNote, P266 MMX (OMG its MMX), 160mb of ram (32 onboard + 128 upgrade), 10" LCD

Hard Drive: ($20)
5gb CF Microdrive (completely silent)

Touchscreen ($40)

Two relatively small pieces of Plexiglas ($10)

Bunch of screw (depends on the motherboard of the laptop your using) ($1-2)

4 nicer looking screws (I used brass.. all available at a local hardware store)($5)

NOTE: I'm assuming that windows/linux/macOS is already installed on your hard drive and you can boot into it without needing to enter a password.. because it would be kinda strange having to log into a picture frame :)

Step 1: Tools Needed.

Obviously you will need small enough tools to take apart the laptop.. Sadly hammers don't have a great effect on laptops.. We'll skip this part as I'm assuming if you are willing to go any further, its because you know how to take things apart...

For building the Picture Frame, I used a small portable screw driver and drill bit.. Photos below.

You can use any screw driver as its only going to be used for mounting the parts.. not a lot of work..
For the drill bit, I would suggest using a 1/4" as I bought 3/16" screws. This can also be changed to your liking.

Step 2: Chose Your Prey

As I stated in the intro, I used an old CivilNote laptop.. (seen below).. I actually purchased 5 of them on ebay for $50.. so parts were easy to come by.

- Gut the laptop for usable parts.

You will need to keep the motherboard, and everything on it.. thus RAM, CPU, and any cards (mini PCI) that may be included.

You will also need to remove the LCD from its casing and unplug it from the motherboard.

You can either keep the hard drive or use a CF card like I did.. the CF card is nice because its silent.

You will not need the keyboard, mouse, battery or any part of the casing.
You will not need this as you will be adding a touch screen and can control the computer with that instead.

Step 3: Parts Needed.

From Laptop
- Motherboard +CPU
- Hard Drive (Pre-installed OS that can load without password)
- Laptop AC Adapter
- LCD + all related parts (power converter and backlight plug)

- Touchscreen (same size as your LCD); easy to find on ebay.
- PCMCIA Wifi card if its not integrated in your laptop.
- IDE to CF adapter; no need for this if your using the original hard drive.
- Plexiglas 2 pieces(add 2 inches to the height and width of the screen so that you end up with a 1 inch border around the computer); you can get this pre-cut at your hardware store or use a jigsaw to cut it.
- Mounting Screws; some of the screws can be salvaged from the laptop and used for fastening the motherboard to the Plexiglas, if you need more they can be found at most computer stores (future shot, best buy, circuit city)
- 4 mains screws+more that will hold everything together. Again this is something that you will need to determine based on the laptop your using.. Mine were 3 inches long. (see picture)
- Various other items (two sided tape, foam tape, usb extension, wall mounting cable) ALL OPTIONAL and can be changed with whatever you have lying around that you think will do the same job.

Step 4: Line Up and Drill Plexiglas

Line up the two pieces of plexiglas and drill the 4 holes that will be used to hold them both together. I drilled mine exactly one inch from the corners.

You can test how well lined up you are by sitting the two pieces together, attached with the brass tipped screws, on a counter. If properly lined up, it should sit without any "wobble" (sorry, no better word to describe it).

Mount the screws (not thumb screws) to one piece of plexiglas. This will be the rear piece. All depending on how you are wall mounting your finished product, I added a picture frame cable between the two top screws and 4 foam feet so the frame would sit on the wall without any rattling. By doing this, you can continue mounting all other steps, without ever having to flip this part over.

Sorry that I dont have a better photo of this step as I had already completed the project before thinking of creating an instructable to go along with it. I'll know for next time.

Step 5: Mounting the LCD and Touchscreen

Attach both the LCD and the Touchscreen to the same piece of plexiglas on opposite sides using double sided tape.

IMPORTANT: Ensure that the touchscreen is mounted so that it can be used.. Its very easy to confuse which side is the right side without testing it first.

Using double sided take, attach any LCD components to the rear of the LCD. In the images below you can see that the power converter is taped to the back.

IMPORTANT: only add the tape to the outer edges of the screen and LCD to not interfere with the image.

MAKE SURE your LCD is mounted in a way that by just flipping it onto the motherboard, you will be able to connect it without having to bend any wires.

After mounting both items, attach the touchscreen adapter to the inner part of the plexiglas using foam tape (about a half an inch of foam and doublesided tape on each side)
Use a USB extension cable to attach the touchscreen to an available USB port after the screen is later mounted to the motherboard.

Step 6: Mounting the Motherboard

1. Center the motherboard on the 2nd piece of Plexiglas and use a permanent marker to mark where to drill the holes that will be needed to mount it into place. Make sure the motherboard is positioned in a way that it is aligned with the LCD attachment. See photo below.
2. Drill the holes
4. Mount hard drive, RAM and any other part that can be mounted to the motherboard. Make sure everything is securely in position before mounting the motherboard as getting to these items afterward can be complicated.
3. Mount the motherboard and all needed or related items. I had speakers that were in the laptop that I also mounted above the motherboard. I used double sided tape to mount the speakers.

- Use at least 4 points so that the motherboard is mounted securely.
- Make sure the motherboard is not touching the Plexiglas as the heat could melt it. Use typical mounting screws. These can usually be salvaged from the laptop. See mounting screws below.
- I used a motherboard that does not require a fan, but make sure to include all original heat dissipation equipment (fan, CPU heat-sink)

Step 7: Power Button

After mounting the motherboard, determine where the power button is and drill a small hole that will allow for easy access. See image below as an example.

Step 8: Mount Front and Back Together

1. Plug the VGA cable into the motherboard, this may need to be done earlier if your motherboard is mounted in reverse.
2. Insert PCMCIA wifi card.
3. Mount front and back together using the thumb screws. (see below)
4. Plug the USB cable from the touchscreen into an available USB port.

Step 9: Complete Installation

1. Plug your finished product into the AC power supply.
2. Power it on
3. Hang it on the wall and enjoy.

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    217 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Neat project! I wonder if this could be done a bit tighter (slimmer), as
    in the guts of my slowly disintegrating laptop (currently used as a
    desktop pc, lid removed) fit in an inch or less thick case, display,
    hard + dvd drive and all, so it shouldn't be any thicker than that. I'm
    also playing with the idea of incorperating a laptop or netbook into a
    ring binder. I wished there was already an instructable for that. It would be
    perfect for, say a college student.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I have an idea to turn a fully functioning Bulova clock/standard picture frame (has hinges, folds in two, etc.) into (on the frame side) a digital picture frame. I like what you did here, and am hopeful it can work for what I need. Will this work for near about whatever size screen I need? Thanks.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder if you can actually mod this into a tablet, that would be freaking cool, i mean, all you really need is a battery at this stage and say perhaps...ubantu. I am going to look into this.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago

    I wish my laptop wouldn't have wiped... I had Ubuntu 13.10


    9 years ago on Step 3

    Just wondering where you got these 'extention' screws and stuff from stage 3 image 3? Other than that im ready to go!

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Step 9

    Awesome, might do this next time I get my hands on an old laptop. Even if I dont, still a usefull to keep in mind when making a new mini case for my original xbox (media centre in teh lounge :) )


    9 years ago on Introduction

     can you add a link to where you got your touch screen from?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It depends on the laptop you use for this project but in the case of the civil note, no, it runs 24/7 without ever rebooting and it has not frozen since being built. The old P266MMX didnt make a lot of heat though.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I am in the middle of making this.  I am using a Dell Inspiron 1150.  The display will no longer stay up and the power supply is frayed near the brick and the plastic flexes a lot so it is no longer useful as a laptop.  I am mounting the power supply behind the glass and extending the power cord.  I would rather shorten the power cord and extend the DC power cord but the Dell power supplies are made poorly so I figure it would be best this way.  I will be using spare plexiglass to make a box for the power supply mounted between the frame.  I am also leaving the battery in so I can transport it to the kitchen for recipes without having to reboot.  Thanks for the graet idea.  I was concerned with other projects posted on instructables due to lack of air flow (my Dell doesn't exactly run cool).  I will post pics once I am finished.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Great idea!!! Looking forward to seeing the photos!

    Thank you for sharing!



    10 years ago on Step 3

    I just got a copy of windows XP pro, though I haven't had a chance to run it yet. Does it have different install options? How can I install it to take up the least amount of space? Thanks.

    5 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    try linux, there are several verstions that are really small.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Windows XP May Be A little Heavy For Old PC's. Windows XP Requires at least 1.3GB of disk space to be happy,You Could Try Windows 95,Visit They have it there,Windows 95 Will Be happy with anything larger than 150BM,And IT can Run With as little as 4MB or RAM.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Windows XP Embedded comes only in preinstalled packages for emulators, Like virtual PC. I would recommend MicroXP, Or tinyXP


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    XP Embedded is a commercial, modular version of windows XP. It comes in 2 setup cd's + 1 update. It can be installed on any x86 system. Even the ones with little storage or RAM. You can get a reduced installation in about 200 MB.