MacBook/iMac Rack Hack

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About: Grad student in theology in Pasadena, CA into photography, tech, music and integrating them all with my studies.

How to get all the benefits of an iMac/All-in-one PC from your Macbook/laptop without sacrificing portability or desktop space.

I basically modified a wire mesh office file holder to mount on back of a 22in. LCD to hold my Macbook for desktop use, conveniently hiding the computer while providing easy port access.

You will need:
- a laptop
- an LCD monitor
- external keyboard and mouse

- an office file rack/holder
- 2-4 screws with washers
- pliers, perhaps a metal file
- foam (optional)

***
mattlumpkin@gmail.com
http://mattlumpkin.blogspot.com

Step 1: Select an LCD

You need an LCD that is bigger than the laptop you want to use and that has the mounting holes available on the back. Some of Acer and Dell's models mount their stands in these holes. This won't work for my design.

I chose the Asus VK22H (about $200 from Newegg.com). There are lots of LCD's that work for this and and only a few won't. The easiest method is to look at the pics on Newegg or Amazon to confirm available screw holes and room above the stand.

Step 2: Select a File Rack; Hack It!

There are lots of these at your local office store. I like the steel mesh ones because they are strong and leave lots of room for ventilation which will be an issue when running your laptop with the lid down behind your LCD. That said, they area a bit more expensive than other plastic options. This one was about $17.

In my zeal to mod the rack I just pulled off one whole side (making sure it corresponded with the port side on my macbook). In retrospect it would have been better for the structural integrity of the rack to clip out the mesh. That said, this method still works fine.

A little file work smoothes out the spots where the welds tore.

Step 3: Mount the Rack

First you'll need to make some mounting holes. I used needle nose pliers to twist a hold in the mesh and bent back loose ends. These holes should correspond to the holes in the back of the monitor. I used small magnets to mark where the holes should go.

I chose to only use the top two screws to mount it and it works fine. If you want you can mount it using all four, though the bottom two screws are harder to reach. Selecting the screws can be tricky. You need them to be only slightly longer than the depth of the hole. The washers are a must to hold the rack securely.

My Asus didn't come with screws so I took one out of another LCD i had to the hardware store and matched it, buying four of the most likely lengths to work. Sadly, I didn't take note of the size. Screws are cheap so trial and error isn't too hard.

The foam pieces are optional. I've since taken the top one off as it seemed to interfere with cooling. The bottom piece is helpful as it protects against scratching the face mostly likely to take the most wear.



Step 4: Insert Laptop: Enjoy!

Here's the finished product: desktop functionality when you're at home and easy portability when you need to go.

Revisions:
I angled the foam to pitch the laptop forward, however, I've since found that this isn't ideal for dissipating heat. If you lean the macbook all the way back but leave an inch or so clearance between it and the wall, it runs cooler than sitting on the desk.

Again, if I had it to do again I would leave the frame on the port side and trim out the mesh. Also the optical drive isn't accessible under this configuration without lifting the macbook up slightly. However, this happens so rarely that it's not been work developing a better design.

Enjoy I'd love to hear/see how you implement/modify this idea.

mattlumpkin@gmail.com
http://mattlumpkin.blogspot.com

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    38 Discussions

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    kurt.haines

    8 years ago on Step 4

     Are you able to provide a profile photo of the your revised laptop position in the stand?

    Going to be doing this myself to watch TV in my room using a USB TV Tuner and external speakers and just want to make sure I get the orientation right as the TV Tuner can sometimes make the fans run a bit.

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    mattlumpkinkurt.haines

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

     It's basically what you see, only I position it so the bottom leans back agains the steel mesh for maximal heat dissipation.

    That said, two years into this setup my fan started to get loud.  I still insist it doesn't run any more than normal, but I did decide to replace the fan with one from ifixit.  No problems since and I'm still using it daily.  Just know your mileage may vary.  Good luck on the TV setup.  I like it.

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    kurt.hainesmattlumpkin

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

     Awesome.  Thanks for the iFixit idea.  Going to open up the Macbook and checkout the fan situation and give it a clean.  Might as well clean the whole laptop out, I think it needs it!

    Will let you know how it goes.

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    limpport

    8 years ago on Introduction

     So I've figured out that the Macbook HAS to be plugged in for this to work.

    I take the battery out when I have it plugged into the monitor, so I have to take a long piece of tape, wrap it once around the power cord near the plug, and tape it plugged in.

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    abinadab12

    8 years ago on Introduction

    where can i get or how do i look up where to get that mesh file rack. just came from office depot only found a plastic one.

    1 reply
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    Genetastic

    8 years ago on Step 4

    I'm not sure where vents are located on an iBook, but when the laptop lid is closed, is heat an issue when running the machine? 

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    sypage

    9 years ago on Step 4

    Clever idea, but just one suggestion: Why couldn't you rotate the laptop 180 degrees in the stand so you could access the optical drive from the top? Seems like that would work with my MacBook Pro, as there are no ports on the rear edge. I'm not sure about the MacBook's port configuration, as I don't have one.

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    mattlumpkinsypage

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

    Yeah, the ports are all on the left side as pictured, vent on the top, optical drive on the right. I don't use my optical drive much (once a week or so?) so it's not a problem to pull it up. Also, it would be possible to build the rack in such a way as to leave both sides open. But it hasn't been enough of an issue to spur me on to such action.

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    limpportmattlumpkin

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

     I was thinking about what sypage said.  If you cut out in the bottom of the basket just enough to access the ports, the optical drive could stick upwards.  This also means that both sides of the rack can stay on, keeping it stronger.

    And if your keyboard has quick keys you can set, just make one of them the eject button.   Apple keyboards are basically the exact same as the ones on their laptops, so they have the eject/volume/brightness/etc.

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    Yerboogieman

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet. I just got a new Asus widescreen monitor a few months ago. Good deal.

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    Solifluktion

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea. Gotta try this with my Acer Aspire One (although I still habe a "real" Computer). btw I have the 24inch Version of your Display ;)

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    bernardomed

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great Idea.

    But using Snow Leopard (10.6.1) I had to use InsomniaX to keep my MacBook Pro from sleep.

    Man I must get me a 30" monitor. Or at least a 24". :)

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    gmjhowe

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work, though, let me ask, do you just pull out the laptop open it and turn it on normally, or have you found some other way to do it? i want to know, as im thinking of running my laptop on its side, to give me more room!

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    mattlumpkingmjhowe

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. You've rightly identified the main problem with this design. I haven't found any alternative method for powering on (though you can shut down in software) with the macbook closed. That said, I usually leave the machine on in sleep mode when not in use and I am in grad school so I take the macbook with me almost every day which gives me an opportunity to power it on. So far it hasn't been too frustrating and sometimes helps create an added incentive NOT to turn the computer on when I don't need to.