Recycle Old Laptop Into Powerful Media Center for Free



Introduction: Recycle Old Laptop Into Powerful Media Center for Free

About: I am IT professional, living in Bangalore, India. As new gadgets come out everyday, we indulge in spending significant time and money on these gadgets. And our kids are learning from us, they know how to use...

Hi All,

My cousin had an old laptop with broken screen lying around as junk

This was a Samsung AMD E2 build with 2 GB ram and 320GB HDD. It had windows 8.1 but was extremely slow ( when screen was working)

Since the new screen or external monitor was not worth to invest on this old and slow laptop, so decided to recycle it into Kodi based media center

Kodi Features

  • Player almost all video formats
  • Mp3 Player
  • Pictures
  • CD /DVD Player
  • Movies om demand
  • Youtube
  • Remote control over Wifi
  • uPnP/ DLNA rendener

In this instructable I will share how to build a media center using old laptop for free

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Step 1: What Do We Need ?

- USB drive altest 512mb or above
- broken laptop
- HDMI cable

- Openelec IMG file for 64 bit
- Kore Android app
- Sftp client
- Disk image

- Screwdriver

Step 2: Boot Laptop Into BIOS

In newer laptops (post 2010) "Unified Extensible Firmware Interface" a.k.a UEFI.replaces the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) firmware interface originally present in all computers and laptops. UEFI help in preventing mallware attach in boot sequence etc.

Because of UEFI and broken screen, one cannot get into BOIS mode to change boot sequence.

I could boot into Windows 8, but could not boot into USB.

Tried following solutions but did not work

  • Disable built in display in Windows and Nvida console
  • Use a small fridge Magnet to make laptop think that the lid is closed

What worked ?

I had to open the screen panel and disconnect internal display cable , An it worked

Read this generic instructions for more details

Step 3: Change Booting Order

Why change Boot sequence ? Since my old laptop did not have good hardware, I wanted to put minimal OS that was needed to run all connected interfaces ( Bluetooth, DVD drive, Sound, Wifi, Bluetooth and HDMI). Windows and traditional Linux distributions were bulky

We need to disable "FAST Boot" and enable "Legacy Boot". One may also have to setup USB as first boot an HDD as second boot device

Step 4: Kodi Installation

Why OpenElec ?

Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center (OpenELEC) is a small Linux based Just Enough Operating System (JeOS) which can easily convert your old computer or laptop into Kodi Media Center.

I tested Kodi on Windows8, Ubuntu and Kodibuntu, but all of these made my slow laptop slower. Response was not good

URLs for reference and

Installation Summary

  • Download Openelec and diskimage software from
  • Using isk imagge, create a usb bootable installer for openelec
  • Boot laptop into usb installer
  • Install Openelec onto laptops hdd

More detailed installation step, please visit : openelec wiki

Step 5: Kodi Config and Add-ons

After you have installed, the laptop boots into openelec. we need to configure it based on our requirement

Sorry no screens as photos of my tv did not come good

Mandatory Configurations

  • Wifi - Connect your wifi
  • SSH - enable this ( default user root ; password openelec)
  • Sound - Enable for HDMI
  • Video
    • Aspect ratio -strech 4:3 to 16:9
    • Subtitiles - add as provider
  • uPnP /DLNA receiver
  • Shortcuts based on Skin selected

Addons : Please note that their are many official and unofficial add-ons for KODI.

As per some online forums, only the official add-ons are legal to use. My recommendation stick to legal content

  • Youtube
  • ABC Family
  • Skins
  • Google
  • Picasaweb

For more detailed step refer openelec config guide

Install Kore - remote control app if the mouse pa does not work to

Step 6: Apps and Network

Remote Control : The easiest way to control is using KORE, official remote control app for android phone
uPnP : BubbleUPnP is good app to cast images, music, video from your phone to Kodi
SFTP Client : One can transfer files/content from phone or other pc using SFTP client
NAS : Add folders as source in File System for existing NAS on NFS protocol
Samba : If you donot have a NAS then youu can share a folder on any Windows Laptop or computer and ad them as source using SMB client already installed on Kodi

Step 7: Play It

Play some of the free and backup contents you have and test it.

You may have to tweak based on one's liking example icon size or thumbnails

Thanks for reading. Please share your comments

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