Vintage Look Media PC From an Old Laptop

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About: I am creating step by step, do it yourself, complete build videos. My goal is to create something cool by combining small scale woodworking (at home) and electronics. I mainly use tools which doesn't cost fo...

In this special instructable / video I am making cool looking small media PC with integrated speakers, which is controlled with convenient mini remote keyboard. PC is powered with an old laptop.

Small story about this build. One year ago I saw Matthew Perks (my favorite DIY creator) video ( https://youtu.be/e3fnsGHe8eE ) how he created something cool from an old laptop. I wished that one day I will be capable of making anything close to it. Today is the day that I surpassed my all expectations from one year ago.

I converted regular laptop into a full functioning PC without breaking anything ha ha, I also kept the display and integrated 30W+30W amplified speakers. And all this is controlled with small and convenient remote control.

What you could want more? Huge thanks to all 1000+ YouTube subscribers, 250+ Instructables subscribers and huge thanks to Matthew Perks for inspiration!

Here you can download PDF file with all dimensions - http://bit.ly/VintageMediaPC

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Step 1: Preview

Preview shots of the build.

Step 2: Taking Laptop Apart

Disassembling laptop is one of the easiest things in this build, so I won't go into the details. You will need main board with power switch, battery pack, display, USB and charging ports, fan and audio card (if it's not integrated into the main board).

Display must be completely disassembled that we just have the LCD panel, Wi-Fi antennas and web camera.

Step 3: Portable or Not

If you want that this media PC would be portable you should change the old batteries to new ones.

Battery pack is sealed quite well so it is hard to open it. I just used "breaking" method. If you do the same, be careful not to short batteries or damage protection/charging circuit.

In older and cheaper laptops inside usually are 18650 Li-Ion cells. Take few pictures how everything is connected and de-solder the wires.

Step 4: Old Cells

If you have universal battery charger, you can test how much capacity are left in the batteries. If they have some juice left you can re-use them in devices which has short-circuit/over-charge/over-discharge protections. As those cells has no protection now.

Step 5: Making New Battery Pack

For the new battery pack we need DIY battery holders. As my batteries were connected in 3 series and 2 rows (3s2p) I soldered holders and extra wires exactly the same. If your batteries are connected differently, re-make holder accordingly.

Step 6: ​Assembling Battery Pack

We need to de-solder connector from the protection circuit and solder extra wires.

As I used plywood plate, I wrapped it in heat resistant and electrically conductive tape and added electrical tape where protection circuit and battery contacts will be.

Make sure that all glued heat resistant tape pieces can carry current, as sticky side of the tape is insulated. I connect them by simply poking multiple times.

Step 7: Ffinishing the Battery

Battery holders and protection circuit can be screwed with small screws and fragile connections hot-glued.

If your reassembled battery don't work after plugging it into a laptop, you might also to need connect a charger. In my case, when I plug the charger for the first time, red light flashes few times and after that battery pack is usable again.

Step 8: Making Power Button

To turn on a laptop you need a power button. Locate which button it is and find it's contacts with a multi-meter.

Mark them and de-solder contacts. Then simply solder those two wires to the new power button. Secure fragile contacts with hot glue and electrical tape.

If you care about other functions which nearby buttons had, you can do same to them, these are just buttons.

Step 9: New Thermal Paste

To improve cooling performance you can add new higher quality thermal paste.

Step 10: New Cooling

Bigger aluminum heatsink (60x60x10mm in my case for 60W(max) laptop) can be glued with thermal conductive glue. Fan can be secured with some zip ties through drilled holes in the heatsink.

And to power the fan you can use wires and connector from a stock fan. As these stock fans usually are powered with 5V and I added 12V fan it will spin at lower rate and produce less noise. But by doing it this way you will loose fan control (as we use only power wires) and it will spin at a fixed rate.

Also keep in mind that your laptop must boot without any fan connected for this mod to work. If it doesn't, maybe it will work with only power wires connected to the fan, I can't say. Maybe you can use something like this https://noctua.at/en/nf-a6x25-5v-pwm 4pin 5V fan, you have to test yourself, unfortunately I can't tell.

Step 11: Cutting Parts

I cut and glue main parts for the frame. You can check dimensions here in a PDF file:

Step 12: Cutting Display Frame

Display frame should be quite thin - 5mm thickness.

Step 13: Finishing Frame

Frame parts can be trimmed to 5mm with jigsaw table or just by splitting and sanding plywood. By this extra work you will get front parts that look the same, as different thickness plywood can have very different shades.

Step 14: Final Front Piece

We need to make holes for the speakers, volume control, amplifier and laptop power buttons. As this plywood is quite thick - 12mm, we need to make some space for potentiometer and laptop power on button in the other side.

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Step 15: Gluing

Front and back piece with charging connector can be glued in place. More pieces can be cut for the speakers.

Step 16: Speaker Boxes

As I am using full range car speakers (ported speakers) I drilled holes that air pressure from the speakers doesn't affect sound performance in a bad way. It also give better lower frequencies. And don't forget to drill small holes for the speaker wires.

Step 17: Finishing Speaker Boxes

More parts can be cut and we can finish making speaker boxes.

Step 18: Securing Display

We need to add some double side tape around the display frame, place it and hot glue all corners.

Then display can be secured properly with some bent holders that will came with car speakers or anything similar.

Step 19: Mounting Main Board

Connect all cables to the board and secure them with duct tape that they won't come loose when mounting the board. I used plywood blocks as spacers and small 90 degree right angle corners.

Step 20: WIFI, SSD

Now we can glue Wi-Fi antennas with thick double side tape into both corners. I also changed from old mechanical drive to fast solid state drive, it makes huge difference even with a slow laptop and SATA2 port!

Then we need to glue small block in each corner which will hold the back panel.

Step 21: Safety?

We should add heat resistant tape where battery pack will be. This should prevent quick ignition of the wood if something horrible happens to the battery pack. Like before make sure that all pieces connect with each other and can carry the current.

Step 22: Making Volume Control

We need to cut a 3.5 stereo cable in half. Then wires can be soldered as shown.

  • To the left side pins - ground as one connection.
  • To the middle pins - left and right channel wires that will go to the output (laptop)
  • To the right side pins - left and right channel wires that will go to the input (audio amplifier)

You can check which wires are left, right and ground with a multi-meter.

Step 23: Speakers Amp Wiring

For this build we need something like a TPA3118 30W+30W Stereo Amplifier (8V~26V DC). And we should make power switch for it.

With audio amps always use equal or more powerful speakers (AMP Watts ≤ Speaker Watts).

Step 24: Finishing Power Delivery

Now battery pack can be secured with two screws and battery cut off switch can be made. As my battery had 2 positive and 2 negative wires in both sides, I made that the switch will disconnect both positive wires. Amp power wires can be soldered here too.

Step 25: Back Cover

Back cover is nothing special. We need to drill holes for the fan to take in the air, and on the top for the hot air to escape. I also placed USB port here.

Step 26: Oil and Feet

To get a nice and rich wood look we can use some linseed oil. And to eliminate vibrations we can use 4 soft rubber feet.

Step 27: If Your Speakers Makes Weird Noises

If your speakers makes weird noises when amp is connected to the powered on laptop, you need to use a ground loop noise isolator. By passing audio wires through this device, all electrical noises are gone.

I used quite bulky device like this, if you can, just use something like in the 4th picture, it is way more convenient.

If you want to know more about this device, this is great video: https://youtu.be/fV_hsFK1MnA

Step 28: Finishing

With everything done inside, we can add heat resistant and electrically conductive tape on back covers and connect negative wire from the battery pack to the inside shielding (heat tape). All shielded pieces must connect with each other that current could flow.

What this does, it shields inside electronic components from outside electromagnetic interference. This is one of the reason why inside of the laptop is covered with similar shielding.

Step 29: All in Place

We can secure back covers with wood screws and install the speakers.

Step 30: END

I hope this instructable / video was useful and informative.

If you liked it, you can support me by liking this Instructable / YouTube video and subscribing for more future content. Feel free to leave any questions about this build.

Thank you, for reading / watching! Till next time! :)

You can follow me:

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    19 Discussions

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    akr7

    25 days ago

    I'm going to have to try this. I've got a pile of HPs and Dells just gathering dust. I think that I shall use a bit of brass around the outside edges and a more "steampunk" style keyboard. I'll let you know how it goes.

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    diyperspectiveakr7

    Reply 25 days ago

    Nice! If you don't forget post an image or give a link when you finish it. For me it is always very interesting to see how others make something like this but in their own style.

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    retroPHREEK

    27 days ago on Step 30

    This is very cool, you could stain the wood so it doesn't just look like plywood. It will give it that antique vintage feel. The etching in the wood around the boarder was a nice touch. I have a bunch of old hardware, you've given me some ideas. I have been thinking of a way to re-purpose this old HP I was going to shuck it and make it a workstation but it seems a shame to waste the display. I could reuse the display but then I have to purchase the controller board, I like to keep my projects FREE, that is 1 of the points of doing it yourself. Buying components is one thing but working with what you have is the fun part, garbage to gold. With the work you did here I expected to see a larger video archive on your youtube, I have subscribed, hoping to see more projects like this one.

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    diyperspectiveretroPHREEK

    Reply 27 days ago

    Hey thanks! I actually stained it with linseed oil. Maybe there is better stains, but I am pretty happy how it looks.
    I started making projects ~1 year ago. I had almost 0 experience. As I am one guy who does everything on the channel, it takes a lot of time. Come up with an idea, doing research, ordering right parts, making plans/3d model, making project, filming, writing script, editing, making full description, making Instructable, making FB/Instagram short video and a lot more. Time just fly by at insane speed ha ha. :)

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    I love the aesthetic appeal, for I am an artist above all things, to achieve the aesthetic I’m searching for, there are only two ways to go about it .A) use avectrex monitor or converted CRT to achieve the oscillographic GUI, or use a Mac and go with Rutt Etra which has a similar output to high res oscillographic experiments from the last three decades.

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    Killawhat

    4 weeks ago

    Cool project!
    Could I suggest, it's probably not a great idea to split the ply with a chisel. You have a crude bandsaw/jigsaw setup so why not make a fence and rip the ply in half using that? Save yourself a lot of headache if you crack it with a chisel and you'd get a better finished piece with less effort.
    Not sure why you ripped the battery pack apart. If it was still working you could have attached it directly. If the batteries were stuffed, it would have been less hassle to just get a replacement pack. Of course if you already had the Li ion batteries around then making a new pack makes sense. Personally, I've tried to import Li ion batteries into Australia off ebay and I'm sure they get caught at customs and never delivered. Hence why I said it's probably a better idea to just buy a battery pack instead of individual batteries.
    As you said, the aluminium foil you're using needs to be grounded. So unless it's in one piece you're going to have to attach them together somehow. You can get copper tape that you can actually solder (in lots of different sizes) and doesn't really cost much more (if any) than the aluminium foil tape. But if that's what you got laying around, it does the job. Just make sure they conduct between the layers.
    But the finished result looks great!

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    diyperspectiveKillawhat

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Yes, it is way easier to split plywood with a rip fence. My first pieces had bad measurement so I had to re-do it. So the second time I actually use my brains and cut those pieces on my jigsaw table (picture), ha ha.
    Yeah, it was working, but I definitely wanted more capacity (from 6Ah to 10Ah), especially considering that the speakers will be powered with these batteries too.
    If you will use quite thin aluminum tape, it easily connects when you just poke two pieces together. I done some testing and it's easy and simple, so I didn't bother to think of another method.
    Thanks for your feedback! :)

    Desktop Screenshot 2019.02.24 - 11.03.14.83.png
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    Build-Bot

    4 weeks ago

    Amazing job diyperspective; I'm curious about the wooden scroll saw type tool you were using - did you build that? If so, a link to the project (if it exists) would be great.

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    diyperspectiveAndroxilogin

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    I like mine, but if you hate it, please recommend other keyboard, don't just say that it sucks. Comments like these are pointless, cheers!

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    Androxilogindiyperspective

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Well they're pretty unresponsive. The keyboard misses many button presses and the mouse barely works half the time. I'd say that sucks. I just gave mine away and bought the one with the laser pointer built into it. It's made with metal and the buttons actually work for about $10 more. Not sure which model it is but it's a Rii as well. Not perfect but better. I'd be pretty disappointed making a lavish build to come to find this about the keyboard is the point of my comment.

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    diyperspectiveAndroxilogin

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Maybe your unit was defective? Or first gen? Because my experience is absolutely opposite. All buttons have nice satisfying clicks, touch pad works fine it even has side scrolling on it. For quick and minimal controls I genuinely like it way better than my Logitech K400 plus keyboard+touchpad. So I don't know what to say.

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    Gadisha

    5 weeks ago

    Very nice!
    I don't understand why all pc' s have the cheap plastic look, this is so much better.

    1 reply