How to turn an old laptop into a digital photo frame

1st Nov 2009 | 10:00

How to turn an old laptop into a digital photo frame

Do something useful with that venerable old machine


The world is waking up and coming to terms with the horrible new truth: laptops grow old and die.

Their ageing, creaking and cracking frames, which were once so admired by the passing technointelligentsia, are now just a constant and painful reminder of their outdated and embarrassingly limited abilities.

But, just like the geriatric PC Format team, they're not utterly good-for-nothing. An ageing or semi-decrepit laptop can certainly be put to a number of goodly tasks, it's just a case of ascertaining what's still working.

We've had a seven-year-old Dell laptop rattling around the place and, while we could probably get £50 or so for it on Ebay, we could also put it to good use in many other interesting ways.

It has a working screen and innards; it can be a bit temperamental with its networking but is otherwise in pretty good nick. The plan is to remove the screen, reverse this and mount it inverted in a 17x13-inch chunky frame along with the original chassis – this will enable us to re-use it for other things later on.

This device can be assembled in any number of ways: you can use screws, hot glue, wooden batons or even cut metal sheets into suitable corner sections. It's actually possible to disassemble the laptop and mount just the motherboard within the frame, without any drives or the chassis. This will save on space and weight, and the old parts could then be sold or re-used.

What you will need

An old laptop
Hot glue gun
'Chunky' picture frame
Wooden batons
Jewellers screwdrivers

How to make a digital frame

1. Before you start, make sure the frame is more than big enough – widescreen laptops will cause their own size issues. Also avoid running screens upside down or sideways, as most are designed to be viewed from one direction only.

Step 1

2. Disassemble your laptop! Every model is different, so you're on your own here.

Step 2

3. We popped off a top panel to reveal the screen's main mounting points.

Step 3

4. Most keyboards can be popped out pretty easily, though a few screws are normal. Once out of the way, the display's connection is revealed.

Step 4

5. At this point we can remove the connection and the entire display can be separated. If possible, free up any spare ribbon, but be very, very careful not to damage it!

Step 5a

Step 5b

6. Position everything within the frame and make sure it'll fit and the ribbon will reach. If it doesn't, you'll need to remove the chassis.

Step 6

7. We're keeping things simple: a couple of blocks and hot glue will keep the screen in position. We're using the screen's own mounts to secure it.

Step 7a

Step 7b

8. A baton screwed in place will keep the chassis secure; as this sits beyond the frame, another will be needed at the top. We're also going to strap it all securely in place.

Step 8

9. If you're going to run this off a flash drive, you'll need to transfer your Windows licence plus set up suitable slideshow software such as Irfanview.

Step 9

10. The final masterpiece! If you need to control the frame, using a wireless keyboard and mouse makes the most sense.

Step 10


First published in PC Format Issue 231

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