Make your own laptop


[Richard] pointed out this mini-itx laptop. The idea behind this particular design is to enable upgrading every component as needed. The case is aluminum, and the wiring inside is an exercise in patience. It’s not the first DIY laptop we’ve seen, and it doesn’t have batteries, but it’s the first I’ve seen with two internal hard drives.

Update: There is a battery, it just gets very little mention. It’s hiding under the DVD drive and one of the hard drives. Anyone know what kind it is?

Comments

  1. TJ says:

    Holy hell that is ugly.

    Without a battery, does this really count as laptop? I mean, what would have been the downside if he just put this into a small case? This is only marginally more portable than an LCD monitor and one of those tiny PC cases they have.

  2. gr2012 says:

    that sure looks kinda crap…

  3. Jared says:

    Scores out of 10:

    looks: 4
    useful: 3
    do-it-yourself-ed-ness: 10

  4. optV says:

    Tough crowd around here.

  5. BillW says:

    Actually, I think it looks pretty cool. The shiny aluminum is kinda retro, like a 50’s appliance.

    The real value here is that he doesn’t have to toss out the laptop and get a new one when he wants to upgrade.

    Plus he doesn’t need to go through some arcane disassembly procedure when he needs to get into the laptop guts… any real geek ought to see the value in that!

  6. morcheeba says:

    The inside is pretty scary, but the outside is awesome – great job!

    Back in the day (before mini form factor motherboards) I wanted to make my own dual processor laptop using a single board computer like this: http://www.chassis-plans.com/single_board_computers.html
    I envisioned a solid piece of aluminum that would act as case and also passively radiate the heat (the cpus would be mounted upside down to do this). When the first dual-core laptops hit the market, the novelty wore off.

  7. triikan says:

    I liked the one built into a Pelican Shipping container, with 8 wireless cards.

  8. atrain says:

    I’ve actualy seen a gaming laptop with raid-0 and 2 2.5′ harddrives.
    It had a battery, but lasted an average of 17 minutes :P

    Battery is so you don’t have to turn it off when moving the 15lb unit elsewhere, because the noise of the huge fans + crazy audio system was bothering everyone around it…

    This is still amazing though. A significant step up from the normal whitebox laptop approach! (needs a paint job, less fans, + a battery though… :P )

  9. Fragged says:

    #1-3, Looks arent everything, and not everybody has the same taste as you (go to a lan and look at the tards with colour clashing backgrounds :P)

    This is truely a ghetto mod that I’ve been looking for, my current lappy is a p-233 running Slack/Blackbox :D

  10. niko says:

    This is nice, but it will be interesting if you can manage to plug batteries ;)

  11. PKM says:

    holy hell the inside looks scary… the inside of the 360 laptop was uncluttered by comparison.

    I know it’s not technically a laptop but I like the idea of portable “all-in-one” computers that are partway between desktops and true laptops. as a computer science student I needed a decent machine that I could tinker with and upgrade, but having to take a 7 hour coach journey twice a term ruled out a full size beigebox, so I ended up with a shuttle xpc and two sets of peripherals- If there were commercial versions of this idea I’d be first in line. plus aluminium case = automatic cool points :)

  12. Phil Rennie says:

    Uhere’s a battery in the pics for the initial carbaord box build, and it doesn’t seem to mention removing it from the build anywhere later in the article.
    Despite it not being what I’d choose looks wise, that’s a really nice bit of metal work he’s done there. I love the way he glibly mentions bending the top cover/keyboard plane to shape as if we all have sheet rolling gear in the shed :D
    Very cool, but would be nice to have more info on the power requirements and what sort of temps it’s running at.

  13. MRE says:

    Its some of the above comments that make me wonder if some people even bother to read a post before throwing in their two (and often worthless) cents. It doesnt take more than a paragraph for him to mention the battery. So, yes. It has one.
    Ok so its not pretty. Well, you try welding, grinding, and otherwise fabricating a case from hand tools and sheetmetal. Everyone assumes that if your work isn’t up to ben heck’s level, then it must be trash (including ben heck’s own work [witness the wii portable]).
    Not that I think everyone should only say good things and hold back their critisisms… I just wish more people would put their supposed skills where their mouth is.. Go ahead, do a better job.
    My opinion on the project: sure it could use less fans, but not a bad first attempt. its certainly serviceable. I expect revision two will be even better.

  14. PKM says:

    mre- my mistake, I completely missed the mention of the battery while reading the article. you’ll notice will states that it doesn’t have batteries in his introduction to the article above, however, and the article itself doesn’t mention battery life or anything else after mentioning the battery, so it was quite easy to miss.

    I suppose my first comment could have been construed as “the inside looks scary- your work sucks”, when what I meant was “the inside looks scary- I am impressed by your ability to put so much stuff inside a completely hand made case”. just thought I’d clarify.

  15. alex says:

    It’s cool in concept and design.

    But two issues that come to mind are heat and battery life.

  16. I think this is sweet. Whether or not it’s practical is another matter. I myself would have traveled down this path if I could get honest power requirement specs from manufactures. It sucks to have to buy the stuff and then measure it yourself

    How about using standard portable power tool batteries? Some of the new cordless drills and other tools are using lithium rechargeable now.

    Hardware reviewers, how about publishing a FLOPS per watt or similar spec on every mother you review? That sure would help a lot when people have power budgets.

  17. Mike says:

    How about using a mac mini as the base system…essentially complete system. It would be easy to incorporate a battery, since it has an external power supply. And small…only 2″ thick.

  18. Rob Huebner says:

    I think it’s a great idea, but it’s not a laptop in the sense everyone here is thinking of. The truth is that there is really no such thing as a DIY laptop, simply because such a thing would be way too big. Granted, there are laptops that have replaceable processors, RAM, hard drives, optical drives, even video cards (sometimes, very rare) but a true DIY laptop is built from the ground up, like this one.

    I do agree with the messiness complaints, though. Seriously, WTF?

  19. Jepel says:

    rob, in the article he commented that it could have been made smaller using nano-itx, integrated graphics, and one HD. Until someone tries it, we can’t rule it out.

  20. TheNeck says:

    The Battery in the picture is actually an intergrated EXTERNAL power supply. If you look close, you can read the serial number of M-UPS-L5 which is this: http://www.computer.is/vorur/4884 Im sure there are better sites for it, but thats my google detective work in 5 mins.

  21. Chris says:

    LOL. I would love to see someone on a plane with that one. You think he would get by security?

    :)

  22. mattyfu says:

    I think if he used some of that silver bumper paint on the plastic back of the monitor it would pull together nicely. All in all it’s a pretty slick project.

  23. TJhooker says:

    The battery, and voltage regulator are the only thing that’s not snap together for this type of project.

    I successfully made a 14W solar powered ITX laptop months back, but had trouble with voltage spikes, and dropping. It took a lot of custom component work to get it to handle dynamic voltage activity from my home brew panel made entirely from solar cells out of cheap CVS drug store calculators at ~0.49V. It’s not a problem with charging battery’s, but it’s next to impossible to run a 14w VIA based ITX board off a solar panel. It takes a lot of dynamic filtering.

    I used clear plastic clip boards to make my case. I’ve requested info on molding techniques, and/or 3rd party manufacturers all over the net. You’re stuck with haggard cases, and inclosure’s because professional case manufacturing info is grim to say the least. Unless you’re running a production company.

  24. Spork says:

    CMOS battery anyone?
    All motherboards in the last 20 years use one that I know of…. I haven’t seen too many solid-state clocks.

  25. Ralph says:

    Well, there is a battery, and i happen to like the look. Ok, maybe a little less bulky, but if I showed up at a gig with that thing and say “Hi, I’m here to service your network,” would people laugh too hard?

  26. TJhooker says:

    It’d be nice if someone would publicize info on a practical CAD based enclosure manufacturer for single units. You’d think it was information on on F22 Raptor stealth technology, or NASA microwave traciever design for Mars drone’s.

    I know such manufacturers exist from seeing some people having professional cases made.

  27. majortom says:

    My acer 1691wmli laptop i can replace everything but the gpu so why would I go for something like this?

    On my laptop repalcing the cpu only requires taking off a panel and taking out the cpu/fan assembly and replacing it with a new one. no wierd taking apart of the case or anything.

  28. Guy says:

    This is a cool looking homemade laptop; I love the retro-look to it. I contacted Torquil, and he said he did indeed use an old external universal laptop battery (http://www.laptopshop.co.uk/miscpages/maxpower_batteries.htm).
    He also said that it got “well over an hour to two… but did make it very heavy”. “New updates are available on http://www.jover.co.uk/news/news_page.htm.”

  29. MRE says:

    #13 – sorry to get all ‘up in yer grill’ and thanks for the clarification. Honestly though, it was #1 – 3 i was after ;)

  30. MRE says:

    #22 – cases: your only real options for diy such as this would be to a: cnc a case (such as ben heck does) from solid plastic blocs. this option being the easiest and most quickly reproduceable. b: vacume molding. this gives you a basic shape from a sculpted model, but you still need to figure out screws and mounts. or c: shape plexi, polycarbonate, etc and fuse together. cobling a case together this way can be a total pain. definately a one off option.

  31. I built it, yes it is very messy inside… the only pictures that mini-itx published were half-built pictures. It is mostly cable tied away now and the battery, that seems to be creating lots of arguments, lasts for well over an hour. just dont wire it yourself, cos i short circuited the wires due to chaffing of the battery case and fried a bunch of stuff. It is ok now though.
    I have also redone all of the keyboard… updates are available from http://www.jover.co.uk/News/News_page.htm
    Oh… i dont have a metal bender… it was done with a hammer, a vice and a pair of leather gloves to avoid hammer marks.

    Glad it is causing a lot of chatter :-] feel free to email me any questions :-]

  32. bhiga says:

    Not sure exactly what battery that is, but from the page the other poster referenced, it’s similar in function to APC’s UPB60 or UPB70 “universal laptop battery” units.
    They’re great for powering stuff – the only challenge for laptop-like use is how to monitor the battery charge since it looks like standard DC adapter-power (from a wall) to the system and not a monitorable battery.

  33. h1dro says:

    DAMN.. that is super sweet… = ) gives me an idea…= ) thanks great mod..

  34. Ninja Master Harold says:

    As For My Opinion on this project,
    I think this is a beautiful display of ingenuity.
    Reminds Me Of My Portable Xbox Project {Don’t Ask, I am Mad It It Right Now},{I will Send Links Soon.
    Back To This Marvel though….. No Matter What Others Say, I think this is a great project and i look forward to hearing of the revised versions!

  35. gregory says:

    ugly thing… i could do a better job with copper sheeting and a braizing iron… i could even do better with corogatted iron. but noce idea and the bottom looks good just not the moniter

  36. GhostAliaz says:

    This is cool no matter what some people say. To me it looks like it should have been in the matrix movie & it looks so Industrial/Futuristic/Matrix & I love it. Good Job no matter what anyone says.You got your props from me(yeh Boy).I am going to either try to make one or atleast something near like that.Wow

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  38. Adam Summers says:

    I don’t care what anyone says, that laptop looks absolutely sweet.

  39. Josh says:

    In response to #12:

    Whole heartedly agreed. And yes, I intend to try and make a better laptop. I’m not saying I will, but I’m saying I’ll try. If I succeed, I’ll submit it. If I crash and burn… Well, I’ll try again until I do succeed.

    That’s the can-do attitude people need.

  40. Mike G says:

    Id like to see every one else do better dont say its crap unless you can do better

  41. rohhadi says:

    I have LCD monitor IBM Thinkpad 720C.
    Can I use it for my desktop computer?
    Please sent to rhdxin@yahoo.com.hk
    Thx.

  42. z says:

    ill buy one for $500

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