Turning a Broken Laptop’s LCD into a Fancy Monitor

Seems like you can find broken laptops everywhere these days — so why not do something with them? [Damutsch] shows us how to make a rather cool looking monitor from a laptop’s LCD display.

First, you’ll need to salvage a working LCD from a dead laptop. Once you have the panel out you can identify the serial key and order a controller board off eBay, which will allow you to plug a normal video input such as VGA or HDMI into the panel. We browsed around a bit and it looks like you can get driver boards from around $15-$30, so not too bad price-wise. It wasn’t so long ago that salvaged LCD panels were basically unusable because of a lack of these driver boards.

Now that you have an LCD panel and a controller board you’ll have to mount it somehow. [Damutsch] decided to use plexi-glass and we’re a fan of the result, kind of modern while still showing off the inside guts. You could also get fancy and bend the acrylic with a hot wire forming tool!

56 thoughts on “Turning a Broken Laptop’s LCD into a Fancy Monitor

    1. Thanks for your valuable contribution to the discussion.

      Aaanhyoooo…. It always bites me to have to throw away perfectly working tech when some minor component fails. We need more of this kind of thing. Do any hacker spaces make money by taking in peoples broken stuff, repairing with spares and selling them on?

      1. I don’t know the answer to your question, but from time to time the local hackerspace has a scrap metal drive (usually from its members) that brings in a few bucks for the hackerspace.

      2. The local hackerspace is financed through government subsidies.
        I guess that’s why they are usually just hitting the social media instead of getting busy inventive :(

  1. I have a whole lid off a 15″ Aluminum Powerbook G4, the last model made. 1440×960 resolution. I’d like to convert it for a desktop monitor.

    1. My mom used the aluminum (Jeff, aluminium) lid off of an old Maytag wringer wash machine as a pancake griddle for open fires.

  2. These days we’re moving slowly to embedded Display port for some of the higher resolution displays, here’s hoping DP to eDP boards like whoever it was that hooked an ipad display to a computer used become commonplace

      1. This is true, but only to a point. Using DisplayPort to drive an eDP panel is simple. Converting TO eDP (in order to use the panels with HDMI or DVI outputs) is extremely difficult – the options seem to be either high-end ASICs which carry high-end minimum orders, or custom solutions in FPGA, but even then the high speed of DisplayPort means you can’t use bottom-tier FPGAs and your end system cost is so high you may as well buy a new monitor. Even though you need circuitry to go from x-to-LVDS, it’s only mostly low-cost signal receivers and de- and re-serializers, not high-speed buffers and packet assemblers and such.

        As an aside, I’ve got some designs for iPad and Macbook LCD panel interfaces on my site (linked from my username), with schematics and Gerbers posted. Yes, most of the lines are direct pass-throughs.

  3. It is good that this is becoming more commonplace, although I’d suspect that by the time most laptops are being discarded their screen resolution would be a little outdated (and there’s no shortage of discarded LCD monitors these days either).

    One thing that has always bugged me is when you have a headless server and need to go find a keyboard and monitor to install the OS – despite having a laptop to hand.

    1. Are you under the impression that screen resolution is somehow increasing over time? Although TVs are seeing quite an increase in resolution (from “standard definition” up to 1080p) computers have had high resolutions (lets say 1920×1080) for decades now.

      1. Resolution is increasing, look at the size of laptops from a few years ago. They have full-size keyboards now, with numpad and a full 8 octaves! Laptop screens are getting bigger, which means higher res. As well as that there’s been a certain increase in pixel density as technology’s got better. The Apple Retina display shows that some people will try squeeze pixels in well past the point of being able to see them.

    2. I have a 10 year old Dell Inspiron 5150 with a 1600×1200 display. Today most laptops have a 1366×768. Compare that to the difference in any other laptop component over those 10 years. Far from resolution getting significantly better, it’s stagnated or getting worse.

  4. Blah blah resolution blah blah pixel density. I still wanna play the RAS syndrome game.

    VIN Number.. and it’s an alpha numeric code so it’s also a misnomer.

  5. I’d like to see if it’s possible to do this with the screen from an old convertible tablet pc with a Wacom digitizer. The LCD part would probably work the same as this, with a cheap eBay driver board, but I wonder how hard it would be to interface the digitizer to a desktop. I would imagine it’s just USB, but that’s just an assumption.

    1. I have a few old Dell Latitude XT that I want to do this too. I do have an LVDS converter so I can use it as a display, and that part works great, but I have no idea how to interface with the N-trig active digitizer. It looks like it could be USB, there is a, I think it is 8 pin connector, but looks like only 4 or 5 of them are connected, I really don’t have the know how to sniff the traffic though. These displays can be had rather cheaply on *Bay and the digitizers can be had even cheaper. Pretty decent 1280×800 12.1″ display to play with

      1. You are correct, it is A usb connection. I’m not sure if the exact pinout, but once you get it connected you shouldn’t have any problems installing the dell intrig software.

    2. Wacom’s got two typical interfaces for Penabled LCD panels, a USB unit (simple to interface) and a RS-232 unit. Apparently the USB ones are mostly plug-and-play, but I’ve got an example of a RS-232 one and it’s not exactly as friendly as one would hope. There is an effort over here: http://forum.bongofish.co.uk/ , that has a working system for interfacing these units using a Teensy microcontroller, in the process emulating a USB Intuos4 (or other) tablet, which has the apparent side effect of enabling some extra functionality.

  6. I have several portable DVD players with bad mechanisms (as does probably every household with children – my daughter thought putting sand in one would make it run better!). I’d like to “hack” those displays (the Analog Audio-Visual inputs still work).

    1. I just picked one of those up at the local thrift store. Gonna see if I can drive the LCD directly. Probably been done already by somebody.

  7. Wow been saving a working laptop display for years, so going to do this.
    Question what would it take to turn it into a simple hardware
    picture frame? Plexi frame is retro cool.

  8. Well I would consider htis a hack.

    And there are several reason i gave up on such a thing.

    A new monitor is cheaper, has guarantee, higher display resolution. buttons and other osd features, where this hack is just a crap at the end.

    no good case, no good cables, no stability, no guarantee. economical wise also not good.

    cheapest monitor is 30 euros what i have seen, and these boards also cost 30. and you can not connect anything.

    He just put an exisiting case together with the inverter board, some bought cables and a bought hardware converter for the lvds signals, thats it. so when i use 5 screws its a hack, serious no.

    Cheapest monitor is 100 times better, you get a good stable case, cables, you can adjust it, it has an osd. and it has guarantee.

    i thought myself about it and i gave up because it is just not economical.

  9. WOOOW ANOTHER AMAZING HACK.
    oh wait.. he just bought a product on ebay and use it. like tons of other people. really innovative.
    really amazing. this website is really on a down spiral.

    1. It’s a creative re-application of an otherwise dead and useless item. Not all of us need to be involved in rocket science nor code hackers to make and create some cool that is “HACKED together”. Chill out and respect his work, and don’t post like a troll if it doesn’t suit your personal taste. It says a lot about the type of person YOU are.

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