How to turn an old laptop to a digital photo frame

Recently I discovered my wife’s old Compaq laptop (bought in 2000) in our storage room. It was an HP Omnibook XE3 – PIII with 128MB memory and 10GB HD. Googling around I came up with the idea of turning it into a digital photo frame (DPF). From my Google findings everyone admitted (I agree with that) that the hardest part is the tearing apart of the laptop to its components.  Beware! The most sensitive part is the screen along with its cabling.

The laptop was shipped with Windows me, which were replaced by Puppy Linux for my project’s needs. As the laptop didn’t have WiFi NIC, I bought a PCMCI Netgear that works like a Swiss with Puppy.

Removing the screen and getting rid of the plastic motherboard casing took me approximately 3-4 hours. Placing the components into the wooden frame took me 2.30 hours. I begun with the removal of the keyboard then moved on to the removal of the screen and its cabling and then to accomplish my target way faster I …. broke gently(!!!!!) the plastic casing being very careful not to destroy the motherboard.

Motherboard (plastic casing removed)

My DPF would be hosted in a wooden frame. The perfect frame for my parts’ dimensions was the 30x40cm RIBBA from IKEA. I centered and glued my screen on the frame’ s white carton paper.

Screen centered and glued with duct tape on carton

As the duct tape might not be sufficient for the screen’s weight, I supported the screen with wood on its lower left corner. The wood would then be the foundation for the screen’s back cover. The wood was glued with wood glue on the frame. A piece of the wood was cut and placed on the top right corner to balance and stabilize (with screws) the screen wooden cover.

Screen wooden support

The frame’s thin wooden panel would be used as the screen cover and the motherboard base. I opened 3 holes on this piece of wood. The two of them were for the screen cables and the other one for the motherboard’s fan.

Frame back wooden panel drilled

I stuck 4 pieces of two-side tape at the bottom of the motherboard to make it stable on the wood and then screwed it on the wood. I chose holes on the motherboard that seemed secure and would not cause any hardware damage

Motherboard taped

Motherboard screws

When motherboard got in place, I connected the screen’s cabling to its place on the motherboard, and connected the power cord.

All connections are made

Then I prayed that my 2 and a half hours were not a waste of time…

And…my prayers were heard!!!!

Puppy linux Grub menu

Puppy booted flawlessly and the best way to test it was the flickr slideshow

Flickr slideshow

Having kept the laptop speakers I turned an old laptop into a DPF – internet radio.

Minor adjustments are in my future plans. The power button has to be unsoldered and placed into the side of the frame plus I have to buy a wireless mouse and keyboard for the DPF. Alternatively I could write a script that starts a slideshow on startup.

Try it yourself with an old laptop! It’s fascinating!

Update (24/08/2011): More guides and instructions on installing Linux on laptops and turning old laptops to DPFs can be found here:

2 thoughts on “How to turn an old laptop to a digital photo frame”

  1. Well, this is the wife. The original question from Leo was “do you mind if I set Linux on your old laptop? You do not use it anymore do you??” the tearing part was never mentioned.. However after seeing the result I must admit that I am (once again) impressed!!! BRAVO Leonida mou!!!

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