You’ve heard about building your own PC, but can you build a laptop from scratch? The trouble with laptops is that the components don’t adhere to any definitive standards. Consequently, the nearest you’ll get to building a laptop is upgrading the RAM and maybe the storage.
But with the help of specific hardware, kit computers, and 3D printing, it’s possible to build your own notebook computer. These six laptop building kits and project ideas will get you started.
1. Pi-Top Raspberry Pi DIY Laptop Kit
So many Raspberry Pi laptop project kits are around, but which one is best? We reckon it’s the Pi-top, a modular laptop with a retractable keyboard panel. It’s here that you place your Raspberry Pi, attach it to the Pi-top’s connection module, and start using the computer.
Designed for portable productivity as much as experimenting with the Raspberry Pi, the rail mounting system supports extra hardware. There’s also a cooling bridge to enable you to overclock your Pi for improved performance without overheating. The end result is an easy-to-carry Raspberry Pi experience, capable of running any project you can throw at it.
This isn’t the only Raspberry Pi laptop available. See our guide to Raspberry Pi laptops for more project ideas using the popular little PCB.
2. DIY Laptop With Cardboard and an Old Tablet
A truly DIY project, this homemade notebook project relies on you owning a 10-inch tablet and a keyboard. Oh, you’ll also need plenty of cardboard, decent knife, and a good supply of glue.
When cutting the card, take the time to plan out everything in advance. After all, the chances are you don’t have the exact same model of tablet and keyboard. Things will need to be adjusted, even if it’s only slightly. With a bit of care, you could replicate this project with any old tablet—the thinner, the better!
It is easy to laugh, but there is something ingenious about this project. The care that has gone into the design is clear and relying on an old tablet is inspired. Sure, you’ll need a keyboard and mouse, but for a DIY laptop, this is better than most actual notebooks.
Looking for more cardboard projects? Check our collection of DIY Google cardboard headsets.
3. Windows 10 Mini-Computer Pocket PC Notebook
For a truly compact DIY laptop solution, try this project which utilises a compact LattePanda computer. You’ll also need the affordable IPS LattePanda display for this DIY notebook which runs Windows 10.
A standard wireless keyboard and mouse combi is also used in the design, the bulk of which relies on an impressive 3D printed case. You can find the STL files for printing in the developer’s Thingiverse page.
By the end of the build, you should have a pocketable Windows 10 computer, smaller than a notebook. This might not be what you’re looking for in a DIY laptop project, but you’ll agree it’s impressive.
4. Xbox One S Laptop by Ben Heck
Following the tear-down of the comparatively slimline Xbox One S, YouTuber Ben Heck had the parts just laying around. His solution? To convert the Xbox One S into a portable gaming machine—an Xbox laptop, essentially.
Taking the motherboard, Blu-ray drive, PSU, and hard disk drive, the laptop features a 15-inch display, and machined aluminum base.
The project video is lengthy, but you’ll see how Heck made some interesting design choices and moved components around. Also, find out if the finished product is good enough for gaming. Of course, you can’t type on it; there are no Xbox word processing apps.
As a productivity device, this is a massive fail—but as a gaming laptop, it’s the ultimate.
5. Build Your Own Gaming Laptop
For a less complicated gaming laptop that has a keyboard, try this DIY laptop project.
Relying on affordable components from Amazon (or your preferred hardware retailer), the secret to this project is the case. Barebones laptop cases can be purchased online, featuring just the display, keyboard, motherboard, and CPU/GPU. These can be bought as-is, or with the chosen customizations added by the retailer.
This project takes the barebones case and makes some improved component suggestions. The result is a DIY laptop project with high speed RAM, fast SSD storage, and m.2 SSD for the OS. Of course, you can make your own customizations, based on your budget.
Various online retailers ship barebones laptops. One example is RJTech.com, where you’ll find a nice selection of barebones notebooks for all budgets.
6. Pizza Box Laptop
Ever broken a laptop and found yourself short of options? When the case itself breaks, it can seem like the end of the world. This is particularly frustrating if it is the lid—you’re suddenly unable to use a perfectly good computer.
One answer is to sell the laptop. Another is to find a new home for it. But you’re unlikely to find a case to precisely fit your hardware components. So, what is the answer?
Well, why not consider a pizza box?
Admittedly a somewhat amusing option, this pizza box laptop has two interesting qualities:
- It works
- You can see how the components are arranged
That second point is important, as it can inform your own future DIY laptop project. With any computer, the position of the components is paramount. In a notebook computer, more so.
Whether you choose to construct your laptop out of a new or old pizza box or something else entirely, the principle is simple: make it better than this.
Yes, You Can Build Your Own Laptop!
It’s incredible, but when you see the evidence with your own eyes, building your own laptop suddenly becomes achievable.
With a wealth of options from Raspberry Pi to pizza box, you’ll probably find that a guided DIY laptop project is the smart choice. To recap, we looked at six DIY laptop projects:
- Pi-top Raspberry Pi laptop kit
- DIY cardboard laptop using an old tablet
- DIY Windows 10 Pocket PC
- Ben Heck’s DIY Xbox One S laptop
- A barebones gaming laptop
- The legendary pizza box laptop
Discouraged by the limited options for DIY laptop projects? Don’t worry—you can always build your own PC instead.
Image Credit: golubovy/Depositphotos