Akshay Kore

@akshaykore

Turn your old useless laptop screen into an external monitor

June 10th 2017
Trust me. It’s easier than it sounds!

For far too long I possessed an old Dell Studio laptop. It served me well for a good 5 years with a number of service centre visits, battery and hard disk replacements, formats and OS upgrades. From the past few years I have ditched the old laptop for a Macbook. Yet still, I never bothered to dispose of it. After all it still works (slow af but works!). What if there is an ‘emergency’ situation where I need to use this ancient piece of technology? I tried selling it, but the act itself and the price I get for it is honestly not worth it. Giving it to someone for free feels like a punishment to the person (most smartphones have better specs). Disposing it off just doesn’t feel right (yeah right! That’s the middle class in me speaking. Also not very good for the environment).

Aren’t we all hoarders of things we think we’ll use someday? Here’s to someday

I had been building a smart mirror for a few weeks. One of the main components of which is an LCD screen. Since this was a pet project, I was looking at the cheapest available solution. Most monitors available online cost upwards of 4000 INR, even ones on OLX and Quikr cost as much as. 2500 INR. There has to be a cheaper solution. My budget was capped at 1500 INR for a screen size of at least 13.3 inches. So I decided to wait until I could find a cheaper solution. I am so glad I did.

One rare Sunday afternoon while I was cleaning my cupboard, I stumbled upon the faithful old Dell studio. I switched it on, it worked despite it’s battery life deteriorated. I switched it on and started dismantling the laptop to procure the LCD screen on it. We all know that a laptop is a complicated piece of machinery, it is only when you dismantle it that one really comes in face with the fact. Make sure you dismantle it very carefully, preferably on sheet of cloth. You will need those thin screwdrivers for this.

Long story short… Turning your laptop LCD screen into an external monitor is damn easy.

This is not an instructable. I don’t like writing ‘how to’ articles, so I’m taking the liberty of assuming the fact that you will be careful, are smart and that you will figure it out. Mind you, asking questions is a part of figuring it out. So hit me up if you have any, I will try my best to answer most questions or guide you to the appropriate resources.

Once you have the LCD screen, remove the cable at the back. This is the the LVDS cable, you will need a similar cable later. Now that you have carefully removed the LCD screen, you will need to procure a few things:

1. LCD controller board

A standalone LCD screen cannot process a signal via a HDMI or VGA input directly. You will need a controller board to interface the LCD screen with your computer. It contains a tiny microprocessor. I would suggest searching for a ‘Universal LCD Controller Board.’ It is cheap if you only want a VGA input are not particular about getting an HDMI input. Look for this on eBay, Amazon, etc. For the one with the HDMI input, if you are willing to wait, AliExpress is gold.

2. LVDS Cable

You will need this to connect your screen with the controller board. Here’s a how to guide. In most cases you would need a 40 pin cable. You will need to scout the internet a bit to find a cheap deal (eBay would be the best).

3. Infrared sensor and button control with cable

The controller board often comes with an infrared sensor and a remote control. I prefer a button control. Search for ‘keypad for LCD controller board’. This is fairly cheap.

4. HDMI or VGA cable

Enough said.

5. Adapter for power supply

You will need a 12V adapter for power supply. It being 12V is very important. You’ll find this fairly easily.

Connect everything as shown in the figure below.

If you did it, give yourself a pat on the back. Congratulations! 🥇

Here’s how it should probably look. It’ll look even better with a frame around it.

Why do all this?

There is the insatiable need to tinker or what we call ‘chull’ in hindi. We do this to feed this ‘chull’.

I think it is very important to periodically keep doing things that push you just a little bit out of the comfort zone. Prolonged slumber, inaction, a state of rest are infinite loops. The more you sleep, the more you feel like sleeping. The more you get used to doing nothing, more nothing do you do. I have been a victim to this state. Comfort is easy, it is important, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. A slight discomfort is essential to doing anything consequential.

P.S. I also got the hard disk from the laptop, when dismantling it and converted it to an external HDD. More on this sometime later. Too bad we can’t do this with some of the newer laptops. Sigh! I guess everyone has their reasons. Apart from this please share if you have a better way of doing this.

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