DIY Second Monitor(s)

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Last Edit
Mar 23, 2022 12:53 AM
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My personal project for January was to take two old laptops that I had and recycle or reuse the parts in some way.
This was inspired by the wonderful YouTube channel, DIY Perks, which has shown several builds that look far sexier than what I’ve ended up with. So please do check those out and watch his videos on monitor reuse!
That said, I also wanted to document my own process in writing as another way to provide a pathway if you have an old laptop that you don’t know what to do with. I found myself wishing for a sort of play-by-play written guide a few times so I think this will be helpful to someone who has watched the video and gets the high-level from there but needs some (semi-)detailed instructions.

Step 1: Disassemble!

(30-45 minutes)
Small (electronics) screwdriver
The first step is to crack open your laptop! This will vary greatly by unit, but generally you’ll need to unscrew the bottom cover and pry it off. From there, you’ll see more screws, and you can slowly start unscrewing and removing various parts: hard drive (save that), speakers, keyboard, RAM, et cetera.
The to get to the monitor itself, you’ll likely need to unscrew the hinges and remove them, then you can get at the screen and separate the plastic covering from the screen itself.
The monitor will also be attached via cables to the motherboard as well as the power source. Both of these will need to be carefully unplugged and then you should be able to fully remove it!

Step 2: Order Some Supplies

(15 minutes)
On the back of your monitor is a model number. You’ll need this to know what kind of control board to purchase. Get the model number (image below) and type that into Amazon on eBay along with “monitor control board”. You should find a part that is compatible likely around $20-$30. This control board handles translating data from the computer into a format that the monitor can understand, as well as coming with a set of buttons for turning on/off the power or adjusting the color.
Along with that, you’ll need a few more things:
Compatible monitor control board
A compatible power cord (likely a generic 12V cord)
Electronic Mounting Screws
Backing Material (MDF or Aluminium)
Some Vinyl Wrap (typically used for cars, but works for this to act as a border)

Step 3: Test the Screen

(10 minutes)
Once you get the control board and the power source, connect the monitor to the control board, connect a computer to the control board, and plug in the control board. Assuming you got the right bits, you should now see that the monitor is working and can display from your computer! If not, well, time to troubleshoot. But at least for me this process all worked as expected.

Step 4: Build a Backing

(NN minutes)
Circular Saw/tool to cut either MDF or Aluminium
As the monitors are quite flimsy, you’ll need a material to back it, and this will depend on how you want to use it. DIY Perks has a build for a fold-up second screen for a laptop (you’ll want something thinner for this) and a standalone monitor (thicker is fine here).

Step 5: Mount the Control Board and Screen

(NN minutes)
Epoxy or similar adhesive
Once you are happy with the backing and it is sized to your screen, you can get everything into position and start to mount it!
Start with the control board on the back of the backing. This should be screwed on using the electronic mounting screws so that it sits slightly off the surface. The screws that go through to the other side should be countersunk so that they don’t impede the monitor from laying flat.
Once the control board is in place, you can mount your monitor! Depending on it’s setup it may have screw holes you can use, but more likely you’ll want to use Epoxy to stick it into place, so don’t mess up!
Once that is done, ensure that everything is connected and still works.

Step 6: Finish it!

(NN minutes)
Epoxy or similar adhesive
Now, you can focus on making the monitor presentable! Add the vinyl wrap around the outside. That is the raw essential, but you’ll likely want two other things: foldout legs to keep it standing and a cover for the control board. My plan is to 3d print these, but you could even use a picture frame-style stand and an extra piece of MDF to quickly cover the control board.
Really at this point, it is up to you how far you go.