Custom self-contained hanging Wall-PC

The Wall-PC hanging in my office

The Wall-PC hanging in my office

Where is the Wall-PC now?

I had an old Sony Vaio laptop lying around collecting dust and my choice was either to sell it on Ebay or think of something creative to do with it. I chose the creative route because that’s certainly more enjoyable than putting together an Ebay listing, for me at least.

The idea was to dismantle the laptop and put the guts of it into a new enclosure. I wanted the laptop to act like a flat panel and cleanly hang on the wall. I decided a shadow box frame would be a perfect solution. The challenge was finding an appropriate frame with the correct dimensions, both width/length and most importantly depth. I spent a couple months browsing shadow box frames here and there. At craft stores, online, frame shops, etc. I was not finding anything the correct size, shape, and color. Finally, I stumbled on a suitable frame at Marshalls Home Goods store. It had an ugly sea-shell display inside of it but I figured I could just tear it out and apply a new matte myself.

Side view, off the wall

Side view, off the wall

Why hang a computer from the wall….?

  • Takes up almost zero space
  • It’s cheap, only need an old unused laptop + cheap frame
  • Digital picture frame w/ online syncing
  • Dedicated video game emulation with wireless controller (NES, SNES, Genesis, Playstation)
  • Control music, watch movies, watch TV
  • Browser testing w/o a separate tower + monitor, or KVM switch
  • Security web cam or video conferencing
  • File server, backup, etc.
  • Extend your main PC desktop to this extra display
  • Looks cool, good conversation piece

I learned fashioning your own matte for the frame is challenging for a novice and it is nearly impossible to find a pre-made matte to fit the non-standard (in the printing realm) dimensions of a laptop LCD screen. I got lucky and found a matte made specifically for certificates at Michaels, that fit it nearly perfectly. I had previously attempted to measure and cut my own with sloppy results, I would recommend getting it cut at a frame shop.

The laptop before it was torn apart

The laptop before it was torn apart

The guts of the Wall-PC:

  • Sony Vaio Z1 laptop – 13″ screen, very thin and light laptop
  • Pentium M 1.6ghz, 1GB RAM, 60GB HDD
  • Windows XP, 1400 x 900 screen resolution
  • Built in Bluetooth & Wireless B
  • Xbox 360 PC wireless adapter
  • USB hub, Staples snake style 5 port
  • ATI Remote Wonder Plus adapter
  • Pinnacle PCTV USB TV tuner
  • Linksys PCMCIA Wireless N adapter
  • Extra USB fan (later removed, started making noise)

Dismantling the laptop was relatively easy. It’s just a matter of finding the many tiny screws and taking away each piece in the correct order. With a little patience and a careful hand, it’s hard to screw this part up. I took away all pieces I didn’t need and removed the frame and backing of the screen. Be careful with the screen dissection because laptops often have the wireless antennas placed inside the top lid on either side of the LCD screen. I made sure to preserve those antennas and wire connections. After this, I was left with the bottom of the laptop with no keyboard and the naked LCD screen.

The guts behind the frame

The guts behind the frame

How do you control it?

  • Remote (logmein, remote desktop, VNC)
  • AirMouse iPhone app (full emulated keyboard, trackpad, mouse buttons)
  • Wireless keyboard/mouse
  • Xbox 360 controller
  • ATI Remote wonder RF remote
  • Touch panel (maybe in the future… there are kits on eBay)

This is not a step by step tutorial, as every project and laptop/frame will vary somewhat… but basically I took the screen flipped it around and put it behind the laptop while making sure it wasn’t upside down. Everything seemed to fit, so the next step was to attach the screen to the matte and attach and fit everything inside the frame, so it hangs flush on the wall. I chose to use double-sided tape for most of the securing, which doesn’t look too pretty but it worked out fine.

Once everything was together, time to plug in, hang on drywall screw and enjoy my new Wall-PC!

View details about my home office and Wall-PC on Flickr.

Additional photos:

Tekken 3 (PS1) on Wall-PC

Tekken 3 (PS1) on Wall-PC

My desk

My desk

LCD attached to back of matte

LCD attached to back of matte

Top view

Top view


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29 Comments

  1. Posted March 25, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    @Baron I just used double-sided tape, using only one side of the tape where needed. It was just what I had lying around and it’s easy to remove while tinkering. For a more permanent solution you could use small L brackets and screws to hold the mobo down to the frame and use superglue to attach the LCD to the matte.

  2. Posted March 25, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Not to be rude, but we get it: You have a DSLR. For a technical description and how-to, it’s best to have the entire object in focus whenever possible.

    Also, how’s the venting on that thing? In the photo captioned “LCD attached to back of matte”, it seems that you’ve lifted off a backer of cardboard (?) to take the photo. Does that backer usually seal the former laptop in there?

    Scott

  3. Posted March 25, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    @Scott Although in this case, I don’t feel anything important is lost from being out of focus, I do get your point and I will consider this in future posts. As for the venting, I mentioned in an earlier comment that the gap between the wall and the frame was sufficient to keep the machine cool. I do not have a backing or covering that encloses the contents in the frame, it is an open back. The board you see on that photo is a cardboard matte underneath the motherboard separating the mobo from the back of the LCD. It’s measured out to help attaching and aligning the motherboard inside of the frame, as I did not want to put tape directly on the circuitry and the mobo has smaller dimensions than the area inside the frame.

  4. Posted March 26, 2009 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the idea. I had an old everex laptop that I was no longer using and used it for this. I did have the matting done at a frame shop it is just to hard to make yourself. I kept most of the laptop together only taking apart the LCD and flipping it. I did drill holes for venting but it fits really snug in the frame so I am not sure about heat yet. I also drilled a hole in the back for the power button. I am still trying to figure out how to extend that so its on the side. I installed air mouse and vns to control it. I use a mac and “Chicken of VNC” was not working real good it was kinda slow and spotty so I have to research and find a better way to control it. I guess I may use a wireless mouse as you did. Now that I’m done I am trying to figure out the best way I want to use it.

    Picture Frame: Are you just using a screen saver for this
    Videos/Movies: What are you using for sound when watching TV/Movies
    Home Theater: I want to incorporate this in my home theator some how, maybe display all the movie covers, Browse for movies to watch..

    The airmouse is a little shackey too. It does not always work real well.

    Anyway Thanks for the post this was an awesome DIY project

  5. Rick
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Justin, great job on this project…really inspiring. One question, how did you remove the keyboard without the laptop stating no keyboard found?

  6. Posted March 26, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Yes. After all work done it really looks very nice. I’m thinking about the same one for me.

  7. Rick
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Just thought of some more questions:

    Why do need the glass on the frame, why not make the LCD flush with the frame?

    I was thinking of making this a family calendar as well.

    Also it could be used to display music videos while you are playing music. I was thinking of using software called muziic. It like napster for music videos.

    I know its not as much fun, but is their a commercial product that does this?

  8. Posted March 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    @Rick I removed the keyboard from the laptop and never received any keyboard warning on boot, from the BIOS or from Windows. Can’t guarantee you will have the same luck, though.
    Also, you could use a frame without glass, but you would probably want the LCD to be a perfect match in size to the frame, so you wouldn’t require a matte. It might look odd with cardboard matte uncovered by glass, and unwieldy to clean. The glass gives it more a of a classic authentic frame look as well.

  9. Alessandro
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    great idea!

  10. Posted April 2, 2009 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    What an idea and idea became an implementation, your pictures proving the success of idea. No doubt i will implement this idea and will circulate it to my friends.
    Thank you.

  11. Posted April 20, 2009 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this wonderful post.

  12. walser
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    so cool

  13. Slee2525
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering how you took care of ventilation in this system. I have an old PIII laptop I want to use as a clock (screensaver) and liked your idea. So how do you prevent it from over heating?

  14. tom
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I did this a few years back with a few laptops and a wireless ethernet cards. A friend was going overseas for a year on a mission trip… He uploaded photos to an FTP site, the frame auto launched kiosk mode web browser and cycled through photos for his mom and grandparents. Web page had forward, back, slow down, speed up, and pause buttons… wireless mouse to press them. 🙂

  15. podginater
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Duuuuude, You have an awesome desk, 4 monitors ; well now five

  16. Posted May 30, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Love the idea. I might find an old laptop to do something similar; I have parents that live across the continent that would love to have up-to-date photos of their granddaughter on a wall-mounted screen… I could even update the pictures remotely. Hmm. Thanks!

    Also: That is the best desk setup I’ve seen in a while. Luckily for me (unluckily for my bank account), my wife also likes it.

  17. Joe
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if you can do full 3d across all monitors. I’m guessing not… but I can. =)

  18. Jake
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    do you think that i would be able to do this with a mac computer?

  19. Posted June 17, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    @Jake Absolutely, check this out http://lifehacker.com/5243170/wallmac-is-a-powerbook-turned-wall+mounted-computer

  20. owen
    Posted August 12, 2009 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    Hey, its not to hard to adhere the mouse track pad to the top of the left/right click buttons (after removing the plastic casing) and attach it to the back of the frame. Works as well as the new model MacBook Pro mice and is easy to mount so as to impress friends. I did it with my old Quantex and it is an excellent backup mouse.

  21. B Haase
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Works like an effin’ dream. Was JUST about to throw an old dell in the garbage and came across this site. Literally took 15 minutes to remove all the screws and flip and tape the monitor. I just happened to have an old IBM wireless keyboard and mouse laying around. Only drawback usb ports on bottom (for wireless adapter) so I will have to cut out the bottom of the frame. Putting it in the kitchen as a tv/web computer. This was a FANTASTIC idea. Thanks so much. It looks so cool, everyone thinks it is a custom PC not a 10 year old piece of crap laptop.

  22. qarano
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    you should consider getting a wiimote to control that pc. create a dedicated IR sensor bar on the top of the frame, get a program which allows your wiimote to be used as a mouse, and you will no longer need a surface to put your wireless mouse on.

  23. Posted April 13, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I like both the wall mount PC, and the quad monitor setup. I tried using three, but for some reason my third won’t work.
    I just wanted to let everyone know about keyboard/mouse set that I recently purchased for about $120. I got it on Amazon because we use the same setup at work. The mouse uses a gyroscope, so you can point it anywhere to use it, it also does not use IR, so you don’t need line of sight. I can change music on my PC from the kitchen, or the neighbors. The brand is Gyration, and all of their devices work really well. They have a very long range (I can move my mouse from down the street, and type too), and they are very easy to setup. I have the music mouse, so I have an LCD display with my playlist, etc. so I know whether or not to change it, etc.
    Here is a link to the remote I have: http://www.gyration.com/index.php/us/products/in-air-remotes/air-music-remote.html I purchased this from Amazon, and it came with a compact, wireless keyboard.

  24. Brett
    Posted April 29, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    My old laptop is extremely slow but has a large lcd screen which I would like to still be able to use. I have looked around and it seems that trying to convert just the screen to an lcd monitor may prove to be very difficult. After seeing your project it seems to me that I would be better off setting up something like you have done. Would it be easier to keep my computer mostly in tact and try to just strip it down to the bare components that it needs to run the monitor and other vital functions and then just link it to my current laptop? In other words, would it be easier to create a highly minimized wall hanging PC to act as a second monitor than trying to extract the lcd monitor and rig it to act alone?

  25. Posted August 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I will have to cut out the bottom of the frame. Putting it in the kitchen as a tv/web computer. This was a FANTASTIC idea. Thanks so much. It looks so cool, everyone thinks it is a custom PC not a 10 year old piece of crap laptop.http://michiganteachingjobs.org/

  26. Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    http://the-engineerist.tumblr.com/post/3872100237/wallputer

    I’ve been working on this one for a little while, just waiting for my CF to IDE adapter to show up so I can finish putting things together.

    Anybody have any old laptops they want to get rid of? 🙂

  27. Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    A Toshiba laptop I used to build one of these wallputers had a really cool feature: In the bios, you can set an automatic start up time.

    So I set it to turn on at 6:30 every morning. It then uses a startup script to display the weather until 9:00, and then scripted to display a picture slideshow from pictures off my NSA for the rest of the day. In the evening, it alternates between a news/weather feed, and at midnight it automatically shuts itself down!
    I use a remote wifi mouse app on my iTouch to control it whenever I need quick access to the web in the hallway.
    Works perfectly!

    Pretty fancy for a digital picture frame. 😉

  28. Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Looking at your site / linked in you don’t seem to be associated with LogMeIn, are you aware they are using the pic of your desk?
    https://content.logmein.com/Common/Images/Central_Logout_12.jpg

  29. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    @Nick Gushlow: Yea, they “accidentally” used it without my permission… I called them on it and they compensated me for the use of the photo. My co-worker actually happened to notice it because I now have that clock on my wall at work. Good looking out!

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