Build

So one relatively happy daughter, but what to do with the dead laptop?

A Cunning Plan:


It's probably apparent to anyone who's looked through the Qube RiscOS Server's material that I rather like Acorn Computers and their kin. I've also been heavily in to the PC modding sceen. The funny thing is that although the house is brimming which computers of all kinds the only "PC" that I can call my own is a Sony VIAO-P. A very stylish (very) little machine that's actually not much cop for anything useful.
Some years ago I bought a couple of HP w2207h monitors with the intention of using them together with the Dual-Monitor capabilities of my ViewFinder RiscPC but I never got them to run well in that configuration. One ended up in my wife's hands while the other just kind-of lurked about.


It occoured to me that if if I could repair the dead Spectre XP I might be able cram it's innards in to the spare monitor and make a rather nice system for myself.


Dead SSD:

Fired with enthusiasm I gutted said laptop and did some testing. It seemed that while the SSD had been cooked to death by my daughter's lap the rest was ok. I took the risk of buying a 256gb SSD from eBay, installed Windows 10 Pro on it, and all was good. Hurrah!
I'm generally very wary of buying such electronic components from eBay as they are often of dubious quality and rarely up to the specs advertised. This time I struck gold with a very helpful chap who not only formatted the SSD correctly for me but benchmarked it too.
Of course using the laptop's Windows 7 Pro key meant Windows 10 installed in full rather than semi "spyware" mode so some time was required altreing the OS and it's settings to give the illusion that maintaining one's own privacy in this day and age is still possible. You didn't really think M$ would give away an OS upgrade for free, did you..?


MiniPCI WiFi Module:

One immediate issue was that the screw holes to secure the WiFi module were part of the laptop discarded shell so it wouldn't stay in the connector. Happily taking a pair of scissors to the plastic tray the SSD came in fitted made a neat clip to hold the WiFi card securly in place. The antennas were later re-stuck to the back of the TFT pannel.

Darn Fan:

In the process of repeatedly measuring and refitting components the fan stopped sending speed data to the motherboard. Even though it worked fine boot-up kept stopping with a "no-fan" error. Investigation proved the fan wires to be really delicate and once smapped very hard to repair. In the end I bought a spare to fit to the completed system once all was ready to be assembled for the last time.

The moment of truth:

None of this would be any good if I couldn't cram the gubbins in to the back of the monitor. An initial eyeball did suggest there could be room. Happily the ultrabook motherboard is very thin as I intended for this to be a quick project and so didn't want to do much modding. It's also nice that this monitor has a USB hub along with an HDMI in to connect to the ports on the laptop motherboard, so providing hassle-free sound and video connection along with some external USB ports. All a big saving on the usual rat's nest of wiring and Dremmeling that usually comes with such projects.

This particular monitor can be a real sod to disassemble if you don't know how. Thankfully there's a very useful YouTube video on the subject. Once inside it turned out the metal shell holding the power and controller boards behind the TFT had just enough clearence between the two to fit the laptop motherboard with the battery below so, "What-the-hey", I kept that too.
The motherboard and battery are mounted to the back of the TFT with the aid of adhesive Velcro strips. Secure, thin, (re)movable, and non-conductive!
I cut the top panel from the metal shell with a Dremmel to allow for better access when reassembling, and as I wasn't in the mood to do much soldering Dremmeled extra slots next to the holes for the USB and HDMI-in ports. I inteneded to run cables from the motherboard through said holes and then to the monitor's external ports. A bit of a bodge but quicker, less hassle, and this meant that there's no danger of accidentally plugging other devices in to those ports.

Power:

A trial run showed all was fine to that point but I needed some means to properly power the laptop motherboard. My intention was to find a spot for the it's power brick inside the monitor and wire the mains end directly to the inside of the monitor's kettle socket. Neat, less modding, and in theory it should be no different to plugging two leads in to a household socket adaptor...
...Flames, and the household electrics tripping-out suggested a subtle flaw had crept in at some point!
As I didn't intend this to be anthing other than a quick project, that could also be easily replicated, rather than tracing my mistake I abandonded the idea. Instead by a happy stroke of luck the laptop's PSU fits snugly between the mounting posts for the left monitor speaker and the sheilding without obstructing the rear shell of the monitor. Even better; having removed the left speaker it's mounting screws served to securly hold the PSU in place. The speaker was then Velcro'd to the side of the PSU. Finally the only external mod was to the rear shell of the monitor where I Dremmeled a small slot to allow the PSU cable to exit. This did mean my Monitor PC has two power cables but that's not a great issue and if for some reason I need to run it on one socket it has got a battery, which now lasts much longer as it doesn't have to supply a TFT/Backlight.

The final mod was to consider what to do for a power switch. Again minimum effort and fewest external changes was the plan. By the use of a screwdriver to short contacts I found which were wired to the power buttons on both the monitor and laptop. I then connected the two by soldering two lengths of wire (Kynar as the contacts were very small) between them. Pressing either switch now powers up both the monitor and the laptop motherboard. Not a perfect solution but good enough.

Keyboard and Mouse:

It rather offended my sensibilites that an unused USB port lay trapped inside my creation, the other is wired to the monitor's USB hub. So I bouhjt a nice wireless keyboard and mouse combo from Logitech to fit with the minimalist esthetic. Also it just works without hassle, important as the dongle is inside the case!
As a bonus that also meant the external USB ports weren't assigned to keyboard and mouse, so freeing them up for otherduties. Especially nice as I'm pleasently surprised by how well the CPU/GPU combo runs my favorite emulators, including Dolphin. I can see my Logitec wireless controllers being plugged in at some point.