How to Build a Laptop Computer

By Matthew Smith

Building a laptop may seem difficult, but it is actually easier than building a desktop computer. Thanks to the widespread availability of barebone laptop kits, putting together your own laptop requires little more than a screwdriver and an hour of free time.

Things You'll Need

  • Barebone kit
  • Hardware
  • Screwdriver
  • Clean, static-free workspace

Barebone Kits

Step 1

Find a barebone kit. Finding the right one is very important, because it will include your screen, keyboard, trackpad and motherboard. In other words, it defines what your laptop is going to look like and how it will be used.Barebone kits come in various sizes, just like pre-built laptops, and the characteristics you can expect from a laptop of a certain size are the same for both barebone and pre-built machines. If portability is your thing, steering towards a 13-inch screen would be wise, while those looking for desktop replacements will want 17- or 19-inch screens.

Step 2

Check the features. Processors, wireless adapters, hard drives and RAM are all configurable in most barebone kits. However, there is currently not a market for direct-to-consumer mobile GPU sales, so these barebone kits will already come with a GPU, and that GPU can't be changed. It is probably best, for example, to avoid barebone laptops with Nvidia 8-series GPUs, due to the problems which occurred with that particular line of mobile hardware. The size and weight of the battery also needs to be considered, as it will determine how long your Laptop will run before it will need to be plugged in.

Step 3

Compare specifications. Popular manufacturers of barebone laptops include companies like OCZ and ASUS, and these manufacturers provide retailers with extensive lists of what the machine is compatible with in terms of processors and other hardware. It is very important that you know what sort of hardware the barebone kit supports. For example, if you buy a barebone kit that is for AMD processors, you need to stick to AMD's mobile CPUs. Knowing these limitations before purchasing will prevent you from accidentally buying hardware that isn't compatible with your barebone kit (see Resources below).

Components

Step 1

Find a power-efficient processor. The processor is the most energy-demanding component in your laptop, besides the screen, and so finding one that is power-efficient is important. However, you also have to find a processor fast enough to meet your needs. Be realistic when deciding what processor you want, because while the fastest ones may look very appealing, they are also going to demand more power. Also, pay attention to the thermal power envelope the processor is rated for, as it gives an indication of power consumption. A processor rated at 35W will use more power than one rated at 25W.

Step 2

Consider the hard drive, which also tends to use a lot of energy, particularly because it doesn't have the luxury of the sort of power-saving schemes processors and other bits of silicon can use. Processors can go into low-energy modes, but hard drives generally can't; they can simply try to shut themselves off more frequently. Most mechanical hard drives use a similar amount of power, but switching to a solid state hard drive can give you longer battery life. Intel's solid state drives, for example, use a fraction of the power consumed by the best mechanical drives. On the downside, solid state hard drives are expensive and don't hold much data.

Step 3

Think about RAM, which is an important part of determining how well your new laptop will run. However, this Step is also fairly simple, because there is little difference between brands. Make sure you pay attention to what kind of RAM your barebone kit supports. This should be clearly stated on the website of the retailer you purchase the barebone kit from. This will prevent you from buying DDR RAM for your laptop when it actually is capable of supporting DDR2. RAM typically doesn't use much energy, so this isn't as critical of a concern as when purchasing your processor or hard drive.

Step 4

Make sure you've purchased any other components needed. Some barebone kits allow more customization than others. In particular, some barebone kits will require you to find your own wireless networking solution. Here you'll need to make a decision in terms of functionality versus cost. Some wireless cards will allow you to use Bluetooth, for example, but you'll pay for the privilege. You may also need to find an optical drive, but this is easy--optical drives are widely available, cheap and identical to the desktop variety in their function, although much slimmer in size.

Put It Together

Step 1

Roll up your sleeves. Because the barebones kit includes the motherboard and case in one bundle, everything should line up perfectly. You don't usually have to worry about something being too large to fit. In fact, most barebone kits include some sort of marking on the outside of the laptop case that indicates where different parts should be inserted. Putting your components into your barebone kit is as simple as plugging a monitor into a desktop computer

Step 2

Make sure that you've building your laptop in a clean area which is relatively free of static. Laptops, like desktops, can be damaged by static discharges, and can also be damaged by dust or other foreign matter getting into the internals. You also need the proper tools, but as long as you have a screwdriver, an air duster and a sharp object, you should be fine.

Step 3

Use a screwdriver to open and close the panels that cover the laptop's internals, as these are secured with screws. Some barebone kits also use snap designs in addition to the screws, so you may need to use some force to slide out a hard drive tray. This is where a sharp object becomes handy, because you can use it to pry open a tightly closed panel. However, use caution: Because the barebones kit bundles so many components together, damaging any part of it can be a costly mistake.

Step 4

Make sure that no dirt or any other foreign objects have made their way inside the laptop. If so, you can try to blow them out with the air duster. After that, replace all the panels and make sure they are secure. Having the panel covering the processor or the RAM suddenly come off could cause damage to your computer. You could also risk losing the panel, and, as stated above, losing or breaking any component of a laptop barebones kit is expensive.

Step 5

Put in your boot disk and begin to enjoy your new laptop. Everything is the same in terms of installing the operating system as with a desktop. However, you will need to install the drivers that came with your barebone kit in order to have features like integrated webcams and finger-print readers function properly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure you have all tools ready once you begin to assemble your laptop.

References & Resources