Is it possible to build a new laptop into an existing case?
March 18, 2004 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to build a new laptop into an existing case? {More Inside}

I have a Dell Inspiron 4000 running a p3 @ ~750mhz, 16mb ati video, etc. It's old. Is it possible to replace the existing mainboard with something new(er)? Or are there limits based on form? I can't upgrade either the cpu or the video card (I've searched Dell forums and Google in the past, no dice). I don't have much cash, I need a laptop, and this isn't suiting my needs. Thanks.
posted by Grod to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Generally laptop motherboards are designed to fit in their particular case. It's really doubtful that there is an upgrade that will happen to fit in your old case -- not only would it have to fit, but all of its various ports would have to line up exactly, and the video/power/drive connectors would have to match (and be the same size and in the same positions), and so on...

I suppose if your particular model of laptop was really popular, there might be some aftermarket upgrade. But Dell certainly wouldn't have one (they'd rather sell you a new computer entirely).

But now I'm sure some genius will point out a way to do it.
posted by xil at 5:01 PM on March 18, 2004

Response by poster: Yeah, that's what I figured. Can I build my own case though? Buy components on ebay and then build a case to house them?
posted by Grod at 5:20 PM on March 18, 2004

You could probably build a laptop by buying components, but there's also a good chance you'd build a paperweight. I can't think of a way to easily make a laptop case that's as small as a modern laptop though I think a lucite laptop might be sort of cool.
posted by substrate at 5:28 PM on March 18, 2004

Sell your current laptop (which is still usable for a lot of people and is going for ~$500 on Ebay) and buy a newer model. You'll save time, money, and headaches.
posted by TimeFactor at 5:36 PM on March 18, 2004

Can I build my own case though? Buy components on ebay and then build a case to house them?

Yes, you probably could. It would be a major project, though. Do you have access to a good machine shop?

As for getting the parts on ebay, the best way to do that would be to buy a laptop that meets your performance requirements and take it apart. Clearly, this wouldn't save you any money. The only way I could possibly see this approach saving you money would be if you were able to get a hold of a few broken laptops and salvage a complete set of parts. Even then, finding exactly what's broken in each machine would be super-tedious, and wouldn't guarantee you a full set of working parts. Each machine would also probably have to be the same model. And your final product would be touchy as hell. You'd be amazed how much mechanical stress a laptop has to put up with, and how easy it is for that stress to hose the electrical components.

If you don't mind me asking, what's your application? There's a lot that a 750 MHz machine can do; I use mine to do some pretty involved 3D rendering. Have you considered that many performance problems might be eliminated by a memory upgrade?
posted by mr_roboto at 7:21 PM on March 18, 2004

Response by poster: mr_roboto I just checked my specs actually I have ~850mhz PIII (not celeron as it says I have 256k L2). The system only has a 2x AGP and a not at all upgradable 8Mb Ati Mobility card. I have 320Mb of pc100 low density ram and no other kind is supported. This means both the FSB and the memory are running at 100mhz. If I run 3ds Max 5 I need to set the viewports to software rendering, the video card bogs down with direct 3d or OpenGL.
The monitor is undersaturated compared to newer ones, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as it helps for proofing colors for printing, but sucks when it comes to watching movies, playing games, etc. The backlight doesn't get very bright, either. Oh, yeah, and the native resolution is 1024x768. That wasn't a problem for me until recently, but now I'm starting to feel it.
I'm running the world's only stable copy of WinME, thanks to a couple years worth of patching and screwing around with undocumented settings. When the system boots only essential processes load, everything is streamlined as much as possible. Virtual memory is fixed at 700mb, and the swap file is located at the beginning of the hdd. The disk is defragmented regularly, the registry is lean, mean, and organized. The system is optimized in all ways possible. The only lack is the full 512mb of ram (the max this system supports). PC100 256mb 16 chip 144pin SODIMM ram is not cheap, for some reason.

I have also always wanted to build my own laptop, and I am far too broke to buy a new computer. I have about $300 that I can safely spend on non essentials.
posted by Grod at 10:06 PM on March 18, 2004

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