Turning a laptop into a desktop

January 21, 2015

Alright, so this post is going to be quite long. Basically, what I’ve been doing the past 4 days is to migrate the internals of a HP Envy 17 2001tx laptop into a desktop casing (AVF).

Why am I going down this path? The HP Envy 17 has to be the worst engineered laptop in the history of HP (it even had class action lawsuits filed against it). The bloody thing would overheat to 80 degrees celsius when on idle after a couple of minutes.

Please take note, this was just a very quick DIY. There was no real planning involved except “what size casing will we need to fit the motherboard in?”.

Instead of throwing it out, I attempted to breathe new life into it. My dad was very eager to use his power tools as well, so we cooperated in the process.

The locations of the screws on the back:

After unscrewing the screws, it’s time to remove the harddrives. They are connected via a single SATA cable, both of differing lengths.

The sata cable has a black plastic piece on top of it, which is meant to be pulled. It is connected to the motherboard in a downwards motion.

Now it’s time to unplug the Wifi module and remove it.

Notice the two small cables have a numbering on them. It’s important to reconnect them later with the right numbers (thankfully the module has the numbers written on it in white).

The cables are removed by pulling them upwards. I recommend doing it gently, and with the aid of a screwdriver or flathead to slowly remove them from their positions.

Now that they are removed, you’ll need to unscrew the 2 black screws that connect it to the motherboard. After unscrewing, you’ll notice it rises. That’s ok and normal.

The Wi-Fi module removed completely will look like the above.

Now, it’s time to unscrew the hidden screws beneath the rubber stamp legs. For these, use a flathead or toothpick-like tool to pry them from the body. They are connected to the body via glue.

Finally, the bottom should look like the following with everything unscrewed and removed (no need to remove the RAM).

Now, moving on to the top part, we first need to remove the keyboard.

To remove the keyboard, all screws underneath need to be removed. If it still feels like it’s being held strongly, then there might be a screw not yet removed. The idea behind removing the keyboard is to push at the spaces on the top part, until the entire top is free, and to pull towards the screen. This is because the bottom has metal potrusions to hold it in place ( I just pulled it from all directions, since it wasn’t going back into the laptop body).

There will be four cables to remove before pulling off the top cover.

The first two will be the keyboard and touchpad connectors, as seen below:

These parts are pretty easy to remove. just slowly unclip the top black or white plastic holder, and slide the cable out via the blue plastic meant for fingers.

You’ll want to remove the other keyboard connector, it’s a small orange cable to the top right. You’ll also notice there was one screw in the center that holds the keyboard in.

Don’t forget to remove the power switch cable connector on the top left. It’s a small blue-ish cable.

Now, we are ready to start peeling off the top cover. You’ll need something to get between the crevices to pull it off, but once you get one clip to unhook it should be straight forward.

Now, it’s time to remove the rest of the power cables and connectors so we can pull out the main motherboard unit. There’s also two additional screws.

First, remove the card reader cable connector.

Then, unscrew the BD-Rom drive and pull it to the right to dislodge it from the motherboard (there’s no cables for this).

Unplug the speakers/LED power.

The monitor is attached to the motherboard via a single cable that branches out into two connectors.

You’ll want to pull the white cable branch to the left to remove it from its place.

The other branch just needs to be pulled upwards to disconnect it.

Lastly, remove the power cable that connects the power brick to the motherboard. It’s this small white 8-pin cable.

Now, the unit is removable from the body.

The mess we’ve made so far, before we start cleaning the parts and moving them into a new house.

Now, onto the cleaning! The most important part to clean is the cooler. This unit connects to the CPU and GPU in one go.

I went with this thermal paste (Cooler Master E1 IC ESSENTIAL Thermal compound) as it was affordable, and it came with grease which really helped with the cleaning process.

I forgot to take pictures of the unscrewing and cleaning, but basically you’ll want to unscrew 7 screws (4 for the CPU, 3 for the GPU). After which, remove all previous grey/white thermal compound. You’ll know they did a shoddy job, if the thermal paste isn’t only on the shiny parts, but also on the green sections around the metal encasings (it shouldn’t be that way).

All spick and span, you’ll want it to be shiny enough that it looks like a mirror.

Don’t forget to clean the bottom parts of the copper cooler as well! Don’t leave any of the old thermal residue there.

Unscrewing the fan and it showcases that HP didn’t actually test this against massive dust build up. They didn’t even have the courtesy to make it easy to clean for end-users.

So, now that it’s all cleaned let’s put a single drop of thermal compound on each die. The CPU die cover will require a slightly larger drop, but basically you want to make sure it won’t leak over to the edges. Only apply the thermal compound to the onboard CPU and GPU, no need to put any on the cooler. Now, put the cooler back on and screw it in.

Alright! Cleaning is done, let’s get that new fang-dangled case ready for a new tenant.

Why’d I go with this case? As you’ll see later on, the area for cable management allowed me to do some pretty unorthodox installing of this mobo into it. REMEMBER! It’s a laptop, so both sides of the motherboard has connectors. You’ll need to figure out how to make sure both sides get the cables that they need connected.

We used a black & decker drill to make the holes in the casing, so that I could screw the motherboard in. 2 was more than sufficient (it’s a light motherboard).

One thing became apparent, we would need the power switch from the laptop to be able to turn this unit on. So, it was time to saw the piece off.

At this point, it had been over 12 hours on working with this. My mind was starting to wander, and I’d forget to take pictures often. Apologies in advance for missing information.

We were able to fit the motherboard in nicely, and the two harddrives fit as well. One had to be screwed onto the casing’s motherboard wall section (the SATA cable connector was too short). The other fit snugly in the actual HDD compartment.

After connecting the power switch, we’re basically holding it on the back of the case via sticky tape. Later on we’ll actually make a hole in the back casing cover and slip this guy into it to look slightly less hideous.

For the monitor, since the laptop monitor was still good, we detached it from the laptop body and drilled holes into the sides of the casing to get it to fit.

The Wi-Fi dongle is in this monitor, so you’ll need it anyway to get the in-built Wi-Fi working.

Plugging in the power, we ran it to see if it would start. Lo and behold! It works!

The Windows install was corrupted though, and the HDD’s RAID mode was the cause. So I had to disable that.

This is where the power brick connects to. I forgot to take pictures of the process, but it’s pretty straight forward. The white 8-pin power connector stretches out over a cable length and then connects directly to the HP power brick.

After having Windows 7 poop it’s pants, I needed to confirm if the hardware was actually faulty. Ubuntu 14.10 64bit to the rescue!

My younger brother then tested it for a couple of hours, and confirmed no shutdowns due to overheating, no RAM issues (hanging, screen corruption). The HDDs seemed to be fine as well, as the SMART test inside Ubuntu showed them to be fully operational.

That was the end of day 1! So, what took the other 3 days time? Installing Windows 7. I’ll give you a hint. Don’t use the original Windows 7 ISO, instead use a SP1 version. On top of that, if you find that using a disc or USB drive isn’t working, then you’ll have to go through the hell I did.

I extracted the 7 SP1 ISO into a folder, used Windows Updates Downloader to slipstream the DEC 2014 updates into the ISO. ( I followed this guide http://www.sevenforums.com/installation-setup/282232-test-update-7-installation-media.html ) Then, I went to the HP driver page and downloaded the necessary storage, wifi, and USB drivers. I used NTLite to slipstream those drivers into that same ISO.

After which, I just simply copied it (the extracted version) into a pendrive, plugged it into the USB2.0 slot, and finally Windows 7 would install. Pretty difficult, compared to installing Ubuntu 14.10. I just plugged my Ubuntu USB into any of the USB slots, booted it up and installed it. (HP Envy 17 wasn’t built to run Ubuntu, yet here we are)

If you’re looking for NTLite, get it here:

https://www.ntlite.com/download/

If you’re looking for Windows Updates Downloader, get it here: http://www.windowsupdatesdownloader.com/

If you’re looking for Ubuntu (it’s free), get it here:

http://www.ubuntu.com/download

So, was this a professional DIY? Not by any means. In fact, this was probably the most adventurous DIY project I’ve ever done. What matters though, is that we now have a working computer, and it’s able to operate at it’s full power.

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2014 workspace to 2015 workspace

January 2, 2015

Well, here’s a short post with two simple pictures. What my workplace looked like throughout 2014, and what it will now seemingly look like throughout the rest of 2015.

My 2014 workspace

My 2015 workspace

I am very grateful for all that I received in 2014, and I hope to be an even better person moving forward who will hopefully have earned all that he may come to receive.


Getting new hardware

December 27, 2014

It’s always a great start to a day when you know that new technology is on it’s way in the mail! Well, I recently had the pleasure of getting a few Playstation branded hardware arriving in the mail. Among them was a Playstation 4!

After having played around with it for a couple of days, it is indeed a pretty neat system. I’m loving the interface, and the new Share features are pretty awesome. The fact that it has a video editor inside is amazing! Thus, one morning I woke up and just felt like making a 3D model of the system for fun.

I fired up Blender 2.69 and started modelling away. By no means am I an artist, but after continuous practice I’ve sort of gotten the hang of how to use this nice piece of software.

I started off pretty slowly, but kept going.

Getting the materials on it, and still noticing there’s something off with the model. So, on I go.

After elongating the body and adding additional symbols, it’s actually starting to look like the real deal!

Just to add something additional to the scenery, I added a UV modeled box that somewhat resembles a TV.

Lastly, the generally final render is:

While not the best, it felt nice getting a model this close to something I have in real life in under an hour. It could certainly do with improvements, such as adding the ON light, adding the controller, and the cables at the back and making the material on the shiny part more reflective. However, I’ll leave that for another day when I’ve matured my basic blender skills further.