How to Build a Custom Laptop

by David Secor

The vast majority of laptops are sold as complete units, ready to start up and run. For some people, however, there are valid reasons to build a custom laptop. In some cases, a manufactured laptop may not have all of the features a person may find necessary. Sometimes it may be less expensive to build a laptop if a person already has some of the parts needed, while other people may just enjoy tinkering with electronics. Whatever the reason, all of the parts necessary to custom build a laptop are readily available online and at computer and electronic stores.


Research and select the desired laptop case for the project. The laptop case may also be referred to as a laptop shell or laptop barebones kit. The kit will include the case, motherboard, screen, battery, power supply and various input and output ports. It is the most important part in the system, and it will determine the specifications of the other parts that will be needed in the build.

Select a processor that is compatible with the motherboard. The processor should be as fast as possible, within budget limitations.

Choose the desired RAM for the machine. Ensure that it matches the speed requirements and other specifications of the motherboard. If the motherboard requires the RAM modules to be installed in pairs, as required for dual-channel mode, two chips will be necessary. Buy as much RAM as possible within the budget limitations, as it contributes greatly to the overall performance of the machine.

Determine the connection architecture of the hard drive. It should be parallel ATA or serial ATA. Purchase a compatible drive with the largest capacity that fits within the budget.

Select a wireless card, DVD or CD-ROM drive and any PCMIA or ExpressCard devices that will be necessary.

The Build

Collect all components on a clean work surface that has plenty of light, preferably in an area that isn't carpeted. Dissipate any static electricity that may be in the body by touching a grounded metal surface. Disconnect the battery and power supply from the case.

Read all of the installation procedures that are detailed in the documentation that came with the laptop case.

Open the processor door. Gently insert the processor, and apply thermal grease if recommended. Install the heat sink or the fan assembly that is included with the laptop case.

Locate the memory access door, and open it. Insert each RAM module into a RAM slot at a slight angle, and then push it down until it is parallel to the motherboard and the clips have locked into place.

Find the mini-PCI slot, which is often located next to the RAM slots. Insert the wireless card into the PCI slot at an angle, and push it parallel to the board to lock it into position. Connect the antenna wire or wires from the laptop case to the wireless card.

Check the hard drive compartment for special mounting hardware if included. Attach the mounting hardware to the hard drive, install it into the appropriate bay and secure it with screws if necessary.

Slide the CD or DVD drive into the optical device bay, and lock it into position with the included screw.

Install any PCMIA or ExpressCard devices according to the instructions included with the unit.

Close all access doors, insert the laptop’s battery and connect the power supply.

Boot the machine, and enter the BIOS or Setup menu to ensure that all the hardware is working correctly and the computer is configured appropriately.

Install the operating system, hardware drivers,and any extra software that is needed or wanted.

Items you will need

About the Author

David L. Secor is a computer repairman and writer from west Texas. He has been writing informational articles on a wide variety of subjects since approximately 2005. When not writing, he scours the desert for interesting photos, often ending up with nothing but embedded thorns for his efforts.