Laptops are usually more complicated to build than desktops, but there is a straightforward way. Just start from the motherboard and work your way up through all of the major components, ending with the case that will hold them together.
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What you need to build your own laptop?
You can’t just pick up a motherboard, for example, and snap it into the case you have decided to work with. The laptop’s components are designed to fit very specific form factors or measurements. These specifics dictate compatibility between components in terms of size, shape, location of holes/slot/ports, etc., screwing-in length, height, depth, etc., connection types (e.g. SATA vs PCI-E), screw hole spacing, the orientation of ports, etc.
If the components don’t fit together properly, you risk breaking your laptop or not being able to use it at all. It’s crucial that you know what form factor your motherboard and other components are using before attempting to build your own laptop.
step-by-step guide build your own laptop
Building your custom laptop here is our step-by-step guide.
1. Choose components and prepare them
Start by gathering all of the components you selected for your custom laptop. This might include RAM, motherboard, CPU, HDDs/SSDs (if not using an external one), optical drive (DVD or Bluray), video card, sound card (if not using motherboard’s integrated one), Wi-Fi adapter, keyboard and mouse.
2. Choose case you will be using
The most important part of your laptop is its case. This determines how easy or difficult it will be to build in all of the components that make up your custom PC. You can choose between a large number of cases, with the most popular brands being Cooler Master, Corsair and Lian Li.
3. Prepare case for custom components
Take your time to properly prepare your laptop’s case before installing any parts inside it. Examine its interior and look for pre-cut screw holes that match those of the components you will be using. Some cases already have pre-cut holes for GPUs, but not all of them do.
4. Install motherboard
Start by installing your motherboard into the case’s motherboard tray. You can choose either to install it with its back facing up or down (this depends on the form factor). The screws go in from the bottom of the case and screw into your motherboard’s screw holes. In most cases, you won’t be able to install standoffs before installing the motherboard because they would block access to some or all of its back-panel ports.
5. Install CPU
The CPU is usually installed by inserting a lever arm under one end and then releasing it, allowing the other end to fall into place. Ensure that your CPU sits well in its slot and then screw it down – do not overtighten!
6. Install RAM modules
RAM sticks will also need to be installed with their levers pushed down and then flipped up into place when done. Like the CPU, ensure that your RAM sits well in its slot and then screw it down – do not overtighten!
7. Prepare SSD/HDD
If you are installing a 2.5-inch HDD or SSD, you will have to secure it with screws on the sides of your laptop’s case before being able to place it inside of your case. A thin layer of foam will also be necessary to prevent the disk from rattling around inside.
8. Install Graphics card
If you are installing an external GPU, you can skip this step. For internal GPUs however, the time has come to install it into your case’s PCI-E port(s). You will have to unscrew the backplate of your case and screw it back in afterward to secure the card in place.
9. Install power supply
Your custom laptop’s power supply will need to be installed somewhere inside of your case, where it can draw air from outside into its fan. Cable management is also necessary here if you don’t want your PC’s innards exposed with all wires visible. This would happen if they are not bundled together neatly and hidden away behind the backplate/panel of your case.
10. Connect external components (optional)
You may choose to install any external components before closing up your laptop, such as an external optical drive or Wi-Fi adapter(s). You might also do this with internal components like an HDD or SSD for additional storage.
11. Install internal components
For internal parts, you will now have to install your RAM sticks, optical drive, and HDD/SSDs. It is usually good to tie them down with zip ties if they are not held in place by screw holes on either side of your case’s motherboard tray or backplate. You can then slide your laptop into its case and close it up – do not overtighten screws!
12. Connect everything together (optional)
You may choose to plug a number of cables into various ports before closing up your custom laptop again – these include power cables from both the power supply and wall socket, as well as data cables from any external USB devices that you have attached. This would be the time to do it if you have not done so already.
13. Update or install drivers
If your custom laptop requires any drivers before being able to use it, they should be applied at this point. This is true for both internal and external components. If you are building a barebones laptop, however, the only driver that needs installing is the motherboard’s built-in one(s).
14. Boot up!
Now that everything has been installed inside of your case, you can now plug in all power cables coming from either the PSU or wall socket and turn on your computer to see whether it boots up properly – if it does, congratulations! You have successfully built your own custom laptop!
15. Customize! (optional)
If you have followed all other steps and your custom laptop is now up and running, congratulations! There should be nothing stopping you from going online to download a UEFI BIOS editor as well as start overclocking it. You might also wish to install new Windows operating systems if the one that came installed on your laptop isn’t up to par or you simply want a change of scenery. Other things that can be done include adding RGB lighting inside of your case’s clear panels, building water cooling loops for both your CPU and GPU(s) amongst others – the possibilities are endless. Just remember to always stick within your budget when doing this!
Why would I want to do this myself ?
Most people build custom laptops due to:
- Save money
- Build exactly what you want
- Source custom parts e.g. cooling, case(s)
- Learn more about computing
Pros and cons of building your own laptop
- You can build exactly what you want and it’s cheaper than buying a laptop pre-built for the same specs.
- It is easier to upgrade your laptop yourself rather than having to send it back to manufacturer every time something breaks, or take it in for repairs.
- Got more control over how much cooling is needed (e.g. if your laptop overheats when playing games, you can buy better cooling e.g. more fans or change the thermal paste).
- You can upgrade your ram by yourself (you cannot do this with pre-built laptops)
- It is easier to do it wrong and destroy your hardware, then trying to fix it.
- It’s harder to find compatible parts e.g. if you upgrade your cpu, then need new motherboard or ram.
- Takes longer than just buying a laptop pre-built (hours instead of minutes).
Reasons why you should not try this at home or on your own (including that it is illegal)
If you don’t have the money for a proper laptop, then you can’t really afford to do this and do not know what you are doing and could damage your hardware.
Your computer has been built without any quality standards or safety tests meaning that it might catch fire if build wrong e.g. having parts that short circuit each other.