black laptop

Channel Your Inner IT Talent To Build A Laptop For Business Or Pleasure

If you would like to build a laptop for business or pleasure, then there are a lot of excellent options out there to make it happen.

Since IBM launched the first commercial laptop in 1988, consumers have called for more powerful, sleeker, but less power-consuming designs.

In fact, every year laptops seem to get so much thinner that pretty soon they’ll include paper cut warnings (just kidding).

However, there’s been a persistent question asked year after year by curious PC builders.

Many builders would like to know if it’s possible to build a laptop the same way they self-build PCs.

As it turns out:

The answer is “sort of.”

How To Build A Laptop: DIY Versus Custom Built

When it comes to options as to how you can build a laptop, there are two choices.

You can buy a barebones laptop kit and install some components yourself, or you can order a custom-made laptop.

Both approaches can have their own unique appeal, depending on what you’re looking to gain.

​​The challenges associated with building a laptop from scratch

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When you build a laptop from scratch, it’s important to keep in mind that the definition of “building from scratch” is different with laptops as compared to PCs.

For example:

When you build a PC from scratch, you are literally buying everything that goes into it separately and assembling the machine piece by piece.

Components such as the mouse, keyboard, monitor, motherboard, case, and power supply are all separate parts that you must buy.

However, with a laptop, that’s not going to be the case. There are specific components that you just can’t buy separately.

Lack of standardized components

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Perhaps the biggest hurdle when you build a laptop from scratch is the fact that unlike desktop PCs, there’s no standardization of parts for laptop components.

You see:

Laptop components such as the motherboard are typically designed only to fit and work with a brand’s specific model.

In other words:

Almost every commercially sold laptop is like an iPhone. There are parts in each machine that will not work in others.

With desktops, you can take the motherboard out of one case, and fit it in another case so long as it’s the right size.

In the beginning, when laptops weighed as much as a kindergartner, they also had more of a uniform design that may have made it possible for greater customization.

However, with today’s laptops, the motherboards are physically designed to only fit and work in a specially designed laptop case, which you can not buy separately.

There are many reasons for this, such as:

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Laptops all have very uniquely tailored cooling designs that require components that are cut for that specific model’s case and motherboard.

If you open up a laptop, you’ll likely find a thin cooling plate of some sort that touches most of the major components.

Think about it:

On a desktop, you have a heatsink, which usually includes a fan, that covers the CPU. You can also go the water cooling route and add components such as a pump to your system.

Many cases also let you add a certain number of extra fans to increase airflow throughout the case.

On the other hand:

With laptops, you are limited to the design of the motherboard and the location of vital components on it that require cooling.

You’ll also have a limited number of fans that you can install, many of which are also customized to accommodate the laptop case and motherboard.

While airflow is important in a PC, it’s critical in laptops, which until very recently could not be liquid cooled.

Once again, each laptop will likely feature cooling systems that are slightly to significantly different from each other.

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Since laptops are getting thinner and thinner, when you build one from scratch, you’ll likely have to live with a much bulkier and heavier design.

Today’s laptop manufacturers use specialized components that you can’t buy.

To make a point:

If you took a shell from an Apple MacBook Air and tried to fit a different motherboard in it, you’ll fail.

In many cases, even components from last years MacBook might not fit or work in this year’s laptop shell.

Since space is limited, the design variations, which can be small, make a huge difference.

Determining and sourcing laptop parts

Upgrading components

Upgrading GPUs and CPUs
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PC gamers know that newer games usually require more powerful hardware to run them on settings that bring out their full potential.

With a desktop, for example, you can usually upgrade your GPU to accommodate this need.

However, very few laptops offer the same option, as most GPUs are built into the motherboard, as is the case with most CPUs.

In other words:

If you want to upgrade your system, you’ll have to rebuild the whole thing from scratch.

That is assuming that the components you want for your system even exist outside of a commercially made laptop.

Consider this:

Imagine finding a new mobile GPU made by Nvidia that you’ve decided that you must have in your new laptop.

It’s likely that Nvidia specially designed that GPU to only work on specific boards for a limited number of laptop models.

This fact also holds true for most CPUs which are also likely to be soldered onto the motherboard.

You see:

Unlike desktop GPUs and CPUs, there’s no incentive for manufacturers such as Intel and Nvidia to make their laptop components stand-alone.

For one thing, a mounted GPU or CPU would require more space.




Advantages of building a laptop from scratch


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At this point, you’re probably wondering if there are any benefits to creating a laptop from scratch.

Actually, yes there are.

For those people who enjoy a great DIY challenge, building a laptop is right up there with the best of them. If you want to enjoy the bragging rights of building a functional laptop, then by all means, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with a little vanity project.

Another good reason to build a laptop from scratch will be if you’re looking to start making your own brand of laptops and selling them. Making one from scratch would be a great way to get design ideas, and make improvements on pre-existing models. Before you know it, your company could become the next Razer or Alienware.

Step By Step DIY Instructions For Building A Laptop

This is a very generalized step-by-step “how to” guide on how to build a laptop.

We should note that many of the components referred to in this guide may not have up-to-date models that are available for sale.

For example:

The barebones kit and components that would allow you to make a copy version of the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 15.6-inch gaming laptop probably doesn’t exist.

When making a self-built laptop, it’s best not to set your expectations too high in terms of performance.

Once again, you’ll likely need to source older parts that will work together.

Part 1: Locating the parts

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First, you should determine what kind of machine you want to build. Is it going to be a gaming laptop or used for business?

This distinction can make a big difference. That’s because a laptop designed for business may have components that are much easier to find than one designed for gaming.

You’ll also need to consider factors such as battery life and screen size.

Step 1: Choose your CPU

​Step 2: Choose a laptop shell

​Step 3: Find your RAM

​Step 4: Find a hard drive

​Step 5: Decide on a graphics card (optional)

​Step 6: Find an optical drive (optional)

​Step 7: Choose your battery

Part 2: Putting it all together

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Okay, now it’s time to get to work. You’ve got all your components, and now it’s just a matter of putting everything together.

Step 1: Gather your tools

​Step 2: Stay grounded

​Step 3: Turn the shell over

​Step 4: Remove your first panel

​Step 5: Mount the drive

​Step 6: Slip the bracketed hard drive into the bay

​Step 7: Install the optical drive

​Step 8: Remove motherboard panel

​Step 9: Install your RAM

​Step 10: Install your CPU

​Step 11: Install the cooling fan

​Step 12: Closing up

Part 3: Starting up your laptop

​Now comes the moment of truth: Starting up your laptop for the first time.

Step 1: The battery

​Step 2: Check your RAM

​Step 3: Installing the OS

​Step 4: Install your drivers

Letting Someone Else Build A Laptop For You

If you decide to allow a company to build a laptop for you, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

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First, you’ll need to know how you plan to use the laptop, the same way you would if you build a laptop yourself.

If you’re building a gaming laptop, your priorities are going to be different (and more expensive) than a laptop made for business use.

Graphics designers also require laptop specs that are very similar to those used to build a laptop for gaming.

How to custom-build a laptop for business

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If you want to custom build a laptop for business, the cost may be more of a factor than it would be for gamers.

Business users are more likely to want to get something preassembled and not bother too much with details such as graphics cards and RAM speed.

With that in mind:

Here are some suggestions on what to expect from systems that fall under a certain price range.

Laptops $  and under

Laptops $ to $$

Laptops $$ to $$$

Laptops $$$ and beyond

​Choosing your OS

​Technically when you have someone custom build a laptop, you should have four choices for your OS which currently include:

  • ​Windows 10
  • ​Linux
  • ​Apple OS X
  • ​Chrome OS

However, very few retailers and builders sell machines with Linux Operating Systems. So realistically you’re looking at three choices.

Apple OS X
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Not so long ago, this wouldn’t have been a serious question for most laptop users. But with the rise of Apple products, users now have another option other than Windows.

Of course:

Apple laptops do tend to carry a much stiffer pricetag than Windows laptops.

Historically, Apple laptops are favored more among creative professionals because of their function keys, high screen quality, and ability to run high-powered programs such as AVid, Dreamweaver, and Maya.

In fact, many creative professionals still swear by Apple laptops.

In recent years, Apple has enjoyed enormous success with the launch of their much more affordable MacBook models such as the MacBook Pro.

These laptops feature less RAM than previous models and target more of a mass audience than traditional Apple laptops.

The biggest issue with using Apple products for business is that you may run into some problems with compatibility if your company uses software that only works on Windows machines

​Windows 10
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​While you can technically still buy a few systems with Windows 7, most machines available are going to offer Windows 10.

Windows is by far the most expensive OS, but also the most comprehensive. Plus, the latest version comes with a host of new features aimed at increasing productivity.

Features such as Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant app, can perform all kinds of tasks, from checking the weather to scheduling appointments.

Then there’s Task View, which allows you to set up multiple virtual desktops for easier multitasking.

​Chrome OS

​The Chrome OS, made exclusively for Chromebooks, is designed to take advantage of the growing number of cloud-based services.

Chromebooks are perfect for users using cloud-based storage services instead of relying on a lot of physical storage space.

The OS also features support for such cloud-based programs as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Creative Cloud, and more.

​Best hardware for business users

How to custom-build a laptop for gaming

For gamers who wish to custom-build a laptop, price considerations may be less of a factor than for business users.

While you could go nuts and spend thousands of dollars for a gaming laptop, you can honestly get one that plays the latest games for between $700 and $1,500.

Here are a few hardware recommendations for the best gaming experience at bare-minimum cost.

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 2.3 GHz or higher
  • ​GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or higher
  • Ram: 8GB to 16GB of DDR4 with at least 2133 MHz clock speed
  • ​SDD: you’ll probably need at least 1TB of space on your SDD drive or if you go lower, you’ll need to have a secondary internal or external storage solution
  • Network Adapter: the fastest 802.11 A/C adapter you can get
  • ​Screen: size is a matter of personal taste, but you’ll want a resolution of at least 1080p or higher
  • ​Sound: consider buying an external sound card for the best sound
  • ​Battery: this should honestly be a non-factor for most gamers since gaming eats lots of juice. Just plug in

 Our Best Recommendation For Building A Laptop

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There are a few good reasons that you may want to build a laptop from scratch.

  • ​Learning: you want to learn or teach someone how to build a laptop or how they work
  • ​Challenge: you want to challenge yourself with a new DIY project just to say that you’ve done it
  • ​Research: maybe you want to start your own laptop business someday

However, if you’re looking for the most cost-effective and technologically advanced laptop, building one from scratch isn’t the way to go.

In that case:

You want to have someone custom build a laptop using components you pick out to ensure the best performance.

Custom laptops can be pricier than mass produced retail laptops but may offer better build quality in return.

We hope you’ve found this information on building a laptop helpful, and wish you the best of luck in your search.

Have you built a laptop? If so, share your experience in the comments!

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