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Build Your Own Notebook

LAPTOP's guide to creating a notebook from scratch.


by Todd Haselton on December 12, 2008

Admit it. You’re a tinkerer. If you’ve ever set up a home theater, built a robot, or you just get psyched about weekend projects, then building your own notebook is the next great frontier. Fiddling around with the innards of your very own creation makes the experience worth the time investment, despite the fact that you won’t necessarily save money or get better performance than what you can find on the shelf.

We were able to keep our costs at less than $1,500 and still include a speedy 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a faster hard drive than most retail notebooks. You could get a Gateway P-7811FX system for $1,359; that gaming system would have more RAM and a similar hard drive, but you’d end up with a slower 2.26-GHz processor. Plus, you’d miss the fun of the truly geeky Legos-like building experience. We’ll take the mystery out of installing a hard drive and instruct you on the finer points of cooling a CPU. Read on to get started building a system customized to your needs.


Where to Start

The first step is selecting a bare-bones system, also known as a white box. A white box is an empty shell that includes a chassis, display, keyboard, the motherboard, a fan, CPU heatsink, tons of screws, and essential drivers. For our build, we chose the OCZ DIY 15-inch Gaming Notebook. We looked specifically for a white box that could support a discrete graphics card so we could game on our home-built model. Note: As of press time, no white boxes supported Intel’s Centrino 2 platform, but OCZ offers a 17-inch system for AMD processors.

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