Do It Yourself - Make A Subnotebook!

Desktop PCAre you a person who finds a regular old desktop computer heavy and just plain boring? Or maybe you're the kind of person whose jobs demands extreme portability?

This is really a pretty common problem and there are many solutions to it. Laptops, subnotebooks, hand held PCs, and pocket-sized PCs or PDAs are easily found on today's market.

Trouble is that as the size goes down, the price usually goes up. Also, if you already own a usable notebook computer, you may find the investment in new equipment difficult to justify. Or maybe you even want to make your old clunker computer lightweight--as the ligher it gets the more acceptable and "modern" a slower processor is. Whatever your reason, this page will help you get a lightweight and thorougly modern computer that blows all the competition out of the water! Perhaps the best part of all is that you will be able to keep most of your hard-earned money in your pocket, where it belongs.

In order to decide what you want to make, let's have a look at some common types of portable computers.


A Laptop A Subnotebook Computer

Handheld PC Pocket sized PC

Now we know the kinds of things that are available and that you could buy...but we're not going to buy. We are going to build! So, go ahead and pick out a design you like above. Remember, you're going to be modifying an existing system, so choose something that you have the time and tools to do.

For this page, I chose to make a subnotebook computer like the one pictured above.

Tools Needed:

The tools you will need depend largely on what you're going to build and what you have to build it with. I'd recommend a good collection of screwdrivers, jeweler's tools, an anti-static mat if you care that much about this working out, a power supply, hammer, pliers, hydraulic or scissor jack, mallet, BFH, drill, planer, table saw, band saw, maybe a handsaw for the intricate cuts, some spare plastic pieces (accidents happen, you know!), fiberglass, aluminum, and of course....a scratch awl. Electrical service is mandatory, a 1 ton press is optional unless you have a mainframe to work at 'downsizing'.

Life insurance is optional, but highly recommended if you're a total klutz. You must also have an unlimited supply of liability for the results of this--as you and only you are responsible for the results!

Helpful Hint: If for some reason your new subnotebook should become dirty (which it may if it has a white casing) you can use Svinto soap and steel wool pads to clean it up and make it like new. This is also handy if something goes wrong inside and makes black streaks or burning appear on the case, thusly making your computer ugly. If you can't find Svinto, you can in most cases substitute a Brillo pad. I've tried my best to insure that everything you might need the Svinto for during this project can also be done with Brillo or whatever equivalent you have at your disposal.

Svinto Soap


Yours will vary depending upon what you have, but if you want the easy route, pick up a notebook cheap or just pick one up when nobody's looking and follow these steps.

1. Examine your purchase (or, if you just picked it up, examine your "purchase")...
Handy Laptop

Be especially sure to look for anything that looks like it is heavy. You'll want to be sure that such things get removed. Some of these things will be very obvious. Pull out any batteries or disk drives that will come. Use your pliers to remove anything that's especially stubborn.

Low tech load lightening...

2. The exterior now looks much lighter and certainly more aerodynamic. But what about the insides? Surely there are heavy things on the inside as well. We will have to go in and see.

heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy

Good heavens! This all looks awfully heavy and can't possibly serve any useful purpose. Out it must go! Start by removing the keyboard to gain access, but do not throw the keyboard away. You will need it later unless your device of choice has a touch screen.

Using the jeweler's tools correctly!

3. With the keyboard out, you can now see just what it is that makes these things so incredibly heavy. Push it, pull it, use your BFH on it...until it comes out. You won't need any of this stuff again!


Motherboard coming out

4. Why don't we take a moment to admire our handiwork? Look at all the weight we have taken out! This is going to be one lean and fast machine when we're done!

The Pile of Parts

5. Time to start putting it back together!

Going back together

"Bonus" weight loss doesn't hurt anything at all. Whatever falls off can only be good.

The Button is Gone!!!

6. It's all back together again! Yay! It just looks SO much lighter!

All the flavor, none of the calories!

But is it really? Yes, I would say so. Look at the weight of the full laptop compared to this one!

light light light light light light light light lightHeavy full laptop weight

So, that's all there is to it! However, there are many questions after a project like this. People often ask what kind of software their "new" machine will run. Another popular question is how to upgrade your new system to increase the speed. Finally, many people also ask what this does for battery life. We have answered all of these questions here.

Q: What kind of software can I use?

A: Any software program that physically fits into the computer will work. We recommend such exciting titles as Index Cards 1.0, PDA 2002, Dental Floss Pro 8 and Pushpins 1.0. Some people have reported luck with installing 35MM Cameras of many different types, and others have even added flash units to support Flash content. It is important to note however, that small objects, like Pushpins 1.0, can have "memory leaks" where the contents of the program actually become so large that they spill out of the machine. This can cause injury and inconsistencies in your data, so beware.

Q: How can I upgrade my system?

A: Technology, like rust, never sleeps. It is always moving forward. Our recommended plan of action is to further lighten your computer every now and then. Remove peripherals you don't find yourself using often or at all. Unfortunately, the need for a new system cannot be done away with. Eventually you will find that there is nothing left at all to upgrade and you will simply have to start fresh.

Users of BowlingNight or BowlingAlley 4.0a SP1 often find that waxing their system will make it run down the lane faster but it does increase the risk of a severe system crash.

Q: What about battery life?

A: What about it?! You have removed all the earth-unfriendly energy consuming parts, so power should no longer be an issue!

Q: Are there systems I should not covert or upgrade this way?

A: Yes! We're glad you asked! Don't attempt to upgrade any system you don't own. Get permission first and even then we recommend hiding what you've done. Some employers and people get very angry when you show them the pleasant surprise of a faster-running system.

Also, don't upgrade systems in nuclear power plants, hospitals or any other place where they are depended upon for safety or life saving purposes. It has been found that while general "real life" performance of almost all personal and business related applications increases after this upgrade, many safety related systems fail to function correctly or at all.

Enjoy your new notebook computer! Stay tuned when next week we build the PDA version!

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Disclaimers: This page is supposed to be humorous and not taken seriously at all! I sincerely hope you figured that out, if not all the remaining parts of your system are your problem and not mine.

Copyright ©2003 by Walsh Computer Technology. All Rights Reserved.