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Laptop Component Cooling


Active Member
Bit of a weird one, so hoping someone has some ideas!

Basically, I decided a while ago that I wanted an online to-do list on my wall, so looked into getting a digital picture frame to hack. When I discovered the price of these, I bought an old laptop for £30, stripped it out and it's now all working as components ready to go into a picture frame, with a wifi adapter so I can remote desktop into it.

This all works perfectly, but I'm concerned about putting bare circuit boards in a small box on a wall. There's a few heatsinks and a tiny fan on the processor, but other than that not much going in the way of cooling. Any suggestions how I could go about this, or do you think it'll be fine etc? Just looking for any useful info/opinions!



Distinguished Member
Without knowing what components it actually contains it's hard to say, we could be talking anything from 10W to 100W - although the single tiny fan suggests it's near the lower end of that (it's power supply will also give an upper limit).

Assuming you're leaving enough room to avoid hotspots and to let air convection work around the heatsinks then I would have thought a system with that few fans would work fine without additional cooling - I assume the box will have vents rather than being sealed?

As for additional cooling options, a standard PC fan if the case is thick enough (40mm or 60mm) might work, or a centifugal fan if you need something thinner (either buy one new or from an old graphics card). Powering them shouldn't be a problem with a bit of simply DIY, 12V is full speed voltage and can be found in most connectors (optical/hard drive) and many will happily run at reduced speed at 5V (from a USB header for example).


Standard Member
If you look at the design of the laptop casing the motherboard came out of, it'll tell you what you need to know about cooling. - If you're building a "box" to put the components in, just make sure there are ventilation holes / vents in the same locations around the motherboard as there would be normally and you're all set to go. :thumbsup:

(This assumes that you're using the OEM cooling system (fan(s), heatsink(s))that was originally fitted to the board)


Active Member
Hey guys, thanks for the replies and sorry for the lack of response, internet's been down in my house :(

In terms of components, I can't be much use I'm afraid. I bought it off here years ago for £30, so suffice to say it's not powerful, but that doesn't mean it's not going to be hot I suppose. I've just had a look at it, but pretty much everything is glued down and has labels on, even the screws have glue on them. There's 256mb ddr ram, looks like 686 AMIBIOS BE89 chip if thats any use. The processor fan is still working, so presumably so long as there's enough heat escaping the frame, everything should be fine right?

In terms of following the case, I took it apart quite some time ago and whilst I kept the thin metal frames, the actual case was completely destroyed. I wasn't expecting so much glue and electrical tape to be honest.

No pictures I'm afraid, I was only really trying it as an interesting idea so haven't done anything drastic. It's basically just the screen in tact, then the motherboard connected to that with one wire. Then there's another board for the power switches that for some reason is separate. The motherboard has a load of eyeholes in, so I've used them to secure it to the back of the frame.

Endless Waves, you seem fairly confident that so long as it's thick enough to allow air around and vents to let air in and out, it should be fine? My main concern is power extra fans. I'm comfortable enough with desktops, but I'm a bit out of my depth with this laptop!


Distinguished Member
Endless Waves, you seem fairly confident that so long as it's thick enough to allow air around and vents to let air in and out, it should be fine? My main concern is power extra fans. I'm comfortable enough with desktops, but I'm a bit out of my depth with this laptop!

Laptop components are the same as desktop ones, simply a different shape and lower wattage. Generally everything you know about voltages and cooling will apply equally well here.

Assuming you're mounting it vertically (i.e. the board parallel will the wall) then you're likely to have better cooling than originally as you'll have the natural convection working with you (the hot air rising away and drawing cool air from below) so assuming this laptop didn't originally have a big metal case to act as an additional heatsink then the new box should be just as good if not better than the old one.

I don't know if laptops of that age used the standard desktop 3/4 pin fan connectors (or the mini ones sometimes seen on desktop graphics card) but if not then as I said it shouldn't be difficult to find a 12V/5V line going spare if you don't mind making up your own cable (or just soldering it together).

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