Resurrecting old laptops with a Framework motherboard

I saw on Linus Tech Tips that there is a 3d printed enclosure that you can use to place your old motherboard into. This way you basically have another computer.

This made me wonder, could you resurrect an old laptop that has an outdated motherboard? Normally the issue with this is that the I/O ports don’t line up correctly with a new motherboard, but the modularity of Framework might fix this. Maybe there could be an extension cable for the Expansion Cards that could allow you to place the Expansion cards at the correct positioning on the old laptop chassis?

A specific holding bracket would have to be printed out for the Framework motherboard and its mounting points, but the tricky part would be getting this bracket to line up with the screw-holes of the old laptop chassis. The low-profile nature of the Framework motherboard makes me think that it would be able to fit into many older laptop cases.

Anyone have any thoughts to add on this? I have some old laptops I’d like to use because of the 4:3 screen and I want to re-use them, it’s just they are not fast enough for today’s internet. I’d also like to keep them out of the landfill.

Do you think this would be a doable venture-putting a Framework motherboard into an old IBM Thinkpad or Panasonic Toughbook?

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I would love to see the Framework mainboard fitted into an X220. Or go classic…back to, say, a T43.

Really miss that keyboard:

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Good idea, but the problem is every laptop is different (more or less). Different laptop models from different laptop manufactuers from different years will be different.

There’s no universal solution. The mechanical adapter parts would have to be customized for each laptop.

Some might fit with adapter pieces, but with some there might be some critical components in the way which would have to be removed and replaced.

The mainboard is small and thin enough that it should fit in just about any laptop shell, but aside from that it doesn’t sound easy.

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…Take this for example…Frankenpad with an 8th and 10th gen processor:

Though the boards were specifically made.

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@Fraoch I understand this. This is why I am wondering if maybe there could be a standard 3d printed bracket for several of the critical pieces needed for the motherboard. Underneath this, perhaps it screw mounts to another larger bracket or ‘shoe’ that fits into the older laptop chassis.
Maybe the design of this larger bracket, is a 3d-printed grid of hundreds of screw holes. The idea of this being you trim away or don’t print the parts of the frame of that don’t fit within your old laptop. The excess of screw holes would, fingers crossed, be enough to securely fit it with the old screw holes.
Here is an illustration I just made which kind of gets at what I am talking (forgive the crudeness of it, but the gist is there).


Maybe these are stackable layers and you sandwich the motherboard in between.

You are correct in that some items would have to be sacrificed, and I’m guessing the old HDD and possible Optical Drive would be first on the chopping block, but mainly what I would want to truly keep are the 4:3 screen and keyboard. I’d be okay getting rid of most other things.
I wonder if drawing power from the existing old battery would be a problem or displaying output to an older LCD monitor.

@Second_Coming I’d love to see this and I may reach out to that group you posted. I have a Lenovo R60 and R500 I desperately want to use again.

I just feel that a lot of these issues of resurrecting old laptops could be solved with 3d printing, unless I’m way off with this-let me know if I am.

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Does anyone from the community know if it would be too hard to connect an old keyboard from an existing laptop and its screen to the Framework Motherboard? I haven’t seen the motherboard up close, so I don’t know what kind of connections it has for screen and keyboard, or if those connectors are standardized across various laptop models.

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I don’t think they’re standardised in either connector or protocol

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I think that’s case-by-case dependent on your existing hardware - there have been lots of connection standards used through the years, and some are easier to adapt than others. The amount of free space in the chassis is going to play a part as well: 15-25 year old laptops will have more room to work with just because components were so much larger before. The more storage you have, the easier it is to create custom adapters for different keyboard and screen connectors

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Hi, I have this in my head also. I want to try it with X230. I have no X230 at home, so I only bought a bottom base cover for now (I use W530 as a daily driver). Next step is to print mainboard model from https://github.com/whatthefilament/Framework-Motherboard-Reference-CAD to be able to work on holding brackets.

It would be cool to have 4:3 screen in laptop, but there’s no modern 4:3 screen available. We have to be realistic. There are finally 16:10 screens all around. That’s awesome compared to years with 16:9 screens in basically all PC laptops. I see two best candidates:

There are bigger challenges:

  • It would be great to find display that can be connected directly to eDP port without USB-C - HDMI convertor. Current display connector specs are “eDP (2 Lanes), eDP1.4, HBR1 (2.7G/lane), 40 pins Connector” and it’s possible there’s no suitable that can be connected directly.
  • It would be easiest to fit framework’s battery inside laptop, but it may require more modifications to bottom cover. It would be coolest to use ThinkPad like batteries, but that’s out of my skills.
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@lthemick This is why I think this is an attractive concept. It’s a different way of using Framework. Recycling your old machine.

@ajtakrajta Regarding 4:3 screens, I have like four laptops with these. They aren’t common, but they are out there. I just want to know if technically is possible to power a 4:3 screen using a modified adapter out of the Framework motherboard.

16:10 is good too, and maybe most people don’t care about the small difference in size. I just like reading from 4:3 and the form factor of a 4:3 laptop. I think it is more elegant in shape and handles better when carrying. I don’t care about ISP view angles or high refresh rate. For me, you need to be in front of a laptop to use and if you are at a modern work environment and forced to use a privacy screen, it basically downgrades your display to the olden days. So I’m fine with the old displays.

I don’t know the specifics of what you are saying with the display connector specs, but to me it sounds like something custom made with soldering might be needed for older displays :confused: which is way out of my league. I would need assistance from the community here.

Battery-yes, Frameworks will be better than what the older models have. Issue with older laptop batteries is that they were part of the case support, so if you remove it it might become lopsided. So I’m not sure how to solve that issue-probably just have to leave them where they are to maintain stability of the case, unless a hollowed out battery was printed.

Maybe we are onto something here with the Thinkpad Framework Hybrid. A ThinkWork :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, that would be necessary, barring hacky solutions that use the USB-C ports (you don’t want this). The hard part here is the engineering–someone would need to design and fabricate a unique active adapter. That’s a big ask.

What are the constraints here? (Are we assuming that the display needs to fit into an exiting Thinkpad display assembly? If so, would a custom bezel help the situation at all, do you think?)

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I was thinking more about connector compatibility than display dimensions. X330 and similar ThinkPad mods show that it’s possible to adjust bezel. Current Framework display uses 2 eDP lanes. Displays suitable for 2x scaling with resolutions like 2560x1600 or 2880x1800 needs 4 eDP lanes.

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So I finally managed to print the motherboard: FramePad / ThinkWork - Album on Imgur

There’s plenty of space in X230, but it will be probably necessary to cut the frame around the original battery.

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While it is a cool project, I recommend getting a 51nb board for an old ThinkPad. The work needed to make a framework board fit in a ThinkPad is insane (keyboard begin the hardest to get to working since a custom board would be needed)

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@prepaidpyramid , You don’t think someone could use or modify the existing Thinkpad keyboard with trackpoint to work?

It is possible, but not worth it.

I’m aware of 51nb boards. They are incredible piece of hardware and for example X2100 is awesome machine. OTOH they are even rarer, more expensive and mostly one-man shows with no warranty.

I believe it would be beneficial to have Framework board in ThinkPad.

Two interesting projects:

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I changed the target to W530 - I have one with bad motherboard at home. It offers more space, so it should be easier to put everything inside.

I also already have 15.6" FHD eDP display. I hope it can be powered directly without USB-C convertor, although 30pins to 40pins cable adapter will be needed.

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30pins to 40pins cable adapter will be needed.

hmm, as far as I can tell from connector closeup pictures, the Framework display is 4-lane eDP (despite what Panelook might tell you). 30-pin cables are 2-lane. Makes me wonder if it’d work without these two lanes!

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