Custom Retro Laptop

Lately, over the past 2 years or so, I have wanted to take an old, pre 1990s laptop, strip its guts, and refit it with modern high end parts (i7/860m or higher). I now have a laptop worthy of the job, a Brother PN-8510MDS. Not exactly sure of when it was released but it really looks 80s, maybe around 1987 or so...problem is, I'm not so sure about how to go about this customization. I was wondering if some here in the forum may have done this before and can assist with tips, or someone that has a good idea about what to do.

You are going to have to do alot of custom mounting. 3m mounting tape, and blue tac will help. Get a doner laptop to recycle the same colored plastic for un-used ports. You will likely have to give up keyboard/ trackpad functionality. make sure to make the intake decently far from the exaust. You may use gorilla glue and spray foam as they are easy to sand away and mold after dried. I have attempted this with an itx mobo, and learned that thin itx or laptop was my only choice. You could even modify a magsafe connector to work with  the computer. You absolutely have to own a dremel. I can assist you as far as you would like

youll need to find a way to cover the floppy drive area

Cutting the bezel for the screen to size will be tough. definitely buy some sand paper

hmm... maybe some sort of resin or bondo, then sand/paint the entire thing gray?

or it may be utilized, assuming there is space, for a card reader or something. 

or adding more USB ports.

Thanks for the replys, I do realize I will need some power tools, I don't expect this project to be finished anytime this year. Will an ITX motherboard fit in this laptop? The dimensions of the laptop are 9 1/2x11x2. Given the age of this laptop, it does not have a track pad, and the keyboard is strong quality but just feels squishy and weird. I was actually thinking maybe if I can afford it, I could use a 3D printer to make covers for where there would be gaping holes. This would also probably be for making an IO plate for whatever motherboard I use.

an ITX board would fit those dimensions.... BUT.... what about the actual DEPTH? i foresee all sorts of problems with the height. 

-ASUS ITX baords that have a daughter board.

-RAM height.


Hell.... i don't even know if the motherboard I/O ports (audio) would even fit.

You should ditch this idea and make a suitcase computer like Qain was XD

If I put the IO ports to the back end of the laptop where the current IO ports are, I still have 2 inches of space to work with. As for cooling, I was thinking maybe since the keyboard is not going to be there I could possibly use a Noctua low profile heatsink and replace the fan with an NVIDIA reference style blower fan. I checked the dimensions and it should fit. If it does not, I may have to go about ripping a heatsink from a different laptop and using that paired with the blower fan. As far as RAM goes Crucial has RAM sticks perfect for this. The motherboard I'm currently looking at is an MSI A88XI AC. I won't ditch this idea for Qain's. My idea is to take this into public, and people will think I am using some old sh*tty 80s laptop, but when they see what I'm doing (probably gaming) it could be a conversation starter. All about the looks.

This just isn't really going to work, sorry to break it to you. You will have to get a special laptop motherboard that is designed for that 90's laptop, most laptop mother boards are split into pieces and connected together with flat tape wire (you'll know what I mean if you've seen it). You're probably better of buying a laptop mother board and the putting it into a custom made wooden box or something like that if you're trying to make it look unique and cool n stuff.

I like the idea of this, I've thought about doing something like this as well. Just need to get some of the older hardware.


As for the custom job, they make this putty, plumber I believe that turns into a rock hard plastic when you mix the two compounds. I've used that before to fill in a broken USB port. Another problem would be you power supply, you're going to need some juice to run that and it's not optimized for portable use because of the power requirements. If I were you that's what I would focus on first is power and battery and the life of battery time. All in all good luck



I have opened up the old laptop, and it is just an L shaped motherboard, all one piece. excuse the horrible camera quality.

With that I may have to find an older laptop's battery for the higher power draw, and they sell 120w + AC adapters. If this won't work using a desktop oriented motherboard, I may cannibalize a laptop or even a tablet. I realize that for this size I won't get much performance for gaming. Maybe in the near future I can utilize something running an NVIDIA K1 chip if it is as powerful as they have shown it to be.

You have three options, 

A laptop board

b intel thin itx and blower cpu cooler and low profile ram

c am1 system with low profile ram, blower cpu cooler attached with thermal adhesive, 

I would go for a laptop board as the thermal solution, battery , powersupply, and screen are already there. or thin itx

it is going to work. You are completely wrong,

do you really think the RAM will fit? i mean, not only does the height of the RAM have to be taken into account, but the mobo and DIMM slot itself. i was trying to look up if there are any RAM extension ribbon cables XD

Have you considered a single board computer. Something like this:

I know you might not quite have as powerful machine as you would want, but that way a lot of the issues involved in "how do I make this work in such a small space" are taken care of for you.


As long as you are handy with a dremel and can do the odd mod here and there you can do anything you put your mind to. Best of luck with it.

I have always wanted to do this very same thing with an old Commodore 64, Apple ii and or an Amiga 500... but i cant seem to be able to find any relatively cheap ones i could chopshop for the case. It would probably be a lot easier finding them for cheap in America, but down here in Australia their pretty hard to find. Even ones that aren't functional...

My search still continues though, and soon (a big maybe) i might be able to get my hands on an apple ii platinum edition for free. Im not sure if i should chopshop it for the case and fit it with modern hardware... or if i should give it a good clean and keep it as a memento...

there is low profile ram, and some mobos with ram sitting on side