Notice: Just to clarify, this article refers to the original Xbox 360 and does not cover the Elite, as Ben has yet to crack one of those bad boys open.
Parts you'll need
- USB port, male (full size type A) - Digi-Key part # 151-1082-ND.
- VGA port - It's best to just desolder and use the one that's already on the LCD screen circuitry. You can also find a VGA-style DB-15 jack at your local Radio Shack if you insist on paying for it.
- Slide switch 3 position - Digi-Key part # SW336-ND. This will be used to select the video mode. It's panel mount, so it attaches to our rear A/V panel using screws.
- Slide switch 2 position - Digi-Key part # SW116-ND. Panel mount again. This will be used to switch power on and off for the built-in LCD, if you wish to have this as an option.
- RCA jacks - For the rear A/V panel. See our "Xbox 360 VGA mod" article for more info, link further on in this article.
- USB keyboard with hub - we bought one from Tiger Direct, more details when we get to that section.
- Green 3mm LED - Any type will work. In this example we're using it as a "contast on" light that will go just below the Ring of Light.
- (8-10) 6mm tact switches - Digi-Key part # EG2495-ND. We'll use these for the eject buttons and other controls.
- Male headers - Digi-Key part #A26525-40-ND. This is a 80 pin male header that you can break apart and use for many things in your laptop.
- Female headers - Digi-Key part # A26488-ND. This is a 14 pin receptacle that will be of good general purpose use.
- Shielded VGA monitor cable. It's best to scavenge one of these off an old monitor or cable. It needs to be shielded (metal mesh wrapped around the inner wires) but try and find one that's not too thick or it'll have trouble bending with the lid.
- Dark plastic screen door material. Find it at your local friendly hardware store. This stuff is good for covered air vent holes and making them look nicer.
Download the art file (Adobe Illustrator 10)
Several topics and techniques will be referenced to our past articles to keep this particular entry somewhat shorter than a Stephen King novel.
Rewiring the Keyboard
For this mod we've choosen a mini USB keyboard from Tiger Direct. Here is an example of one. These types of keyboards are quite simple and consist of a key layer and a small circuit board which contains the required circuitry. As an added bonus this keyboard also has a USB hub, which means the keyboard uses one of the ports from the 360 but gives you two in return. What a deal.
- On the left are the (2) USB ports that are part of the built-in hub. Not all mini keyboards will have this hub but it's a nice bonus if you can find one.
- In the near-middle is the keyboard connection. This consists of traces on the board which clamp onto the plastic keyboard grid via a piece of metal and a rubber spacer to press against the contacts. Normally this clamps to the keyboard case, here it has been secured with a paid of size 4 screws and nuts.
- On the right is the main USB connection. This is where we'll wire a ribbon cable to connect directly to the Xbox 360's motherboard, specificially, to one of the front USB connections.
- Attach an 8 pin female header receptacle directly to one of the USB hub ports on the circuit board, this locks it down and keeps it in place. Bend the other 4 pins out.
- Solder wires from the other USB port to the bent out pins. This puts all 8 connections on the one header.
- Attach an 8 pin male header plug to an 8 wire ribbon cable and mark which ends are +5 and GND. (See previous article about this). This cable will need to be about 12 inches long.
- Finally, attach a 4 wire ribbon cable to the USB port that will go to the Xbox 360.
- Note - don't worry about rewiring the Number lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock LED's - in our experience the Xbox never lights up any of these.
The wired keyboard PCB.
Alright let's attach the front USB connections. Remember if your keyboard doesn't have a hub and you want more connections you'll have to get a separate USB hub which may or may not require its own power source.
- Attach the original 2 port USB piece from the Xbox to the "USB plate" that you can cut from the main art file, as shown above. (You can also just install it in the side of the case if you make some holes)
- Along with these 2 ports we've added a third port using a standalong male USB jack. This will connect directly to the other front USB port on the motherboard. This gives us 3 free ports, same as a stock Xbox, even though we've installed a Wi-Fi adapter and a keyboard. Slick eh?
The front right end of the unit, with USB ports.
- Secure the USB port assembly to the case as seen above.
- Connect the 8 wire ribbon cable from the keyboard's USB hub to the dual-port USB assembly.
- Connect the single USB port to one of the front USB ports on the main motherboard.
- Connect the other main port to the keyboard's USB hookup.
- "Front USB port header" indicates a female header that has been wired to the motherboard. This allows us to attach other things, like the keyboard and USB ports, to male headers which can be easily plugged and unplugged into the system.
Wiring the audio and video to the Xbox 360 and back port
Next let's work on the all-important audio and video portions of the project, starting with the rear A/V panel. One problem with, well, most consoles since the NES is that they don't have clearly defined ways of attaching multiple types of inputs because they want to sell you a cable for each type. So while we're making this laptop let's put a bunch of ports on the back.
Basically we'll want to wire up every connection that we feel we'll need off of this port. In the case of this example, it's everything but the TOSLINK optical port. One difference from the older article is that we're going to connect a portion of a VGA monitor cable to this port.
Yes that's right the hot glue gun is back, in all its worn-out glory.
For best results remember to put a thin line of hot glue along the connections so they won't pull loose or break while we're working on the rest of this mod. You can also use heat shrink tubing or electric tape.
- Here's an important step - make a list indicating what each wire does by color.
- You'll find in the VGA cable there should be 3 wires thicker than the others, these are best used for the R G and B lines.
- Some cables have a 4th thick wire which usually goes to H-Sync.
- You'll also notice that most VGA cables have several "unused" wires, since VGA technically only needs 5 + ground. These are typically for monitor identification (for an OS) but here we can use them to send audio signals to the LCD half of the case.
- Connect the outer shielding of the VGA cable to ground.
- The component video jacks wire to the VGA spots on the plug in the order of their color. Red to red, blue to blue and green to green. (Component uses different terms but for our purposes this is fine).
Here's the VGA port and select switch mounted on the rear A/V panel.
Wiring the 3 position video selector switch.
- The "Pins" refer to the Xbox 360 video connector, again see the VGA mod article for more details.
- Connect GND from the A/V port to the 2 pins indicated above. This sets the video mode by pulling the desired pin low when you move the switch. Since this switch has dual poles it isolates the top and bottom, allowing this manual switching to work.
- As shown, sliding the switch to the left engages component video (YPbPr, also used for analog HDTV), the middle is standard yellow-jack composite, and to the right is VGA, for either the built-in screen or external monitor.
Connecting the LCD screen
Next we'll connect the LCD screen portion (lid) to the main unit.
- Place bits of material, such as wood or plastic, beside the screen and secure it to the lid case using JB Weld or superglue. We'll call these attachment spacers. Make them the same height as the LCD assembly, which will be about .5 to .75 inches.
- Attach flat pieces of plastic to the LCD frame and place the ends over the attachment spacers. Drill a small hole through both so you can secure them together with a screw.
- We sanded the surfaces of our plastic pieces to create a better grip (for the glue) and then hot glued them directly to the LCD frame
- Repeat this for at least 4 corners of the LCD to ensure it will be secured inside the lid.
- Place the lid portion of the case on top of the main portion to make wiring the next few parts easier.
- Connect the wires from the monitor cable (coming from the Xbox) to the VGA spots on the LCD's circuit board, as shown above. This will vary by LCD model, but just search for "VGA pinout" on Google to double-check your connections. Here you can plainly see the thicker wire the cable has for the main video signals.
- Secure the wires to the LCD frame using hot glue or whatever you're most comfortable with. Plastic zip ties can work as well. The idea here is that when the lid is opened/closed the cable will bend, or shear if you will, at the spot you secured it and not at the connections to the circuit board. If the circuit board connections move too much they will eventually break.
- Run the 5 volt and 12 volt power lines for the LCD through the 2 position slide switch. Since it's DPDT each of the lines will switch together but be isolated. (See diagram below).
- Connect ground directly to the LCD's circuit boards as described in Part 2.
Wiring the LCD main power switch. As shown, sliding to the left is screen off, to the right is screen on.
- Determine the pinout of the control panel's connector by plugging it into the LCD's circuit board and testing the buttons with a multimeter. There may be some unused pins on the connector, ignore these.
- If you wish, find the pinouts of the power LED to rewire it as well. (We didn't in our example because we always believe it's pretty obvious if the screen is on or not.)
- Connect thin ribbon cable directly to the control panel port on the circuit board, then label the other ends as shown based off the pinouts you discovered with the multimeter. This makes it easier when we wire the new control panel a little later on.
- Be sure the ribbon cable is long enough to reach into the bottom half of the unit and into the area where we want the new screen controls to be.
Click here for a larger version in a new window.
- Above we see the LCD's circuit board wired to the rest of the Xbox.
- As mentioned in part 2 if there's a headphone jack for the screen we'll need to make sure this is connected since the audio will pass through it. If the headphone jack is disconnected no sound will get to the speakers.
- Connect extension wires for the speaker as well. Typically speakers on a device like this will have two wires each, so don't combine the grounds or you might not get good results.
- Run all the "between sides" connections through a length of heat-shrink tubing. This gives it a nice clean look, but be sure you've got all the connections you need before you shrink the tube down to fit!
- There should be two wire bundles between the halves -- the monitor cable and another cable bunch containing the powered speaker signals, control panel wires and the LCD power wires.
Making the lid latch
Now that we've sandwiched the halves together we need a way to latch it. You can find the drawings of the latch we designed in the art file.
- Here's the latch from a couple different angles. The basic idea is a notch is going to fit into the tongue from the top half of the unit and hold it in place using a common ball point pen string mounted on a screw.
- When you press the front of the latch it pushes the notch back allowed the tongue and the top lid to open up.
- Here's a view inside the case with the LCD removed so we can see it. Note the hole we've put in the tongue. This is where the latch will go.
- Mark off the latch's position then drill a hole in the front of the case for the lid button. We made ours about 1/4-inch diameter. For a lid button we can use a rubber stopper or anything really that will fit and look decent.
Top view, the latch in place. To secure it, use a bit of superglue first, then go back around the edges with something stronger like JB Weld to lock it in place. Also be sure the latch will have enough clearance for the motherboard to go underneath.
Reworking the ring of light
Ok, now we're getting into the inside of the laptop, specifically the control area.
The Ring of Light jack, extended from the motherboard by a ribbon cable.
Note: Be careful that the Ring of Light assembly doesn't run into your heat sinks or fans as it will be in the same area inside the case. You may need to put the GPU fan on the opposite side to accomodate this.
Installing the speakers
Alright let's install the speakers. These will go in a piece of plastic very much like the one used for the Ring of Light.
- Crack off the main shell of the speakers using the same techniques from part 1 when we gutted that nefarious Wi-Fi adapter. The speakers themselves are not very thick and are pretty standard for electronics of this size. Be sure to note how the red and black wires are connected as this is important for the speakers to work properly.
- You can also use old laptop computer speakers as they are usually quite similar.
Close-up of the speaker plate when mounted to the case.
A good plan is to secure an item with a tiny bit of hole glue, see if the whole assembly is going to fit, then fully secure it if it does. Saves a person a lot of frustrating "tear down" time.
- Using small pieces of plastic, cut small tabs that will fit at the edges of each plate, as shown above.
- Superglue these tabs to the underside edges of the plates. This will allow the plates to "interlock" in the middle and support each other.
- We can also put spacers under the middle keyboard plate so it rests against the DVD drive or the top of the heatsinks / fans.
Ok, just a few things left to do, starting with the DVD drive.
- Take the drive back out and glue a new tact switch and the original IR sensor to the front based off your markings.
- Connect a 4 wire ribbon cable to them as shown above. The wires are ground (2), IR data (1), IR power (3) and eject switch.
Wiring the eject switch and IR to the motherboard.
- Place the DVD drive back in the case and check that the eject switch and IR lense line up to the holes.
- Use the designs from the art file to create an eject button to place in the hole. If you're careful you can use a tiny bit of superblue to attach it directly to the switch.
Click here for a larger version in a new window
Above is a view of the inside of the case with everything installed. We can see the DVD drive on the lower left, hard drive and WiFi adapter above it, heat sinks in the middle and the cable for the Ring of Light near the bottom. The WiFi adapter has been wired to the rear USB port, and the three rear fans to the original Xbox 360 fan connector.
Click here for a larger version in a new window
Another view of the case in its open, yet final form.
Close-up of the GPU and CPU heatsinks, with fans. If the keyboard is slim enough there should be enough room for everything. Note how some small adhesive heatsinks have been placed on the front memory chips. Be sure that the orignal "heat cushions" on the memory chips on the bottom of the board can contact the case and transfer heat to it.
You now have been taken through the most extensive making-of guide for an Xbox 360 laptop ever written. This information will come in quite handy for your own hacks and should give you the basis with which to create your own Xbox 360 projects. For more information on general hacking and a great userbase you can also stop by the official Benheck.com forums. Have fun and we'll see you next time!
"And thus Ben wept, for he looked out and saw only one more next-gen system to conquer..."