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Victor Warno
Victor Warno

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Recycle your old laptop to upgrade your Raspberry Pi Setup!


  • Old notebook
  • Raspberry Pi with SD Card and Power Supply
  • Ethernet Cable

Some weeks ago, a friend of mine got herself a new notebook and she wondered what she could do with the old one now. As she did not want to just toss it in the trash, she turned to me. Whether I had a suggestion for a new purpose, she asked.

Then, I remembered that I recently set up a Raspberry Pi as a Development Server inspired by the post above. But as I had not wanted to dedicate a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse for the Raspberry Pi, I got an idea how to reuse that old notebook of hers. Use the laptop for interaction! Therefore, this will be a compact version of instructable's guide to connect Raspberry Pies with Laptops. But I hope a helpful one, nonetheless.

Setup the Pi

So, I have the Pi model 3B+ here which luckily ships with an onboard Wireless LAN adapter! I flashed the SD card with Raspbian. Somehow, none of the Ubuntu distributions worked with me as they would not recognize the wlan feature. But besides that, Sarthak Sharma's post is a great introduction to get your Pi going. Unfortunately, before having the following steps done, you will need a screen and a keyboard of some sort to enter these instructions. But this will hopefully be the last time.😉

Most importantly, you have to know the IP address of your Raspberry Pi. You get it easily by opening a terminal and typing

hostname -I
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The address usually has this form: Jot it down, you will need it later. Now, install TightVNC - this is a remote control software package. And it is for free! With this we are going to start a remote server and access it from the laptop.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
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After installation start up a server and specify a port (here: 1).

sudo vncserver :1
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You will be asked to set a password. For some reason, you have to choose an 8-character-password. Anything longer will be truncated. 😅

Setup the Laptop

Grab the old thing, boot it up and cram the ethernet cable inside! The other end will serve the connection to the Raspberry. In order to connect to the VNC server you just created, you need to use the VNC Viewer. One download and one installation later, you should be able to create a new connection where you specify hostname and port obtained above:
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Encryption can be left at Let VNC Server choose. Be sure to enter your 8-digit-password correctly and hit Enter! You should see what your Raspberry Pi would render. VNC Viewer usually saves the settings, so that you can easily reconnect the next time you need screen, keyboard and trackpad of your newly born Laptop.

And that is how you save an old laptop from the trash can!

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