How to Mod Your Laptop

How do you change the look of a laptop? I mean really change its look--just shifting around the wallpaper, screensaver, or Windows color theme doesn't count.

This is a bigger task than you might expect, especially if you've tried modding a desktop PC. Shiny new cases, LED fans, all sorts of spray paint and side panels--those guys have it easy.

Laptops aren't quite so moddable, since you basically have only one case to work with. But whether you just want a quick makeover or are willing to throw caution to the wind, we have some quick tips and ideas to make it prettier, uglier, or just plain more noticeable than your average portable PC.

But tread carefully. Electronics and water don't mix; electronics and clay, paint, or adhesive really don't mix, and it's not as if you can just replace your laptop's motherboard and go about your business. Proceed with caution, and do your best to make sure your laptop doesn't show up in our Trashed Laptops slideshow.

Gelaskins: Stickers For Your Laptop

Gelaskins let you modify your laptop's looks without getting your hands dirty.
If the thought of taking a screwdriver and some paint to your laptop makes you squeamish, don't worry--you can still liven up the feel of your notebook without almost destroying it in the process. Try checking out Gelaskins, both a Website and a product that comes as a single huge sticker that you can apply to the external (and sometimes internal) sections of your laptop.

If you're turned off by the prices or patterns, don't fret: Plenty of online companies sell similar products of different varieties, including decalgirl.com, zagg.com, and skinit.com, to name a few.

Gelaskin in the wild. (Picture by Craig Cmehil.)
Find a product that meets your notebook's dimensions and order up your favorite design. Once your skin arrives in the mail, unpeel it and carefully apply it as straight as you can to the correct part of your laptop.

You can use a credit card to smooth out any excess air bubbles, but try to apply the skin in such a way as to avoid that step entirely.

One laptop's boom-box skin--clearly applied with care.
You get only one shot to make your applied-skin mod perfect, so feel free to take all the time in the world to line up the skin so it's exactly how you want it to be.

While you can remove your skin if you muck things up, you run the risk of having a bit of adhesive (or a bit of sticker, if you accidentally rip it) remaining on your laptop's exterior.

If stickers aren't your thing, you can also pick up a large plastic shell that fits around the top and bottom halves of your device and, with luck, changes the look and color of the laptop entirely. It's tough to locate such shells for PCs, but Apple fans can find solace in the unique polycarbonate designs of a company called Speck.

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