The Karate Coder

Steam Box using Lenovo Ideapad y510p

Earlier this week I started to work on transforming my old Lenovo Ideapad y510p into a portable Steam Box.  For those of you who don’t know much about this laptop here are the specs straight from Lenovo:

4th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ (2.4GHz 1600MHz 6MB)
Operating System
Windows 8.1 64
  • 15.6″ FHD LED Glossy Wedge (1920×1080)
  • 16:9 widescreen
Dual graphics support1; NVIDIA® SLI – up to NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 750M 2GB dual graphics
8GB PC3-12800 DDR3L SDRAM 1600 MHz
Hard Disk Drive
1TB (5400 RPM) + 8GB Hybrid Drive
JBL® designed speakers supporting Dolby Home Theatre v4 audio certification for immersive sound
Integrated Communications
  • Intel 7260 b/g/n Wireless (2×2 BGN)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1 GB LAN
  • 1x USB 2.0 (one always on)
  • 2x USB 3.0 SuperSpeed
  • 6-in-1 card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MS, MS-Pro)
  • Headphone
  • Microphone
  • HDMI-out
  • VGA port (15-pin)
HD 720P camera
Up to 5 hrs
5.95 lbs
15.23 x 10.19 x 0.61-1.41″


lenovo-ideapadAlright so there are a few ways to make a Steam Box out of a computer and for repurposing of this computer I decided to try and install the Steam OS (stand alone version).  With a fresh image of the Steam OS on a 4GB USB drive I restarted the computer and entered the bios.  In the bios I made sure that EFI setting were active instead of Legacy.  Once all bios settings were saved and the computer booted to the USB drive the installation gives you a few options to install. For my first attempt I chose the easy way by selecting the “Automated install”.  

When I selected this option my screen split into three mirrored displays.  This made it very hard to see what was going on but the installation did complete.  When the install was complete the computer restarted and…nothing.  The machine started up to a black screen with no sound or mouse pointer.  Thinking that there may have been an error during the install I booted the computer from the USB again and instead of the automated install I chose the “Advance Install”.  I don’t know what was so advance about this type of install?  The installer only asked two questions.  On a side note after clicking the advance install the display didn’t mirror three display.  This time I could see all the shell and all the descriptions during the install.  Again the computer rebooted and the same black screen showed up. Suffice it to say that following Steam’s instructions on installing the OS wasn’t working.  My thought is that it has something to do with the dual graphics cards that are in the Lenovo Ideapad y510p.  In the end I reinstalled Windows 8 and the Steam client and followed neuroboy’s instructions on booting Windows to Steam Big Screen mode:

  ======================== Part 1: Set Steam startup options ======================== This is the easy bit. 1. Open up Steam in normal windowed mode and select Settings from the top menu 2. Click the Interface tab 3. Select both checkboxes for ‘Run Steam when my computer starts’ and ‘Start Steam in Big Picture Mode’ – maybe one day Valve will get these to work properly together so you don’t have to follow the rest of this nonsense! 4. Click OK and exit Steam ============================================== Part 2. Making Registry Edits so that Steam runs as your shell ============================================== This is the trickier bit and involves some commitment to Steam on your part, though is easily reversible – it will make Steam run instead of your normal Windows Desktop after Windows has booted and you’ve logged in. 1. Bring up the Windows ‘Run’ dialogue box, either from the Start Menu or by pressing your Windows key and R at the same time. 2. Type ‘regedit’ and click OK. 3. Navigate to [HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsNTCurrentVersionWinlogon] 4. Right click in the folder pane to the right and select ‘New > String Value’ 5. Name it ‘Shell.’ 5. Right click on ‘Shell’ and select ‘Modify.’ 6. Type in the path to Steam.exe and click OK. By default on a 64 bit system the full path will be “C:Program Files (x86)SteamSteam.exe” – personally I just have Steam installed at root – “C:Steam” 🙂 ========================================================== Part 3 (optional): Setup your PC to automatically login to your Windows account ========================================================== If you are not a complete security nut and only have one account on your PC, you can set it up to automatically login, so you don’t have to select a user and/or type a password. Instructions for this varies according to your Windows version. See here for full information: NOW REBOOT YOUR PC AND CROSS YOUR FINGERS YOU DID IT ALL OKAY! Whilst waiting for your PC to boot up, grab your Xbox 360 Controller and turn it on ready to navigate that lovely Steam Big Picture Mode. ============== Troubleshooting etc ============== If you get only a black screen with a cursor instead, or your gamepad doesn’t work, or whatever, press control+alt+delete and select ‘Task Manager.’ Go to File>New Task (Run) and type “explorer.exe” – this should bring back your regular desktop until you log in again. You can also use this method to access Windows if you want to do anything else. Go back and check that you made all the registry edits exactly right. To remove the Steam bootingness, just delete the ‘Shell’ entry you added.

  There you have it.  I wish i would been able to get the Steam OS to run on its own so I could play around with it, but this functions exactly the same.

Desk Update

Desk is working great!  I have had the computer on for 4 days without turning it off and there has been no overheating while playing Assassins Creed 4.  The GPU, CPU and mother-board are getting great air flow considering everything is incased by wood.  There are/were a few snags after completion.  I had to get a fan extension cable and 4 pin extension cable for the aux power to the CPU.  I used some planting foam that people use to keep fake plants to stand up in pots to securely fit the multi-media card reader into it’s cut-out.  Lastly I still have to use a router the space on the right panel lid over the graphics card so the lid can close and not smush the graphics card.  Otherwise the desk works perfectly.

Desk is Done

I have finish the desk.  After making a change to the stain I think the desk came out pretty good.  There are some not-so-pretty section near the multi-card reader but that makes it eccentric.  After all I built this desk and plan on using it for a very long time.  I need to find some shorter legs and cable extenders and that will be that.  Have a look at the finished desk.

New Desk

About a month or two I got an itch to build something.  Typically that means that I want to build a new computer or modify a computer with new components.  My first thought was to build a small micro computer for the living room TV to play PC games on, surf the web, or watch moves on.  I started to do some research on small computer cases that would fit two graphics cards, a power supply, two hard drives, and a wireless modem.  All the cases that I was seeing were larger than I would want them to be.  My TV sits in a nook area above my fireplace which doesn’t give much breathing room for anything else.  I mean look, I am not going to set the PS3 on the laminate floor to get cold.  I mean I am not an animal.

From my research I came up with two options either switch out the TV I have with something smaller so I can fit a micro ATX case in the nook area with everything else or forget the whole project and move on with life.  I could let go of this project.  I had too much drive built up inside me to build something and it should go to waste.  I couldn’t come up with a solution that would work so I stopped researching and put the project on hold in the back of my mind.

Later on that week at work I was cruising around Lifehacker when I came across an article about someone who build a desk.  I opened the article because a person’s desk tells you a lot about someones personality and habits.  HomeMade Modern made a desk out of one 4 x 8 sheet of plywood that served multiple functions.  The desk was built to have two storage compartments built into the desk with the desktop cut in three ways and hinges attached so the desk lids could lift up to reveal the storage compartments.  If you want to see what I am talking about click here because I had a difficult time describing how the desk works.  Anyways while checking out the desk building tutorial I thought about those lids and semi-hidden compartments and mumbled to myself “I wonder if a computer could fit in there?”  This idea brought my drive to the surface and filled me with excitement.  I knew what I wanted to build.  A computer, but in a desk.

I began with HomeMade Modern’s original design and began to construct the desk based on their designs.  I framed the desk from the bottom up and soon realized that  one piece of plywood wouldn’t cut it.  The depth of HomeMade Modern’s desk was too shallow for multiple hard drives or CPU fans.  I need to alter their materials a bit.  My buddy Nick had heard me talking about building this desk and was interested in see it and came to visit me one Saturday.  After showing Nick the progress I had made with the desk and listening to my current problems with the original design not fitting my needs for the desk he whipped up a new strategy that would require a little bit more wood and some custom alterations for the computer components.

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With Nick’s analytical thinking and math skills we were able to tear down what I started and rebuild the desk into what you see here.  Instead of buy all new computer components I stripped down my current gaming computer and case.  Using tin-snips and a drill I disassembled the old computer case and salvaged everything. I didn’t know what I wanted to carry over right away.  What you see here is the motherboard frame and the re-case panel as they would be on the original case lying on it’s side.  After some talk Nick and I decided it would be best to separate the power supply from the motherboard and cut out a hole for the power supply fan to blow out the bottom of the desk (that is the black part to the left).

I have just finished cutting the circular holes for the two 120mm fans that will attach to the front of the desk, the power button hole, and the 5.25″ rectangle for the mulit-card reader adapter.  Next comes the finishing and sanding of the desk with some wood putty here and there.  Then I will stain it.

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