The computer has become an essential tool in every office, home, and even in cars. It is now possible to install a car PC, also called a carputer, in your vehicle and have access to all types of media, Internet, GPS, and other programs similar to the ones in your home or office PC. All you need are a few modified pieces of hardware and software to achieve this. You will also need to do a little cutting up of your vehicle’s interior, run a few more power and audio cables, and do some soldering here and there. This guide shows you the important software and hardware you need in every step of the process.
This is the first and most important step in building your car PC. Normally, all office or home PCs use mains electricity which comes as Alternating Current (AC). On the contrast, your car uses Direct Current or AC from the battery so you will need to convert the battery DC power to AC that the car PC can use. This can easily be achieved using an inverter. Alternatively, you can connect the battery’s DC current directly into the PC because the computer’s components use DC current. This basically means bypassing the traditional power supply of the PC using external power supply boards for car pc such as M2-ATX sold by Mini-Box which is used in many boats and cars worldwide.
The PC case
Mounting the PC to your vehicle will be a challenge without the right case. This is because traditional computer cases are not designed to fit in confined spaces such as the interior of your car. In fact, getting a permanent space for your laptop inside the car is enough challenge. To make matters worse, PC cases don’t come with any anchor points affixed. Fortunately, you can go around this challenge by getting a purpose built computer case that can be mounted inside a moving vehicle with ease. A good example is the Voom PC case which is designed with mounting holes that can allow the PC to be attached to any flat surface inside your car. The case has useful front facing ports such as USB and audio out connectors you can use for easier connectivity. Another good alternative is using a Mini-ITX PC. This is basically a standard PC motherboard that comes in a reduced size for locations with limited space. It is only 17 cm by 17 cm and fits perfectly in any vehicle.
The screen and audio
The type of screen you use in your car PC largely depends on your budget, the space available in your car’s interior, and the number of video outputs your units will have. Most car PCs have a single monitor located within the driver’s reach preferably at the center of the console. There are many good and affordable 7 inch touchscreen monitors you can easily find by searching Google. You will definitely need a touchscreen monitor since it is the best control mechanism for your carputer. All the major operating systems support touchscreen control for easy navigation of the computer’s menus. Audio connectivity should not be a problem if your car already has a stereo and speakers. Car stereos come with an auxiliary input port at the back which you can connect to your car PC.
Choice of software
A car PC is similar to your normal office or home PC so any operating system or software program that runs on other computers should work well on a carputer. However, the software you choose for your car PC will depend on what your personal preferences. If you intend to use the car computer for media purposes then a simple version of Linux, for example Xubuntu, with a media playback suite like XBMC should do. If you intend to use it for online or internet-based functions, you can get WiFi connectivity using an internal card or even a simple USB adapter. This can help you remotely transfer music, video, and data files from your home or office computer directly to your car. Internet connectivity can also help to turn your car into a functional satellite navigation machine by connecting to GPS satellites.
Installation of the aforementioned hardware and software parts depends on your level of expertise. You may decide to build and install the car PC by yourself if you are savvy with your car’s wiring system otherwise find an expert to handle the installation. There are companies that offer fitted and un-fitted solutions for car PCs in the market. The cost of the entire project will however depend on the equipment used.