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In this section, we will review the process to upgrade an Acer C910 Chromebook from 32 GB SSD to 256GB Solid State Drive. In our previous article, we explained some of the benefits of the Acer 910 Chromebook. This revolutionary new 15 ½ inch laptop only has a couple of drawbacks. The first is that it comes with a Solid State Drive (SSD) that only has 32 GB of capacity. The second drawback is that the Chrome operating system is extremely limited in terms of the programs it can run. A 32 GB SSD is simply not enough for folks who want to store their own images, videos and documents on their own computer. We will therefore explain in this article how to replace the 32 GB SSD with a 256GB SSD – for a cost of about $90. Then in the next section, we will explain how to replace the Chrome operating system with a much more functional and completely free operating system called Linux Mint – which will allow us to access tens of thousands of free open source programs.

There are 9 steps to the SSD Upgrade process:

#1 Buy USB 128 GB stick & 2 8 GB USB Sticks. (about $50)
#2 Order Acer C910 and the Correct SSD Replacement Drive
#3 Save your documents to a USB drive.
#4 Set Up Your New Acer C910
#5 Create a Chrome Recovery USB Stick.
#6 Open the Rear Cover of our Chromebook.
#7 Remove the 32GB SSD and remove the Write Protection screw.
#8 Insert the 256GB SSD and Replace the Cover.
#9 Restart the Chromebook, Insert the Recovery USB Stick and Follow the Recovery process.

We will next review these steps. You’ll need a 4GB USB stick, a small cross-head screwdriver and the 256 GB M.2 drive. The process takes about 60 minutes.

#1 Buy USB 128 GB stick & 2 8 GB USB Sticks. (about $50)

128 GB Stick will be to save your existing documents. The 8 GB sticks will be for Chrome Recovery and Mint ISO installation.

#2 Order Acer C910 & Correct SSD Replacement Drive

As we noted in the previous article, solid state drives are 50 to 500 times faster than traditional Hard Drives that use a spinning disc. Because of the rapid decline in price of solid state drives, they are now within the reach of virtually everyone. There are several kinds of Solid State Drives. The most common is called SATA. The second most common is the MiniSATA also called mSATA. The third most common and newest option is called M.2 SATA.

The SATA part is often dropped from the description which is not good because there is a newer option that is not SATA called M.2 PCI (PCI has one notch in the connector while M.2 SATA has 2 notches). M.2 is pronounced “M dot 2.” The Acer C910 uses the M.2 SATA Solid State Drive. The M.2 SATA is 3.5mm thick, 22mm wide and comes in three lengths. These are 42mm, 60mm and 80mm.

Below is a picture of the three lengths for the M.2 SSD models.

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The Acer C910 uses the shortest of these three lengths. This short SSD is often described as a “2242” which is simply the width followed by the length.

 

Brand Options for our 256GB SSD

There are several brands of 256 GB M.2 2242 SSDs on the market. Transcend makes a 256 GB M.2 2242 SSD called the MTS 400. It is available in both 256GB and 512 GB. Here is the link to their product spec sheet. https://www.transcend-info.com/Products/No-642

The Acer C910 is not yet listed as compatible with the MTS 400 on the Transcend website. However, it has been confirmed as the correct model by several C910 users on the Internet. The 256 GB version of the MTS 400 costs about $195. However, it appears that this SSD will crash your Chromebook unless you disable a power management feature called ALPM.

If you decide to use this SSD, see the following link for how to disable ALPM: https://superuser.com/questions/887916/transcend-mts400-ssd-crashes-my-acer-c720-chromebook-how-to-disable-sata-power

The most common 256gb SSD option is called MyDigitalSSD. You can get it directly from MyDigitalSSD for $103. Here is the full name of this SSD: MyDigitalSSD 256GB Super Boot Drive 42mm SATA III (6G) M.2 2242 NGFF SSD – MDM242-SB-256. Here is the direct link to MyDigitalSSD: https://www.mydigitaldiscount.com/mydigitalssd-256gb-super-boot-2-sb2-42mm-2242-sata-iii-6g-m.2-ngff-ssd-solid-state-drive-mdm242-sb2-0256/

Here is the link to the same 256 GB SSD at New Egg for $109: https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA53D5876579&ignorebbr=1

It is also available at Amazon for about $109
https://www.amazon.com/MyDigitalSSD-256GB-Super-SB2-Solid/dp/B01MXMQQ7Z/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_sims?ie=UTF8

There is also the Adata 256 GB M2 2242 42mm SATA for $138. There are some reports that this SSD is faster and more durable than the MyDigitalSSD 256 GB SSD. However, we have been using the MyDigitalSSD for several years without any problems. Here is the Amazon link for the Adata SSD:
https://www.amazon.com/ADATA-IM2S3334-Industrial-Grade-Internal-IM2S3334-256GD/dp/B074K273KV/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_sims?ie=UTF8

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A problem with MyDigitalSSD is that, in the past, about one in twenty of these SSDs may have failed. An SSD failure would cause us to lose all of our data if our laptop is not backed up frequently.

The technical support person at MyDigitalSSD said that most of the claimed failures were due to folks not following the proper procedures such as not using the Chromebook Restore function (which we describe in detail below).

Folks then wrote bad reviews but his testing of the SSDs indicated that there was nothing wrong with the SSDs. There are two versions of this SSD. The slightly better version is called SuperBootDrive and comes with a Toshiba A19nm MLC Toggle NAND Flash. This SSD comes with a three year warranty. There is a slightly cheaper version called the SuperBootDrive Eco, which uses a Micron flash instead of a Toshiba flash. Either way, MyDigitalSSD seems to be pretty good about replacing a failed SSD. But this warranty does not cover getting your lost data back. One option would be to get a free Cloud storage system linked to your SSD which makes a constant backup of your SSD every time you go online (we discuss the Mega Cloud setup later in this book). Another option would be to back up your current folders every day or every week. Our own view is that this SSD is not likely to fail if we are careful about following all the proper steps. The main reason we have chosen to use the MyDigitalSSD 256 GB Super Boot Drive SSD is that there are a huge number of positive reports and tutorials for installing this SSD on Acer Chromebooks.

#3 Save your documents to a USB drive

Whether you are transferring documents from a prior computer or if you have been using your Chromebook for a while, you should consolidate and save any documents in your file manager to an external USB drive before replacing your Chromebook 32 GB SSD. This will be reinstalled later after adding Mint OS.

#4 Set Up Your New Acer C910

If this is a new Acer C910, we should first set it up to verify that it is working. We will need an Internet Connection and a Power Source. Because this Chromebook does not come with an Ethernet port, if you are using an Ethernet Internet connection, you should buy an Ethernet to USB adapter which costs about $15. If you are using a WIFI connection, then an Ethernet to USB adapter is not needed. You will also need your Google Email Account and password (although you can create this account while setting up your Chromebook or just use the Guest account). When you unpack the box your Chromebook comes in, the C910 will be inside of a white foam bag. Keep this bag as we will use it to pad the Chromebook when we replace the SSD.

Assemble the two parts of the battery pack and plug one end into a power supply, then the other end into our new Chromebook. Then press the Power On button located in the upper right corner of the key board. After turning on the Chromebook, the Chrome logo displays on a white background. After a few seconds, this welcome screen appears.

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Select your network. If your network requires a password, enter the password. Then click Continue. The next screen is the Google Terms screen. If you do not want to automatically send reports to Google, click the box to remove the check mark next to Optional: Help make Chrome OS better by automatically sending usage statistics and crash reports to Google. To accept the Google Chrome OS Terms and proceed to the sign in screen, click Accept and Continue.

The next screen is the Google Account Sign in screen. A Google Account is required for signing in to your Chromebook for the first time. The first Google Account added to your Chromebook becomes the Owner account. This account is given special permissions that cannot be transferred to a different account without resetting the Chromebook. On the Sign in screen, enter your primary Google Account email address and password, and then click Sign in. You are automatically signed in to any Google products and services associated with your Google Account. At this screen, you can also create a new account or sign in as a Guest by clicking Browse as a Guest. The next screen is to select an account picture. You can either have the camera take a picture of you or select a picture from several existing images on your Chromebook. Then click OK to continue. You then can view a series of instructional screens which we will skip.

#5 Create a Chrome Recovery USB Stick.

You will need a a USB stick that is at least 4 GB and an Internet connection. Turn on your Chromebook and insert this USB drive into your Chromebook. In the Google Chrome web browser, search for Chromebook Recovery Utility or type this link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chromebook-recovery-utili/jndclpdbaamdhonoechobihbbiimdgai

Click the Add to Chrome button. Then click on the Recovery button. Then click a green button the upper right corner that says Launch App.

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This opens a screen that allows you to choose your computer model Acer C910.

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This will take you to a page that says “Create Recovery Media”. It should detect the drive you plugged into your Chromebook. Press the “OK” button under "USB Memory Stick Detected". This will wipe your USB drive clean, and place a recovery image on it which we will use later to restore the Chrome operating system after we have replaced the SSD. Remove the USB stick when the process is finished. You can then shut down the Chromebook.

#6 Open the Rear Cover of our Chromebook

First, turn off your Chromebook and disconnect it from the electrical outlet. Turn it over and place it on a clean towel to stop the case getting scratched. You can also place it on the white foam bag that the Chromebook came packed in. Unscrew all 18 of the cross-head screws in the rear of the unit. You will need a small Phillips head screwdriver.

There are four screws on each side plus two in the middle.

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In previous Acer Chromebooks, one screw was hiding under a warranty sticker and removing the screws on the back of your Chromebook invalidated your warranty. This is no longer the case with the Acer C910.

As you remove the cover screws, store them in a safe place. They are very small and easily lost. After all the screws have been removed, we need to pry off the back cover. You can use a large guitar pick, a flat head screwdriver or any sort of relatively thin plastic or metal separation tool (such as a credit card) to pry the bottom cover from the top cover. Start at the front to one side of the touch pad and gently pry it open first in the front, then the sides and then the back (which is the hardest part). Once you have the body separated, slide your prying tool in either direction until you hit the first snap point. Once you pop one out, the case will open wide enough that you can simply use your fingers to pull the plate off one snap at a time around all four edges.

Be as careful as possible with these snap points, as they are fragile. Breaking one of them will not cause a problem but breaking several snap connections could be a problem. When the unit is open it will look like this. The M.2 SATA 32 GB SSD is clearly labeled near the middle just to the right of the mother board, just above the fan and just below the very large black battery cover.

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The SSD is the red box just below the fan. The Write Protection screw is 3 to 4 inches right of the SSD and just right of the rainbow colored wires.

#7 Remove the 32GB SSD & remove the Write Protection Screw

Some SSD makers recommend removing the battery in order to avoid a potential electrical discharge. However, none of the demonstrations actually did this. But you should disconnect the Chromebook from the electrical outlet. Once the bottom plate is off, look just above the fan for a blue Kingston SSD wedged into a slot on one end and held down with a single Phillips screw on the other. Remove the screw from the SSD and gently wiggle the SSD out of its socket. Place the drive off to the side in a safe place. Remember this is still a fully functioning drive with Chrome OS on it and we may need to put it back if the new SSD does not work for any reason! The single screw holding in the SSD is on the left. The pins connecting the SSD to the Chromebook are on the right.

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While the back is off of the computer, you should also remove the Write Protection screw which is just to the right of where the rainbow colored wires enter the circuit board. This closeup view shows that there is an upward pointing arrow just below the Write Protection screw (screw with the red circle around it).

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Removing the Write Protection screw is essential in order to change the default settings of the Coreboot Startup program so that we can make a program called Seabios the default program. Making SeaBios the default start up program before we install Linux Mint will allow us to avoid having the press Control L every time we start our Chromebook. It may require a special Phillips stubby screwdriver to remove the Write Protection screw as it may be firmly in place. Be careful not to strip this screw. Press down firmly as you unscrew it.

#8 Insert the 256GB SSD

It is important to insert the new SSD properly so that the pins line up. This may require turning the new SSD upside down. But in general, the label on the SSD goes up. Then screw it into place with the single screw.

Replace the Cover

Gently reattach the rear cover by putting the back part of the cover on first and then the sides and the front. Position the bottom cover and move your hand along the edges, pressing down hard until you hear each of the clips click into place. Once you think you've put them in place, go around the edges another time or two - pressing harder to really make sure the clips have been connected. Then reattach all 18 screws.

#9 Restart the Chromebook, Insert the Recovery USB Stick and Follow the Recovery process

Flip the Chromebook back over, reconnect it to the power supply, open the lid and press the power button. When you turn on your Chromebook, you will see an Error message complaining that there is no operating system.

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Insert the USB or SD recovery card and it will be recognized automatically. The rest of the recovery process is automatic. The Chromebook will automatically recognize the recovery disk and start the restore process. It will take a few minutes. There will be a progress bar while it restores the Chrome operating system. Make sure to plug your Chromebook back into its power supply just in case the battery was low before you started the drive replacement. It will take about 5 minutes to do the recovery. When the recovery is complete, remove the USB drive or SD card and your Chromebook will automatically reboot and greet you with a fresh start screen. Move through the setup process just as you normally would, add in your Google credentials and you'll be logged in. You'll be greeted by a pending system update after you power the computer on. It will take a few minutes to download your settings, extensions and preferences.

To confirm that the new drive storage is working, open the Files app, click the settings button in the top right corner of the window and you'll get a reading of how much available storage you have see down at the bottom of the screen. Due to formatting and the space Chrome OS takes up, you'll have less than the 256 GB advertised on the SSD. But it should be more than 220GB. If the restore fails, you may be one of the unlucky few who got a bad 256GB SSD. You will have to replace the old 32 GB SSD – which still has the Chrome OS on it. Then, create another recovery SD card and try again – perhaps with a different 256 GB SSD.

What’s Next?

Now that we have a 256GB SSD installed on our Chromebook, in the next article, we will review how to replace the Chrome operating system with Linux Mint.  

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