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The main reason for replacing Google Chrome with Linux Mint is so you can keep working on your documents, images and videos even when you do not have Internet access. A second important reason to install Linux Mint is to access more than 10,000 free programs for processing images, videos and documents that are available through the Linux Mint Software Center. A third reason to install Mint is so we can use the Mint File Manager to keep our documents, images and videos well organized. In fact, the reason to expand our Solid State Drive from 32GB to 256 GB is to be able to have plenty of room for our documents and programs while working with Linux Mint. Before we get into the steps to replace the Chrome operating system with Linux Mint, we will explain why a complete replacement is better than the other two options for using Linux Mint on a Chromebook. These are called Crouton or Chrubuntu.

Why Replacing Chrome is More Reliable than Crouton or ChrUbuntu

ChrUbuntu is a process for “dual booting” or dividing or partitioning the solid state drive between Linux Mint and Google Chrome. For example, you can allot half of the SSD or 100GB to Mint and the other half or 100GB to Chrome. At the computer startup screen, you would then need to choose which operating system you want to use by pressing on control plus D to enter the Chrome operating system or Control plus L to enter the Linux operating system. The problem with Chrubuntu is that there really is no need for the Chrome operating system once Linux Mint is installed. Having a dual boot option just adds another step when starting your computer. ChrUbuntu also has problems with trackpads and other devices not working and requiring additional configuration.

The other option, called Crouton, allows us to run Google Chrome and Linux Mint at the same time. You can switch back and forth between the two operating systems without needing to reboot to switch operating systems (like you would have to do with ChrUbunutu). Also because Crouton uses the Google Chrome drivers, track pads and all of your other devices will work. The problem with Crouton is that it only works in a risky setup called Developer Mode. The Developer mode start screen urges users to click on the “space bar” to re-enable Chrome. But it fails to warn users that clicking on this space bar will wipe out any and all data, documents and programs you have stored in Linux Mint!

The method we will use does show this same screen for about one second. But the space bar resetting function will be disabled – eliminating any chance of losing your data, documents and programs by clicking on the wrong key.

5 Steps to Replace the Chrome Operating System with Linux Mint

There are 5 important steps to install Linux Mint. We will need either WIFI Internet access or an Internet Ethernet cable and a USB to Ethernet connector. These instructions assume that you completed all steps in Section 3.3 including making a copy of the Chrome operating system, replacing the 32 GB SSD with a 256 GB SSD and removing the Write Protection screw, then putting the cover back on your Chromebook. With these preliminary steps completed, we are now ready to set our Start up program which will then allow us to use a Mint Live USB to replace the Chrome operating system with Linux Mint.

#1 Turn on Chromebook and put Chrome into Developer mode.
#2 Open a Terminal to Update the Coreboot Startup Program
#3 Enable Coreboot to Start by Default
#4 Make a Live USB of Linux Mint or any other Linux Distribution.
#5 Use the Live USB to install Linux Mint

Let’s look more closely at each of these five steps.

Step #1 Turn on your Chromebook and put Chrome into Developer mode

Putting your Chromebook into developer mode will wipe out any data on your Chromebook. The process we are doing should result in only doing it this one time. It is actually three stages. First, we need to make sure our Chromebook is plugged into a power source and turn it on. Log in your Chromebook account or the Chromebook guest account. Second, put the Chromebook into Recovery Mode. Before we press the power button, hold down the ESC and Refresh buttons (the first and fourth buttons in the top row – see image). Then press the power button (last button in the top row).

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Release the power button when the screen goes black – but continue to hold the other two buttons until the chrome error screen appears and then release them also. This will reboot your Chromebook into Recovery mode. A screen will appear claiming that Chrome OS is missing or damaged. Chrome is not really missing or damaged. But they are hoping to scare you. Be brave!

 

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Now Press Control plus D on your keyboard. This will begin the process for putting your Chromebook into Developer mode.

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The screen will say “To turn OS Verification OFF, press ENTER.”

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Here is the first screen:

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Wait for the next few screen:

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Press Enter to enable developer mode. This disables the “operating system verification” feature, so you can modify the Chrome Operating System.

You will then be prompted with a message: “Your system is transitioning into developer mode. Local data has been cleared. Modifications you make to the system are not supported by Google, may cause hardware damage and may void your warranty. To cancel, turn your computer off now”.

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A timer is set in the top left hand corner of the screen to 30 seconds. You can wait for the timer to reach 0. (Or you can just click on Control plus D again to skip the countdown). Once the timer has reached 0 you will be prompted with a new message “Preparing system for developer mode. This may take a while. Do not turn your computer off until it restarts”.

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Wait for this process to complete. It will take 5 to 10 minutes. Once the process is complete, your Chromebook will reboot and return with a screen that says, “OS verification is OFF, Press SPACE to re-enable”.

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Pressing space bar would reset your Chromebook back to factory settings and turn Chrome OS verification back on. This is not what we want. DO NOT PRESS THE SPACE BAR as this will erase the hard disc again!

Instead, let the Chromebook sit. It will beep twice and then reboot. The normal Chrome desktop will appear with a dialog box asking you to connect to a network.

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Note that we are still in Developer Mode even though it looks like the normal Chrome screen. Select a wireless connection and click continue. Accept the EULA by clicking Accept and continue. The Chrome operating system will then update itself. Once you reach the Google login screen, you do not need to log in.

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Sign in to your network (WiFi or wired). You need to be connected to the Internet for this process to work. You can log into your Google Chrome account. But you do not actually need to log in. Just use the Guest account. Click “Browse as Guest” in the lower left corner of the screen. We are now ready to open our terminal and update Coreboot!

Step #2 Open Terminal to Update the Coreboot Startup Program

Here is a diagram of what we will eventually create:

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To make this happen, we need to make two changes in the terminal.

The first is to add a command that will automatically enable starting the computer from a Live USB. The second is to reset the “boot flags” which define the conditions of Coreboot. This require changing a couple of settings with your terminal. Once your Chromebook is in developer mode, and you have gone through the initial Chromebook screens, you will be able to use the Chrome terminal. To access the “crosh” terminal (chrome shell terminal), press CTLR+ALT+T on your keyboard.

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Note: There is another way to access the shell with a different set of commands: Control ALT plus F2 followed by chronos with no password. The F2 key is actually the forward arrow key just about the number 3 on your keyboard. For more information on the differences between these two methods of entering the shell, see the following link: https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/poking-around-your-chrome-os-device

Here is the Arch Linux Method:

Arch Linux has developed a method of changing the boot loading process for the Acer C910 with a Broadwell processor. Most important, it disables the space bar function so that our data and documents cannot be wiped out by an accidental resetting of the Chrome operating system. The only precaution which you must take before running this program is to remove the Write Protect screw on your Chromebook.

After starting your Chromebook in developer mode and going on line as a guest, open a terminal by pressing on your keyboard: Ctrl+alt+t
Then type shell and hit Enter
Then type sudo bash and hit Enter
Then type crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1
This tells your Chromebook to allow booting from USB.

Verify that Write Protect has been disabled

While the new version of our boot flag program will not run if Write Protect is not disabled, you could wipe out the Legacy part of your Coreboot program if you try to change the boot flags with the Write protection system enabled. This would require you to go all the way back to the Chrome Operating System recovery program and starting the entire process all over again. We will therefore run a couple of commands to make sure that the Write Protection system has been turned off. First in your terminal, type
flashrom --wp-disable

This will disable the software portion of the Write Protection system - but it is not a substitute for removing the Write Protection screw. This should result in a line ending with the word “SUCCESS.” Next, check that write protection system is disabled by typing the following into your terminal.
flashrom --wp-status
Entering 'flashrom --wp-status' should result in the second to the last line stating “WP: write protect is disabled.”

#3 Enable Coreboot to Start by Default by Setting Boot Flags

In Chrome the Chrome Operating System, there is a script called set_gbb_flags.sh that will help us change our boot settings. But the script has to be directed towards the correct folder. Type this command into the terminal:
/usr/share/vboot/bin/set_gbb_flags.sh

Then press Enter. This will bring up a list of possible values. This list will include
GBB_FLAG_DEV_SCREEN_SHORT_DELAY 0x00000001
GBB_FLAG_FORCE_DEV_SWITCH_ON 0x00000008
GBB_FLAG_FORCE_DEV_BOOT_LEGACY 0x00000080
GBB_FLAG_DEFAULT_DEV_BOOT_LEGACY 0x00000400

We do not need to do anything with this list. We only need values 1, 8, 80 and 400 from this list. Since the values 1, 8, 80 and 400 add up to 489, just typed this full path command into the terminal to get all four boot flags updated:
/usr/share/vboot/bin/set_gbb_flags.sh 0x489

Then click Enter. This will end with the line:“Erasing and writing flash chip. Verifying Flash. Verified. SUCCESS.” Then type Exit or just close the terminal.

What does this script do?

The first boot flag (01) sets the Chrome Developer screen to only one second. The second boot flag (08) forces the developer switch to stay on – preventing an accidental hit of the space bar from entering the Chrome reset process. The third boot flag (80) enables the Legacy boot screen and the fourth boot flag (400) sets the legacy boot screen as the default boot screen.

Now log out of the guest account by clicking on guest in the lower right corner of the screen. Then click Exit Guest. This returns us to the Chrome Welcome screen. Click Shut down in the lower right corner of the screen. It will likely go to a white screen. Hold down the power off button for 10 seconds to turn your Chromebook completely off. We are now ready to make our Live USB Stick.

Step #4 Make a Live USB of Linux Mint

USB drives are small, inexpensive, durable and commonly used to store a backup copy of you documents. If properly formated, they can also be used to replace one operating system with another operating system. A USB drive that has been formatted to replace an operating system with another is called a Live USB. The process involves setting the “boot order” of the startup program, such as BIOS or Coreboot, to start the computer or boot the computer from the Live USB rather than from the computer's hard drive or a Chromebooks solid state drive. Unetbootin is a simple, common, free tool for creating a Live USB. There are versions of Unetbootin that work on both the Windows and Linux operating systems. However, Unetbootin can have problems if it is not properly formatted. We therefore recommend Rufus to create a Live USB if you are currently using the Windows operating system. https://rufus.akeo.ie/

If you are using the Linux Mint operating system to create your live stick, we will use Unetbootin. However, we will take a couple of precautions to help it format the Live USB. First, we will use the Linux Mint USB Stick Formatter to clear all the current data off the USB and prepare it to be converted into a Live USB. After cleaning the USB, we need to remove it and reinstall it before using Unetbootin to add the iso file.

Second, we will download Unetbootin from the Mint Software Manager. Type Unetbootin into the Search box. Then click Enter.

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Then click on Unetbootin to select it. Then click Install. Then go to the Mint Menu and click on Unetbootin in the Applications list to open it. When we start Unetbootin, it will say “Extlinux not found. This is required for Ext2-formatted USB drive install mode.”

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Go back to the Mint Software Center and type Extlinux into the search box. Then select it. Then install it. Next, go to the Linux Mint Downloads page. 

https://www.linuxmint.com/download.php

Then select the Cinnamon, 64 bit version. This will take you to a page listing a series of download options by country. Pick an option near you. You should have a high speed connection as the file size is 1.6 GB. It will take a few minutes to completely download. Once this ISO file is downloaded to your Downloads folder and you have a clean USB, you are ready to create your Live USB. Click on Unetbootin again to open it. This time, there should be no warning message.

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Click on the Disk image circle to select this option. Then click on the three dots on the right end of this line. This will bring up your File Manager. Click on the upward green arrow “Parent Directory” to the right of the word Root.

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Then click on the home folder. Then click on your File Manager folder. Then click on your Downloads folder. Then select the Mint Cinnamon ISO file.

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Then click OK to begin the USB Live Image writing process. When it is done, click Exit rather than reboot as we need to first change the BIOS boot order. To safely remove the USB, click on Menu, Computer. Then right click on the USB and click Eject to safely remove the USB. Make sure to label your Live USB and do not use this USB drive for anything else.

Step #5 Use your Live USB to Install Linux Mint

There are two USB ports on our C910 Chromebook. The one on the right is only a USB 2 port. The one on the left (next to the Power Plugin) is a USB 3 port. It is important to plug our Live Mint USB into the USB 3 port. If you accidentally plug the Live Mint USB into the USB 2 port, and then power on the Chromebook, the installation process may get stuck in such a way that makes it impossible to turn off your Chromebook (the Power button no longer works). If this happens, press ESC plus RESET plus the Power off button to reset your your computer. Then when the white Developer screen comes on, turn it off using the Power button which will now work again – and put the Live Mint USB into the USB 3 port while the Chromebook is off. Then press the On button in the upper right corner of our keyboard. This will bring up the Chrome Developer screen for one second.

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It will then bring up a screen stating that you have to press Escape to reach the Boot Order Menu. Press Escape. You will only have about three seconds to press Escape. If you are not quick enough, your Chromebook will boot into whatever operating system is currently installed on your computer. Since we have not yet installed Linux Mint, this will be the Chrome operating system – meaning you will have to turn off your Chromebook and try again. Do not repeatedly Hit Escape because you may confuse the Coreboot startup program. Just Hit Escape once and at the right time.

On the other hand, depending on the Live Stick you are using to install Linux Mint, you may see nothing at all on the screen for up to three minutes after you start your Chromebook with the Live USB Mint Stick in one of the USB ports. Please be very patient. The Linux Mint installation screen should eventually appear. You may see the Unetbootin Screen or the Linux Mint setup screen. The Unetbootin Setup screen should be set for default. There may be a countdown screen set for 10 seconds. But this may not work. So just press Enter. This will wait a few seconds and then bring up the Linux Mint Setup screen.

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Click on the circular disc which says Install Linux Mint. It is in the upper left side of your screen. This will bring up the Install Welcome screen.

Choose the language and click on Continue. The next screen recommends that you connect to the Internet. You do not really need to be connected to the Internet as you can add updates later. But it does help. You can select an Internet connection from the icon in the lower right corner. Either way, click Continue. This will bring up the Installation Type screen. We strongly recommend you use the “Erase Disc and install Linux Mint” option. This will wipe the whole drive and replace the Chrome operating system with Linux Mint.

Finish Installing Linux Mint

After clicking on Continue a few times, you will get to this screen:

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Now we get the slide show which you can read while Linux is being installed. The slide show explains some of the features that come with Linus Mint Mate such as a web browser, file manager, word processor, software download center, customization options and a help center. There is an entire community of users who can help you solve problems – in addition to lots of tutorials. At the end of this long process, the screen will ask you if you want to continue testing or reboot your computer.

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Do not choose either option. Instead, click on the X to exit this bad dialogue box. It is much better to shut down Mint using the normal shutdown method – which will allow us to safely remove our USB Live Stick before our Chromebook reboots. This will bring up the Linux Mint Welcome screen.

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Uncheck Show this dialogue at startup and close the window. Close the Help screen. Below is what your Linux Mint desktop looks like:

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Click on the Mint Menu in the lower left corner. Then click Quit to bring up the Mint Quit screen. Then click Shut Down to turn off your Chromebook. Remove your Mint Live USB. Press the power button to turn your Chromebook back on.

Should you replace the Write Protection screw?

The simple answer is no. The Write Protection screw is not needed.

Congratulations! You now have one of the best computers in existence! If you have any problems, consider posting them on the following forums:
Our forum at College in the Clouds: https://collegeintheclouds.org/forum
The Linux Mint forum: https://forums.linuxmint.com/

What’s Next?

In the next Chapter, we will look at how to improve Linux Mint after you have installed it on your Chromebook. We will also review how to add several free programs to help you get the most out of your new Linux Mint computer.  

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