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. The other two options are using a program called Crouton or a program called 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 at the click of a button 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.
8 Steps to Completely Replace the Chrome Operating System with Linux Mint
There are 8 important steps for installing Linux Mint. We will need either WIFI Internet access or an Internet Ethernet cable and USB to Ethernet connector.
#1 Make a copy of Chrome Operating System. Then turn off Chromebook.
#2 Remove the Write Protection Screw
#3 Turn on Chromebook and put Chrome into Developer mode.
#4 Open a Terminal to Update the Coreboot Startup Program
#5 Enable Coreboot to Start by Default
#6 Make a Live USB of Linux Mint or any other Linux Distribution.
#7 Use the Live USB to install Linux Mint
These 8 steps will update the Coreboot startup program and replace the Chrome operating system.
Step #1 Make a recovery copy of Chrome Operating System.
(Note: if you already did this for upgrading the SSD, you do not need to do it again).
For this step you are going to need either a USB stick or an SD card that is at least 4 GB. Turn on your Chromebook and insert a clean flash drive. Then type Chrome://imageburner in your browser. It will take you to a page that says "Create Recovery Media". It will detect the flash drive you have plugged in. Press the "OK" button under "USB Memory Stick Detected". This will wipe your USB or SD card clean, and place a recovery image of the Chrome operating system on it in case you ever want to reinstall the Chrome Operating System. Also, if you have any documents or programs on your SSD, you should copy these onto a separate USB stick as the SSD will be wiped clean when we install Linux Mint.
Step #2: Remove the Write Protection screw
Note: Some tutorials on installing Linux on a Chromebook recommend going into Developer mode and then turning off the computer to remove the Write Protect screw. While the order of these two steps does not matter, given the importance of locating and removing this screw, we will remove the screw first and then go into Developer mode.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.
To remove the write protection screw, turn off your Chromebook, flip it over and take the bottom cover back off. You will need a small Phillips head screwdriver to remove all 18 of the screws holding the back cover in place. There are four screws on each side plus two in the middle.
a large guitar pick or other thin plastic - starting near the front on either side of the touch pad and working towards the back. It should be easier to remove the back cover than it was the first time we removed it. Then look for the Write Protection screw. It is the largest screw on the motherboard, located near the center of the bottom of the motherboard. The screw forms a connection between four slightly posts. Removing the screw eliminates this connection. (See the red circle in the following image). Disable write protection by removing screw shown in the following image. We may eventually put this screw back in place. So keep it in a safe place!
The Write Protection screw is just to the right of where the rainbow colored wires enter the green 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).
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. After removing it, put the back cover back on and reinstall all 18 screws.
Step #3 Turn on your Chromebook and put Chrome into Developer mode
Putting your Chromebook into developer mode will wipe out any data on your Chromebook. It is not something we want to be doing all of the time. 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).
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!
Now for Stage 3. Press Control plus D on your keyboard. This will begin the process for putting your Chromebook into Developer mode.
The screen will say “To turn OS Verification OFF, press ENTER.”
Press Enter to enable developer mode. This disables the “operating system verification” feature, so you can modify the Chrome Operating System and it won’t complain or refuse to boot. 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”.
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 awhile. Do not turn your computer off until it restarts”.
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”.
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.
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.
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. Congratulations! We are now ready to open our terminal and update Coreboot!
Step #4 Open a Terminal to Update the Coreboot Startup Program
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 also called the shell command or Command Line Interface or CLI. To access the “crosh” terminal (chrome shell terminal), press CTLR+ALT+T on your keyboard.
If you want to get back to the browser without turning off the terminal, you can do by pressing on the ALT and TAB keys at the same time.
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
Once the terminal screen is open, place your cursor in the terminal screen and typethe word shell. Then press Enter on your keyboard. This puts you into a shell capable of some basic commands.
The version of Coreboot installed with our Chromebook is not very versatile. Thankfully, John Lewis has written an updated version of Coreboot that works with nearly all Chromebooks that use the Haswell or Broadwell processor.
What exactly does the John Lewis Coreboot update program do?
Thisimportant program removes any older versions of the your Coreboot startup program. It then downloads the latest version of the Coreboot startup program and installs it on your Chromebook. (This is also called “flashing the ROM” or “Flashing the Custom Firmware” on your Chromebook). This script detects your model of Chromebook and installs the latest correct version of Coreboot for your laptop. It installs SeaBios which allows us to add a new version of Linux without a lot of hassle. It also reduces the appearance of the scary Chrome developer screen to only one second allowing our Chromebook to startup much faster. It also installs a file called flashrom and disables the software portion of Chrome's write protection. 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 so that the posts underneath the write- protection screw are no longer connected. It short, you remove the hardware portion of Write protection by removing the screw and the John Lewis program removes the software portion of write protection. Here is a link to the script and an explanation about it. https://johnlewis.ie/custom-chromebook-firmware/rom-download/
This updated Coreboot program will automatically create a backup copy. So before we run the update, insert an empty USB into your Chromebook. This updated Coreboot program has been confirmed to work on the AcerC910. You should have a web browser open. If not, open it. Then copy and paste this link into the terminal.
Then copy and paste the following command into the terminal all as one unbroken line. If it does not paste into the terminal, you may have to type it out. It is pronounced “cd semi-colon space rm space dash f space flash underscore chromebook underscore rom dot sh semicolon space curl space dash Capital L space dash Capital O space https://johnlewis.ie/flash_chromebook_rom.sh semi-colon space sudo space dash Capital E dash bash space flash underscore chromebook underscore rom dot sh
cd; rm -f flash_chromebook_rom.sh; curl -L -O https://johnlewis.ie/flash_chromebook_rom.sh; sudo -E bash flash_chromebook_rom.sh
Here is what your terminal screen will look like before you press Enter.
Press Enter on your computer. A screen will appear explaining how you can make a donation for this free script. It will end by saying “Thank you for your time. Press Enter to continue.” Press Enter on your keyboard to continue. You will then be required to type in an acknowledgement. After typing in the acceptance sentence, the firmware should install successfully with the message that your only option is Option 1 which is to update the Legacy Slot.
The Acer Chromebook C910 uses a Coreboot version called Yuna. There will likely be only be one option presented. It will be listed as “Option 1. Modify my Chromebook's RW_LEGACY slot.” Type the number 1 into the terminal and hit Enter on your keyboard.
This screen ends with “INPUT REQUIRED: About to flash your auron yuna Legacy slot. Repeat “If this bricks my auron-yuna, on my head be it.”
Type this confirmation in the terminal exactly observing exact case and punctuation but without the quote marks. Then press enter. Wait for a minute for the program to finish updating Coreboot. When the program is done running, you should see the following screen with the ending “INFO Good. Your Auron Yuna Legacy Slot was written successfully. You can hopefully safely reboot. “
If you did not get any errors, power off your Chromebook. If you received errors, do not reboot and preferably do not power off your Chromebook. Instead, seek help from the coreboot on chromebooks community. In most cases, an error indicates that you missed one or more of the steps. In nearly every case, there is a solution that will help restore the function of your Chromebook so do not worry.
Step #5 Enable Coreboot to Start by Default
Ironically, the updated version of Coreboot with SeaBIOS does not start automatically automatically! When we turn our Chromebook back on, it will boot into the Developer screen and after 30 seconds (do not hit the space bar), it will start the normal Chrome Welcome screen just as if nothing happened. This is because Google has set up all Chromebooks to hide the Coreboot screen and prevent Chromebooks from loading from a USB – almost as it they wanted to make it as hard as possible for us to replace Chrome with Linux Mint. We could hit CTRL plus L at the developer screen to reach the Coreboot screen. But we want our laptop to boot into the Coreboot screen just like any normal computer without needing to hit CTRL plus L.
It is a good idea to reset the boot flags and have SeaBIOS boot by default even if you do not mind pressing CONTROL PLUS L every time you start your computer. This is because if you do not set the boot flags, your system might become corrupted on an empty battery. The Chrome Operating System will be forced to recover and you will lose all of your documents, data and programs installed in Linux Mint. Here is a diagram of what we will eventually create:
To make this happen, we need to make two more changes in the terminal. The first is to reset the “boot flags” which define the conditions of Coreboot. The second is to add a command that will automatically enable Coreboot and booting from a Live USB. Both of these things require changing a couple of settings with your terminal. To access your terminal, turn on your Chromebook. This brings up your Developer screen.
After a few seconds, there will be two beeps. Then the screen will reboot into the Chrome Welcome screen. DO NOT LOG IN. Click Browse as Guest in the Lower left corner of the screen. On your keyboard, type CTRL plus ALT plus T to bring up your terminal. Type shell and hit enter. Then type sudo bash then hit enter. Then type sudo su. Then hit enter.
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
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.
Entering 'flashrom --wp-status' should cause the terminal to state the flashrom version number, confirming that you are running a recent version of Coreboot. This should also result in the second to the last line stating “WP: write protect is disabled.”
Set New 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 and clicked Enter.
This will bring up a big list of possible values. This list will include
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:
Then click Enter. This will end with the line:
“Erasing and writing flash chip. Verifying Flash. Verified. SUCCESS.”
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.
Boot to SeaBIOS by default
Sadly, even though we set the boot flags, the Chrome operating system still may not bring up SeaBIOS by default or allow us to boot from a Live USB! Therefore, while we are still in terminal, we will type in the following two commands following each with Enter:
sudo bash (then Enter)
crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1 (then Enter)
This tells your Chromebook to allow booting from USB. Finally, while we are not going to add back the Write Protection screw, we will enable the software write protection by typing the following command into the terminal, then click Enter.
This should result with a line ending with the word “SUCCESS.” 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 #7 Make a Live USB of Linux Mint or any other Linux Distribution.
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 formated. 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 of 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.
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.”
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 Mate, 64 bit version with multimedia support. 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.
Click on the Diskimage 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.
Then click on the home folder. Then click on your File Manager folder. Then click on your Downloads folder. Then select the Mint Mate ISO file. 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 #8 Use your Live USB to Install Linux Mint
There are two USB ports on our C910 Chromebook. The one on the left is only a USB 2 port. The one on the right 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 USB into the USB 2 port and then power on the Chromebook, the installation process may get stuck in a way that makes it impossible to turn off your chromebook (the Power button no longer works). If this happens, press ESC plus Reload plus the Off button to Reset 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.
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. This will bring up your SeaBIOS boot order screen.
Select the number corresponding to your USB drive. This should be the number 1. Type 1 with your keyboard and hit Enter. You will 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.
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:
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.
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.
Uncheck Show this dialogue at startup and close the window. Close the Help screen. Below is what your Linux Mint desktop looks like:
Click on the Mint Menu in the lower left corner. Then click on Quit to bring up the Mint Quit screen. Then click on Shut Down in this screen to turn off your Chromebook. Then remove your Mint Live USB. You can now press the power button to turn your Chromebook back on.
Should you replace the Write Protection screw?
At this point, you could re-enable the hardware write protection by turning off your Chromebook and reinserting the write protect screw. If you think you might want to update the Coreboot program again in the future, you do not need to reinstall the Write Protection screw. We are hoping that someday a Corebook version will come out that allows us to get rid of or hide the Chrome Developer screen at startup. We therefore will leave the Write Protection screw off for the time being.
Congratulations! You now have one of the fastest and most free economical computers in existence! But you may notice that several of the keys on the Chromebook keyboard no longer work and your touch pad may not work. In the next chapter, we will review how to get most of these functions working again. We will also review how to add several free programs to help you get the most out of your new Linux Mint computer. If you have any problems, consider posting them on the following forums:
Our forum at College in the Clouds:
The John Lewis Coreboot Forum.
The Linux Mint forum: