(Part 1/3) Clean Installing Linux on the Acer C720P/C720 Chromebook – A Complete Guide

Required Time: c.a. 3 hours
Yields: 1 Very Manly Acer C720(P) Machine running Linux

C720P running Lubuntu 14.04 with The plank "Docky"Part 1/3: Introduction and Preparation

Preamble: Given the wild popularity of Chromebooks available on the market today, there is a significant interest in installing Linux on these machines to greatly improve their functionality. There are many, many resources which have become available for you to install Linux on chromebooks. However, I wanted to share my approach to clean-installing Linux on the C720/C720P chromebook in the best way that I can.

Why do it? Despite the availability of offline-enabled Chrome-apps, ChromeOS can be quite functionally limiting for areas where connectivity is not readily available. Chromebook hardware is quite capable of providing a great user experience for Linux and will enable you to use the chromebook as a full-fledged laptop PC, with traditional desktop applications. This gives you much more freedom to customize and use your Chromebook as you see fit … for anything from photo-editing with GIMP, software development and scanning or printing directly from USB, … or using Google Chrome! Depending on the approach you take to install Linux, it is also a fantastic learning experience where you as the user feel more control over your hardware and operating system.

Why NOT do it? If you like the chromebook’s integration with the Google ecosystem and the machine is serving you just fine for media consumption and basic internet browsing, ChromeOS is hard to beat.

Approach. When it comes to using Linux on your Chromebook, there are three basic options:

  1. Clean Install (this article, and my preferred method): This is my preferred method where, after making some changes to the BIOS and then enabling booting via USB, ChromeOS is completely wiped from the system and then a Linux distribution is installed via a bootable USB key.
    1. pros: full conversion of your Chromebook to a generic Laptop
    2. cons: more time consuming than the other methods, depending on the distribution you choose, post-installation tweaking may be required to fully get the hardware working (this is becoming increasingly rare, however!); you may end up voiding your warranty with this method
  2. Crouton: This is a method of running ChromeOS and a Linux distribution silmultaneously via a chroot operation when the system is in developer mode.
    1. pros: fantastic if you want to preview Linux on your chromebook, no major effect on system resources, seamless, real-time switching between ChromeOS and linux, no warranty voided
    2. cons: can be less reliable than the other methods; sometimes can break when ChromeOS updates and the crouton scripts need be run again.
  3. Dual booting: This is a method of having ChromeOS and Linux installed alongside each other. You can run them only on boot. This is done via scripts such as Chrubuntu or for ElementaryOS
    1. pros: best of both worlds
    2. cons: limited choice of Linux operating systems

Equipment Required:

  • 1 Chromebook connected to AC power supply and the internet
  • 1 USB mouse
  • 2 USB drives, >2GB capacity (we will call this USB drive A, and USB drive B)
  • Small philips or flathead screwdriver

Warning: This will VOID your warranty. Since I don’t provide any whatsoever, you will be left without one. Also, this will DELETE all of your locally stored data on your chromebook. Sadly, I can’t provide that either.

Ready? Go to Part 2/3 – Backup and Installation!