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How to Install Linux on an Acer C720 Chromebook

Chromebooks are amazing little machines. They are a marvel of speed and simplicity. The Acer C720 Chromebook is certainly near the top of the list of Chromebooks to be purchased (next to the Chromebook Pixel, of course). It's speedy and it's inexpensive. But for some, the simplistic nature of the devices doesn't Acer c720 Chromebookoffer enough power or flexibility. For those who need more from this Acer platform, I have the answer – in fact, I have two answers:

  •  Install Ubuntu.

  •  Install Bodhi Linux.

Both solutions will land you with a full-blown Linux set up, ready to do what you need to do. But the process isn't exactly as simple as slapping a USB flash drive in, booting, and installing. There are a few tricks to get this working. In the end, you'll wind up with either a dual booting Chromebook (in the case of ChrUbuntu) or a single boot system (with Bodhi). With the dual boot, you retain the simplicity of ChromeOS, with the addition of the power and flexibility of Ubuntu. The Bodhi installation will give you more space for your Linux needs, at the cost of ChromeOS.

First things first

Before you install Linux, I highly recommend creating a recovery USB flash drive. Chromebook offers a simple solution for this. Just follow these steps:

  1. Boot up your Chromebook and login

  2. Plug in a spare ~2GB+ USB flash drive

  3. Open the Chrome browser

  4. Go to chrome://imageburner

  5. Follow the simple instructions.

When all is said and done, you'll have a recovery drive to use to get your system back where it was (should you not like either Linux install or something goes wrong).

Now, it's time to start the process.

Boot into Developer mode

  1. Make sure the Chromebook is turned off

  2. Hold Escape and Refresh and tap the Power button

  3. When the device reaches the recover screen, press Ctrl+d and then (after releasing Ctrl+d) press Enter

  4. The system will reboot (this will take some time)

  5. When the system finally boots to the set up, select a wireless connection and click continue

  6. Accept the EULA by clicking Accept and continue

  7. Once you reach the Google login screen, do NOT log in

  8. Press Ctrl+alt+ → (not the right cursor key, but the key where the standard F2 key would be)

  9. At the ChromeOS command login (not the usual) GUI login, type chronos and hit Enter (no password is needed) to finally enter Developer mode.

You are now ready to begin the installation process.

Install Ubuntu using ChrUbuntu

You should now be at the command prompt on your Chromebook. Here, type:

curl -L -O http://goo.gl/9sgchs; sudo bash 9sgchs

Make sure you get this command exactly right. Once you've done that, you will be asked to configure a size for the Ubuntu installation. This will obviously depend upon the size of SSD on your Chromebook. The recommended size is 24 GB. After you type the size and hit enter, the device will reboot a couple of times. This process is setting up the Stateful partition to make room for ChrUbuntu. Eventually it will come back to the Chromebook setup screen. Once again, configure your network and then hit Ctrl+alt+ → at the login screen. Log back in as chronos and then type the original command again:

curl -L -O http://goo.gl/9sgchs; sudo bash 9sgchs

This time around, the installation process will begin. Hit Enter (when prompted) and watch the fun begin! During the installation process (it will take quite some time), you may be prompted for:

  • encoding

  • locale

  • language 

You will also have to decide where to place GRUB. You must check the box next to /dev/sda, or the boot process will not work. NOTE: During my installation process, this step was skipped. I assume the install script has been updated to automatically set the location of GRUB.

After the Ubuntu files have been downloaded and installed, the script will finally prompt you to reboot. When you reach the developer screen, hit Ctrl+L and ChrUbuntu will start up (or Ctrl+d to boot Chrome).

To log into your Ubuntu system, use the credentials:

  • username: user

  • password: user

Your Ubuntu Chromebook should be ready to go, complete with LibreOffice and a number of other tools (Figure 1).

ubuntu on chromebook

Install Bodhi Linux

If you want to try a different flavor of Linux, Bodhi is perfect for the Chromebook. This installation will be done instead of the ChruBuntu. Why would you opt for Bodhi? This flavor of Linux is a very minimalist take on an already minimalist platform and will give you an incredibly fast and efficient machine.

The first thing you need to do is enable the Legacy Bios Mode – this will allow you to boot from a USB flash drive.

  1. Follow the steps above to boot into recovery mode

  2. Log into your Chromebook as normal

  3. Open a crosh window (the ChromeOS shell) with Ctrl+alt+t

  4. At the crosh prompt, type shell and hit Enter

  5. Become the super user with the command sudo bash

  6. Enter the command crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy_1

  7. Exit out of bash with the exit command and then close the Chrome browser.

Now you can boot your Chromebook from a USB flash drive.

The next step is to create a USB flash drive with the proper Bodhi image. The developers (specifically Jeff Hoogland) have created an Acer 720-specific image that you can download here. Once you've downloaded that file, insert a USB flash drive, open up a terminal window, change to the directory where the Bodhi iso is located (with the command cd ~/Downloads – assuming you downloaded the .iso to your Downloads directory), and issue the command:

dd if=bodhi-c720-chromebook.iso of/dev/sdX

(Where X is the drive letter of your USB flash drive).

Unmount and remove that flash drive (using the command umount /path/to/drive – Where /path/to/drive is the exact path of the mounted flash drive) and insert it into one of your Chromebook's USB ports. Boot the device and then, at the startup screen, press Ctrl+l to boot from the legacy BIOS. When prompted, hit Esc to enter the boot menu and select 1 for the USB drive. At this point, boot the Live Bodhi instance and then walk through the standard installation process. You can allow Bodhi to take the entire drive, or set it up to dual boot (Figure 2). Should you decide to keep ChromeOS on the device, you'll want to give Bodhi a minimum of 3 GB (16 would be ideal).

bodhi on chromebook

You will need to hit Ctrl+l every time you boot – there is no work around for this at the current time.

Restoring

Should anything go wrong, you have your restore USB drive. To use this, follow these steps:

  1. Boot the machine

  2. When you see Chrome OS is missing or damaged, insert the USB flash drive

  3. Wait for the Chromebook to boot from the flash drive

  4. Follow the instructions for recovery.

If you're looking for a way to supercharge your Acer C720, you now have the means. Whether you want a stripped-down, lightning-fast, Bodhi-based Chromebook, or a full-blown Ubuntu-based Chromebook, you can stretch the limits of that device or even go back to the original set up. If you do opt to stick with either Bodhi or Ubuntu on your Chromebook, you might want to invest in a 64 GB SD card for some extra space.

 

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  • rajesh Said:

    please give me more details about working with linux........ please please

  • dexternepo Said:

    Great article, Thanks! Can the Bodhi image be used in other Intel powered chromebooks, or is it only for this acer model?

  • jon Said:

    I would assume you can run it on any chrome book but I would research any specific device beforehand. Linux is powerful and flexible supporting more hardware than any other OS or kernel.

  • Jeff Hoogland Said:

    I can confirm the Bodhi image should work with any Haswell based Chromebooks that offer a SeaBIOS option. This includes the Toshiba 13" and the HP 14" Chromebooks in addition to the various Acer C720x models.

  • Juggaar Said:

    Yes you can install many Linux distributions. Check out Unetbootin a great tool for installing Linux from a USB flash drive. Some distros give you the option of running Linux without installing so you can try them out in real time before installing your preferred choice. Google for tutorials on using Unetbootin

  • gemis Said:

    My chromebook only has a 16 GB hard drive will this still work or is it not recommended for the Ubuntu install

  • ed Said:

    I have the same question. Will it work with a smaller partition?

  • rabbott Said:

    Yes - My Chromebook only has 16 GB also and it worked fine. I used 9 GB when asked to configure the Ubuntu installation.

  • Tam Said:

    How do I make it take up all of the 16GB SSD?

  • isabella Said:

    mine does not reach the recovery screen. it says (god i wanted to remember)... the recovery something is missing or corrupt and i have to restart normal. anyone else had this?

  • Josh Said:

    After logging in with chromos and typing the script it starts doing what it does then gives me an error: this Chrome device does not seem to support CTRL+L Legacy SeaBIOS booting. Use the old ChrUbuntu script please... What is the work around for this. I can't find the old script anywhere!! Please help. Thanks

  • Lawrence Hordy Said:

    i want pictures of screens a few at every page part ( link to picture name )

  • Lawrence Hordy Said:

    could you put the 64 g on the botom line in big flashing print this editor do not let me make half inch or 3/4 inch print to emphasize that !!!!!!

  • Tomas Said:

    Good tuto ! Thank's ! Canada sell and Buy

  • dan Said:

    Does the bodhi install support drive encryption?

  • P0lym0rph3 Said:

    Hello I was able to install Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon 64 bit on the ACER C720 by following this tutorial to fix the various problems (Touchpad, Wifi, ...) http://www.reddit.com/r/chrubuntu/comments/1rsxkd/list_of_fixes_for_xubuntu_1310_on_the_acer_c720/

  • P0lym0rph3 Said:

    Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon 64 bit on the ACER C720 It's great!!!!!!!!

  • josh Said:

    do these instructions work for the previous model: Acer C710?

  • tom Said:

    Hi, is there a option to dd a google chrome os on a x86 laptop? for my childs to use old thinkpads?

  • Jared Said:

    If you have ever used Virtual Box or something like that to run VM's, I know that they have ChromeOS and you can set it up like you would any other VM. the .iso or .vdi for Chrome can be found with a simple google search of course.

  • Bob Said:

    Can I use the dual boot idea on a 720 with 16GB onboard, or do I need the 32GB version? The ChrUbuntu instruction recommend allocating 24GB

  • holmes Said:

    You're missing an equals sign in your dd command in the Bodhi section, i.e.: dd if=bodhi-c720-chromebook.iso of=/dev/sdX

  • Azendale Said:

    Does anyone know if this will work with the touchscreen version of this? (I really want to try Unity with touch, especially multitouch!) http://www.amazon.com/Acer-Chromebook-11-6-Inch-Touchscreen-Moonstone/dp/B00H7WF22K/ref=sr_1_6/177-4212931-3801058?ie=UTF8&qid=1396576927&sr=8-6&keywords=acer+c720

  • mark Said:

    this was the most comprehensive set of instructions I found, and what's more, they worked! Thanks.

  • adam Said:

    Thanks. This worked great. Only major thing I need to fix is the sleep mode not working :)

  • Alan Said:

    Hopefully a simple question - which is the 'Refresh' key (as in 'Hold Escape and Refresh and tap the Power button')?

  • Justin Said:

    Is there anyway to install this exact setup but with cinnamon instead? i have the acer c720p

  • mike Said:

    Installing Bhodi cd: asks me "unknown command: 'cd'" how do I find out what number my sd drive is?

  • grablife Said:

    It's a miracle anyone is able to install this with the errors on this write-up. The write-up by Jeff Hoogland here is much better. http://jeffhoogland.blogspot.com/2014/01/howto-bodhi-linux-on-acer-c720.html Specifically, 1. Step 6 of Bodhi section reads Enter the command crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy_1 The correct line is Enter the command crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1 2. As mentioned already, dd if=bodhi-c720-chromebook.iso of/dev/sdX should be dd if=bodhi-c720-chromebook.iso of=/dev/sdX where X is the usb device name. To get the usb device name, enter df at the command prompt. It will typically be sdb1. Finally, it should be clarified that CTRL l is not CTRL i but CTRL lowercase L.

  • anonymous Said:

    I am having trouble installing ubuntu on my chromebook. i put in all the commands, press all the button thiningies, and it says it is installed, then i reboot my chromebook, and i press control and l, and nothing happens. someone please reply on how to fix this error. Thanks!


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