How to install Ubuntu 12.04 on the $199 Acer C7 Chromebook

The Acer C7 Chromebook is a $199 laptop that ships with Google Chrome OS. But under the hood, it’s a lot like other laptops which can run Windows, Linux, or other operating systems — and there’s an easy way to install at least one of those operating systems.

Developer Jay Lee offers a custom version of Ubuntu 12.04 Linux that’s designed to be easy to install on Chromebooks. It’s called ChrUbuntu and there are versions of Chromebooks with Intel and ARM-based processors.

Acer C7 Chromebook with Ubuntu 12.04

This guide will help walk you through the process of installing ChrUbuntu on the Acer C7, which is both the cheapest Chromebook to date and the first to ship with a 320GB hard drive. That will come in handy since you end up creating a system that can boot both Ubuntu and Chrome OS, and you can dedicated as much disk space as you’d like to each operating system.

Entering developer mode

The first step is to enable developer mode on the Acer C7. This will let you access settings that are otherwise unavailable, update the BIOS, and boot from external storage, among other things.

Enabling developer mode will also wipe any data you have stored on the device — so make sure to back up any important files before you start. But all you have to do is login to Chrome OS again when you’re done to restore your settings.

Note that once developer mode is enabled and OS verification is turned off, it will take a lot longer for the computer to boot — although you can hit Ctrl + D to exit the OS verification screen more quickly.

Earlier Chromebooks featured a developer switch tucked away behind the battery, but on recent Chromebooks there’s no hardware switch.

Acer C7 Chromebook developer mode

Instead, you turn on the Chromebook and enter the following key combination to get started:

Esc + Refresh button + Power button

The refresh button is the page refresh button in the top row, which you use to reload a web page.

This will cause the computer to reboot and show you a scary screen that talks about data loss.

Then you just sort of sit there for a while until your system reboots and disables OS verification.

You’ll hear a few beeps and then the Chromebook reboots another time.

On this last reboot the system will wipe your data and load the developer mode version of Chrome OS. That entire process takes about 5 minutes.

Once it’s complete, you can boot into Chrome OS, login with your username and password and continue using Google’s browser-based operating system as if nothing had happened… or you can move on to the next step.

Once you’ve enabled developer mode, you can also boot from a USB drive or other external storage, but you’ll have to run a special command to do that.

Load the Developer-mode BIOS

In order to boot an operating system other than Chrome OS, you’ll need to make sure you’re running the developer mode BIOS. Here’s how to do load it.

1. Turn on the Chromebook.

2. If you haven’t already logged in with your username and password, you’ll see the setup screen — connect to your WiFi network. Alternately you can hook up the Acer C7 to a wired network using an Ethernet cable.

3. Do NOT login! Instead, while you’re at the login screen, press CTRL + ALT + fwd arrow key (the key in the top row that lets you go forward through web pages — its also marked as F2 on the Acer C7).

This will bring up a command prompt, where you should enter the following:

localhost login: chronos
chronos@localhost $ sudo bash
localhost chronos # chromeos-firmwareupdate –mode=todev

Note that there should be 2 dashes before the word “mode.” For some reason WordPress keeps making it look like a single dash.

After a moment, your firmware will be updated and you’ll have developer mode BIOS enabled.

Installing Ubuntu 12.04 with ChrUbuntu

Jay Lee has written out pretty detailed instructions, so I won’t bother repeating them all here. Bu tin a nutshell, if you follow the steps on his website, you should be able to install Ubuntu on most Chromebooks with Intel processors.

Since the Acer C7 is the first model to feature a large hard drive instead of a small solid state disk, you have more disk space to work with. The installer will ask you to choose between 5 and 293GB for your ChrUbuntu installation. This will repartition the hard disk, so choose as much space as you want to be able to use for Ubuntu. The rest will be available to Chrome OS.

So basically, if you’ve followed my guide so far, the next step is to go to ChromeOS-cr48.blogspot.com and follow Lee’s steps 2 through 11.

The whole process will take maybe a half hour, because it involves downloading a large number of files and configuring them, as well as rebooting a few times.

When you’re done, the computer should boot into Ubuntu 12.04.

After kicking the tires a bit this morning, I can say that Ubuntu runs pretty well. Apps launch quickly. The Chrome web browser included in this version of Ubuntu is very responsive. Audio, video, and the webcam all seem to work. And USB peripherals including flash drives and mice work without a problem.

Basically, the Acer C7 works well as a full-fledged Linux laptop, which isn’t surprising since it’s just a slightly modified, cheaper version of the Acer Aspire V5-171 laptop I reviewed this summer.

How to choose which OS to boot 

At this point you should be running Ubuntu. But if you turn off or reboot the computer, the next time it loads it will bring you back to Chrome OS. Here’s how to choose which operating system loads at boot.

In Ubuntu, open a terminal window and type the following to make Ubuntu the default:

sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 5 -S 1 /dev/sda

If you’re asked for a password, the default username and password are both “users” (without quotes).

You can also do that from Chrome OS. Just hit Ctrl + Alt + F2 (fwd arrow) again from the login screen to bring up the command prompt.

You can also switch the default OS back to Chrome OS by entering the following command, either in an Ubuntu terminal or at the Chrome OS command prompt:

sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 0 -S 1 /dev/sda

In order to exit the Chrome OS command prompt, just press Ctrl + Alt + F1 (back arrow) to return to the login screen. From there you can reboot.

And if you’re asked for a login when you get to the Chrome OS prompt, just enter “chronos” (without quotes).

You can return to Chrome OS the default by disabling Developer mode.

Bear in mind, every time you reboot, you’ll have to deal with the OS verification screen before the operating system loads… so say goodbye to your speedy 20 second boot speeds. If you don’t want to wait 25 seconds for the warning message to go away, you can speed things up by hitting Ctrl + D, but booting still takes longer once you’re in developer mode with OS verification turned off.

 

  • LT

    What does Ubuntu do to the original “up to” 3.5 hour battery life?

  • Gabriel Suarez

    awesome, thanks.

  • Hasham

    Does it detect network, video driver, audio driver and wireless on ubuntu by itself or do we have to run special commands for that?

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Everything pretty much works out of the box.

  • David

    Do you really need to sit there and stare at the “Chrome OS verification is turned off” warning on boot until it times out? It seems from a quick search online that pressing ctrl-d at this point every time you turn on the machine will allow you to quickly proceed with booting. I don’t have a chromeos device yet to try this.

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      It appears you are correct. That definitely speeds things up a bit!

      • David

        Good to hear! Chromebooks are what let me to your blog, you seem to have the best coverage on the new ones :) I’m hoping the RAM & HD are easily upgradable in the C7; could be the perfect dual/tri booting chromebook! Looking forward to your updates!

      • http://etiforum.com/ Mike Walker

        I’d be very surprised if the memory was upgradable and unless you’re planning up loading up the HDD with video files or perhaps a heavy duty development environment, 320GB should be more than enough.

      • David

        Well, I’d want to replace the HDD with an SSD – 64GB or 128GB are pretty cheap. The C7 seems very similar to the

        Acer Aspire One 756 and its RAM is customer upgradable http://acer.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/19264/~/how-do-i-replace-the-ram-on-my-acer-aspire-one-756%3F

      • David Bauer

        I upgraded the RAM on mine with a Crucial 2gb stick in the empty 2nd slot. The procedure is exactly as the one in the link you posted. The screw hole referenced has a “Warranty void if removed” sticker over top of it, so I’ve voided my warranty by upgrading the RAM. Oh well. The hard drive literally falls out if you flip the machine over after removing the bottom panel; it’s not secured to the chassis in any way except for the ribbon cable from the SATA connector to the system board.

        Replacing the hard drive while using ChromeOS seems like waste of money because the entire OS is just running a Chrome browser and once it’s opened, the hard drive is hardly accessed. Everything seems to be running in memory (especially after going to 4gb), so the hard drive isn’t used enough to realize the speed increases you would normally see from a SSD. I could be wrong here but to my eyes, everything is running as fast as a 1.1ghz processor can run things. I’ve never noticed any sort of lag with 10 tabs open with multiple resource heavy pages included. I normally have a book open in a Kindle Cloud tab, si.com with all it’s flash objects (or whatever they are using), gmail, Google Drive, a Google Spreadsheet, my colleges Blackboard site, a few shopping sites, and Pandora running, and I’ve seen no issues with switching between tabs or slowness that could be attributed to disk drive activity. This isn’t to say that I don’t see the HDD light flickering now and then; it most certainly does, but I don’t see anything that could operate faster by using a SSD.

        Having said all that, if I was to use Ubuntu or Windows 8, the first thing I’d do (after the RAM upgrade of course) is to install a SSD.
        What I’d like to know is if the RAM is upgradable to 8gb, or even 16gb. The chipset should be the HM70 or HM77 model and, according to Intel, it can handle 16gb. I’m wondering if Acer and Google are printing 4gb max because they never tried any higher capacities or if they put some hardware limitation on this.

      • David

        Here is a link where someone upgraded their Acer C7 to 10GB of ram: http://normcf.net/~john/chromebook/Acer/acerChromebookUpgrade.html

      • David

        Just noticed this. Acer’s website shows the max RAM for the C7 is 4GB, which implies it upgradable! http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/model-datasheet/NU.SH7AA.004

      • Midas

        It is really easy, however my SSD that i installed kind of is 1mm too think so the back cover wont fit perfectly, no problem though. RAM also was super easy to upgrade as usual with most laptops. Google “Upgrading chromebook” and you will find some nice instructions including what the device supports. I have 6 GB of RAM now, was close to get 10 but its pointless. :)

    • Gaurav Agnihotri

      you are right…..dont sit press ctrl-d
      I did that !

  • Richard Wielgosz

    Since this has an Intel Celeron CPU, why can’t you just install regular Ubuntu 12.04 from a USB jump drive? I thought getting into developer mode let you do that.

  • John

    Does the HDMI output work in Ubuntu?

    • http://profiles.google.com/oldrocker99 Frederick Wrigley

      Last I’ve heard about that is that the “no HDMI sound” bug still exists.

      • David

        the sound and hdmi problem is not a “bug” in default settings the speakers and headphones are just off.

        open terminal and enter
        alsamixer

        use your arrows to go to (pressing m on them)

        right headphone left dac1
        right headphone right dac1
        left headphone left dac1
        left headphone right dac1
        right speaker right dac1
        right speaker left dac1
        left speaker right dac1
        left speaker left dac1

  • Mehhh

    This model is not like the V5, it is in fact a clone of the Aspire One – AO756. I’m not certain if these are useful, but here are the links to the BIOS files directly from Acer: http://global-download.acer.com/Step5.aspx?Step1=Netbook&Step2=Aspire%20One&Step3=AO756&BC=Acer&SC=PA_6&LC=en&OS=Windows%C2%AE%207%2064-bit&FS=O01&Category=BIOS

    • Steve

      Thanks for the link…but how would one install this BIOS?

  • thejrcrafter

    why cant you just use grub bootloader?

  • http://www.clubnokiard.com/ Frankie Bloise

    Can I install Windows after an USB drive using the same method? (enablind dev mode bios)

  • David Maloney

    I assume this is still regular ‘buntu and we can opt out of that godawful unity and into something a little less fugly?

  • dknight211

    If this Acer C7 is essentially the AO756 with ChromeOS and special BIOS, could you not flash the BIOS with the AO756 BIOS, and turn this ChromeBook into a regular laptop to install Linux or Windows?

    • Mehhh

      Two days late and a dollar short, read down.

  • Hasham

    Can we install windows XP on it?

  • bossman71

    thought i’d mention that while running ubuntu on the C7, i’ve noticed that bluetooth is present (integrated).

    • andrew178278

      since the ubuntu is a package from google, they wanted to have it easily function with both the samsung and acer versions. As a result the system thinks there is a bluetooth device installed, even though the acer is not equipped with one.

      • hotchalupa

        Oddly enough, when I turned Visible mode on, my iPhone saw the ChrUbuntu-0 device popup. However, after a subsequent reboot, Bluetooth no longer works. Is it possible the C7 has it disabled at the BIOS level?

  • sprox

    localhost chronos # chromeos-firmwareupdate –mode=todev

    should read

    localhost chronos # chromeos-firmwareupdate –mode=todev

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      You’re correct… and that’s what I thought I had typed. But WordPress automatically changed the double-hyphen to a single long dash.

      After pulling my hair out for a half hour, I’ve found a way to patch WordPress so it doesn’t do this anymore. :)

  • michael

    Thanks for this guide. My C7 arrived via UPS tonight. Have ChrUbuntu installed, redshift running the screen at a cool 3500 Kelvin, and all is well. Pleasantly surprised to see a 3.4 kernel in this.

    Now to install Cinnamon. Oddly, I like Unity on a screen this small. We’ll see.

    • michael

      Well, I took the C7 back. The wonky touchpad (which works much better under Chrome OS) was a dealbreaker. Too bad, I liked the form-factor and the keyboard.

  • keith felgemacher

    Thanks for the Ubuntu install on the Acer C7. However, I’m having a problem with the touchpad working intermittently. Anyone else having the issue and is there a fix?

    • hi1235

      i am too it keeps lagging its frustrating

      • COASTER19

        It is only when on the battery power though, it has been a bug for a while. Just use a usb mouse when on battery for the time until it can be fixed.

      • SAM

        disable the function of mouse disable when typing in ubuntu and then no more problems.

      • hotchalupa

        Tried that, not it.. There really is an issue when on battery with the touchpad intermittently not tracking. At times, it won’t detect touch for a good 5 seconds. It can be quite frustrating. :-

      • Midas

        Has there been any fix made for this yet? :o

      • Julio Prada

        definitely a battery issue

    • azaazz

      i did but then i realized you have to use the touchpad at a certain angle or it will lag

    • http://www.flowcom.se/ Andreas Ek

      Hold your finger on the shiny part of the VGA port, this will
      ground you to the chassis. While touching the port, the trackpad now
      magically works.

    • http://www.flowcom.se/ Andreas Ek
  • probbiethe1

    This tutorial is great and linux on the c7 is awesome! I am wondering if there is a way to get the sd card reader to function on this build. Any one know of a solution?

    • Llynix

      The SD card reader oddly works if you are plugged in.

  • Jon athan

    I want to choose to boot from UBUNTU and have typed the command “sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 5 -S 1 /dev/sda”, however, after hitting enter, the “chronos@localhost $” prompt comes back again.
    1) What to do next?
    2) How do I know that the UBUNTU boot has been selected?
    3) How do I turn off the netbook?
    4) Can I open UBUNTU from here?

    Please advise.

    Thanks!

  • Yeti0913

    This is great as you can have a 11″ netbook cheaper than most netbooks and run Ubuntuor Windows. Unfortunately I wish there was some help on installing the latter one. It would be nice if e-bay, or ^mason or anybody trustworthy sell this great machine with Windows 7 installed. It looks a bit hard to turn off Chrome bios and even there’s step by step seems pretty difficult. I thought was techie but when it comes to this things I’m pretty lame. Thanks

  • Mark

    ok, so I installed and it rebooted, but now I can’t get Ubuntu to launch. It always loads the Chrome OS?? How do I switch?

    • Alfredo

      i have the same problem. How do you do to resolve?

      • ZandarKoad

        I had the same problem. I first tried the crouton method of installing linux, but that failed… not sure why (I have an Acer C7). I tried the Chrubuntu method, and that failed to like you said – kept booting back into ChromeOS no matter how many times I ran that ‘sudo cgpt add’ command. I eventually broke the ChromeOS too by selecting an invalid partition to boot from. I ran the ChromeOS recovery, then tried the Chrubuntu install again. It worked the second time, but I don’t know why.

  • http://twitter.com/msrl Matt Lindsay

    anyone know how to get back to stock?

  • Graham Carroll

    Cheers for all the info. I installed Ubuntu using this guide:

    http://chromeos-cr48.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/chrubuntu-1204-now-with-double-bits.html

    Worked fine on my Samsung 550. I want to use Linux Mint instead, I need instructions on how to do it though.

  • Frankie Nery

    Anybody else have issues where after installing ubuntu and for whatever reason next time you reboot it automatically reboots in ChromeOS?

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      See the section marked “How to choose which OS to boot.”

  • Cierra Epiphany

    Just wanted to share a big THANKS! My conversion was smooth and I have been enjoying the heck out of my new $200 Linux laptop – loaded with all my favorite apps….only $200…what a wonderful feeling it is to sit down – pull out my “Chromebook” and enjoy the experience

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000748322579 Randy Washington

    I just want it to read my iPod, is all of this necessary?

  • Michael King

    Has anyone benchmarked the C7 with ubuntu using hardinfo, the system profiler? I would love to know how this performs

  • fyck

    How do I get back to Linux after i’ve already rebooted and APPARENTLY typed that thing in the area and ended up back on chrome?

  • kk

    where to download chrubuntu

  • kk

    dude someone help me where to find chrubuntu for acer c7 chromebook

  • Luis

    Hi!!

    How to install Windows 7 on the $199 Acer C7 Chromebook??? I from Venezuela… Thanks!

    • Jeremy Croutin

      why do you want widows seven?

  • JahzWolf

    thank you so very much for writing this up.. really appreciate it

  • markitman2

    I did the full install and I can’t get back into ubuntu? Following the instructions doesn’t work.

  • oops

    after turning on developer mode was taken off. a factory rest to the chome systems was done, now logging in to chome i cant get back into ubuntu an thoughts, does this need a re install ?

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Yup. Turning developer mode on or off basically wipes your disk and reinstalls Chrome OS. So you’ve deleted Ubuntu.

      As far as I’m aware, there’s no way to run Ubuntu on a Chromebook unless you have developer mode enabled.

    • azaazz

      there is a code to make Ubuntu permanent even if you reset it and it only takes 2 minutes for it to install

  • Sp

    will this work for samsung chrome book?

    • azaazz

      yes but it is much harder to do on a samsung

  • Paul

    FYI: The C710-2847 doesn’t have a hardware switch like other models. Developer Mode is enabled solely through a software switch.

    The
    general steps are Ctrl-F3 and Power cycle to get into Recovery Mode.
    Then, turn off OS verification, and finally update Developer firmware.

    Here are the steps in detail: http://raywaldo.com/2013/01/chromebook-developer-mode/

  • martin

    i cant go to command prompt

  • jonatán sanchez jiménez

    Muchas gracias, me sirvio mucho. Durante el proceso de instalación tuve un problema. ocurrio que reinicie chrubuntu sin el comando final sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 5 -S 1 /dev/sda, después dentro de chrome en modo desarrollo, puse el comando sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 5 -S 1 /dev/sda. El resultado fué que no pude acceder a ningun sistema operativo. El sistema no se podía recuperar mediante usb y parecia que no haber ya que hacer. En uno de los reinicios adonde aparece el mensaje “¡Vaya! Se ha producido un error, teclee alt+ctl+f3 y alt+cntl+f2 y puse sudo cgpt add -i 6 -P 0 -S 1 /dev/sda en ambos casos. Finalmente con esto tuve exito y pude iniciar chrome en modo desarrollo, comenzado nuevamente la instalacion de chrubuntu.

    Espero que a alguien le sirva la informaci{on en idioma español.

    Saludos

  • Annie

    YAY Im Playing Minecraft On My Chrome Book
    Now

  • Paulbrighton

    How to install Windows 8 on the $199 Acer C7 Chromebook??? I from Venezuela..

    http://www.acerstore.com.au/acer/store

  • Ruminator

    Sorry if this was already answered (i didn’t read all the comments…lazy me ;)
    but since i don’t have chrubuntu installed anymore, is there a way, in chromeos to make the disk partitions as they were before installing chrubuntu?

    I only have 40gb for my chromeos right now and i can’t use the other 260gb or so anymore. Help! (please:)

    • Ruminator

      And i would like to install Crouton to see if it fits me better…but since the 2 OS must be installed side by side, i may need more than 40 gb total.

      Oh! Cruel world! Can’t you give me peace of mind! (eh…or at least a little help. ‘Would be fine! :-)

  • Lord_John_Whorfin

    I had a problem with the -mode=todev option; on mine, it complained that “ode=todev” was not a valid option so I used -mtodev instead, which worked fine.

  • Connor

    Hello i just converted from Chrome os to ubuntu and my designate file
    space isnt very good and would like to know how to increase it.

  • Joseph Sakota

    With Ubuntu installed, do you think the Chromebook can edit videos?

  • Filius

    I’m considering buying an Acer C710 and putting Debian on it, but all the HowTos seem to involve special variants of distros made for Chromebooks.

    I would like to just transfer over my existing hdd and maybe tweak my compiled kernel a bit to support any new Chromebook hardware. I’ve done this several times already through several laptops, but I’m concerned that new BIOSes/EFIs seem to be increasingly strict in controlling what OS goes on modern machines,and that this is the reason why all the talk of Linux on Acer c710s involves special versions of distros.

    Can I just plug my old harddisk in (perhaps after enabling “developer mode” and upgrading to “developer BIOS”, etc) and run the Debian on my existing filesystem (perhaps after tweaking the kernel)?

    Thanks.

  • Paulbrighton

    Hello i just converted from Chrome os to ubuntu and my designate file
    space isnt very good and would like to know how to increase it.

  • DR. EVIL

    Honestly I would just rather buy an old refurb dell and put Ubuntu on it.

  • Wilber Maravilla

    Hello I can help you install the chrubuntu and everything went well, except that when metia the command to restart in Ubutu me and said nothing after the restart when the chrome was returning. I did it 2 times and always came back to chrome

  • alex

    i tried geting ubuntu but the second time i was on devaloper mode it was takeing a long time to load and the internet got screwy on me no it couldn’t load any more so i turnd it off then back on now that my internet is working again i tried geting ubuntu again but when i try to press ctrl +d on the sceen with the yellow exclamation point and it wont work wat should i do

  • hamish

    when i installed ubuntu on my chromebook c7 it wouldnt let me do any commands by pressing CTRL +ALT+F3 because i would like to download league of ledgends feedback plz

  • alex

    I’m pretty sure the only reason people want ubuntu is so they can get minecraft

  • alex

    in the instructions at the top it says login by typing chronos but after it says that it say some other stuff do i type it together or sepretly

  • iitz Floyd

    It says its overridden by ec.layout , any help?

  • louis

    I installed Chrubuntu as your instruction but after installed, my ACER C710 boot into Chrubuntu black screen, only have the mouse cursor, I can’t see anything. I think it has some problem with graphic driver but I don’t know how to fix it, would you please to show me how to fix it?

  • Cassidy Stroka

    Can I download things like MInecraft, etc.

    • Hexxah24

      It’s based on an Intel processor, so go crazy.

  • http://www.mikiguru.com henrygee

    hi, will dis work on c710

  • cefernan

    anybody can install virtualbox? i have a acer c710.

  • jeffrey412536a

    sign this pition for exe files to be exucuted so you dont haveto do anything hard

    http://www.change.org/petitions/google-inc-allow-execution-of-exe-files-that-run-through-java-on-chrome-os

  • regina

    i was wondering if the Ubuntu installation could let me access iTunes and let me download music from the web.