Is This a Good Idea for You?
That is for you to decide after you’ve read through what I encountered during installation and initial uses on this model as PURE Linux Mint 20.2 machine. (Take me straight to the instructions.)
What I Went Through
I have some experiences with computers (very little with Linux). It took me more than 7 dedicated days to get Linux Mint installed. The main issue was not having any one particular source to explain the entire process dedicated to the Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431 (Edgar).
The biggest hurdles for the installation
Verify the Linux Mint ISO image*: This step was difficult unless you already have a Linux system running somewhere. The first time I downloaded the ISO, I was so frustrated I skipped the verification. It was only after I’ve installed Mint was I able to run the Authenticity Check from the Linux Mint terminal window**.
If you want to make sure the downloaded ISO file is safe and error-free, you can verify the ISO as instructed by Linux Mint or search for the solution online for your operating system.
*ISO image is like a digital version of the installation CD.
**Terminal Window is a window that simulates an old physical terminal that only takes text input and displays only text on the screen. And those lines the text input are called Line Commands.
Making a bootable USB for installation: The most popular tool, Etcher, did not work with my Chromebook and the other computer (the OS is too old). After checking other tools, the best solution for me was the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension.
Making the Chromebook boot from USB: Many of the installation instructions online did not mention the need to modify BIOS to allow Chromebook to boot from a non-Chromebook recovery USB. And you have 2 hardware related options for BIOS modification:
- A full BIOS rewrite: this option requires opening up the unit and remove the write protection screw but boots up faster.
- Only changes the crossystem flag BIOS to allow booting from USB, you don’t need to open your laptop but you will need to press ctrl-l after each power-up and reboot with a much longer boot time.
The instructions here is only for people like me who don’t want to open their laptops. Please read Firmware Utility Script on MrChromebox.tech before choosing an option.
Notable Items During Initial Normal Use
The internal speakers and headphone did not work though I did find a solution.
The top row of the keyboard did not work, I did not find a working solution. And I had to assign them as hotkeys in the end and was not able to get all of them working.
Microphone doesn’t work, no solution so far. On the upside, no one can listen in without you knowing.
Timeshift (like Time Machine in Mac) eats up a lot of drive space which is very limited on this Chromebook. Though Linux Mint asks you to enable in the “Welcome” box, I suggest to only use it with an large external drive if you find Timeshift necessary.
Before You Start
The entire process is long and complicated, I found it useful to print out the instructions I’ve collected, read through them at least once, if not to understand what I am told to do, at least I know what to expect. When I had questions during the process I used the printouts for problem finding and solving.
It’s might also be helpful to have another working computer nearby to follow these instructions during the process or to search for a solution when something unexpected happens.
Phase 1: Preparations
- Back up all the data on your Acer Chromebook
- Fully charge your laptop
- Be patient because it might take many tries to get it just right for you
- Note the post date is Oct. 9, 2021 so always check if there are up-to-date instructions out there
Phase 2: Make TWO Bootable USBs
You will be using the “Chromebook Recovery Utility Extension” on your Chromebook to make both USBs. Make sure you don’t need anything on these USBs, they will be wiped out.
USB #1: Chromebook Recovery USB
This USB let’s you revert to the Chromebook factory settings if you run into trouble during installation and want to start over.
- Have a USB ready (8 GB or larger, note that everything on it will be wiped)
- Read the instructions from Chromeready first
- Run the “Chromebook Recovery Utility Extension” as instructed
- In the “Identify your Chromebook” step, record your model name in case you ever need to make a recovery USB from a Chrome browser on other computers
- When the recovery USB is made, click on “Create another” instead of Done.
USB #2: Bootable Linux Mint Installation USB
- Download the ISO for Linux Mint Cinnamon by picking a server listed. The file most likely would be in your “Downloads” folders. (Read my note above if you want to verify the ISO image.)
- Rename .iso to .bin
- Have another USB ready (8 GB or larger, note that everything on it will be wiped)
- Make the installation USB by following instructions from Chromeready.
Phase 3: Enable the Development Mode
- Follow step 1 to 7 from the “How to Install Linux on a Chromebook” section.
- Be prepared for your Chromebook will be wiped back to Factory Settings.
- This will take a while, just let the process run on its own until Chrome OS is back again.
- At the “Welcome to Chromebook” page, just follow through like you are setting up a new unit using your Chromebook login name and password.
Phase 4: Install Crouton
Crouton allows you to run the script to modify BIOS.
- Open a Chrome browser window
- Go to the Crouton Usage section in Crouton’s GitHub page.
- Read and follow ONLY the “If you’re just here to use crouton” paragraph to download and install Crouton. (NOTE: Press ctrl-alt-t opens a new Terminal Window tab–“Chrosh”)
- You can copy each highlighted text, switch to the Crosh window, then right click to paste it.
- Keep the Crosh window open, you’ll need it to Modify BIOS
Phase 5: Modify BIOS
This enables you to boot from your installation USB.
I think it’s the best if you know what you are about to do with the BIOS. Read and understand this step by reading everything from MrChromebox.tech. AGAIN, this method is for people who don’t want to open their units to remove the BIOS write protection screw and can tolerate pressing keys and longer boot time after each boot up.
- Open “ChromeOS Firmware Utility Script” page
- Below the “IMPORTANT” heading, find “To download and run this script under ChromeOS, from a terminal/shell type:” paragraph
- Copy and paste the commands into Chrosh as before.
- At the “ChromeOS Device Firmware Utility” screen, enter “1” then “y”
- Back at the main menu, press “p” to power off.
Phase 6: Booting from the installation USB
- Insert the installation USB if it’s not already
- Press the power key
- At the “Verification is off” screen, press ctrl-l
- Choose “Start Linux Mint” and hit Enter
Phase 7a: Test run Linux Mint
Leave it to let Linux Mint from the USB, so you can try it without a actual installation.
Phase 7b: Install Linux Mint
- If you are ready to install click on the Install Linux Mint icon. (ChromeOS will now be wiped out for good.)
- Use the Linux Mint installation guide as a reference
- Read my note on Timeshift before enabling it as the “welcome” window suggests
Phase 8: Fix sound, keyboard, and microphone issues
“Fixes for Ubuntu-based Distros” provide the fixes to speaker, headphone output problems.
The keyboard fix there didn’t work for me. I did manual hotkey set up for as many top row keys as I could.
I was unable to find solution to make the internal microphone work.
Normal Booting Process
- You will always have to press ctrl-l at each power-up and restart
- Never press spacebar at the “Varification is off” screen
- It seems to take much longer to get to the login screen, that is normal
I reverted the Acer back to factory settings to write this post as I went through the installation, hopefully I didn’t miss anything. If you feel more details is needed when you go through it, please leave a comment and help other people out. Thank you!
Hi Again. Just to let you know that I went ahead and installed Linux Mint on my CB3-431 and it works really well. As I didn’t want it to dual boot or to run chrome alongside Mint I didn’t install crouton. I hit the same two problems you did in that the top row of keys were inactive and also the sound didn’t work but the fix you posted for the latter worked fine. The firmware update was really easy as I used RW-LEGACY to avoid bricking the machine. As you mentioned, the time it takes to boot up is slowish at just over a minute but I am happy with that to avoid taking the back off and removing the write protection screw. Many thanks again for setting out the process. I can highly recommend it to anyone who has a Chromebook which is now out of date. Having used your process on HP and Acer machines I think it would work on any.
Just one thing to finish off with. There is a lot on the internet about using Neverware Cloudready on old Chromebook’s. Neverware themselves say, however, that they do not support it for Chromebook’s so I am unsure why people are suggesting it be used. In fact I cannot find any reliable instructions as to how to install it on a Chromebook. Presumably once the BIOS has been changed the Chromebook will boot from the Cloudready USB in the same way it could be booted from a Linux USB. Using Linux Mint on a Chromebook is, however, a much better option as it is far more versatile than Cloudready.
Steve, thank you so much for coming back to post your update! I am happy you got it working. As I am a newbie… I have questions if you do come back this way.
So you don’t need to run Crouton in order to do the firmware update? I didn’t know much about Linux when I did this so I just followed the steps from other sources. How did you get to a “terminal” to enter the commands from Chrome OS? (did it so long ago, don’t remember if I knew that or not, haha!)
Also, not sure what Neverware Cloudready is but I like having a Linux machine to try Linux things.
I hope people will find your comments here, these are sure to help other people trying to install Linux.
Apologies for the delay in replying. Unfortunately I don’t get an email update when a reply is posted and I forgot to check your site! No, Crouton isn’t actually needed for the firmware update but it is probably worth installing as it gives further options for the people who want to have the ability to dual boot the machine or run Chrome alongside Linux Mint. For those like us who just want to run Mint, it’s not needed.
Once the Chromebook has been put in developer mode the terminal can be used by entering ctrl+alt+t and at the crosh prompt enter shell. The commands from MrChromebox can then be entered to update firmware. I’ve actually put together a guide setting out all the steps to install Mint on a Chromebook which is based on your article plus a few other things I have picked up from various sites.
Neverware Cloudready is quite interesting. It’s a quick and easy method of turning an old and slow machine into a Chromebook. I used it on an old Dell D630 and it works great. Unlike Chrome, there is no AUE date and it continues to receive updates. It does, however, have a lot of limitations and Linux Mint is by far the best option to use on an old Chromebook.
Steve, so glad you took the time to revisit and answer my questions.
I think this Chromebook is too small to be a dual boot machine so it’s good to know people can skip Crouton and go straight to Crosh shell to update the BIOS.
I am sure your instructions will be very much welcomed for people who are flipping their Chromebook to Linux. If you are putting your installation guide online and would be interested to share, please leave a new comment with the link, I will be happy to put it in my post for others looking for help.
Hi. Thanks for an interesting article. I have a CB3-431 with a June AUE date and am looking to install Linux Mint on it. I also have a HP G4 which I used to install GalliumOS on successfully. I must admit that I didn’t like Gallium all that much so I got rid of it. I have a USB with Mint 20.3 ISO on it so I simply booted the G4 from it and installed without problem. The reason I mention this is that you mention changing the file name from .iso to .bin and I wonder why that is? I was able to install on the G4 without doing so. Also, you mention installing Crouton but I didn’t do that either. I ran the Mrchromebox code and was able to install Gallium fine although I dumped it in favour of Mint. Is it essential to install Crouton? I won’t be installing Mint until the AUE date but I want to get the process straight before I do so to avoid any problems with install. Thanks for you help.
Steve, thank you for reading the post. In case you did not realize it, I am a newbie to Linux myself. So, please do more research to verify my comments below.
It sounds like you have a much newer Chromebook than I do, so I am not sure if the instructions here will still work for you.
For changing .iso to .bin, I think it was necessary because I was using the “Chromebook Recovery Utility Extension” to make the USB. If you used other ways (like Etcher) to make the installation USB, it’s most likely unnecessary.
I had to use Crouton because it was the only way to modify the BIOS from the ChromeOS. Perhaps HP didn’t need the BIOS modification to boot an Linux installation USB.
Also, I was glad I made a Chromebook Recovery USB. The first time through for me was so confusing, after a successful install, I turned it back to factory setting and start again to make sure I did it right. BTW, the two USBs I made, I can’t repurpose because I don’t have a computer that can run the Chromebook Recovery Extension again. So, be warned!
In case you need help, a friendly place for a newbie to ask a complicated Linux question is at Forums.Jeff.Pro but always search for answers first, though you seem to be one who would anyway. To ask a simple question, join Jeff’s Telegram Channel then ask on his Tech Chat, lots of capable people there, too.
Hope this help somewhat, enjoy transforming your CB3-431!
Many thanks for the reply. It’s great that you set out an easy to follow process to use Linux Mint on an old Chromebook. I have looked at many options for using a Chromebook once it has reached it’s AUE date and Linux Mint is by far the best. Neverware Cloudready seemed promising but it cannot be used on a Chromebook. GalliumOS is ok but it does not have the flexibility of Mint.
I made my bootable USB on a laptop which already had Mint on it so didn’t have to use the Chromebook Recovery Utility. It worked fine as a .iso file on the HP G4 Chromebook. The G4 reached it’s AUE date last year so is an older machine than the Acer CB3-431. Your process worked really well on it. I encountered the same two issues you did in that the speakers didn’t work nor did the top row of keys. The fix you found for the audio did not work for me as the G4 is Baytrail not Braswell. I am still trying to sort it out. I also found that it doesn’t shut down fully every time and I have to press the power button for 5 to 10 seconds. Apart from these issues Linux Mint has given a whole new lease of life to an old and creaky machine! Thanks again for your invaluable help. It is much appreciated. I will post details of how I get on with the CB3-431 once it reaches it’s AUE date.
I really appreciate that you think my post is helpful. The overview of the installation process was something I wished was out there so I didn’t have to be so confused.
BTW, I found Mint too heavy a load for my very basic Chromebook (I don’t do any work on it), so I got crazy and tried many other lighter distros like Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Pop!_OS, and ended up with Zorin 16 for now (except I don’t dare to update the kernel, it breaks the audio function so bad the fix I found didn’t work.)
Looking forward to read about your installation experience with CB3-431!
For the keyboard issues, try installing the GalliumOS keyboard layouts. This is how I get them working under Lubuntu running an a CB15, I think the same process would work under Mint (I’ll probably find out this weekend).
Forgot to add, this reddit post/thread should help:
Chiefmas, thank you for posting a possible solution. If it works for you on the CB14, please let us know!