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How to beat ChromeOS EOL and carry on getting updates

ChromeOS devices are great in loads of ways, but they have built-in obsolescence. Google will stop providing updates at a predetermined time according to the schedule you can find here. So the best you will achieve is 6.5 year if you buy the device on the launch day. In reality, it will be generally much less. It's something to watch as a good deal might not be such a good deal if the device only has two years left.

Once a device reaches its "due" date, you get a red pop up telling you its time to update every time you log in. The update section tells you there are no more updates. Now the device will work fine - for a while. You might get another 6 months use out of it before core services like Gmail stop working. However, if you are prepared to do a little work, you can install the OS of your choice onto the device and carry on using the device and not accept this. If you want ChromeOS, then you can install Cloudready from Neverware. I'll outline the basic steps below:

Put your device into Developer Mode. For most devices, this means hitting the ESC - Refresh - Power buttons. On some devices - like the Samsung Chromebox, the is a little dip switch to do it. Either way, the device reboots and you get ChromeOS is missing or damaged. Hit Ctrl-D and follow the onscreen prompts. When the device reboots - hit Ctrl - D and the device boots into Developer Mode.

If your device was managed - then make sure it is in an OU with forced re-enrollment turned off while you tinker.

We are going to modify the BIOS on the machine. Some machines have a hardware lock on this. It may be a screw or a jumper on the motherboard. You need to find out where this is (if present). Chromium.org has guides for some devices - Samsung Chromebox and 550. So for the Samsung Chromebox the jumper indicated in the picture must be closed:

Inline image 1

Once you have flashed your BIOS you can open this again.

Fire the machine up and login to it. Open up Chrome and hit Ctrl + Alt + T. This will bring up the terminal. Run the following commands:

shell
sudo -s
flashrom --wp-disable

Reboot the device and log back in.
Open up the terminal again Ctrl + Alt + T. The run the following commands:

shell
sudo -s
cd;bash <(curl https://johnlewis.ie/flash_cb_fw.sh)

There is an alternative Sea BIOS source and the script would be:
cd; curl -LO https://mrchromebox.tech/firmware-util.sh && sudo bash firmware-util.sh

The second one comes from MrChromebox.tech - the site gives lots of good information.

You are now at the point of no return and can potentially brick your device. Follow the onscreen instructions to the letter. With the bios flash option FULL ROM should work with most devices - but check your one here (or at MrChromebox.tech if using that BIOS).
Assuming you get no errors, you can reboot the device. ChromeOS has now gone!

You need a bootable USB stick with your new OS on it. Could be Windows, Linux or Cloudready to go back to ChromeOS. Pop it into a USB port before you reboot.

Reboot. Hold ESC down and hammer the "2" key. ESC selects the boot option and 2 is USB boot. If all is well, you should boot from the USB key and be able to install the OS. Once it is all working, I suggest you re-enable the BIOS lock.

This allows you to carry on using the device indefinitely. There are a few things to be aware of:

  • No support for ARM based devices - so Samsung 303's are toast.
  • If you want to use the enterprise version of Cloudready, when you enrol the device, it will use a new ChromeOS licence - its seen as a different device.
Over the coming year, I'll be doing this on numerous Asus, Acer and Samsung Chromeboxes and LG Chromebases. All work absolutely fine - but are coming to the EOL date so there is is no need to accept planned obsolescence.

Just an update on this - the location of the hardware lock for Asus/Dell/HP and Acer (under the heat pipe) hardware locks are shown below:

Video Walkthrough






Comments

  1. Hi,

    Great guide, many thanks. I saw the video on your channel on youtube on the pixel with cloudready and looks absolutely great. I'm seriously considering putting it on my 2013 pixel. Do you mind if I ask a few questions?

    1. Which have you found better ubuntu or cloudready? Any issues with either?
    2. Do you have to flash a modified bios, and if you had a preference over mrchromebox or the Johnlewis one which would you choose?
    3. I've galliumOS dualbooting on an Acer c720, which runs great, but when booting you've to choose with CTRL+D or CTRL+L, is it the same with cloudready, or does it just boot straight back into the OS.
    4. Are there any other idiot proof guides you'd recommend.

    Again, many thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used Ubuntu on it to start with and moved to Cloudready. Ubuntu worked OK - but the 32Gb drive meant it was a bit limited. You also need to setup custom screen resolutions and configure the top row on the keyboard - so a bit of manual setup. Cloudready does support Linux apps - so you do get the best of both worlds. The only down side is that on the current version of Cloudready is that it won't sleep - just shuts down.

      Yes you have to flash a modified BIOS - so on a Pixel, you have to take the back off and remove the BIOS lock screw. Mine is on the Johnlewis bios - not tried the other one.

      If you flash the BIOS it goes straight into the OS you have installed - no CTRL-L

      I've not seen any other guides - I just put this together from the bits and pieces I found online. Just remember, if you choose to flash your Pixel there is a chance you will kill it - unlikely - but possible. Good luck.

      Delete
  2. I really want to do this to my Samsung Chromebox Series 3 XE300M22-B02US . It is slightly different from the one in your youtube video. I have entered developer mode and it erased all my settings. I have opened the Chromebox and removed the heatshield, but cannot see the jumper shown in your picture inset above. Do I have to remove the motherboard from the case to see it?

    To confirm- I close the jumper to flash the bios and once complete I open the jumper again>

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not done one of those for a while - but I think we did need to take the motherboard out. You close the jumper. Can leave it closed or open after flashing. Leave it closed if you ever want to flash another bios.

      Delete
  3. I have the Acer C720 and have been looking for an option rather than keeping going on the outdated system. I have already installed CloudReady on a multitude of Windows based devices for our studnts that do not have their own.
    I followed your instructions to the letter (referred to your vid and a couple of other places as well) and have to say I am very happy with how simple the whole process was. My Chromebook is currently installing the new OS and I know this will give me a lot of additional life from this fabulous little device.
    Great set of instructions, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great tutorial, much appreciated. I was able to complete it as instructed here but ran into an issue after a couple days use. When I added a bluetooth keyboard the screen went black and froze. I rebooted and was fine for another day when if froze again opening the browser. Since I have not been able to get it to boot again. I have tried to boot from the USB and it doesn't complete. It ends as in the shot below:

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/VFBnCkDCNBfL5wRr8

    Do you have any ideas? Thanks for your help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd suggest booting from a live Linux distro USb key e.g. Ubuntu and running gparted and removing all the partition from the internal storage and reinstalling whatever OS you want to install.

      Delete
  5. Hi,
    There's a guide for doing this on the ifixit.com site which uses the mrchromebox script, I used that guide (for a Samsung 300M chromebox) the script ran fine and when I powered down afterwards it went straight to usb without any input and loaded cloudready - all good - upon installing however it just basically seemed to brick my device.
    No output on the DVI.
    The mrchromebox script does say that the VGA output isn't functional on the STUMPY board so I guess this is my fault.
    I was weary of trying your method exactly as per your video however as on Mr chomebox's site says commands must be executed as a normal non root user, and doing otherwise breaks things - whereas you seem to be suggesting a super user -
    Curious - whether you go the 300m working with the mrchromebox firmware or only the JL version? And also if the method described - ie super user method will still work?

    I bought two devices and dont want to brick the 2nd!!
    ( I did back up the original ROM, but not sure how to go about restoring it - particularly as Ive no output)

    Many thanks, great video, I love the idea of keeping stuff going/repurposing. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tend to use the mrchromebox method now. But both have worked for me. The JL bios is not being updated anymore - so only really works on older devices.

      Delete
    2. Installed MCB bios and booted into Cloudready - just wondering - at what point should we switch the dev mode toggle back our of dev mode? Or does it not matter? For some reason my chromebox never gets the end of the cloudready installation after 10 mins or so the screen goes black the device then goes into standby (flashing blue light) then nothing. Think I'm gonna try a different USB stick incase thats the issue...

      Delete
    3. Have you tried boting after its gone to sleep? Thats often means its installed. Remove the stick and boot.

      Up to you with the switch - having it on stops people flashing the bios.

      Delete

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