This page contains information about the Acer C720 Chromebook that is interesting and/or useful to software developers. For general information about getting started with developing on Chromium OS (the open-source version of the software on the Chrome Notebook), see the Chromium OS Developer Guide.
Caution: Modifications you make to the system are not supported by Google, may cause hardware, software or security issues and may void warranty.
An unrelated note: Holding just Refresh and poking the Power button hard-resets the machine without entering Recovery. That's occasionally useful, but use it with care - it doesn't sync the disk or shut down politely, so there's a nonzero chance of trashing the contents of your stateful partition.
Enabling Developer mode is the first step to tinkering with your Chromebook. With Developer mode enabled you can do things like poke around on a command shell (as root if you want), install Chromium OS, or try other OS's. Note that Developer mode turns off some security features like verified boot and disabling the shell access. If you want to browse in a safer, more secure way, leave Developer mode turned OFF. Note: Switching between Developer and Normal (non-developer) modes will remove user accounts and their associated information from your Chromebook.
On this device, both the recovery button and the dev-switch have been virtualized. Our partners don't really like physical switches - they cost money, take up space on the motherboard, and require holes in the case.
To invoke Recovery mode, you hold down the ESC and Refresh (F3) keys and poke the Power button.
To enter Dev-mode you first invoke Recovery, and at the Recovery screen press Ctrl-D (there's no prompt - you have to know to do it). It will ask you to confirm, then reboot into dev-mode.
Dev-mode works the same as always: It will show the scary boot screen and you need to press Ctrl-D or wait 30 seconds to continue booting.
By default, USB booting is disabled. Once you are in Dev-mode and have a root shell, you can run:
and reboot once to boot from USB drives with Ctrl-U.
This device includes the SeaBIOS firmware which supports booting images directly like a legacy BIOS would. Note: the BIOS does not provide a fancy GUI for you, nor is it easy to use for beginners. You will need to manually boot/install your alternative system.
Like USB boot, support for this is disabled by default. You need to get into Dev-mode first and then run:
and reboot once to boot legacy images with Ctrl-L.
To leave Dev-mode and go back to normal mode, just follow the instructions at the scary boot screen. It will prompt you to confirm.
If you want to leave Dev-mode programmatically, you can run
Sometimes it's possible to break the SeaBIOS install in the flash (sometimes doing innocuous things like tweaking the GBB flags). If you do get into such a situation:
You can safely reset the copy of SeaBIOS in your flash by running (as root):
Before you start fiddling with your own builds it is strongly recommend to create a recovery USB stick or SD card. As long as you don't disable hardware write protect on the system & EC firmware, you can get your machine back into working order by entering Recovery Mode and plugging in your recovery image. You can create a recovery image from Chrome OS by browsing to chrome://imageburner or follow instructions for other OS on the Chrome OS help center site.
You can build and run Chromium OS on your Acer C720 (versions R32 and later). Follow the quick start guide to setup a build environment. The board name for the Acer C720 is "peppy". Build an image and write it to a USB stick or SD card.
To boot your image you will first need to enable booting developer signed images from USB (or SD card). Switch your machine to Developer mode and get to a shell by either via VT2 (Ctrl+Alt+F2) and logging in as root or by logging in as a user (or guest mode), starting a "crosh" shell with Ctrl+Alt+t, and typing "shell". Now run "sudo crossystem dev_boot_usb=1" and reboot "sudo reboot".
Plug your USB stick or SD card in and on the scary "OS Verification is OFF" screen hit Ctrl+u to boot from external media. If all goes well you should see a "Chromium OS" logo screen. If you want to install your build to the SSD, open a shell and type "sudo /usr/sbin/chromeos-install". Note: This will replace EVERYTHING on your SSD. Use a recovery image if you want to get back to a stock Chrome OS build.
Caution: Modifications you make to your Chromebook's hardware or software are not supported by Google, may compromise your online security, and may void your warranty....now on to the fun stuff.
Taking apart your Chromebook is not encouraged. If you have hardware troubles, please seek assistance first from an authorized center. Be advised that disassembly might void warranties or other obligations, so please consult any and all paperwork your received first. If you just want to see what the inside looks like, gaze upon this (high-res version):