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Can I run TLXOS (RePC) on a Chromebook?

Solution

Yes, but getting it installed is very difficult, because Google has locked down the Chromebook to boot only Chrome OS.  Running TLXOS is mutually exclusive with running Chrome OS - no dual boot arrangement is possible, and you will have to commit to overwriting Chrome OS on the internal storage.

Repurposing as a thin client is a good use for an Chromebooks, because Google will have long since ended support for the hardware, which will limit the maximum version of Chrome OS that they can run, and they're likely to contain fairly small SSDs (typically 16 GB) that - for all practical purposes, at least - you can't fit a large O/S such as Windows 10 on.

To test the feasibility of this we purchased a 2016 vintage Acer series 11 Chromebook (C730E-C639).  In brief, this is what we had to do to get RePC installed on it:

  • Put Chrome OS into developer mode using a special key sequence (<Escape><Refresh><Power>), and then <Ctrl>d once it comes up.
  • Take the back off and remove the BIOS write protect screw (later Chromebook models can disable write protection using software only).
  • Start a Linux shell using <Ctrl><Alt>t followed by "shell"
  • Run MrChromebox's utility script as root using "cd; curl -LO mrchromebox.tech/firmware-util.sh && sudo bash firmware-util.sh"
  • Use the utility script to disable firmware write protect in software using the flashrom utility.
  • Use the utility script to replace the BIOS with a standard UEFI one.
  • On our hardware, MrChromebox's UEFI BIOS refused to ever boot from any USB device, so instead of writing the RePC installer to a USB flash drive, we wrote it to an SD card, and (using a micro-to-standard SD adapter) booted the Chromebook from SD card instead.
  • The algorithm that the RePC installer uses to automatically select the best device to install to was choosing our 32 GB SD card rather than the 16 GB eMMC SSD, so we had to use the "Upgrade/Recover TLXOS" boot menu option rather than the "(Re)Install TLXOS" option, and then use TMS to select the eMMC disk using "Device->Bootstrap->Assign Storage" (see Can I install TLXOS without overwriting pre-existing storage?).

Visit https://mrchromebox.tech/ for lots more information on what's needed to run normal Linux (including TLXOS) on Chromebooks.

Note that Chromebooks don't have an SMBIOS mainboard identifier (product_uuid), so TLXOS has to use fallback MAC-address-based licensing, which links the TLXOS license to the MAC address of the Chromebook's internal WiFi.  This means that attempting to use any other network interface (e.g. a 4G/5G USB modem) may invalidate your TLXOS license, depending on what you use it for (see What does this message about Fallback Licensing mean? I don't understand!).

 

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Article details
Article ID: 104
Category: Frequently Asked Questions
Date added: 2024-02-26 01:09:16
Views: 22

 
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