Running IGEL OS on Chromebooks – Converting the device with IGEL OS Creator and booting from internal storage (Part II)

In my last post I showed how it’s possible to run IGEL OS on a Chromebook by booting the device from an IGEL UD Pocket boot device. While this is great to run IGEL OS on a Chromebook, preserving the original ChromeOS and being able to dual boot based on changing requirements, there might be situations where you would want to convert your Chromebook hardware into a persistent mobile IGEL Thin Client booting from the internal storage of your device. Here is how to get this done.

In my last post I showed how it’s possible to run IGEL OS on a Chromebook by booting the device from an IGEL UD Pocket boot device. While this is great to run IGEL OS on a Chromebook, preserving the original ChromeOS and being able to dual boot based on changing requirements, there might be situations where you would want to convert your Chromebook hardware into a persistent mobile IGEL Thin Client booting from the internal storage of your device. Here is how to get this done.

Chromebooks are designed as secure devices not being able to boot from external USB media by default and only allowing ChromeOS as their operating system. In part I (Running IGEL OS on Chromebooks – The IGEL UD Pocket approach) I showed you how to alter the firmware of your device to allow booting from USB. If we want to replace the installed ChromeOS on the internal storage with IGEL OS and automatically boot into IGEL OS without any user intervention and security prompts, we need to add a couple of additional steps.

As outlined in part I it’s still needed to put your device into Developer Mode, which allows us to install an alternate firmware. Now the difference here is, that we have to completely flash the firmware and replace it with the Full ROM Firmware (Option 3).

Chromebook_ChromeOS_Firmware_Utility
Install Full ROM Firmware

Unfortunately you will not be successful because the default firmware of your Chromebook usually is write protected. Note the FW WP: Enabled in red, preventing us to Install/Update Full ROM Firmware, Set Boot Options (GBB Flags) , Set Hardware ID (HWID) as well as Remove and Restore ChromeOS Bitmaps.

Depending on your Chromebook brand and model there are different write protection method used by the vendors. Most of them requiring you to open your Chromebook and tinkering with screws, jumpers or switches on the mainboard. In my case Acer is using a screw to write protect the firmware on the device. To find the write protection screw, jumper or switch you might want to have a look at https://mrchromebox.tech/#devices.

chromebook_wp_screw
Firmware write protection screw

After removing this screw the firmware will become writeable and we can flash it with the ChromeOS Firmware Utility.

fwutil_wp_disabled
Firmware write protection disabled

Be careful and know what you’re doing. If something goes south you might brick your device! Obviously those steps will break your warranty and you’re doing it at your own risk!

If everything works as it’s supposed to, you will end up with an alternate firmware on your Chromebook allowing you to boot from USB without any warnings. This is what we need to boot the device from USB and install IGEL OS to the internal storage of your device.

alt_firmware_boot_splash
Alternate Firmware Boot Splash

Press ESC for Boot Options/Settings and you will be able to select your USB boot media.

alt_firmware_boot_usb
Boot from USB

Go to the Boot Menu and select your USB media to boot from. In our case we need to prepare a USB media with the IGEL OS Creator to install the IGEL OS to the internal storage of the Chromebook.

To prepare the IGEL OSC media, download the OSC zip file from the IGEL website (at the time of writing this, the latest version was OSC_11.03.500.zip). Extract the zip file, we need the ISO file from the archive. To burn this ISO to a USB media I usually use a great free tool called Rufus (available from rufus.ie).

rufus_igel_osc
Use Rufus to create your IGEL OS Creator USB media

Make sure to use the DD feature of Rufus to create your boot media, else you won’t be able to boot from your USB stick.

rufus_igel_osc_dd
Use the DD image mode to write your image to the USB device

From here it’s what you know already. Just boot your Chromebook from the IGEL OS Creator USB media and install IGEL OS to the internal storage of your Chromebook.

IGEL_OS_Creator
Install IGEL OS to the internal storage of your Chromebook

That’s it – enjoy the probably cheapest but still quite performant mobile thin client, running IGEL OS!

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