How to upgrade the Acer C7 Chromebook

This document referes to the Acer C710 (the one that looks like a windows laptop), not the newer C720. If you have a C720, this document might help you.

Now that there are two versions of the Acer C710 (a newer one with 4G of RAM), I need to be more precise, that I upgraded the previous 2G ram device. Here is a video of the complete upgrades being successfully done by a friend. There are actually two upgrades that I did:

  1. Upgrade the RAM memory
  2. Replace the slow hard drive with a fast, albeit smaller, SSD
After upgrading the SSD the boot time went down to 9 seconds (by my watch), which seems as fast as my series 5 550. My total cost for this upgrade USD50 for the SSD and USD35 for the memory. I may be able to sell the 320G drive on ebay and recoup part of this. SSD prices continue to drop, but RAM prices have recently risen 10-15%, so your cost may be different.

Risks

Warranty

There are conflicting opinions on the risk to the warranty. There is a small sticker over the single screw to open the back which implies thet you are voiding the warranty, but there may be local laws that supercede this. At least one person checked with Acer and they said opening it up to upgrade would not void the warranty. Also, in the US consumer law (specifically in regards to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) may allow upgrades.

Software Upgrades

One person sent me email and mentioned the Quick Start manual (pdf) which implies that upgrading the hardware would prevent chromeos upgrades. I have definitely had OS updates since adding memory and replacing the HDD with SSD. I think Acer may be talking about more significant hardware upgrades or repairs like replacing the CPU, USB ports or ethernet. I can imagine, for security reasons, chromeos checking certain hardware part or serial numbers. Consider someone replacing the bluetooth transceiver with a device that tracked your wireless keyboard keystrokes. If a chromeos machine was a loaner, or in a public area, where potential criminals had access to the device, chromeos verifying the hardware would make the machines more secure. (I wish there was something like this for those credit card readers at gas stations).

I think we are safe upgrading the memory and HDD as they are less likely points of attack. The memory is already volatile, and the SSD gets verified by the OS digital signature which is stored in the read only portion or the ROM.

Upgrading the memory

This is actually the easiest of the upgrades. All you need to do is buy the correct memory card and insert it into the empty slot.

What you need

This machine has two memory slots, but only one memory slot is in use. This one slot holds 2G. Currently, the largest single memory DIMM (Dual Inline Memory Module) for this machine is 8G, so 16G is the max for this machine. I bought one 8G DIMM and put it into the empty slot, which gives a total of 10G. This should be plenty for most purposes. If bigger DIMMs become available, I will let you know.

Some people may be wondering how a 32bit OS can use more than 4G of RAM. This is possible because PAE (Physical Address Extension) is enabled in ChromeOS (as it is in almost all Linux builds). PAE still does not allow a single process to exceed 4G (actually more like 3G due to some other restrictions), but it does allow separate processes to each use up to 3G. The Chrome browser, for a number of reasons including security, runs each tab in a separate process. This means if you have two very large pages open, they can spread out in memory beyond 4G.

If too many tabs are opened, at once, all the memory will be used. When this happens, tabs begin to fail with the He's Dead Jim. Adding more memory allows you to have more concurrent tabs open before security officers start dieing.

WARNING: do not let any finger grease or dirt get onto the metal contacts.

The following table indicates what memory has been confirmed to work in this chromebook. It is in no way an endorsement of any company, nor a slight against any. It is only what has been tried. Please send comments about other known good hardware to normcf@gmail.com with "acer C7 chromebook upgrade" in the subject to make it easier to recognize them.
Memory ModuleSize
G.SKILL 8GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Laptop Memory Model F3-1333C9S-8GSA8G
Kingston 4GB PC3 106000 CL9 204-pin ram4G
2x2Gb 1600 MHz PC3-12800 DDR3 SDRAM (pulled out of a Macbook Pro from a previous upgrade)2 x 2G
Kingston 4GB PC3 106000 CL9 204-pin ram4G
Corsair XMS3 8GB (1x8GB) DDR3 1333 MHz (PC3 10666) Laptop Memory8G
G.Skill DDR-1600c10D-16GSQ2 x 8G
Corsair X3M2A (2x4G) DDR3 1333 MHz Memory2 x 4G
Patriot PSD28g13332s 8 gig8G
Kingston HyperX 8 GB Memory Kit2 x 4G
Patriot Signature 8GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Laptop Memory Model PSD38G13332S8G
Crucial 4GB Single DDR3 1600 MT/s (PC3-12800) CL11 SODIMM 204-Pin 1.35V/1.5V Notebook Memory Module CT51264BF160B4G
Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) 1.35-Volt CL-11 Laptop Memory Model: CT2KIT51264BF160B2 x 4G
G.SKILL 4GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Laptop Memory Model F3-10600CL9S-4GBSQ4G
VisionTek 900449 Laptop Memory Module - 4GB, PC3-10600, DDR3-1333MHz4G
HyperX Plug n Play 16GB (2x8GB) Kit of 2 1600MHz PC3-12800 DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 SODIMM Notebook Memory KHX16S9P1K2/1616G
GeIL 16GB (2 x 8G) 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10660) Laptop Memory Model GS316GB1333C9DC16G (2x8G)
Corsair Vengeance DDR3 CMS016GX3M2A1333C916G
8GB PC3-12800 (1600MHz) Ultrabook SODIMM (PSD38G1600L2S)8G
Team 8GB (2 x 4GB) 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1600 Laptop Memory Model TSD38192M1600C11DC-E2 x 4G
A-DATA Premier Pro Series 8 GB Single DDR3 1600Mhz CL11 SODIMM Laptop Memory AD3S1600W8G11-R8G

Here are the basic steps for the replacement.

  1. Order memory DIMM and wait for it to arrive.
  2. Check to make sure your chromebook is already working because opening the machine will invalidate the warranty. This means testing every usb port, the SD card reader, the VGA and the HDMI, both the wired and wireless internet and the headphone jack.
  3. Shutdown
  4. Be sure the power cord is disconnected.
  5. Remove the battery.
  6. Unscrew the one screw holding the back on and slide the back off.
  7. Notice the two spaces for DIMMs.
  8. Push your new memory DIMM into the open space. This requires a little bit of force and it should "click" in.
  9. Slide the back back on. Note there are several small tabs on the cover and all need to engage at the same time as you slide the back.
  10. Put the one screw back in.
Here is a video of someone replacing the memory in a similar machine. I don't know why he didn't use both DIMMs, perhaps just for making the video. In our case, with a new Acer Chromebook, the slot he replaces is empty. We will add the second DIMM into that empty slot. If you bought 16G (two 8G DIMMs), you will need to remove the existing 2G DIMM and put your two new DIMMs into both slots.

To verify your memory is recognized, go to chrome://system, scroll down to meminfo, expand and check out MemTotal.

Enjoy your speedy machine with many tabs open.

Replacing the SSD

The original drive is a 7mm ST320LT020 which is sata 2 (3Gb/s max). This indicates that the device is probably sata 2 (not sata 3 6Gb/s). If anyone determines otherwise, please let me know so I can update this doc.

The following table indicates what SSD has been confirmed to work in this chromebook. It is in no way an endorsement of any company, nor a slight against any. It is only what has been tried. Please send comments about other known good hardware to normcf@gmail.com with "acer C7 chromebook upgrade" in the subject to make it easier to recognize them.

The 7mm drives fit easily and perfectly. Some people have had problems fitting thicker drives in the space, so I recommend getting 7mm.

Reported NOT to work

One person has reported an SSD which appears not to work. The symptoms are that the recovery is successful, but then after the reboot is complains about missing ChromeOS. This is the "Kingspec KSD-SA25.5-XXXMJ, 32G SATA II" which appears to be missing LBA48 support (the API to allow hard drives to exceed ~137G). Our suspicion is that this support is required for the Acer chromebook. One would not expect a 32G drive to require this but, in the interest of minimalism, maybe the Chromebook BIOS has just barely what it needs.

Another report is for Kingston SSDNow V300 Series SV300S37A/120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD). It seemed to experience the same symptom as the other, but after further work, it was discovered that the GPT was not correct. It may be that the GPT was not correctly written by the restore process. We have determined that it is not missing the LBA48 support, so this is not the issue with this drive. Anyway, after rewriting the GPT the install worked. A new report 2014/02/04 says that this one worked, so there may have been an interal firmware upgrade since the earlier fail report, or the bad one had an existing corrupted GPT that was not correctly overwritten by the install process.

Another recent report that OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-60G 2.5" 60GB SATA III did not work.

If anyone else has more info, or knows of any other SSD known not to work, I'll add them here too.

Reported to work

SSDSizeNotes
Crucial 64 GB m4 SSD64GIt is 7mm, so there was no issue with removing padding. Sata 3 (6GB/sec)
Samsung 840 Series SSD120G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec)
Samsung 840 Series SSD120G7mm, but specs for this one do not specify sata version (that I could see)
Samsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD128128G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec)
Mushkin Enhanced Chronos MKNSSDCR60GB-7 2.5" 60GB SATA III 7mm Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)60G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec)
Kingston SSDNow V300 Series SV300S37A/120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)120G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec). This drive initially had issues, but writing the GPT seemed to correct the issue and install was successful.
MyDigitalSSD 60GB BP4 2.5 Inch Slim 7mm SATA 6G Solid State Drive (60GB)(64GB)60G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec).
SanDisk 64gb SSD SDSSDP-064G-G2564G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec)
SAMSUNG 830 Series SSD 128Gb (MZ7PC128HAFU-000) Firmware Revision: CXM03B1Q128G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec)
Samsung SSD 840 Pro Series MZ-7PD256256G7mm, sata 3 (6Gb/sec)
ADATA XPS SX900 128 GB SATA 3 (6gb/sec) SandForce 2.5 inch SSD128G.2", sata 3 (6Gb/sec)
Crucial m4 mSATA 256GB256Gin a 2.5" adapter from StarTech
Corsair Force LS series 2.5" 60GB SSD MLC60G7mm
Plextor PX-64M5M mSATA (64GB)64Gin a 2.5" mSATA to SATA Adapter
Crucial V4 CT032V4SSD2 2.5" 32GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)32GThis is 9.5mm thick. If I were doing it again, I would order 7mm thick replacement as it would fit without removing the sponge cushions.
Kingston SSDnow V200+ (9.5mm) 240Gb240G9.5mm

Doing it

This is definitely the more difficult part.

What you need

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Order your SSD. Check the info above about those that are known not to work.
  2. Be sure you have an internet connection.
  3. Check to make sure your chromebook is already working. This means testing every usb port, the VGA and the HDMI, the SD card reader, both the wired and wireless internet and the headphone jack. Once you open the machine it will be difficult to send it back and claim it was defective.
  4. Be sure you have copied any local files to the cloud, or some other safe place.
  5. Check out the instructions for creating a rescue USB/Thumb drive for your model, and create one. Be sure to do this BEFORE you take it apart. The easiest way to create it is actually from your ChromeOS machine. It already knows itself, and will create the correct version. In the browser omnibox (where URLs normally are) put chrome://imageburner and follow the instructions. There have been reports of imageburner not working. If this happens, you can also try these instructions from Acer.
  6. Turn off, and unplug the machine.
  7. Remove the battery.
  8. Unscrew the one screw holding the back on and slide the back off.
  9. Gently lift the drive out of its space.
  10. Unscrew the two screws on the sides of the drive which hold a bracket that keeps the connectors from coming undone.
  11. Remove the power/sata connector and set the drive aside.
  12. If you ordered a 9.5mm thick SSD, you will need to get as much space as possible. Remove the sponge pads from the bottom of the space.
  13. Attach the power/sata connector to the new SSD, and screw the bracket into the sides.
  14. Seat the SSD into the same space the drive came from.
  15. Slide the back back on. Note there are several small tabs that all need to engage at the same time as you slide the back.
  16. Put the one screw back in.
  17. Reinstall the battery and attach the power cable. The power cable will ensure the rescue operation is not interrupted.
  18. Power on and the machine will prompt for the rescue USB/thumb drive you made earlier. Follow the instructions.
  19. After it finishes, you will need to go through the same initial process as with a brand new machine.

Here is a video of someone replacing the hard drive in a similar machine.

One way to verify the disk/ssd available is to go to chrome://system, scroll down to verified boot, expand, scroll down to Drive sectors. Multiply the Drive sectors times Sector size.

Fast boots galore.

Battery Upgrades

I have not personally upgraded the battery, but here is an article that talks about replacement of the battery with a compatible 6 cell.

Other interesting notes

Battery recalibration

I received an email with this Acer Battery Calibration Tool. This may be useful to chromebook as well.

PAE and windows

In windows 32 bit desktop OS PAE is not enabled. Microsoft chose not to enable it even though they could have. I believe this was to prevent people from using the cheaper desktop OS as a server. PAE is usually enabled in windows servers. Enough about that.

PAE and linux

Most x86 builds of Linux have PAE enabled. Normally, the only x86 builds that do not have this enabled are for older chips that don't support it. ARM does not have a PAE function that I know of.

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Thanks to many people who have sent their findings for me to consolidate here.
Last updated: 2014/04/05
water (raspberry pi)