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Whether you're planning to run Linux or just need more space to work with, an SSD upgrade is easy and cost-effective.

Chromebooks are all about working in the cloud, and we admit there's not a whole lot you can do on one without an active internet connection. But sometimes you want to have a local copy of those cloud backed-up files. Or maybe you want to carry around 20GB worth of movies and music to watch offline when streaming isn't an option. And let's not forget how simple it can be to load up your favorite copy of Linux onto your Chromebook if you want to break out of just using Chrome OS.

Whatever the reason, you may find the paltry offering of a 16GB SSD on the Acer C720 Chromebook to be lacking for some use cases out there. You can pick up a C720P model with 32GB of internal storage — and a touchscreen — for $50 more than the regular C720, but what if you already have one or need more than 32GB? Well, it turns out it's extremely simple to replace the SSD in the Acer C720, and we're going to show you how to do it.

Hit the break for the entire step-by-step process.

The tools

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While the entire process is generally simple and doesn't involve dramatically expensive parts, we feel anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. In our case that means using real tools, not just some random screwdriver we pick up out of your utility drawer. We have a full electronics-focused toolkit from Belkin that's basically overkill for such a project, but it did the job fantastically.

Truth be told, for this specific project you simply need a prying device, the right sized Phillips head screwdriver and an anti-static wrist strap (if you're smart). But there's nothing wrong with having a good screwdriver set. Small electronics screws are notoriously easy to strip, so be careful.

The replacement SSD

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While the Acer C720 makes use of a standardized SSD slot, it uses a format called M.2 (or NGFF) that is a bit less common than the regular mSATA standard found in other laptops. The upsides of this SSD type are size and speed, and as you can see from the picture above these drives are absolutely tiny.

On recommendation of others who have done similar upgrades — as well as a set of Amazon searches — we landed on a MyDigitalSSD drive. It comes in three different sizes — 32GB for $39, 64GB for $59 and 128GB for $99 — and has all of the right specs for the job.

We're sure there are other drives out there that would work for this process, but we can only speak for the one we chose and used for this install. We chose to go all-out with the 128GB option, but the process should be the exact same for the smaller versions — you'll simply get less formatted storage in the end.

Your warranty is now void

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Before we start break out the screwdriver, it's necessary that we remind folks the process of opening up your Chromebook and replacing the drive will void any factory warranty you have. The hard-to-remove sticker covering the last screw to remove the bottom plate tells you as such, but it's important to reiterate.

Now that we're past that, let's get started.

The process

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Since we're going to replacing the only drive in the laptop with one that has no operating system on it, it's extremely important that we make a recovery disk before we open anything up. The process is extremely simple:

  • Open your Chromebook and type chrome://imageburner into the omnibox
  • Insert a USB drive or SDcard with at least 4GB of empty space on it (the drive will be erased)
  • Follow the on-screen prompts to download and turn the removable storage into a recovery disk

Once you've created the recovery disk successfully, remove the drive from your Chromebook and shut it down completely from the system bar.

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The first step of this install is removing the screws that hold the bottom plate onto the chassis. Close the laptop lid, flip over the Chromebook and check out the screw holes. You'll notice a total of 12 screws visible, and one hidden by that aforementioned warranty sticker in the middle. The screws don't take much force to remove, so be careful. As we said before, these types of screws are easy to strip out, and that's when you really run into troubles.

One by one, remove each of the screws, in no particular order. The screws are all identical sizes and lengths, which is nice. Get a small container of some sort (preferably with a sealable top) to store the screws in as you remove them — these things are small and easy to lose if you drop them on the carpet.

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Some people claim to be able to remove these types of warranty stickers without damaging them, but that's something we neither condone nor have the skills to do. Suck it up. Get a small, flat tool of some sort — like a flat head screwdriver — to remove the sticker.

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With the sticker removed, you can take out the 13th and final screw keeping the bottom plate attached to the rest of the laptop. Don't worry, nothing is spring-loaded here — the screw will come out just like the rest.

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Here's the fun, yet terrifying, part. Now that you've removed all of the screws, you must pry the bottom plate from the base. The plate is held on by a good number of hard plastic clips that go around all four edges. You'll have to open up the case at some point along the edge to get things started.

Android CentralWe chose to use a flat head screwdriver, but any sort of relatively thin plastic or metal separation tool will do. We picked a spot just to the right of the fan vent on the hinge portion of the laptop as our starting point. Once you have the body separated, you will have to slide your tool in either direction until you hit the first snap point. Once you pop one out, the case will open wide enough that you can simply use your fingers to pull the plate off one snap at a time around all four edges.

Be as careful as possible with these snap points, as they are extremely fragile. We managed to break (just) one of the snaps on our own Chromebook — luckily it isn't noticeable when put back together — and you definitely wouldn't want to break many more than that. These aren't the sort of flexible snaps you find on a removable back cover of your Samsung Galaxy S4, they're meant to be clipped on once and never let go.

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Once the bottom plate is off, the SSD definitely isn't hiding. Look on the right side (if the hinge is facing away from you) next to the battery and you'll see a blue Kingston SSD wedged into a slot on one end and held down with a single Phillips screw on the other.

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Remove the screw from the SSD and you'll have no trouble gently pulling it out of its socket — there should be no additional springs or tension holding it in aside from the screw. Place the drive off to the side, preferably in a safe place, where you can get to it later to store it carefully. Remember this is still a fully functioning drive with Chrome OS on it.

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Take your newly acquired larger-capacity M.2 (NGFF) SSD and place it in the slot, minding the positioning of the pins on the drive. If you purchased the same drive as we did, the sticker indicating the brand and size will be facing the same direction as the stock Kingston one.

Replace the screw with the one that was there in the first place (the drive comes with a screw, but there should be no need to switch to that one). Double check that the drive is seated properly — we don't want to open this back up if we don't have to — and you're ready to close up the Chromebook.

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Following the same process as earlier, but in reverse, you need to clip the bottom plate into place. Position the plate loosely to where it will eventually rest, and move your hand along the edges, pressing down hard until you hear each of the clips click into place.

Once you think you've put them in place, go around the edges another time or two pressing harder to really make sure the clips have activated and held on. It took us a few minutes to make sure every clip was connected — better safe than sorry here before you start putting screws back in.

Android CentralWith the bottom plate secured by its clips, open up your container of screws and get to work putting them back in. Just as it was important to be gentle with the screws when removing them, it's doubly important to be gentle in tightening them back down again. Apply less pressure than you think you need, and make small turns until the screw is snug — they don't need to be plastic-stressing tight. It can be helpful to loosely screw in each one to make sure you use them all and then return to check them for proper tightness after, but that all depends on the kind of perfectionist you are.

If you finish filling each hole on the bottom of your Chromebook and don't have any empty spots or extra screws on your desk, you've successfully locked everything back up. Aside from the missing warranty sticker, you should notice no difference in the way things look.

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Now that everything is put back together, flip the Chromebook back over, open the lid and hit the power button. You'll be greeted by the above screen, which (understandably) informs you that there was an issue booting into Chrome OS. Remember that recovery disk that we made before we started this whole process? Pop that into the USB port or SDcard slot.

Android CentralThe Chromebook will automatically recognize the disk as a recovery media and start the restore process. It will take a handful of minutes, but you'll be able to watch a nice progress bar while it does its magic. As it says on the screen, make sure to plug your Chromebook back into its power supply just in case the battery was low before you started the drive replacement.

When the recovery is complete, remove the USB drive or SDcard and your Chromebook will automatically reboot and greet you with a fresh start screen. Move through the setup process just as you normally would, add in your Google credentials and you'll be logged in.

You'll likely be greeted by a pending system update just minutes after you power the computer on, and it will take a handful of minutes (depending on your internet connection, of course) after that point to download your settings, extensions and preferences, but you'll be up and running identically to the minute you powered it off to replace the drive. That's the beauty of Chrome OS.

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Now you'll probably want to confirm that you're getting the drive storage you paid for, right? Open up the Files app, hit the settings button in the top right corner of the window and you'll see down at the bottom a reading of how much available storage you have. Due to formatting and the space Chrome OS takes up you'll of course have less than the number advertised on the SSD, but it will be far more than what you had before.

Our 128GB SSD yielded 107.2GB of available storage after our Chromebook was signed in and synced our settings, extensions and a (small) handful of Google Drive items. That's nothing to shake a stick at for a $99 drive upgrade.

After 30 minutes with a few tools, you're done

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Altogether our SSD upgrade took about 30 minutes, even with taking our time to make sure things were just right every step of the way. In terms of a percentage of the total cost of the machine — our C720 with 4GB of RAM cost $249 — a $99 storage upgrade may seem a bit crazy. But if you're willing to put in a little bit of your own time and tools to do this job, you can have a Chromebook that's ready for anything you can throw at it — even if you're offline or wanting to install another operating system alongside Chrome OS.

 

Reader comments

How to upgrade the SSD in your Acer C720 Chromebook

70 Comments

No, you can't upgrade the RAM on the C720. Its soldered in as part of the "make it thinner" process. You can upgrade it on the 710 though I believe.

RAM is locked down. Not sure why you'd ever need more than 4GB though. That's more than enough (even the 2GB RAM model handles about 30 tabs) for just about anything you'd do on hardware of this level, even on Linux.

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"640K is more memory than anyone will ever need" -- Bill Gates

Yeah I know he didn't actually say it, it just the first thing I thought of when Andrew wrote his comment.

Yes, I know that you more than likely will never need more, Linux is a RAM hog like Windows is...

Obviously if you hold onto this computer for 4 years or so you'll start to maybe see some restriction by only having 4GB of RAM. But like I said considering the machine and the other specs its plenty of memory.

Modern web browsers are RAM hogs, though to be fair that is largely due to modern web sites. For my Linux netbook, it definitely benefited from the upgrade from 2GB to 8GB. 2GB just wasn't enough for my use, it kept having to swap. To be fair, 4GB would be ok, but having the spare 4GB for the Linux kernel to use as cache makes a real performance difference.

Sure for light web browsing 2GB is plenty, for heavy browsing 4GB is a more comfortable amount, although IMO Chrome doesn't handle having lots of tabs open well from a UI perspective.

I'm not criticising the manufacturers for their choices, the RAM options are fine for Chrome OS, but if you want to run Linux on it, having the option of more RAM is useful.

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Linux may run well on 4GB, but saying you'll never need more is just ridiculous. what if I want to keep my chromebook for two years and not have a machine that lags so bad it's unusable at that point? 4GB is now a bare minimum in any machine, imho. And if I'm looking to buy something long-term, any less than 6GB goes straight in the rejected pile when I'm shopping.

then in 2 years buy another $199 computer. even though you can use it as a linux machine its not exactly a $1500 top of the line laptop that has specs to last 5 years.

The 4 gb ram option wasn't available when I got mine, but they did have a 2 gb ram with 32 gb ssd for $249. I figured it'd save me the trouble of trying to upgrade the ssd myself. Running ubuntu on it now to do some light programming. This thing is a pretty beastly little laptop!

For what it is, yes it is beastly. No it doesn't play many games. But show me any other computer that you can buy for $200 that has 9 hour battery life and runs full linux this well.

I wouldn't use this as my only computer but for a screw around dev machine... fantastic for the cost.

There's a refurbished Hp on Woot for $259, win 8.1, core i5. You lose battery life.... But can run anything, including Linux.

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I'd also like it to be light :) But yes, there are some alternatives if you get lucky with a good sale, but regardless, getting that performance and efficiency in that small of a package is pretty amazing (yay tech). If I want a gaming rig I'll use my desktop.

It seems pretty good. Crouton runs on top of the ChromeOS kernel so theoretically the drivers work the same. That said... touchpad works fine but I haven't gotten the 2 finger scroll to work but I think its doable.

ChrUbuntu operates more like a dualboot with its own kernel but it patches the touchpad driver for you so it works great. With other linux distros you may have to work at it more and find a way to fix it yourself. It also has support for sleep as well

I upgraded the ram in my 710 but can't bring myself to upgrading the SSD simply because I won't have a use for the left over 16gb SSD.

damn, what a bit of brain power could do for you ... p/n: SY-ADA40050; and I had a USB2.0/3.0 storage of 16GB just laying around for my laptop ... !!!!!!

Still waiting to hear about possible new models in 2014, possibly with 64-128gb ssd, maybe even 3 or even 4 gb ram becoming standard, or just a laptop that has open upgrade possibilities

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Thats a bummer about no upgradable RAM... I have the 720p, with the bigger harddrive, and I can't quite figure out what I need more space for. Cool project, though.

I've been wanting to get a Chromebook for school and I'm just waiting for one that has 4gb of RAM. I hope more from different companies come out or at least Acer should make more of the 4gb model of the C720. I just don't want to be caring around my heavy and old laptop to class and everywhere else when I need to study.

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Has anyone seen the white c720p that was announced at CES on sale anywhere? The lady decided she would rather have the white one so we sent back the gray one but I can't find the white one for sale anywhere.

Possibly puncture the warranty seal next time versus scratching up the bottom of the Chromebook?

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ironically, ive been looking at the new hp chromebook 14 and have been planning on doing this. Though there are no tutorials (except 1) i expect it to be roughly the same

Great job. I really appreciate the care you took in presenting all of the step-by-step procedure, appropriate warnings, and supporting links to help find tools and parts.

I'm not in need of a storage expansion yet, but the time will come, the warranty will cease to be an issue, and I'll pull up your article again for guidance.

$249 + 99 = $349.99 investment total for this mod. Seeing that Netbooks cost the same and provide a similar type of experience especially on a more complex operation system, Windows 8. I'm still having a hard time to understand the advantages of Chrome OS over Windows, more or less this Acer vs any netbook. SSD? Big deal.. Yes it's heck of a lot faster but regular netbooks yield 320~500gb of storage and the processor are similar as well.

Forgot to mention that you can still get the same Google experience on a cheap netbook by downloading the Chrome App Launcher..

You talk about a notebook with Windows like it's a good thing. That's why chromebooks are great!! They are sans MS's bullshit garbage diseased OS. Besides, these are not netbooks. They are more like a notebook with slightly lower specs.
BTW, I challenge you to find a single touchscreen Windows laptop on the market for $350. You can't!! Buy a c720 with a touchscreen, and you've just saved yourself ~50% over buying a windows machine!!

I was contemplating this mod for awhile after getting my 720P back in November until I figured out that I can pick up a few San Disk Cruzer Fit 64gb micro USB drives from Amazon for around $30 apiece. Sure they might not be as fast as a SSD and they stick out about a half an inch on the sides of the 720P but you now have the advantage of removable storage to be loaded up from your PC without the hassle of cables or wonky connections and you can get 128gb for almost half the price of the 128gb SSD. Not for everyone out there but it is an alternative.

Because I happened to order a Belkin tool kit for the swap? That's really what you get out of this article?

Truth be told, for this specific project you simply need a prying device, the right sized Phillips head screwdriver and an anti-static wrist strap (if you're smart). But there's nothing wrong with having a good screwdriver set. Small electronics screws are notoriously easy to strip, so be careful.

Seriously... theres no endorsement of Belkin here, it's a how-to article.

Great article! I plan to do this upgrade. ChromeOS is not bad, but a little more flexibility with ubuntu/disk space will let me leave the bulky laptop at home more. Thanks

Hate all this void warranty stuff. It is like we don't own our devices and do whatever we want but we can do that put the warranty is voided. That's silly IMO.

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Good article, Keep up the good work. I did smile at the beginner tear down instructions. You didn't really use a screwdriver to remove that label? :)

Can you add a link to installing Linux/Ubuntu/Mint. The link to Jerry's article doesn't have one.just a reference to a G+ post.

Never mind, you just enable legacy boot from dev mode...

As noted in the article, check installment of new SSD. The ngff can be installed upside down. I kept running into unknown error when reinstalling chromeOS. Flipped new ssd over (manufacturer sticker facing down) and install worked as expected.

I purchased the SSD that is linked on this article....the 3rd party that sells it on amazon sent me the wrong one. i got a 50mm instead of the advertised 42mm. had to contact amazon, they gave me a refund and i shipped it back. just fair warning to everyone who uses this article. might want to look elsewhere for the SSD.

I am unable to get the recovery system image on a USB pen drive. I have tried six different brands, all 4GB+, but nothing happens. I have even let the my 720p sit for hours on end and still nothing happens. Considered using the Linux script available to download the image file, but there is no file for PEPPY E6E-J7E-Q35, which is the code for the 720p.

Any help appreciated.

Hey there! I've used the linux version of the recovery tool. I used ubuntu. When it first asks you to type in your model, just type peppy. It will then list out chromebooks in a number system. I think acer c720p was like 20 something. It asks you to type in which one you have. (Just type the number it was labeled.) and then you should be good. Let it work its magic.

Hey. I just ordered a 64 gig NGFF for my Acer. I plan to install Ubuntu. I've done it before on my Chromebook, but i'm afraid of a problem occurring, and not having it recognize the extra space. Has anyone tried this? Any help would be very nice. Thanks!