Win10 on an Acer Chromebook 14

sracer

macrumors G3
Original poster
Apr 9, 2010
8,489
8,969
Prescott Valley, AZ
Greetings all! I wanted to share my experiences installing Windows 10 Home on the Acer Chromebook 14 cb3-431 for anyone who might be considering doing something similar.

The Acer Chromebook 14 has a Celeron N3160 processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, 1080p display, matte screen, and all aluminum body. I bought mine a few years ago at Costco for $250 (which included a padded sleeve and mouse).

20200110_100319.jpg
It is a well-built and attractive-looking device, IMO. I've used it extensively as a chromebook and have been able to do much of the work that I need to get done on a traditional laptop. There are a few areas where Chrome OS falls short (regardless of device) which prevents it from being a true daily-driver.

The Acer Chromebook 14 is one of the easiest chromebooks to "hack". Chromebooks by design are locked down devices that make it extremely difficult to do anything but run Chrome OS on them, but this Acer has an easy-to-access write-protect screw that once removed, allows for easily wiping out the default firmware and Chrome OS and installing alternative operating systems. There is a lot of community support for doing other things on this device than running Chrome OS.

I removed the write-protect screw, and installed custom firmware. Once that was done, I wiped out Chrome OS and installed Gallium OS, which is a Linux distribution that is highly optimized to run on chromebooks. All hardware components are supported and the look and feel running Linux on this thing is extremely good... especially considering the processor.

I ran with Linux on this device for 6-9 months. It worked very well. Even one of the key pieces of software I rely on (that is only available on iOS, macOS, and Windows) was easily installed via WINE. It ran flawlessly after installing without the usual need to tweak WINE settings to get things looking correctly.

But I became a bit bored with it and decided to try installing Windows 10.

Since I already had flashed the custom firmware to allow other OSes to be installed, I simply needed to create a bootable USB thumbdrive to install Windows 10. I ran the install (the instructions said that I'd need a USB keyboard for the initial install, and I used one, but I found that the built-in keyboard worked fine). I needed to install an audio driver, trackpad driver, and a keyboard remap, and all components works.

Here it is booted up in all its Windows 10 Home glory. I purchased a Win10 Home key from eBay for $5.22 and within a minute or so had Win10 activated. I installed Classic Shell to get things started.

20200110_100539.jpg

I then proceeded to install the Brave web browser, eSword (and all of its library/resources), and MS Office 2007 Professional. After that, I cleaned up Windows, removed the bloatware, disabled some system services that I wouldn't be needing, and locked it down. In the end, I'm left with 10GB of storage available.

20200110_100635.jpg

Performance is surprisingly good. Win10 runs better on this device than Gallium OS did... which is the surprising part. Windows 10 seems to handle the Celeron N3160 very efficiently. It's early in my testing, but battery life seems to be upward of 10 hours. Working with my apps, it feels no different than a native Windows notebook.

This has been a fun chromebook to own and tinker with.

Has anyone done something similar with their chromebooks? If so, I'd love to hear about it... what model chromebook and what was your experience running Win 10 with it. I'm always looking for tips and tricks.



FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN DOING SOMETHING SIMILAR... here are some links that might be helpful.
Here's a link that walks you through determining which chromebooks can install Windows 10:

Here's a link that walks you through installing Windows 10: (don't use the flash firmware script there, but the one from Mr Chromebox)


Here's a video showing how to remove the write-protect screw and install firmware:
 
Last edited:

Northern Man

macrumors 6502a
Aug 25, 2013
771
1,077
Greetings all! I wanted to share my experiences installing Windows 10 Home on the Acer Chromebook 14 cb3-431 for anyone who might be considering doing something similar.

The Acer Chromebook 14 has a Celeron N3160 processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, 1080p display, matte screen, and all aluminum body. I bought mine a few years ago at Costco for $250 (which included a padded sleeve and mouse).

View attachment 887864
It is a well-built and attractive-looking device, IMO. I've used it extensively as a chromebook and have been able to do much of the work that I need to get done on a traditional laptop. There are a few areas where Chrome OS falls short (regardless of device) which prevents it from being a true daily-driver.

The Acer Chromebook 14 is one of the easiest chromebooks to "hack". Chromebooks by design are locked down devices that make it extremely difficult to do anything but run Chrome OS on them, but this Acer has an easy-to-access write-protect screw that once removed, allows for easily wiping out the default firmware and Chrome OS and installing alternative operating systems. There is a lot of community support for doing other things on this device than running Chrome OS.

I removed the write-protect screw, and installed custom firmware. Once that was done, I wiped out Chrome OS and installed Gallium OS, which is a Linux distribution that is highly optimized to run on chromebooks. All hardware components are supported and the look and feel running Linux on this thing is extremely good... especially considering the processor.

I ran with Linux on this device for 6-9 months. It worked very well. Even one of the key pieces of software I rely on (that is only available on iOS, macOS, and Windows) was easily installed via WINE. It ran flawlessly after installing without the usual need to tweak WINE settings to get things looking correctly.

But I became a bit bored with it and decided to try installing Windows 10.

Since I already had flashed the custom firmware to allow other OSes to be installed, I simply needed to create a bootable USB thumbdrive to install Windows 10. I ran the install (the instructions said that I'd need a USB keyboard for the initial install, and I used one, but I found that the built-in keyboard worked fine). I needed to install an audio driver, trackpad driver, and a keyboard remap, and all components works.

Here it is booted up in all its Windows 10 Home glory. I purchased a Win10 Home key from eBay for $5.22 and within a minute or so had Win10 activated. I installed Classic Shell to get things started.

View attachment 887867

I then proceeded to install the Brave web browser, eSword (and all of its library/resources), and MS Office 2007 Professional. After that, I cleaned up Windows, removed the bloatware, disabled some system services that I wouldn't be needed, and locked it down. In the end, I'm left with 10GB of storage available.

View attachment 887872

Performance is surprisingly good. Win10 runs better on this device than Gallium OS did... which is the surprising part. Windows 10 seems to handle the Celeron N3160 very efficiently. It's early in my testing, but battery life seems to be upward of 10 hours. Working with my apps, it feels no different than a native Windows notebook.

This has been a fun chromebook to own and tinker with.

Has anyone done something similar with their chromebooks? If so, I'd love to hear about it... what model chromebook and what was your experience running Win 10 with it. I'm always looking for tips and tricks.



FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN DOING SOMETHING SIMILAR... here are some links that might be helpful.
Here's a link that walks you through determining with chromebooks can install Windows 10:

Here's a link that walks you through installing Windows 10: (don't use the flash firmware script there, but the one from Mr Chromebox)


Here's a video showing how to remove the write-protect screw and install firmware:
Very impressive! I don't think I would do this myself but I am starting to look at the possibility of getting a Chromebook. I currently have a 2013 MBP which works well but at some point it will give up. Having become fed up with Apple's worsening quality control, prices, attitude, etc. I have recently diversified with a Samsung Galaxy S10e phone and a Samsung Galaxy Tab A.

Your advice would be most welcome on whether you think a Chromebook would suit my requirements. My needs are fairly basic: listening to Spotify / Apple Music; web surfing; email; using SmugMug and Google Photos; downloading photos from a DSLR and uploading to Smug Mug / Google Photos; banking; booking travel; filling out online forms. What are the dealbreakers that prevents a Chromebook replacing a Mac or Windows laptop for many people?

Much appreciated.

Edit: I suppose I could possibly do all this on a basic (non-Pro) iPad.
 
Last edited:
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sracer

macrumors G3
Original poster
Apr 9, 2010
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Prescott Valley, AZ
Very impressive! I don't think I would do this myself but I am starting to look at the possibility of getting a Chromebook. I currently have a 2013 MBP which works well but at some point it will give up. Having become fed up with Apple's worsening quality control, prices, attitude, etc. I have recently diversified with a Samsung Galaxy S10e phone and a Samsung Galaxy Tab A.

Your advice would be most welcome on whether you think a Chromebook would suit my requirements. My needs are fairly basic: listening to Spotify / Apple Music; web surfing; email; using SmugMug and Google Photos; downloading photos from a DSLR and uploading to Smug Mug / Google Photos; banking; booking travel; filling out online forms. What are the dealbreakers that prevents a Chromebook replacing a Mac or Windows laptop for many people?

Much appreciated.
I don't have Apple Music so I'm not sure how well that would work on a Chromebook. But there is an Android app for it and I've heard that people have had great success running it on chromebooks.

I don't have any first-hand experience with SmugMug, but there are Chrome extensions for SmugMug and an Android app for it so between those, you should be able to interact with SmugMug as you currently do.

Downloading photos from a DSLR directly might be tricky. That's another area where I don't have first hand experience with, but I suspect that it won't be easy... and some quickly googling around has confirmed that it may not be as straight-forward as it is on Windows or Mac.

Anything web-based is going to really shine on the chromebook... because the version of Chrome on chromebooks is the full desktop-strength version, not the mobile version you find on Android or iOS.

Deal-breakers are going to fall into 2 categories... apps and workflows.

If you rely on a particular piece of (Mac or Windows) software then that's a major deal breaker. For me, that is e-Sword Bible software. Although I also have Logos (which has an online version) it doesn't have the full features that their native Windows or Mac versions have.

At one time, I was using Crossover (WINE for Android/Chrome) that allowed me to install the Windows version of e-Sword on my Pixelbook. Worked adequately until a Chrome/Android update broke Crossover.

I have alternative Android and online Bible resources and I can use them in a pinch when I need to, but in no way would I want that to be my primary mode of operating.

Workflows, are in essence, a sequence of app usage and OS-based tasks. Even if you overcome the app hurdles, workflows are where you're more likely to run into a deal-breaker. And these type of deal-breakers are something you often can't discover until you actually try to work it through.

Based on what you described how you would use a chromebook, it sounds like photo work will be the deal-breaker.

Hopefully this helps narrow things down to research.

The Google Pixelbook is my "go to" Chrome OS device (which is why I can tinker with the Acer). I got a killer deal on it ($450 new) and I recommend it (at that price) to anyone serious about using Chrome OS.
 

Northern Man

macrumors 6502a
Aug 25, 2013
771
1,077
I don't have Apple Music so I'm not sure how well that would work on a Chromebook. But there is an Android app for it and I've heard that people have had great success running it on chromebooks.

I don't have any first-hand experience with SmugMug, but there are Chrome extensions for SmugMug and an Android app for it so between those, you should be able to interact with SmugMug as you currently do.

Downloading photos from a DSLR directly might be tricky. That's another area where I don't have first hand experience with, but I suspect that it won't be easy... and some quickly googling around has confirmed that it may not be as straight-forward as it is on Windows or Mac.

Anything web-based is going to really shine on the chromebook... because the version of Chrome on chromebooks is the full desktop-strength version, not the mobile version you find on Android or iOS.

Deal-breakers are going to fall into 2 categories... apps and workflows.

If you rely on a particular piece of (Mac or Windows) software then that's a major deal breaker. For me, that is e-Sword Bible software. Although I also have Logos (which has an online version) it doesn't have the full features that their native Windows or Mac versions have.

At one time, I was using Crossover (WINE for Android/Chrome) that allowed me to install the Windows version of e-Sword on my Pixelbook. Worked adequately until a Chrome/Android update broke Crossover.

I have alternative Android and online Bible resources and I can use them in a pinch when I need to, but in no way would I want that to be my primary mode of operating.

Workflows, are in essence, a sequence of app usage and OS-based tasks. Even if you overcome the app hurdles, workflows are where you're more likely to run into a deal-breaker. And these type of deal-breakers are something you often can't discover until you actually try to work it through.

Based on what you described how you would use a chromebook, it sounds like photo work will be the deal-breaker.

Hopefully this helps narrow things down to research.

The Google Pixelbook is my "go to" Chrome OS device (which is why I can tinker with the Acer). I got a killer deal on it ($450 new) and I recommend it (at that price) to anyone serious about using Chrome OS.
Great info. Many thanks. I know you swear by your 2018 basic iPad....would that do as much or more for me than a Chromebook would?
 

sracer

macrumors G3
Original poster
Apr 9, 2010
8,489
8,969
Prescott Valley, AZ
Great info. Many thanks. I know you swear by your 2018 basic iPad....would that do as much or more for me than a Chromebook would?
I think it'll handle your photo workflow better than a chromebook, and obviously work better with Apple Music, but an iPad (Pro or non) will be a step back in nearly every other aspect (again depending upon the particular things you need to do)... especially file management and USB peripheral support.

I could see an iPad + chromebook combo working well together (using something like Google Drive as a common cloud point). That combo will provide greater flexibility at a lower cost than a dedicated notebook running a desktop OS. But then that starts to get into the realm of "a step too far that results in something more complicated than the starting point". :)
 

Northern Man

macrumors 6502a
Aug 25, 2013
771
1,077
I think it'll handle your photo workflow better than a chromebook, and obviously work better with Apple Music, but an iPad (Pro or non) will be a step back in nearly every other aspect (again depending upon the particular things you need to do)... especially file management and USB peripheral support.

I could see an iPad + chromebook combo working well together (using something like Google Drive as a common cloud point). That combo will provide greater flexibility at a lower cost than a dedicated notebook running a desktop OS. But then that starts to get into the realm of "a step too far that results in something more complicated than the starting point". :)
Food for thought. Thanks very much.
 

sracer

macrumors G3
Original poster
Apr 9, 2010
8,489
8,969
Prescott Valley, AZ
I just discovered that the chromebook modding community has gotten the Google Pixelbook fully supported under Windows 10... including Pen. (apparently many of the MS Surface drivers are used). In order to get Win10 natively installed I have to remove the software-controlled write protect... that requires a special USB cable. I've got one on back-order. As soon as it comes in, I'm going to tackle it... and post my results.