I've been having a great deal of fun playing with the Acer C720 Chromebook I recently purchased. I installed Ubuntu Linux on it and it has been performing quite well. The only problem is that I ran out of hard drive space. 16gb just ain't that much, even with the vast majority of my files stored on Google Drive.

Fortunately, I discovered that you can replace the SDD. Unfortunately, doing so voids the warranty. But one of the great things about Chromebooks is that they are so cheap. If I do irreparable harm to it, I can just get a new one (as long as I don't do that too often.

The C720 uses a NGFF (next generation form factor) solid state drive, which is a relatively new technology. That means that there aren't a huge number of options to purchase a replacement drive. Fortunately, they are relatively affordable. I used this one from Amazon, which cost $59.99 for 64gb. There is a 128gb version available, but I can't imagine ever using that much space given how I use computers. I was very surprised at how small the hard drive was. Here is a picture of it next to an SD card for perspective.

SSD size comparison

Creating a recovery disk for ChromeOS

For this step, you will need either a USB drive or an SD drive with at least 4gb of space available. Please note that a 4gb drive or card likely has less than 4gb of space actually available, so you will probably need one of at least 8gb. Please note that this process will wipe all data from the card that is used.

Open a Chrome tab and go to chrome://imageburner while making sure that your USB driver or SD card is not inserted. Follow the on-screen instructions to easily make your recovery disk.

Replacing the SSD

In order to replace the hard drive, you need to remove the cover from the bottom of the computer. Turn the power off, unplug it, and flip it over. There are a total of 11 small Phillips-head screws securing the case to the rest of the computer. One of them has a sticker over it. If you break the sticker (in order to remove the screw), your warranty will be void. Some people have reported that they were very carefully able to remove the sticker without damaging it. I am not that good.

Warranty sticker

After removing all 11 screws, you will need to undo the snaps that also serve to keep the case attached. Using a small flat-head screwdriver (or something similar), gently pry open the case in one spot. I started from the center of the back side of the computer, in betwem the hinges. After using the tool to pry it partially open, you should be able to undo the rest of the snaps gently using your fingers. After getting it off, this is what you will see.

Chromebook innards

The red oval in the picture above highlights the location of the SSD. Again, as you can see, it is very small. There is one more screw securing it in place that you need to remove. It is located on the "bottom" side of the SSD in this picture.

Final screw

Once you've removed that screw, simply slide the SSD out gently, and slide the new one into place. If you get the same SSD as me, the side with the sticker will need to be visible after the SSD is inserted (as in the picture above). Now replace the screw to secure the SSD in place, replace the case, snap it shut around all the edges, and replace the 11 screws to finish attaching the case.

Restoring ChromeOS

After turning your Chromebook back on, you will get an error message saying, "ChromeOS is missing or damaged." When this appears, insert your recovery disk into the appropriate input. Follow the instructions that appear on screen. This will take a few minutes. Once the process has completed, you will get a message telling you to remove the recovery disk. Do this, and the Chromebook will automatically restart. Complete the initial sign in process, and you will be up and running!

General Thoughts

I have been extremely pleased with the results I got from swapping this drive out. After restoring ChromeOS, I had about 50gb free. That seems pretty low, but is still plenty of space for my needs. I've had no performance issues, and the laptop runs, reboots, and wakes up at lightning speed. Absolutely glad I did this!