Repurposing an old Chromebook


Several years – four, maybe – I purchased an Acer C7 Chromebook and got all crazy with the Google Apps stuff. It was the perfect low-cost device for my needs – access to the internet, my blog, school work, social media, etc. It ran like a charm for at least the first two years.

Then it started to slooooooooooow dooooooooooown.

Loading web pages became a hassle. Constantly closing crashed browser tabs. Click and wait. And wait some more. And, unfortunately, there wasn’t a defrag utility (that I am aware of) so I started to shy away from using it on a day-to-day basis.

I always knew that I could switch over to Ubuntu, since the Chromebook runs on Linux-based Chrome OS. But up until this week I had never taken the plunge.

A recent uptick in web design and freelance tech gigs had me wishing that I had my fast, light laptop back in action so I checked out Lifehacker for instructions. Turns out they have a full write-up on the process. It turned out to be incredibly simple to switch over thanks to the Crouton tool. I ended up choosing the XFCE flavor of Ubuntu since my C7 seems to prefer a lighter desktop. A quick refresher on terminal commands later, I was installing packages like Kate (text editor), Filezilla (FTP), Synapse (app launcher), Git (version control), and the Chromium browser. I really couldn’t be more satisfied with how it turned out. The only downside is that after a reboot I’ve got to load Chrome OS and start up XFCE from the shell to get back in, but whatever.

I may try the Unity desktop in a bit, but for now my main focus is mastering the terminal and Git.

It’s nice to know that for less than $200 people can get their hands on a laptop that, for one, will last at least a few years. Family members bought my daughter a $200 Windows laptop from Walmart and frankly it was a piece of garbage…laggy from day one. My Chromebook really didn’t have any issues for the first two, maybe two and a half years. And second, it’s nice to know that you can resurrect a laggy Chromebook by throwing Ubuntu on it. Frankly, if I had known how nice Ubuntu was a few years back, I probably would have just switched over anyway.

Have you done the same? Have any tips or tricks for a Ubuntu noob? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know what works best for you.