Dell Chromebook 13: Upgrading the M.2 SSD

The Dell Chromebook 13 has finally started to receive discounts, and has periodically been available as a refurbished model through Dell’s online outlet store. This is great news, as the Dell 13 is arguably the best Chromebook release of 2015: click here to read my full review.

I was fortunate enough to grab one of the refurbished $279 Dell Chromebook 13’s with the Intel Core i3 5005U and 4 GB of RAM, which are also on sale new for $429.00 as of this writing. This version has even better performance than the already impressive 3205U Celeron version, while retaining the 1080p IPS display and fantastic build quality.

The Intel Core i3 processor is arguably overkill for a Chromebook, but is an excellent performer in various Linux distributions. Utilizing Crouton – which you can read about here – you can expand the capability of your Chromebook, provided you have sufficient local storage. While this version of the Dell Chromebook 13 only has 16 GB of local storage, the included M.2 42mm SSD can be easily upgraded in a few easy steps!

Before getting to the steps, you’ll need two items for this. The first is a USB Flash Drive or SD Card, while the second is an M.2 42mm SSD. I’ve used the following 128 GB drives without any issues:


 

Step 1: Create Chrome OS Restore Drive

To start, go to the Chrome Web Store and add the Chromebook Recovery Utility:

Chromebook Recovery Utility

You will need a USB Flash Drive or SD Card to complete this step, and be aware that the contents of that drive will be completely wiped when the recovery media is created.

Using the Recovery Utility, create your OS Recovery. Set this aside for later.

Step 2: Remove Bottom Screws

Turn off your Chromebook, flip it over, and grab a magnetic screw driver. To open up the case, there are 11 screws that need to be removed:

Chromebook 13 - 11 Screws

These screws are small, so be careful not to lose them, and be careful not to strip any of them during this process.

Step 3: Remove the Bottom Lid

With the screws out of the way, it is time to pop off the bottom lid. In addition to being secured by screws, the lid is also snapped into place, and needs to be gently pried off. I found easy to do from the top rear under the hinge:

Chromebook 13 - separate case

You’ll need to apply some pressure here, but don’t force anything – you don’t want to crack or bend the lid.

Step 4: Locate and Remove the SSD

With the bottom lid removed, you’ll have access to the guts of the Chromebook 13. At the top right of the device you’ll find the WiFi and M.2 SSD.

Dell Chromebook 13 - Case Removed

There’s some wiring lightly taped to the right side of the SSD. Gently lift off that tape – which is holding unrelated wiring in place – and then unscrew the single screw holding the SSD in place. That retention screw is tiny, so make sure you’re using a magnetic screwdriver.

Dell Chromebook 13 - Closeup of SSD

Slide in the new SSD into its slot, hold it down in place, and then reinsert the screw and tighten slowly. Be cautious of over-tightening this screw; you just need it to hold in place. Lightly smooth the tape back in place to the rear of the SSD, and you’ve successfully installed the new SSD.

Snap the cover back into place, then replace all the screws, and the case is put back together, good as new.

Step 5: Reinstall Chrome OS

Plug in your Chromebook’s power cable, then power up the device. You’ll get a notice that Chrome OS is missing or damaged:

Capture

Insert your USB flash drive or SD Card that you created using the Chromebook Recovery Utility, and your Chromebook will install Chrome OS on the SSD. This process takes about 5-10 minutes; once completed, you can boot into Chrome OS just like you would with a new Chromebook!

NOTE: If you’re looking to use Crouton to install a Linux distro on your Chromebook, click here for my installation guide.

For more Chromebook reviews, see below:

 

7 thoughts on “Dell Chromebook 13: Upgrading the M.2 SSD”

  1. This is awesome! I haven’t read till now of anyone posting any upgrades done on any Chromebook. I’m hoping to see an article next on doing an upgrade on the memory! Yeah I know that they weld on the memory on some of these Chromebooks, but not all. I’m hoping the author will have enough ambition to create a list of current Chromebooks that can have their memory upgraded. Now that would be worth some good tech cred!

    1. Honestly I’m not aware of any Chromebooks from the past two years that don’t have the RAM soldered on. I wish that weren’t the case. It isn’t true of Chromeboxes, but it is with Chromebooks; this isn’t uncommon for laptops these days, of course.

  2. This is probably my next upgrade for this Chromebook, good to know that it works well.

    However, I do have to ask if you ever figured out how to fix the graphics bugs in Crouton for the broadwell version? The issue has been plaguing my Chromebook the whole time I’ve had it, constantly had to reinstall crouton every 3 weeks or so in order to keep things somewhat stable. It’s pretty annoying and it’s probably the only thing that ruins the whole experience for me.

    1. I installed XFCE 14.04 on my Dell i3 and it was an unstable mess. Wiped that and installed Unity 14.04, which has been better, but had issues with missing text not rendering for some reason. I just googled solutions and eventually one of them worked, and all appears stable now.

  3. I know this is an old post, but I have a quick question. I plan on getting the celeron version of this chromebook and updating it to either 64gb or 128 gb ssd. When you swapped them out and rebooted did you notice any issues with the back lit keyboard? I’ve seen a few people mention that once they switched the lights stopped working. Also, this is a dumb question but I don’t HAVE to install crouton do I? I just want extra local space for my music and videos . Thanks. 🙂

    1. Hey, sorry for the delay in response, I’ve been swamped with work the past few months. With regard to your questions, I did not have any issues at all with the backlight in the keyboard. And no, you don’t have to install Crouton, it just happens to be a great way to make use of that extra space. I was just playing Darkest Dungeon on my Dell 13 over the weekend, thanks to Crouton.

      1. No worries. Thanks for responding. 🙂 hopefully I’ll have this sooner than later. I’ll look into crouton too. Thanks.

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