How to Install Windows 8 on Your Google Chromebook Pixel

Discussion in 'General Tutorials' started by PityOnU, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. PityOnU
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    Member PityOnU GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Contents


    Abstract

    In this tutorial, I will walk you through installing Windows 8 onto your Google Chromebook Pixel. This guide is significant in that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done this before (at least anywhere on the internet). This guide will also allow you to take a device that was previously only able to browse the web and turn it into a high-end ultrabook capable of running desktop applications and light games. As the top end Pixel is selling for $750 new on eBay at the time of writing, this is significant for consumers who want a nice and portable piece of equipment while still sticking to a budget.


    Motivation

    I had originally received my 64GB LTE Pixel when I attended Google I/O 2013. Although I was very impressed with the hardware, I felt that the Chrome operating system was restricting the capabilities of an otherwise incredible machine. Because of this, I deciding to ditch Chrome and load a more capable OS onto the device.

    Although there are multiple guides on the internet discussing how to hack/sideload/install different varieties of Linux onto the device, there were none showing how to load Windows onto the device, or if it was indeed even possible. As the majority of the applications I use every day do not run on Linux (such as IE, Office, and Photoshop), and as I am much more comfortable in a Windows environment (Full disclosure: I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), I decided to do some pioneering into previously unknown territory.

    About the time I was doing this, I noticed that this site (GBATemp) was running a contest for best text tutorial. So, at that point, I figured "What the heck, let's do it."


    Background Information

    The Chromebook Pixel was released by Google in February 2013. The device features and Intel i5-3427U dual-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz, 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, and either a 32 or 64GB SSD. The 64GB model retails for $1449 and includes an LTE modem, as compared to the 32GB model at $1299. Both models include a memory card reader, two USB ports, a mini DisplayPort out, a/b/g/n wireless, and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity. Of note is the Pixel's 12.85 inch, 2560x1700 display, which features a somewhat different 3:2 aspect ratio. You get used to the odd aspect ratio pretty quickly, especially since it looks flat-out fantastic.

    As a Chromebook, the Pixel features Google’s Chrome operating system, which is essentially just the Chrome browser. Features have been added over time, but Chrome OS remains little more than a dedicated browser.

    Chromebooks traditionally feature secure boot technology from Google, meaning that the device will not boot beyond the firmware level if it does not detect a Google-signed version of the Chrome OS installed on the HDD/SSD. This means that most Chromebooks cannot be made to run anything other than the Chrome OS, no matter what PC-grade hardware they are running underneath.

    Luckily for us, the Pixel is unique among Chromebooks in that it has an extra, unsecured firmware slot on the board. By default, this firmware slot is loaded with SeaBIOS, an open-source, traditional BIOS implementation. With the proper modifications, this BIOS can be chain loaded from the default firmware, and then used to load whatever operating system you would like. In this guide, this operating system happens to be Windows 8.


    Preparing Your Pixel

    Before you can install and boot any operating system other than the Google Chrome OS on your Pixel, you need to enable unsecured, legacy booting in the firmware. And before you can do that, you need to switch your Chromebook Pixel into "Developer Mode". To do this, follow these steps:

    “Enabling Developer Mode"

    Your Pixel will now sit there whirring and grinding for a few minutes in order to enable developer mode. Once your device is booted in developer mode, you can access a root-level bash terminal to tweak some settings. In order to accomplish this, follow these steps:

    “Entering a Root Shell"

    You should now be inside of a root bash shell. Feel free to poke and prod the system - there are plenty of interesting things to mess with. When you're done messing around, though, let's enable some settings in the Pixel's firmware to allow us to boot the WIndows 8 installer.

    “Enabling Legacy USB Boot"

    This command will both enable your Pixel to boot from a USB device, and to boot using it's unsecured firmware (SeaBIOS) slot. Now we can officially boot into the Windows installer! But wait, there's no DVD drive on the Pixel...


    Making a Windows USB Installer

    Since your Pixel doesn't have a DVD drive, you will need to install Windows via a USB drive. There are numerous guides around the internet detailing how to do this, but many require special tools that may or may not still work. Below I will walk you through a method to create a bootable Windows installer USB flash drive that requires nothing more than another working Windows machine, the Windows install disk, and a USB drive large enough for the install files.

    “Create A Windows Install USB Disk"


    Installing Windows on the Device

    Okay, by now you should have yourself a Chromebook Pixel in developer mode with legacy and USB boot enabled, as well as a Windows 8 install USB drive. To install Windows on your Pixel, follow these steps:

    “Installing Windows on Your Pixel"


    First Boot

    After the Windows installer has completed, your system will reboot. When once again greeted with the scary Google warning screen, press Ctrl+L to boot via the BIOS and into Windows. YOU MUST DO THIS EVERY TIME FROM NOW ON.

    Windows will boot and you will be greeted with a friendly blue… what? A friendly blue rectangle on the left hand side of your screen. This can’t be right!

    This friendly blue rectangle is actually the first boot welcome screen for Windows 8. The reason that it is smashed into the left ¼ of your screen is because although Windows 8 comes with a driver for your HD 4000 graphics, and correctly detects your display resolution of 2560x1700, Intel did not test the driver for such crazy display densities before they released it and it is buggy!

    In order to be able to actually get into Windows to do anything, we need to work around this. Follow these steps:

    “Forcing Generic VGA Drivers"


    Installing Drivers

    Now that you have finally made it to the Windows desktop, don’t forget to input your personal, legit product key and activate it – otherwise all of your attempts at running Windows Update will fail (I spent far too long wondering why nothing would update when I first started messing with Windows 8).

    As with any new Windows install, we now need to go and get all of our updated drivers, especially the one for the HD 4000 graphics so it can drive the display properly. Let me save you some time, though! Windows Update will get most of your drivers for you automatically, so just focus on getting one driver – the one for your wireless card.

    This can be done fairly easily. Go into device manager and get the hardware ID of your wireless card (PCI\VEN_168C&DEV_0034) and search it on the Microsoft Update Catalog. This should return you a list of Microsoft verified drivers for that device. Just so you know, it’s an Atheros AR5BMD222 Wireless Network adapter.

    Download the .cab file from the site containing the driver you want, extract the files from it, and transfer them to the Pixel. You can then update the device drivers of the unknown Networking device by using Computer Management.

    After you have your wireless card up and running, and are connected to a wireless network, go ahead and run Windows Update. It should pull down your new Intel HD 4000 Graphics driver, which can push the native resolution of your display just fine! I would suggest 200% scaling, though, because everything in desktop mode will now be incredibly tiny. Don't forget to disable Windows from booting in 800x600 resolution by running "bcdedit /deletevalue {default} vga" from an Administrative command prompt.


    Caveats

    Having reached this point, you are probably starting to realize there are a few caveats with using Windows 8 on the Pixel right now:

    “Pixel Issues"

    Issues 1, 2, and 3 stem from the fact that all input methods on the device are hanging off of the proprietary (only in Chromebooks) Google embedded controller (or GoogleEC for short). In Device Management, this would be the Unknown device with hardware ID "ACPI\VEN_GGL&DEV_0002". There is currently NO DRIVER available for Windows that will allow it to interface correctly with this device.

    Issue 4 stems from the unique way in which Google handles their Trusted Platform Module (TPM) on the Pixel. There is a known fix for this on Linux, but I have yet to determine an equivalent operation on Windows.

    Issues 5, 6, and 7 stem from what I’m assuming are non-standard hardware interfaces used by the Pixel.


    Future Work

    Solve the issues in the caveats section.

    For issues 1, 2, and 3, I have begun to petition developers at Google for resources related to the GoogleEC in order to perhaps develop a Windows Kernel Mode driver to interface with the device. You can follow all the progress, petition for more help, or ask your own questions in this thread on Google Groups.

    Issue 4 seems to be related to how the Chromebook handles power management. If I can simply find a way to make the software ignore shutdown requests from the firmware, then I believe this would cease to be an issue. The equivalent fix for Linux is mentioned here.

    Issue 5, 6, and 7 will need to be addressed, but likely after the previous 4, so I haven’t put much thought into them yet. The audio problem seems to stem from the fact that there is no specific driver install for the audio controller. Although the audio controller identifies as being as being a Creative SoundBlaster card, none of the drivers I have yet tried have worked correctly.

    If you have any questions, comments, feedback, suggestions or otherwise, please post it either in this thread or in the one on Google Groups. Your help and insight could one day lead to the Pixel playing perfectly with Windows!


    About the Author

    The author of this tutorial has a Bachelors of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, where he is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in the same field. The author also holds a number of Microsoft certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator, and Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist for Windows 7, as well as the CompTIA Network+ certification.
     


  2. Matthew Rhodes

    Newcomer Matthew Rhodes Newbie

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    Thanks, I just wanted a Windows install to play CIV V Brave New World when it comes out nothing important. At the moment it looks like I will have to use my Ubuntu install using onlive through wine to play it.
     
  3. PityOnU
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    Member PityOnU GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Yeah, sorry I couldn't get more working. It's actually pretty infuriating that such an awesome device is (for the moment) almost completely crippled by lack of driver support.
     
  4. PLJ

    Newcomer PLJ Newbie

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    Yessssss. Think a USB Xbox controler would work?
     
  5. Crystal the Glaceon

    Member Crystal the Glaceon GBATemp's Official Waifu™ ʚ♡⃛ɞ(ू•ᴗ•ू❁)

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    Just kinda wondering, why not just buy a Windows laptop? You can buy an Acer laptop with pretty much the same hardware including the touchscreen for less than half the price of the Google Pixel.
    This just seems to defeat the purpose of owning a Chromebook.
     
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  6. Joe88

    Member Joe88 [λ]

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    this is mainly catered for people who got one free at the past i/o confrence, I just cant see a person spending $1300 on this thing
     
  7. PityOnU
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    Member PityOnU GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Yup, no problem. It's Windows, mate.

    Yeah... So yeah that's a Chromebook Pixel for you. Great job on cornering that market, Google. If you read the abstract section, though, you can see that these are going for about $750 on eBay, though, so if someone (or me) can get Windows running well on the thing it's a pretty interesting piece of kit to have at a reasonable price.

    So yeah I'm pretty sure that those are the only people that actually own one of these things.
     
  8. Crystal the Glaceon

    Member Crystal the Glaceon GBATemp's Official Waifu™ ʚ♡⃛ɞ(ू•ᴗ•ू❁)

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    Just wondering, can you make a guide to installing Linux on it, like say Fedora or Gentoo (Or sabayon, which is Gentoo based) or would this guide work for Linux as well?

    Fair enough, it does look like a pretty nice piece of hardware and worth messing around with.
    I didn't see it in there (It's still pretty early, my mind isn't awake yet) but does this still work with the touchscreen?
     
  9. PityOnU
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    Member PityOnU GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    There are already numerous guides around the internet on how to do that. Some can actually work side-by-side with Chrome, making the install pretty simple. If you read this link in the future posts section, you will see that Mr. Torvalds actually very much likes his Google Pixel, and has been actively patching the Linux kernel to play well with the device. Because of this, I imagine bleeding edge distros such as Fedora would run rather well on it.

    From the caveats section:

    1. Your keyboard won’t work.
    2. Your touchpad won’t work.
    3. Your touchscreen won’t work.
    4. The system sometimes powers off instead of going into standby.
    5. You have no battery indicator.
    6. You cannot adjust screen brightness.
    7. You cannot adjust the audio level.
     
  10. Crystal the Glaceon

    Member Crystal the Glaceon GBATemp's Official Waifu™ ʚ♡⃛ɞ(ू•ᴗ•ू❁)

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    Wow, I really hope there is a fix for that because the first 2 are rather important to using your computer.
     
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  11. PityOnU
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    Member PityOnU GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Most Chromebooks will not run anything other than Chrome OS without hardware modifications. Do your research before buying.

    1-3 are because Google has those devices dangling off of a bespoke embedded controller, and Windows doesn't know how to handle it. There are open source drivers for Linux, but no one has yet compiled one for Windows.
     
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  12. Crystal the Glaceon

    Member Crystal the Glaceon GBATemp's Official Waifu™ ʚ♡⃛ɞ(ू•ᴗ•ू❁)

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    Ah, hopefully someone works on that. ^_^
     
  13. Matthew Rhodes

    Newcomer Matthew Rhodes Newbie

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    I am one of those people who actually bought a Chromebook Pixel. Had my new computer saved up money and thought I give it a go. Love using Chrome OS and the 1tb of drive space and find it great to work on. Been playing civ using onlive via crouton and external ubuntu boot and it actually works great. Thought would be nice if I could install Windows in working order on the pixel as I show no OS loyalty. Im guessing Google has bigger intentions for this laptop later on, maybe android apps?
     
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  14. PityOnU
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    Really? Wow. That's honestly quite surprising.

    I will say, though, I really enjoy the design of the hardware. If only these no BS, minimalistic designs were more popular. It's beautiful and functional.

    Out of curiosity, though, what made you choose the Pixel over something like the Dell XPS 13? A regular PC is much more flexible due to the driver support, whereas you really have to jump through a ton of hoops with the Pixel.
     
  15. Matthew Rhodes

    Newcomer Matthew Rhodes Newbie

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    Me and my wife sold our iMac to get a laptop each as we both started working from home. She went for a Macbook air as doesn't like change and thinks Apple is wonderful. I was going to get an Apple too as would do the same as with old one and dual boot, windows and OSX so I could then play games with Windows. However Pixel came out and I liked what I read and seen. Tall screen, loads pixels, really quick and 1tb drive space. Yes I could of got a cheaper Windows Machine with same specs and every thing works ish but the laptops don't look as nice and it just seemed a dull option. I'm an amateur to you when it comes to computers but I know 1% more then most and with Windows and Apple computers I am constantly helping people fix stupid mistake they make on there computers and believe something like this but cheaper is what most people need.
    Anyway with persistence you can get round most things and have fun doing it.
    PS isn't Chrome supposed to be super secure compared to other OS?
     
  16. PityOnU
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    Member PityOnU GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Hm. Well each to his (or her) own, you know?

    Yeah, I actually like the aspect ratio. Keeps the footprint small, but allows for maximum viewing area (h*w and all that), a spacious keyboard, and a big trackpad.

    I would certainly agree with you there. And just because I have certifications, don't think I'm a guru or something! All it means is that I read a bunch of books and paid to take the tests. You sound as if you are more than competent with this stuff. :)

    Eh... that's debatable. There's going to be security flaws in any OS nowadays, it just comes down to how many people are going to try and exploit them. With Chrome OS, since it has such a small market share, it probably is more secure than other operating systems just because very few people would think to target it. Just like it was with Firefox vs. IE back in the day.
     
  17. Matthew Rhodes

    Newcomer Matthew Rhodes Newbie

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    So in a nutshell,

    Why buy a Chromebook Pixel and install Windows, Ubuntu or whatever else?

    because,

    1. you were given it free
    2. you just cant help yourself
     
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  18. loco365

    Member loco365 GBAtemp Guru

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    Here's a cool little tool I used on my desktop to upgrade it to Windows 7 when my disc drive failed. It's a tool by Microsoft that takes an ISO and formats a USB, then adds the ISO contents to it similar to a legit installer disc. I read that it is also compatible with Windows 8 ISOs as well. It'd make the process a little easier.

    http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/html/pbPage.Help_Win7_usbdvd_dwnTool
     
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  19. PityOnU
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    Member PityOnU GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Cool! I had tried tools from them in the past for doing the same thing, but I seem to recall it asking for your purchase code or something before it would start. Perhaps I dismissed it too quickly.

    I'd give it a go, but it requires .NET framework 2.0, and I'm on Windows 8 so I'd have to download and install the whole thing. I'm trying to avoid that for security reasons.

    Anyone else can feel free to chime in, though!
     
  20. loco365

    Member loco365 GBAtemp Guru

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    You should be able to run it with the latest .NET framework.
     
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