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Quick hack: Removing the Chromebook Write-Protect screw

Robert Foss avatar

Robert Foss
March 08, 2017

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Before being able to write firmware data to any production Chromebook device, the Write-Protect screw has to be removed.

This post will look specifically at removing the WP screw from a Chell (HP Chromebook 13 G1) device, and verifying that it has been successfully removed.

To actually flash firmware to Chromebook machines, a device called a Servo is needed. While these devices aren't available publicly, they can be produced freely or possibly requested from Google if you are contributing code to the ChromiumOS project.

Removing the Write-Protect screw

WP screw on Chell Chromebook

So this is what the WP screw looks like on a Chell Chromebook. This may or may not be what you will find in other devices. But if you take a close look, you will notice that the copper pad that the the screw attaches against is split into parts that are bridged by a screw being inserted.

Disable Write-Protect

So this is the part that requires a Servo device. And a ChromiumOS checkout, for some help setting one up, have a look at my previous post.

# Go to your ChromiumOS checkout
cd /opt/chromiumos

# Enter dev environment
cros_sdk

# Set device variable
export BOARD=chell

# Connect to Chromebook using a Servo device
sudo servod -b $BOARD &

# Disable WP
# This step may vary depending on the hardware of your actual Chromebook
dut-control fw_wp:off
sudo /usr/sbin/flashrom -p ft2232_spi:type=servo-v2 --wp-disable
sudo /usr/sbin/flashrom -p ec --wp-disable

 

References

ChromiumOS Servo
Setting up a ChromiumOS dev environment

 

Thanks!

This post has been a part of work undertaken by my employer Collabora.

 

Original post

Comments (21)

  1. Michael A Hall:
    Jan 15, 2018 at 09:33 PM

    Can you replace the screw after flashing?

    Reply to this comment

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    1. Robert Foss:
      Jan 16, 2018 at 03:16 PM

      Hi Michael,

      Yes you can! As far as my experience has been, the screw only protects against writes.
      If there write have already happened, you're good.


      Rob.

      Reply to this comment

      Reply to this comment

  2. Conundrum:
    Feb 14, 2018 at 09:28 AM

    Hi, yes this is by design to prevent malware messing with the unit.
    Unfortunately it also makes repairs harder, if the uEFI gets corrupted the unit is bricked until opened, screw removed and re-flashed.
    I did look into using a "magic" SD card as a workaround, as some netbooks can be jigged using a BIOS update that enables the missing function, essentially it stores the boot sector in high memory > 2MB and provides a "boot SD" option.

    Reply to this comment

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  3. lloyd:
    Feb 22, 2018 at 04:17 PM

    where wp screw on hp chromebook 11.6 v020wm

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    1. Robert Foss:
      Mar 01, 2018 at 07:13 AM

      Hey Lloyd,

      No, unfortunately I don't have access to that hardware or documentation for it.
      If you look at the PCB the WP-screw will likely have a split exposed copper ring, which the metal screw bridges.


      Rob.

      Reply to this comment

      Reply to this comment

  4. AG:
    Feb 26, 2018 at 12:55 AM

    DO YOU KNOW WHERE IS THE write-protect screw chromebook lenovo n21 PLEASE HELP ME

    Reply to this comment

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    1. Robert Foss:
      Mar 01, 2018 at 07:13 AM

      Hey Ag,

      No, unfortunately I don't have access to that hardware or documentation for it.
      If you look at the PCB the WP-screw will likely have a split exposed copper ring, which the metal screw bridges.


      Rob.

      Reply to this comment

      Reply to this comment

  5. Gavin:
    Apr 26, 2018 at 04:43 AM

    Does anyone know where the write-protect screw is on the lenovo n23?

    Reply to this comment

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    1. Lenovo Support Number:
      Aug 08, 2018 at 06:01 AM

      It'll be the screw with the large flat chrome head, near what looks like the Wi-Fi card, with a split solder pad underneath it.

      Reply to this comment

      Reply to this comment

  6. Toshiba Bios:
    Oct 24, 2018 at 06:56 AM

    Thanks, Robert, I successfully removed the screw from the Chromebook. Things tend to get a little easier when you look around the web. Nice hack!

    Reply to this comment

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  7. HP printer in error state:
    Nov 02, 2018 at 12:23 PM

    I want to install Gallium OS on my Chromebook, but I can't find the write protect screw on my Samsung. I am not sure if there is a write-protect screw on the Samsung Chromebook 3.

    Reply to this comment

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    1. Robert Foss:
      Nov 03, 2018 at 05:30 PM

      Hey!

      Unfortunately I don't have information about other devices.

      If a WP screw exists it can be identified by the screw itself bridging two connections.


      Rob.

      Reply to this comment

      Reply to this comment

  8. Raileanu:
    Mar 05, 2019 at 01:34 AM

    Hello. Does anyone have a working bios dump for this HP Chromebook 13 G1 as mine one get corrupted and the computer doesn't power on at all now. Only charging led flashing but thats all, not even keyboard backlight. I have the device to flash the winbond x64 bios chip. Thank You.

    Reply to this comment

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    1. Robert Foss:
      Mar 05, 2019 at 03:22 PM

      Hey Raileanu,

      Unfortunately I don't have any Winbondx128 bios dumps.


      Rob.

      Reply to this comment

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  9. Raileanu:
    Mar 05, 2019 at 01:49 AM

    Sorry just want to correct that the chip is actually a Winbondx128 (16MB) not x64

    Reply to this comment

    Reply to this comment

  10. Emily:
    May 05, 2019 at 03:47 PM

    If I remove this screw would I be able to install sims on my laptop , it’s a acre chrome book 14
    It says only windows or Mac will be able to get sims but I see this might help ? Also when I download windows on it do I need the windows to be on a flash drive ? To insert at the end

    Reply to this comment

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    1. Robert Foss:
      May 06, 2019 at 04:14 PM

      Hey Emily,

      I can't answer that question with any authority, but I don't think so.

      Chromebooks are based on the Linux kernel and the ChromeOS operating systems, which
      isn't Windows or Mac. That being said, it is possible to run Windows games on Linux.
      This a feature that Steam supports for some games, so if I were you I would look into running Steam on Chromebooks.

      Reply to this comment

      Reply to this comment

  11. Antoine:
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:01 PM

    Can someone help me with write protect screw on Lenovo N23 Chromebook.

    Reply to this comment

    Reply to this comment

  12. Alex Kabujah:
    Jun 21, 2019 at 11:39 AM

    Please i have samsung chromebook XE303C12-A01US i want to locate the Write protected screw but cant find it, please help me locate it.

    thank you.

    Reply to this comment

    Reply to this comment

  13. Matt:
    Sep 12, 2019 at 03:48 AM

    I have a different chromebook but the right screw is stuck it just won't move at all. Please help.

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