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The Mac mini family was first introduced in January of 2005.

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Installing ChromeOS Flex on a Mac mini with dual SSD drives

This post is about installing ChromeOS Flex on a Mac mini with dual SSD drives and how to somehow pick the target drive manually.

I successfully installed ChromeOS Flex on a four-core Mac mini Intel Core i7. This OS will run on almost any 64-bit PC or Mac hardware. It even works very well on my ancient but heavily upgraded Mid 2007 Core2Duo iMac, because after all that is an AMD64-based machine too. That is not the issue here and I have no complaints about how ChromeOS works. It is what it is and that’s just fine, and if you don’t like it then there are many other fine operating systems out there. I like ChromeOS quite a lot because it is so simple, secure and wicked fast.

ChromeOS has ONE MAJOR FLAW, however, and it is really serious and also remarkably stupid. Unlike almost every other operating system that has ever existed in the world, yes, even the Devil’s own OS, Windows, the ChromeOS installer DOES NOT let you pick which hard drive or partition you want to use! If you proceed, and your computer has only a single internal SSD or hard drive, the installer will simply erase that and wipe out any partitions and destroy every bit of information you may have on it and greedily, ruthlessly, gobble up the entire drive. And, of course, unlike every other OS, it won’t let you use external drives either.

In addition, ChromeOS uses a very funky partitioning scheme that not even the best Linux, Windows or Mac partitioning tools can handle properly. It uses a number of overlapping, unknown, home made, nonstandard partitions and other crazy things just to be extremely difficult. And while it is possible to clone a ChromeOS drive (and I have done it) it is not at all easy. Google REALLY does not want you to be free and will not allow you to make your own choices.

To make things a little clearer, below is the original drive configuration of that computer:

disk0 / APPLE SSD / Lower / SM 128E. This is an SSD made by Samsung.

disk1 / APPLE HDD / Upper / 1 TB HTS… and then some long and tedious number or other. This is a hard drive made by Hitachi.

These two form a logical “Hybrid Drive” that may have been a good idea in the summer of 2012 but a ridiculous thing today.

Now, when I installed ChromeOS Flex on this Mac mini, for some reason the installer picked the much slower disk1, wiped it squeaky clean and took it over. This worked very well, but the installer did not even bother to ask: “Now then, citizen, dear customer, do you want to use disk1 or disk0 for ChromeOS? Or perhaps some external drive of your choice?” Oh, nooooooo…. Freedom of choice… We can’t have that, can we?

This disk1 is a regular, old style, very worn, mechanical, spinning 1 TB Hitachi hard drive, and it’s in the “upper” and almost inaccessible slot, the drive bay closest to the Mac mini’s metal enclosure… but the lower drive when you see it from the perspective of most of us. To pull out disk1 you have to basically disassemble the whole Mac mini and even pull out the logic board. It is below the more accessible disk0, the drive bay that is located directly under the metal antenna plate and in this case holds a 128 GB Samsung SSD drive… This is the “lower” slot…

OK, so finally, after all this talking (and I apologize for boring you numb and senseless with my dreary blah), here is my absolutely fascinating question to you. Do any of you good people out there in the known universe happen to know how ChromeOS auto-magically picks the install drive? (And if there is a way to manually FORCE it to use either disk.) Why did it grab the slow disk1 and not the much faster disk0 in this case?

I will replace the old Hitachi hard drive and install a new SSD there as disk1, or move the existing 128 GB SSD to this position. Will the ChromeOS installer pick disk1 again or will it use disk0?

It will be interesting to see what your responses will be. I am very thankful for any advice or information you might have. :D

Thanks in advance!

skjell, new member

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Sadly, the Fusion Drive config is not setup for alternative OS’s as the two drives are seen as a single logical drive from within the macOS.

The only way I can see this working is to setup an external drive for Chrome OS.

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Thanks for your response. No, that is incorrect and also not the topic of my question. The Fusion Drive in the Mac mini consists of two separate drives: a dog slow 1 TB Hitachi mechanical drive and a much zippier 128 GB Samsung SSD. They are “fused” through software and appear as one volume in the Finder. I thought had explained it all in sufficient detail in my initial post.

It is very easy to turn the Fusion Drive into two separate drives just as you can build a software RAID using a number of hard drives or SSDs. In fact the Fusion Drive in the Mac mini Late 2012 may be classified as mini-RAID device.

Please read my question again. Perhaps you didn’t read the whole piece? (I don’t blame you.) The laser-like focus of my query is not how a Fusion Drive works on the Mac or how to split or join (rebuild, re-fuse) it. That’s easy. I can accomplish that myself in less than five minutes with a few simple terminal commands.

My question is how, through what software mechanism, the ChromeOS picks disk0, 1, 2, 3 etc as viable install disks, and also the reason why it will only allow internal hardware, will wipe one of the drives (and let you guess which one!), and won’t let you decide which internal or external drive or partition a system disks.

It is currently impossible to install ChromeOS Flex on an external USB C, USB 3 or Firewire 800 drive of your choosing, or why not a virtual machine on a server though all of these of those options would be really interesting. I mentioned that also in my initial post. Currently at least, Google will not allow external system disks all because… reasons.

It is, however, quite difficult but possible to install ChromeOS Flex on an internal drive, and then use powerful tools such as Clonezilla Live and clone directly to an external SSD or create an image file of the whole system disk.

I would like to create a full functioning. external ChromeOS Flex install and use it as an external, bootable, portable, lightweight Thunderbolt, USB C or 3 universal system drive. I have done just that using Clonezilla and it was almost impossible but definitely doable.

However that is not exactly what I want to do this time. I simply want to find out how Google’s secretive installer grabs the drive on which it wants to install ChromeOS, If at all possible, force it to install on disk0, disk1, disk2 and so on or an external drive with the help of terminal hacks or similar. That is what I want to discover.


@skjell - You left that detail out! So I had to assume you had a Fusion Drive setup as it also wasn’t clear what you had for hardware. While you talked about a 2007 Mac Mini and being able to install ChromeOS on it we don’t know which of the many different versions of Mac Mini you are working with here.

So yes! One can break the Fusion Drive set and leverage each of the discrete drives. The size of the drive you want to use as the primary then becomes a concern as a 128GB drive running most of todays mid-tier apps just within a fully dedicated 128GB drive is just at the limit. So now you want to add in a second OS. There is a second factor here as well as the storage space can often be used as Virtual RAM if the systems physical RAM is to low for the task.

So let’s cut to the chase here what is the exact model we are talking about as well as what is the goal? To have a dedicated ChromeOS or a dual OS setup with both macOS and ChromeOS accessible?

To answer which drive is used gets tricky! The blessed drive is typically chosen as it’s assumed to replace the current OS. This also gets into the available space on the drive. So you would need to free up space to add in a new partition for that other OS. If the OS installer is not able to alter the size of the current OS or just will take the entire drive (partition) over.


That is not at all relevant to this case and I believe I have already included all the necessary details and a lot more. I am not about to repeat that all over again. Go back and read the thread again if you want, otherwise forget it. The real question is simply this: will the ChromeOS installer always use disk0, the first drive in the SATA chain, and is there some way to *make it* use a certain drive of your own choice, such as an internal or external SSD.


@skjell - I gave you the answer with what you offered. I read your question and comment quite a few times as I got lost within the lack of clarity in the core details.

> Which system (you has selected MacBook not Mac Mini)

> The exact system in this series which you appear unwilling to tell us. You had commented on an Older 2007 but you also implied it was not this system. Leaving it very grey.

> We still don’t know if you are trying to setup a dual OS system.

So help us help you!


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