Sunday, 12 December 2021

Linux on the Acer SW3 laptop/tablet

 This machine is the Acer SW3 which is an old tablet PC. It came with Windows 10 32-bit and has a 32Gb internal EMMC storage.

Unfortunately, following many Windows updates, Windows no longer fits in the 32Gb storage and I can't find anything more that can be deleted. Windows won't update and has critical vulnerabilities; new software won't install (there is little space anyway) and Windows is very slow.

So I decided the only way to use the machine was to install Linux.

This is not easy, as in 2021 finding a 32-bit Linux distribution is tricky. But Debian still works.


So I put the installer on a usb stick and tried to install. Getting it to boot was the first hurdle - but solved eventually.

The BIOS on this machine is absolutely terrible. After much experimentation:

  • The BIOS ignores most of the EFI spec and will only boot Windows Boot Manager from the internal EMMC
  • It largely ignores the EFI boot table, and just does its own thing.
  • The BIOS setup program (Press F2 to activate) is graphical and does not have many useful keyboard shortcuts - so the only way is to use the mouse (or built-in touchscreen)

 I have *eventually* got it to boot Debian from the emmc after looking at this page


I copied the EFI boot files from their normal directory (EFI/debian) to where Windows puts them (EFI/Microsoft/Boot) and renamed shimia32.efi to bootmgfw.efi (the Windows loader) - then the BIOS just blindly loads it anyway.


So far:

 * Wifi is ok

* Touchscreen works

* There seems to be no sound.


Needless to say, this machine is VERY slow and old, web browsing is possible but requires some patience. Videos play with a little skipping.