Onhub Google

Google’s OnHub Router Runs A Lightweight Chromium Build

October 9, 2015 - Written By Fernando Bonilla

Google’s OnHub wireless router may be more than what it seems. It turns out the machine is perhaps the most unique Chromebook created to date. Expoitee.rs’s modders set out on a mission to root the router and found some interesting results. Not only did they succeed in rooting the OnHub, they were the first to discover that Google installed a version of its lightweight Chromium operating system to power it. Google’s blue cylinder wasn’t very well explained, but now that it’s been rooted, its inner workings have been pretty thoroughly investigated.

Google designed the OnHub to run a heavily modified version of the OS it offers on its branded laptops. The OnHub doesn’t have a screen, so of course it isn’t something you can observe before getting deep into how the router operates. Google’s changes to Chromium OS allows the OnHub to act like the router it is and not like the portable computer it was derived from. However, the adjustments were not enough as to completely refigure the operating system, making it possible for the modders to recognize the device’s eMMC and recovery image. After that, it was a relatively simple process to root the OnHub. Using their expertise in reverse engineering, the team mapped out how they handled the unusual case, though the process was made easier due to the modders’ previous attempts to gain root access to Chromebooks. The steps taken include flipping a hidden switch which then gives the users access to the device’s developer mode and eventually root access to the OnHub.

Having the device rooted is a welcome sign for those frustrated with some of the router’s functions. For example, Google did not enable a USB that the OnHub has built-in. The tech giant also left a radio unusable. With access to the device’s inner processes, it is possible that these abilities will be added to the OnHub, which for some users can significantly increase the positive experience of using it. It is possible specialized ROMs could be created for the device, which may offer additional alterations. Google’s ability to redesign some aspects of its Chromium OS, traditionally used for only complete computers, in order to fit the specifications of its new router seems impressive. The software company is certainly using its knowledge effectively to enter new territories and markets.