How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

Do you need Skype on your Chromebook? Do you miss not having access to games through Steam? Are you pining to use VLC Media Player? Then start using Linux on your Chromebook.

Installing a traditional Linux environment on your Chromebook is a quick and easy way to unlock your machine’s true potential and improve its functionality.

Chromebooks have been getting a lot of news coverage recently – their market share has been expanding rapidly and many onlookers now predict they are set to become one of the best-selling gadgets of 2014. They are not perfect for everyone though, their inherent online functionality frustrates some users, the ongoing Google vs Microsoft war means no native Skype app, and the media player isn’t well-endowed with features.

Luckily, because the Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system, users can install an alternative Linux environment and get a fully-fledged Linux desktop on their Chromebooks. Before you start please be aware that if you have a ARM-based machine, several Linux apps (including Skype) will not work, as they are only designed to run on Intel architecture.

Skype on Chromebookv3 640x359   How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

There are two main ways to install a traditional Linux environment on your device, either in a dual-boot environment using ChrUbuntu, or in a chroot environment using Crouton. Both methods are relatively painless to undertake, and this article will provide a simple step-by-step guide on how to install them, whilst also looking at their advantages and disadvantages.

Putting a Chromebook into Developer Mode

Both methods of installation first require you to put your Chromebook into ‘Developer Mode’. This is a special function built into Chromebooks which, amongst other things, allows you to boot an unapproved operating system.

A few words of caution before progressing. Firstly, putting your device into Developer Mode will wipe all locally stored data, so please ensure you have made adequate backups of everything important. Secondly, you are removing an important level of Chromebook’s security, as the machine will no-longer verify or authenticate the Chrome OS on start-up, which could leave you open to potential attacks. Finally, remember any modifications you make are not supported by Google and may void your warranty.

The method for putting your Chromebook into Developer Mode varies depending on the make and model of the machine. Older Chromebooks have a simple physical switch underneath the battery, however, newer versions do not have a removable battery and thus require you follow these steps:

  1. Hold down the Esc+Refresh, and whilst keeping them pressed, hit the power button. Once the computer restarts you will be in ‘Recovery Mode’.
  2. Press Ctrl+D, which will bring up a prompt asking if you want to enter Developer Mode. Press Enter to proceed.
  3. The Chromebook will start initialising Developer Mode – this may take some time.
  4. When the setup is complete you will be faced with a screen that displays an exclamation mark and the phrase ‘OS verification is OFF’. From now on you will see this screen every time you turn on your Chromebook. If you wait 30 seconds your Chromebook will start automatically, or you can press Ctrl+D to boot immediately.

ChromeOS verification off 640x480   How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

How to Dual-Boot a Chromebook Using ChrUbuntu

ChrUbuntu can be installed either directly onto the local memory or onto a removable disk, such as a USB stick or external hard-drive. Some users have reported problems with installing it onto a removable disk, so in this guide we will focus on repartitioning the local hard-drive and using ChrUbuntu to install a new Linux environment directly onto your Chromebook. If you want to try installing ChrUbuntu on an external disk, head to the developer’s website and follow his instructions.

The method below only works for the newer Haswell-based Chromebook models. It is not advisable to use ChrUbuntu if you have an ARM-based machine, though the developer does offer a solution for ARM-based devices. However, the performance on these models is poor as a result of the slower processor speeds and limited RAM. If you have an ARM-based machine, you will see better results by using the Crouton method as described further down the page.

Be aware that when using ChrUbuntu you cannot switch between the two operating systems without rebooting your machine, and if installed locally, the removal of the new environment will require a full system recovery.

Let’s have a look at how to install ChrUbuntu. Please make sure you have enabled Developer Mode and you are connected to a Wi-Fi network before starting.

  1. Turn on your Chromebook, but do not enter your details when presented with the login screen. Instead press Ctrl+Alt+Forward.
  2. Type Chronos and press Enter
  3. Type curl -L -O http://goo.gl/9sgchs; sudo bash 9sgchs and press Enter.
  4. You will see some on-screen information about the installation that is about to take place. Press Enter.
  5. You will be asked to decide how much of your Chromebook’s local memory you want to use for Linux. The developer recommends no more than 9 GB. Press Enter.
  6. The repartitioning of your hard-drive will then take place. Upon completion you will be returned to the Chrome OS login screen, again, do not enter your details.
  7. Repeat steps 1 to 4.
  8. The installation will start. Every time you see an on-screen prompt, select the default option. Important – towards the end of the installation you will be prompted to choose where GRUB should be installed, please ensure you choose /dev/sda, failure to do so will cause the installation to fail.
  9. Reboot when prompted to complete the installation.

Once the installation has finished, you will be returned to the screen saying ‘OS Verification is OFF’. Simply press Ctrl+L to boot into Linux, or Ctrl+D to boot into Chrome.

Note: Power users can use the shell to see what other versions of Ubuntu are available by entering curl -L -O http://goo.gl/9sgchs; sudo bash 9sgchs -h at the second time of entering the command.

Removing ChrUbuntu

If you have installed ChrUbuntu locally and then decided it is not for you, the only way to remove the OS and restore the drive partitions to their factory state is to perform a system recovery.

When performing a full system recovery, all your data in the cloud will automatically resynchronise with your machine, but all local data will be wiped, so please ensure you have adequate backups before you commence the process.

The simplest way to recover the system is by creating a recovery disk directly from your Chromebook. Enter chrome://imageburner in the browser’s address bar, and follow the onscreen instructions. You will need a USB stick with at least 4 GB of memory.

When the disk has been created you can enter Recovery Mode by holding Esc+Refresh and pressing the power button. Once in Recovery Mode, you will be prompted to enter the USB recovery disk and the process will begin.

ChromeOS Recovery 640x359   How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

How to Install Linux as a Chroot Using Crouton

The alternative to using ChrUbuntu is to use software called Crouton, which will install Linux in a chroot environment. In practice, this means you can switch between the two operating systems seamlessly by using a simple keyboard command, and the machine will not require rebooting.

Further benefits include the /Downloads folder being shared across both systems, meaning files can be easily accessed from both environments, whilst removing a Linux operating system that has been installed using Crouton does not require a full system recovery.

The software itself was developed by a former Google employee and is, therefore, optimised to run extremely quickly, even on older machines. All drivers are also shared between the two environments, so they should work immediately and without problems.

The process of installing Crouton is very simple. Please check you are connected to a WiFi network and you have Developer Mode enabled, then follow the steps below.

  1. Download Crouton to your device’s local hard-drive.
  2. From your Chromebook’s desktop press Ctrl+Alt+T to launch the device’s terminal.
  3. Type shell and press Enter.
  4. Type sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce and press Enter
  5. Near the end of the installation you will be prompted to enter a username and password for your new Linux system. Choose something suitable, press Enter, and the installation will compete.

ChromeOS shell linux crouton command 640x359   How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

To start your new OS, make sure you are in the Chromebook’s shell (from your desktop press Ctrl+Alt+T, type shell, press Enter), then type sudo startxfce4 and press Enter. After you have done this once, the new OS will continue to run until you either turn off your computer or log out of the Linux desktop environment.

The following keyboard shortcuts enable you to switch between the original Chrome OS and your new Linux environment:

  • Arm-based machines: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Forward and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Back
  • Haswell/Intel-based machines: Ctrl+Alt+Back and Ctrl+Alt+Forward then Ctrl+Alt+Refresh

Once you have successfully installed your new environment there are a couple of actions you should take to improve your experience.

  1. Enable your keyboard’s brightness and volume keys to work inside the new OS. To do this, access the Chrome OS’s shell (from the Chrome OS desktop, press Ctrl+Alt+T, type shell, and press Enter), and type sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r precise -t keyboard –u and press Enter.
  2. Remove the new environment’s screensaver as it has been known to cause graphics errors. You can do this from the terminal inside Linux by typing sudo apt-get remove xscreensaver then pressing Enter.
  3. Install Ubuntu Software Centre and Synaptic (both used for installing additional apps). Do this by entering the terminal inside your new Linux installation, typing sudo apt-get install software-center synaptic and pressing Enter.

Note: Power users can see which Linux versions are supported by running sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r list before starting the installation.

Screenshot 02112014 06 24 30 PM 640x359   How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

Removing a Crouton Installation

There are two principle ways to remove a Linux environment that has been installed using Crouton.

The first is to enter the shell on of your Chrome OS (press Ctrl+Alt+T, type shell, press Enter) and do the following.

  1. Type cd /usr/local/chroots and press Enter
  2. Type sudo delete-chroot * and press Enter
  3. Type rm -rf /usr/local/bin and press Enter

The much simpler alternative is to reboot your Chromebook and press Space when you see the initial ‘OS verification is OFF’ screen. This will take your device out of Developer Mode and wipe all local data, including any new environments you have installed. As always, ensure you have made backups of any important data before taking this step.

Recommended Apps to Download

As stated at the beginning of the article, one of the main benefits of installing a new Linux environment is to improve offline functionality, get access to a native Skype app, and get an alternative media player. Below are some Linux apps you should consider.

Linux can be confusing for a first-time user, but the ubiquitous VLC Media Player can be easily installed by entering the terminal inside your new environment, by typing sudo apt-get install vlc and pressing Enter.

Skype is only available on non-ARM-based machines, to install it you can visit the Skype website and download the 32-bit release for Ubuntu 12.04+, following the on-screen instructions.

Further recommendations include the OpenOffice productivity suite, Wine (for installing Windows programs) and Steam for your all gaming requirements. These packages can all be installed via the Ubuntu Software Centre or Synaptic.

linux vlcv2 640x359   How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

Which is the Best Method?

I’ve tried both methods on my Chromebook, and found Crouton to be faster, easier to use, and less hassle to fix if something goes wrong. The ability to switch between operating systems is a big bonus, and integration of the /downloads folder makes working between the two environments a much smoother experience.

Please post any questions about the processes described and I’ll try to help you out. Enjoy your newly unlocked Chromebook!

41 Comments - Write a Comment

0 votes
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Anonymous

Hey I jknew this should be possible but dont already have a Chromebook to have looked further into it. Now I might consider buying one and at least I dont have to try it the hard way (ie make it up myself)
Thnaks for this useful article

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Birrell Walsh

This is a very useful article. Please be aware that installing linux may be easy or it may be daunting. I found the xfce desktop to be simple to use. Attempts to install ubuntu’s unity or the kde desktop were mmm painful.

It took me a week to settle on xfce, get skype installed and a python system running. On a windows laptop that would have been an hour, not a week.
On the other hand, even the 32 GB chromebook I bought is cheap, and almost all linux software is free. The linux community is helpful, and always ready to explain the Mysteries of the Penguin.

0 votes

Daniel Price

Personally, I can’t stand Unity either. I tried Unity and XFCE on Chromebook, and the latter was by far the best experience. Each to their own though!

0 votes

Birrell Walsh

Now that I have a basic system (in xfce) in place, I would like to know something about customizing the look. Anyone know where I should start?

0 votes
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Qais Arsala

Does anyone know that if I install linux on my CB, will I finally be able to run Oracle DB. I am studying for my dba and love my CB, but I cannot install. Thank you.

0 votes

Daniel Price

Hi Qais,

My understanding is that Oracle DB is compatible with Linux. Assuming you have a Intel Chromebook, it should work perfectly well. It might work on an ARM machine too, but I can’t be 100% certain.

Dan

0 votes

dragonmouth

Oracle is an industrial strength DB that requires a full-blown distro to run on. At work we ran Oracle on a Red Hat server. Does a Chromebook have enough horsepower to comfortably run Linux AND Oracle?

0 votes

C Daniels

@dragonmouth With the method of installing linux above, the chromebook is using the ChromeOS kernel (which is a version of linux) ChromBuntu turns ChromOS into a “full-blown” distribution without taking any “extra” resources. I could be wrong, but I’m assuming OracleDB will work fine. There is an alternative method of installing and running a separate linux kernel on a separate partition. This requires more space (think about installing a bigger hard drive than the one provided with the Chromebook). Really though I think your doubts are misplaced. Happy linuxing!

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Jon S

Hello, all.
GREAT idea!
Now, how about Android 4.4 on a Chromebook?
That should rock.

Have a GREAT day, Neighbors!

0 votes

Pau

Since Android is based on the Linux Kernel and most of the Android Smartphones have ARM processors, I’d say that it can be done.

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dragonmouth

“Secondly, you are removing an important level of Chromebook’s security, as the machine will no-longer verify or authenticate the Chrome OS on start-up, which could leave you open to potential attacks.”

I am sure that one can set up much better security through Linux than is provided by ChromeOS. As to the machine not being able to “verify or authenticate the ChromeOS” with Goggle mother ship, Tough Noogies!

From my reading of the article, the instructions are for creating a dual-boot ChromeBook, rather than for REPLACING ChromeOS with Linux.

0 votes

Daniel Price

Hi Dragonmouth,

Yes, the guide is to dual-boot. It is possible to remove ChromeOS, but several users report that the laptop suffers when it is totally removed. Of course, you also risk bricking your machine unless you are very confident in what you are doing.

Dan

0 votes

dragonmouth

“Of course, you also risk bricking your machine”

In that case I think I’ll suffer with a heavier and more capable laptop. :-)
I’m not worried about bricking it, it just isn’t worth the hassle to go through the procedure and wind up with what is basically an over-hyped netbook.

0 votes

C Daniels

Are you intent on spreading FUD about Chromebooks? Do you realize that the C7 Intel Chromebook hardware is also being sold as Series 5 550 Windoze machines for about $500? For less than half that, a Chromebook that I can also install linux on, is a steal. I mean really, why bother posting your very theoretical doubts on an article that is specifically about putting linux on a Chromebook? I’m considering about doing this again, after already successfully installed ChruBuntu, and installing additional applications and even installing linux updates, on one machine already. I’m browing this article for any additional information, but I’ve already done it once with no problems. “Over hyped netbook” indeed!

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Thongpraparn Khajornkham

After all the install process, my Acer C720 Chromebook show user: and after I put something it ask for password. Anyone know what it is? I never put anything while I’m in the install process.

Thanks,

Om

0 votes

Daniel Price

Hi Thongpraparn

I assume you are talking about point 5 in my Crouton guide?

If so, this is where you set the password, so choose whatever you want. It is not asking for a pre-existing password.

Sorry if it is not clear.

Dan

0 votes
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Thongpraparn Khajornkham

Sorry for adding another comment.

The screen show:

Ubuntu 13.10 chrubuntu tty1
chrubuntu login:_

0 votes

Daniel Price

At what stage in the process? Are you still referring to the password part?

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Nxt

The recovery instructions do not work for dual-boot. (Acer C720P)
When you try to use Imgburner to create teh recovery media, you’ll get an error stating there isn’t enough space.

When using windows to create the USB/SD Recovery, it seems teh Acer C720P doesn’t see the device to use for recovery.

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Daniel Price

Are you using a sufficiently-sized, empty, and formatted USB stick?

0 votes
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James V

Mint box: http://www.linuxmint.com/store_mintbox.php
Cheap one is under $400, still kinda high

0 votes
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James V

Whoops, wrong article I commented on!

0 votes
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Paleolith

I also get an error message when trying to create a recovery drive using IMGBURNER.

An expert on the Chromebook forum suggested using a Kingston or Patriot flash drive. I purchased an 8 gig Kingston flash drive. Same problem–I got an error message indicating a problem downloading the file.

Another expert on the forum suggested using Windows to create the recovery drive. This finally worked for me. I hope the recovery drive works. I am scared to test it.

Odd isn’t it? One has to use Windows to create a Chromebook recovery drive.

0 votes
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Daniel Price

Very strange, I’ve never heard of this issue before, and when I recovered mine a few times while testing the different methods I had no problems. That said, I wouldn’t worry about using the drive now you have it, I have heard of plenty of people making recovery drives using Windows, then successfully using them.

0 votes
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Brian A

where is the Forward key?

0 votes

Daniel Price

Top row, where F3 would be on a regular keyboard.

Daniel

0 votes
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Wantoo Sevin

Great article. I don’t have a Chromebook but have been looking at getting one. Having the option of a full Linux install maeks it..well, a no-brainer. Thanks!

0 votes

Daniel Price

No problem – glad it’s useful!

0 votes
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Daan

if i buy a arm based chromebook will it then be possible to instal crouton and then instal minecraft and play it or instal steam and play some games? or is that not possible because the arm cpu. i have to make a choice between these to machines one is intel the other is arm

thank you

samsung chromebook 2 13.3 inch
http://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/laptops-portable-pcs/laptops-and-netbooks/samsung-chromebook-2-1233324/review

and the hp chromebook 14
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2065470/hp-chromebook-14-review-its-bigger-and-better-than-most-other-chromebooks.html

0 votes

Daniel Price

Hi Daan,

Wine won’t run on ARM Chromebooks, so you’ll need an Intel machine.

Daniel

0 votes
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Daan

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your reply. Their is a minecraft version for linux will that work on arm? Or can i play with a desktop remote from chrome book to windows pc?

Daan

0 votes

Daniel Price

Hi Daan,

I don’t play Minecraft so I don’t know I’m afraid. If you want to play the Windows version you’ll either need Wine, which requires an Intel Chromebook, or Remote Desktop (as you suggest). Remote Desktops might experience lag though, depending on your connection speed.

Dan

0 votes

Campbell

I think it might work, as you could compile OpenJDK for ARM. On the other hand, the native LWJGL might not work. However, it is entirely possible to decompile and recompile minecraft, as some modders do.

0 votes
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daan

Heey Dan,

Thx for your answer. I think i will go with intel chromebook then.

Daan

0 votes
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Bruce Barnes

You don’t need Skype anymore! Try videoconferencing at appear.in. See review
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/move-google-plus-hangouts-appear-really-good/
You don’t even need an account at appear.in.

0 votes
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Nick W

Hi,

I’ve been trying the Crouton installation on my Asus Chromebox and I’ve been using the command:
sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t unity -r trusty

in order to install the latest LTS release, 14.04, and the Unity desktop environment and I get the following which interrupts the install:
Unable to establish SSL connection.
Failed to complete chroot setup.
Unmounting /usr/local/chroots/trusty…

I apologize if this isn’t the proper place to ask this question, but any help I could get would be appreciated. Thank you.

-Nick

0 votes
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Cain Invictus

Recently, every time I download ubuntu using chrubuntu, I get brought to a violet screen, with options on what I’d like to do, i.e. run ubuntu. Then, when I attempted to run ubuntu, it sent me to a black shell screen with a blinking cursor at the top. I couldn’t move forward, or go back. I had to shut the machine down. Anyone know how to fix this issue?

0 votes
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Alec Ramey

On mine it said that it didn’t support the Legacy SeaBIOS and to use the old ChrUbuntu script. I’ve tried that, and when it happens I can’t connect to a network. I also tried crouton, and it doesn’t work very well for me. What should I do?

0 votes
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Lam

Can you b more specific on how I can install wine?

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julia lloyds

How to Install Linux on a Chromebook you firstly need to wipe out the local data so that you cannot backup anything up that is stored in cloud. For this you need to put the Chromebook in the Developers Mode.

1. The press and hold the Esc and Refresh keys together and press the power button while still holding the two keys. To reboot the chromebook in the recovery mode.
2. As soon you don’t see the recovery mode pop-up on the screen with yellow exclamation point then press Ctrl+D which will prompt you to developer mode.
3. Then press enter to continue which will pop up with a new screen for a few moments, then reboot and go through the process of enabling Developer Mode.
4. When it finishes return to the screen with the red exclamation point.

http://www.androidbulletin.info/how-to-take-a-screenshot-on-a-chromebook

0 votes
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Ayham

Hello, sorry to bother you, but when I try to put a password nothing happens no matter what I try to insert I never get anything written down. PLEASE RESPOND.

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