How To Install Linux On A Google Chromebook

Looking to improve the performance and functionality of your Chromebook, or needing to access Linux-based apps which you can’t through Chrome OS? Whatever your reasons, follow our step-by-step tutorials to learn how to install Linux OS on a Google Chromebook.

For any additional questions or information, see our FAQs at the end of this article.

Note: Only one of the methods below is officially authorized by Google, and it does not give you the full Linux OS or full Linux capabilities. To fully install Linux OS, you’ll have to put your Chromebook in developer mode and alter it from there – doing so can be risky and you should only proceed if you are comfortable to do so and sure you want to.

How to enable the official Linux Beta on a Google Chromebook

Google has recently introduced a beta version of Linux for the most up-to-date Chromebooks, which allows users to install certain (but not all) Linux apps within the Chrome OS (but with only limited functionality)

  1. In the bottom right of your screen, click on the Date and Time
  2. From the pop-up menu, select ‘Settings’
  3. Next, turn on ‘Linux (Beta)’ 
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions (setting this up can take up to 10 minutes)
  5. Once set up, a terminal window will appear, from which you can run Linux commands, install various tools by utilising the APT package manager, and you can also customize your computer’s shell.
  6. To install a Linux app from the terminal window, type the following command: sudo apt install [app package name – e.g. gimp]
  7. You can continue installing whatever Linux apps you want, and you should then be able to access them via the Chromebook’s app launcher

How to fully install Linux OS on a Google Chromebook

To do this, you’re going to have to put the Chromebook in developer mode (and run it in developer mode every time you power up your Chromebook from now on). Doing so will reduce the security of your Chromebook somewhat, and will delete your files and information; thus, we highly recommend you backup all of your non-Cloud files onto a physical external hard drive before proceeding. 

This is quite a long and convoluted process, so buckle up…

Enable Developer Mode

  1. With your Chromebook on, press and hold the ESC + REFRESH keys together, and then tap the POWER button; when your forced restart begins, release the keys
  2. Once the reboot’s complete, a yellow exclamation mark appears on screen. Press CTRL + D together to engage Developer Mode.
  3. You will now be asked whether you want to turn OS verification off. You do, so now press ENTER.
  4. At this point, sit back and let your Chromebook do its work. This may include several further restarts. Ignore all messages until you’re returned to the Chrome OS welcome screen. 
  5. Your information will have been deleted, so you’ll have to re-input network details, as well as accepting T’s & C’s and setting a language, etc. Once done, sign in.

Install Ubuntu (Linux desktop) with Crouton (chroot environment to install a new OS)

  1. Navigate here:
  2. Click the link in the About section to the right of the page, downloading the chroot to your downloads folder
  3. Next, open Chrome’s OS developer shell in a separate tab – press CTRL + ALT + T
  4. Now, type ‘shell’ and press ENTER
  5. Next, where prompted, input the following: sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -e -t xfce, then hit ENTER. If your Chromebook device has a touchscreen, instead input the following: sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -e -t touch,xfce and hit ENTER.
  6. You’ve begun the process of downloading and installing Ubuntu, and you’ll be prompted to input an encryption passphrase and password. Do so now – keep them safe and secret.
  7. The installation process will now begin and may take several minutes, at the end, you’ll be asked to set a username and password for Ubuntu.
  8. Once installation is complete, a command box will appear, input the following: sudo startxfce4 and then hit ENTER. Finally, re-enter your password and encryption passphrase
  9. You’ll be directed to your new Ubuntu desktop interface. Crouton runs Ubuntu simultaneously alongside Chrome, and to switch between them you need only use a keyboard shortcut. Use either CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+BACK or CTRL+ALT+BACK and CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+FORWARD or CTRL+ALT+FORWARD to switch between them.

Start using Linux on your Google Chromebook

To run Linux on your Google Chromebook every time you power it up, follow the steps below.

  1. Power up your Chromebook and ignore the warning sign that OS verification is off
  2. From your home screen, press CTRL + ALT + T to take you back to the shell interface
  3. Type in ‘shell’ at the ‘crosh’ prompt; hit ENTER
  4. Next, input ‘sudo startxfce4’ and hit ENTER again
  5. Finally, input your chosen passphrase and password to pass the encryption

You are now successfully running a Linux OS desktop alongside your Chrome OS desktop on your Google Chromebook. Happy computing!

And there you have it; it’s not an easy or straightforward process, but if you’re absolutely sure this is what you want to do – you’re prepared and you’re confident you’ve backed up all of your files – then even a tech-newbie can install Linux on their Google Chromebook by following our step-by-step tutorials.

For any additional information or unanswered queries, see our FAQs below.

Frequently asked questions

What is a Google Chromebook?

Google is not the only company to have invested in a range of cloud-based laptops, but it was one of the first. By storing their laptops’ (known as Chromebooks) core programs, file storage systems, and backup data on the cloud (known as Google Drive), Google ensured that its laptops would run quickly, and be lighter and more affordable than most other laptops on the market.

When a user uses a Google Chromebook (which is technically any laptop running Chrome OS), they’ll find that they use the Chrome web browser to carry out just about any function they’d normally carry out offline. As such, Chromebooks carry little in the way of internal storage.

For example, Google has a range of online office software similar to Microsoft Office (Google Sheets, Docs, Slides, etc.) which can be interacted with exclusively online, edited by anyone with permissions and access to the internet, and then streamed or presented from there via Google Hangouts (a communication app).

What is Linux?

Linux is an operating system (much like Windows or Chrome OS) that has been in use since the early 1990s, and today can be found working in mobile phones, tablets, PCs, cars, televisions, you name it! 

Why would I want to install Linux on a Google Chromebook?

Chromebooks – designed to use the Chrome OS and operate mostly online, with all information and files stored on Google Drive – are affordable and lightweight devices. With a little fiddling, a little know-how, and some steady nerves, however, you can turn these inexpensive devices into pretty powerful computers.

Installing Linux does just this – it sets your Chromebook up with an entirely new or separate operating system to Chrome OS, meaning that you can gain access to all of the apps and functionality of any regular Linux-operated system, which you would not have been able to if you’d stuck with Chrome OS only. 

Are there any risks to installing Linux on a Chromebook?

Yes, there are. Whilst Google’s beta version of Linux allows you to install some Linux apps, it doesn’t actually fully install Linux as a separate-use OS, and its functionality at this early stage still leaves a lot to be desired. The other methods we’ve discussed above are not strictly authorized by Google.

As such, you run the risk of messing with your Chromebook, especially if you don’t feel confident using it and editing it in developer mode. Moreover, installing Linux as an OS will wipe all of your files and information/data, so it is paramount that you back up whatever files are not already on the Cloud before installing Linux.

You may also be breaching the terms and conditions of your manufacturer or seller warranty by meddling with your Chromebook in this fashion, so you should check this and keep it in mind throughout the process.

How do I remove Linux from my Google Chromebook?

To do so, simply restart your Chromebook, and when the “OS verification is off” message appears, hit SPACE BAR. Next, to turn OS verification back on, hit ENTER. Doing so will reboot your Chromebook and restore it to its original, factory state, for you to set up and repopulate it with your files and information.