Chrome OS

How to Install Linux on Chromebook

Install Linux on Chromebook
Written by Martins D. Okoi

When Chromebooks were first released, their principal customers were Internet enthusiasts who fancied the idea of using majorly web applications on Google’s Operating System for PCs. While Chrome OS is capable of running virtually any Android application, there are some tasks that are better completed on a Linux distro e.g. Darktable and GIMP.

We covered an alternative Linux-centric App Stores to Google Play for Chrome OS not too long ago and today, I’ll show you the easiest way to install Linux (specifically, Ubuntu) on your Chromebook and switch between the OSes at your will with easy-to-remember shortcuts.

1. Getting Started

There are at least two recommendable methods of installing Linux on Chromebooks but my preference is using Crouton – a tool that uses the chroot command to run Linux distros on top Chrome OS without the need to reboot the system.

  1. Backup all your personal files because entering developer mode for the first time will wipe them together with your system data.
  2. Create a recovery image of your system so you can restore it if things go sideways (but they wouldn’t).
  3. Download Crouton from GitHub and save it to an external storage device. If you don’t have one then download it after you enable developer mode.
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2. Switching on Developer Mode

  1. Enter recovery mode by pressing and holding the Esc key, Refresh key, and Power button together.
  2. When in recovery mode, press Ctrl+D turn on developer mode.
  3. Press Enter and wait for your system to reboot. This will take 15 – 20 minutes.

You will see an exclamation mark alongside a message that OS verification is off and a prompt to re-enable it. Ignore it and wait for your PC to reboot into Chrome OS.

3. Installing Crouton

1. Download Crouton from GitHub if you didn’t earlier on and save it in your download folder.

2. Launch your terminal and run the command:

# shell

3. Next, install crouton with the command:

$ sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce

If you’re using the Crouton Integration extension then use this command instead:

$ sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t xiwi,xfce

If your PC is a Chromebook Pixel, Asus Flip Book, or touchscreen then change "xiwi" to "touch" like so:

$ sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t touch,xfce

Enter your username and password when Crouton is done installing.

Run the following command to start Ubuntu:

$ sudo startxfce4

Instead of Xfce, you can install Crouton with LXDE, KDE, or any other Desktop Environment and the instructions are available in Crouton’s GitHub page.

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4. Perfecting Your DE

The commands to switch back and forth between Chrome OS and Ubuntu are:

  • Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Back and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Forward on ARM-based Chromebooks.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Back and Ctrl+Alt+Back on Intel-based Chromebooks.

This Ubuntu version doesn’t come with its complete list of essential apps so you need to install them yourself with the following commands:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install bash-completion ttf-ubuntu-font-family software-center synapti
  • If you stick to using Xfce, disable its screensaver to avoid Chrome OS graphic issues.
  • Skip the developer mode message with Ctrl+D.
  • The downloads folder is shared between both Operating Systems.

5. Removing Linux from Chromebook

This one is easy. Press the spacebar while rebooting your system and when that exclamation with the re-enable OS verification prompt comes up, hit the space bar. This will uninstall Crouton and restore your Chrome OS to its single original state.

If you would rather use the terminal to remove the Linux installation, run the commands:

$ cd /usr/local/chroots
$ sudo delete-chroot *
$ sudo rm -rf /usr/local/bin

There you have it” A fully functional Ubuntu installation to run alongside ChromeOS that you can switch between with keyboard shortcuts.

Drop your comments, questions, and suggestions in the comments section below.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Divine Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and programmer.