Although Chromebooks come with Chrome OS, a Linux-based operating system, out of the box, they can also run pure Linux distros without issue. In fact, you can run Chrome OS and another Linux distribution simultaneously on the same Chromebook.
In this tutorial, we will show you how to install Linux on a Chromebook without affecting Chrome OS. You will also learn how to install the experimental Linux environment built into Chrome OS and a third-party Linux distribution (Ubuntu).
Install Linux Beta (Crostini) on Chromebook
Crostini describes Google’s official project that lets Chromebook users run Linux without entering Chrome OS Developer Mode. The main advantage of this feature is that you can enjoy Linux-based applications and tools in a secure environment. Think of it as a contained virtual machine for running Linux on Chrome OS without having to deal with Linux code and commands.
This Linux environment is officially supported by Google and is very unlikely to break your Chromebook or void your warranty. The environment is also protected from malicious apps and files with Sandboxing, one of the security features built into Chromebooks.
Installing this Linux environment on your Chromebook depends on the hardware and software configurations of your device. Not all older Chromebook models support the Linux Beta (Crostini) feature out of the box.
Also, installing this Linux environment on Chromebook requires Chrome OS 69 or later. Head toward Settings > About Chrome OS to check the Chrome OS version or update your Chromebook’s operating system. Install all available updates or restart your device to complete pending updates.
The environment is experimental and locked by default. The first thing to do is to activate the Linux development environment. Connect your Chromebook to the internet and follow these steps:
- throw the Settings the application, develop the Advanced category, scroll down to developers section and select the Light up in the “Linux Development Environment (Beta)” line.
- To select following Continue.
- Create a user name, select the recommended disk space, then select install on pc.
Now we’ll show you how to install a third-party Linux distribution on your Chromebook.
First: create a recovery drive
Although installing a third-party Linux distro on Chromebook is quite simple, sometimes things can go wrong during the process. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you create a backup of your device using the Chromebook recovery utility. This requires an external storage drive with at least 8 GB of free storage space.
- Launch Chrome, go to the Chromebook Recovery Utility page on the Chrome web store and select Add to Chrome.
- To select add app in the confirmation message.
You should see the download progress in the lower left corner of your Chromebook screen. Plug an 8GB or larger external storage drive into your Chromebook when you receive a successful installation alert in the notification area.
Please note that the recovery utility will erase all data and partitions on the disk. Therefore, make sure to back up all important data from the drive to another device before using it as your Chromebook’s recovery disk.
- Start the Chrome recovery utility in the app launcher.
- Wait for the app to prepare your device for recovery and select To start.
- The alphanumeric number on the screen corresponds to the model number of your Chromebook. Enter the numbers in the dialog box provided and select Continue to proceed.
- Select the media device you want to use to create the recovery image and select Continue.
- Select the Create now button.
Wait while the utility downloads and writes the necessary files to the recovery media. This may take several minutes to several hours depending on factors such as your Chromebook model and Chrome OS version. Removing the recovery drive will interrupt the download process. So make sure the drive fits properly into your Chromebook’s USB port.
You will also need a fast internet connection to download the files that will be your recovery media. So make sure your Chromebook is connected to a Wi-Fi or Ethernet network.
If something goes wrong while installing Linux, turn off your Chromebook, boot into recovery mode (press Esc + Update + Power ), insert the recovery media and follow the on-screen instructions.
Enable Developer Mode on Chromebook
You must have your Chromebook in developer mode to install any Linux distribution. This will erase all data stored on your Chromebook storage, so be sure to back up your files to the cloud or an external drive before enabling Developer Mode.
It is also important to note that enabling developer mode will disable many security features built into your device. Likewise, the operation could also void your Chromebook’s warranty. Turn off your Chromebook and follow the steps below.
- hold it Esc + Update (Where F3) and hold down Power button.
- Release the buttons when a recovery screen appears on the Chromebook screen.
- Ignore the on-screen “Insert a recovery USB flash drive or SD card” instruction. hurry control + D to enable developer mode.
- hurry Go in to disable the operating system check. This will “unlock” your Chromebook to boot non-Google operating systems.
- hurry control + D again and wait a few minutes to boot your Chromebook with Developer Mode enabled.
You will receive an on-screen notification that your Chromebook is entering developer mode. Don’t turn off your Chromebook during the process and make sure the battery has enough charge (50% or more).
Set up your Chromebook from scratch as if it were a new device and skip to the next section to learn how to install Ubuntu Linux on your Chromebook.
Install Ubuntu Linux on Chromebook (using Crouton)
One of the main advantages of installing Linux via Crouton is that you don’t need to restart your Chromebook to switch between Chrome OS and Linux. You can do this using key combinations or shortcuts. Additionally, the Linux distribution has direct access to your Chromebook’s hardware and files. So you can switch to Linux and still access files created on Chrome OS.
Crouton accomplishes this by creating a “chroot” binary that runs on Chrome OS. Unlike Google’s “Crostini” project, Crouton provides a “pure” Linux environment. The only limitation is that it is restricted to Ubuntu only. Crouton is (currently) not supported by other Linux distributions. Visit the Crouton repository on GitHub to learn more about the Chroot environment and how it powers the Ubuntu Linux distribution on Chromebook.
- Download and save the crouton file to your Chromebook downloads recordings.
- hurry control + Other + J to launch Crosh – the Chrome OS Command Shell.
- type or paste shell in the terminal and press Go in.
- Then paste sudo install -Dt /usr/local/bin -m 755 ~/Downloads/crouton in the terminal and press Go in. The command will convert the downloaded crouton text file into an executable file.
- Type or paste now sudo crouton -t xfce in the terminal and press Go in. If your Chromebook has a touchscreen, run this command instead: sudo crouton -t touch, xfce.
This will download and install the Ubuntu Linux package to your Chromebook using XFCE: a fast and lightweight desktop environment that consumes low system resources. You can install Linux on your Chromebook using other desktop environments like Unity, GNOME, or LXDE. However, XFCE is recommended as it is much faster. Additionally, Chromebooks are low-end devices with limited system resources. This makes XFCE the most suitable option.
If you’re feeling experimental, you can install Linux along with other desktop environments by running the following commands in the crosh terminal:
- Unity Desktop Environment – Paste unit sudo crouton -t and press Go in.
- GNOME desktop environment: paste sudo crouton -t gnome and press Go in.
- LXDE: paste sudo crouton -t lxde and press Go in.
The installer will download the necessary Ubuntu packages. Make sure your Chromebook stays connected to the internet during the download and installation process. The whole operation will take a few minutes or a few hours depending on your connection speed.
- Type a preferred username and press Go in.
- Type a password and press Go in.
- Enter the password again and press Go in Continue.
You can start using Ubuntu Linux on your Chromebook when you receive a “Password updated successfully” message.
hurry control + Other + J to start Crosh, type shell in the terminal, press Go intype / paste sudo startxfce4 and press Go in.
If the Ubuntu Linux environment loads a blank screen, type your username, press Go intype your password and press Go in. If the problem persists, go back to Chrome OS and go back to Ubuntu.
Use keyboard shortcuts control + Other + Change + behind Where control + Other + Change + Forward to switch between the two operating systems.
Remove or Uninstall Linux on Chromebook
Is the Linux distribution bricking your device? Or you no longer want to run Linux on your Chromebook. All you need to remove the Linux distribution is to disable developer mode and re-enable OS verification. Turn off your Chromebook, press space bar on the page that says “Operating system verification is disabled” and press Go in to confirm the action.
This will re-enable OS verification and start Chrome OS normally. Please note that disabling Developer Mode will also erase your Chromebook data.
I am Bhumi Shah, a highly skilled digital marketer with over 11 years of experience in digital marketing and content writing in the tech industry.