How to install Linux on a Chromebook


Chromebooks are capable web-focused PCs, and a great choice for anyone who needs a laptop for travel or working outside the office. Thanks to a wide variety of fully featured web apps—some of which work offline—a Chromebook can cover many of the same use cases as a regular PC.

Of course, there are times when nothing less than the flexibility of a full PC desktop environment will do. A Chromebook can still prove useful in those moments if you set it up to run a traditional Linux desktop operating system. Originally designed with developers in mind, Chromebooks can run a full Linux desktop in either dual-boot mode or as a “chroot.”

Chroot stands for “change root.” It’s a system utility in Unix and Linux environments that separates one set of running processes from another—in this case two different operating systems. You can alternate between the two on-the-fly—no reboot necessary.

Using a chroot is the easiest way to install Linux on a Chromebook thanks to a project called Crouton, and if you ever make a mistake, it’s easy to reset everything back to normal.

First things first

Before you can install Linux on a Chromebook you have to put the machine in developer mode. Like other modern PCs, Chromebooks are locked down to prevent malicious code from running—Google calls its security mechanism “OS verification.” This means you’ll be introducing a certain degree of insecurity to your machine by installing Linux. For a detailed breakdown of the risks check out the Crouton wiki.

Moving to developer mode will also wipe your Chromebook’s hard drive of everything but the operating system. Any personal files will be deleted. If you have files saved locally on your Chromebook, move them to the cloud or copy them to a USB drive before continuing.

Once you’re ready, hold down the Escape and Refresh keys on your Chromebook’s keyboard and then press the power button.

chromeos 1 Ian Paul/PCWorld

For a moment it will look like the process is getting ugly. You’ll see a screen that says Chrome OS is missing or damaged. Ignore it and press Ctrl + D.




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