Chromebooks are simple, yet capable devices. For most of what you do on a laptop, a Chromebook with modest specifications is a cheap, self-maintaining and powerful tool. Despite this, there still are a few areas where Chromebooks fall down. So, if you still need the power of a complete operating system on your Chromebook then, this article is for you.
There is a github project called crouton, which supports running Linux in a change-root environment side by side with your Chrome OS on your Chromebook. Crouton allows you to create a new OS as a chroot but still keep the Chrome OS kernel. This means that we can switch back and forth between the two environments and all of the hardware resources will be fully supported. Neat, huh?
Installing crouton is fairly straight-forward. However, there are many installation possibilities. For ease and compatibility you should start with the default Ubuntu release, along with the light XFCE desktop environment. These are known to be compatible and have been extensively tested together.
To install a chroot environment, you will have to put the Chromebook into its “developer mode”. To do this, press Esc, Refresh (it is 2 keys to the right of esc) and the power button on the far right at the same time:
This will reboot the Chromebook into recovery mode. When the recovery message comes up, press ctrl-D, which puts your Chromebook into developer mode.
Whenever you reboot the Chromebook or update your Chrome OS by restarting it, a pop up screen will show with a 30 second timer and a message stating “Chrome OS verification is turned off”. You will also be prompted to press the spacebar. Under no circumstances do you want to do this unless you want to start over. This will reset the Chromebook and wipe out the Linux operating system on your Chromebook.
Instead, when this message is displayed, you need to press Ctrl-D again to stay in Developer mode. You have been warned.
Next up, download crouton from here. This will put a script named crouton into your Downloads folder. To install the Linux operating system on your Chromebook follow these steps:
1.Press Ctrl-Alt-T to get a terminal window
2. Type shell and press enter
3. Type “sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t chrome,keyboard,xfce,audio”
It should all look a little bit like this:
This will download a bunch of files, and take around 15-30 minutes. Eventually, it will prompt you to create a logon name and password. Once you do that, you have a full Linux installation with the default name of “precise”.
To enter this new installation, you will type “sudo startxfce4” in your terminal to start your graphical linux environment:
Starting Crouton / Linux
Your graphical window will start up and you should see something like:
To switch back and forth between Linux and Chrome OS, type ctrl-alt-shift and right or left arrow. This will toggle back and forth. You can install any additional software onto your Linux chroot with the usual package managers for Linux. i.e. apt-get, synaptic, etc…
To close your Linux shell, select logout from the menu and it will drop you back into Chrome OS. You may also see some warning messages and errors but if everything is working fine you may just have to tolerate these:
Whenever you want to get back into Linux, press Ctrl-Alt-T for a terminal prompt. Then just type shell followed by sudo startxfce4.
The Downloads folder in Chrome is shared between the chroot and chromebox, so if you need to move files back and forth, use your Downloads folder.
The linux chroot will not be stored on the cloud or backed up! To make your own backup, exit your linux chroot and:
Press Ctrl-Alt-T to get a terminal window on your Chromebook
Type “shell” and press enter
Type “sudo edit-chroot -b precise”
This will create a timestamped backup of the chroot in a file. This will be placed in your Downloads folder. They can be quite large so make sure you have free space. Around 2-4 GB depending on how much you have installed in Linux.
You can then copy the file off to a USB drive for safe keeping should you need to restore. Be sure to delete it from your Downloads folder afterwards.
The 16GB drive on entry level Chromebooks will allow you can fit a small Linux operating system on your Chromebook. You may find though, that this becomes a little limiting. If you wish to upgrade your SSD, then you may want to have a look at this guide for the Acer C720.
If you get stuck installing another operating system on your Chromebook then get in touch. We are always happy to try and point people in the right direction.