How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

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Chromebooks are so simple to use and maintain that even a young child can handle them. However, if you want to push the envelope, you can install Linux. 

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While it doesn't cost any money to put a Linux operating system on a Chromebook, it is nonetheless a complex process and not for the feint of heart. Once you've finished our walkthrough, you'll be able to toggle between Linux and Chrome OS with a keyboard shortcut. 

MORE: Should I Buy a Chromebook? Buying Guide and Advice

For this process, we're going to use Crouton, a flavor of Linux which supports a wide-range of Chromebooks. 

Before You Start

1. Back up any personal data or documents you have stored on the Chromebook’s internal drive. While your Google Drive-stored content is backed up, anything in your downloads folder may not be, and the same is true for information stored locally in downloaded Android apps. 

2. Set aside some time. This is not a quick process, and took 36 minutes for me to complete.

3. Come up with three passwords for your new system, as this requires you to create a regular password, an encryption passphrase, and an account password for Linux.

How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

1. While the Chromebook is on, hold ESC + Refresh and then click the Power button. Your screen will go dark, and you can then release the keys.1 2601931517327380

2. Do not worry when you see a screen that says Chrome OS is missing or damaged, or one that asks you to insert a USB drive. Click CTRL + D.

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3. Press Enter, and expect to watch a series of processes happen while you sit back and wait. You’ll get a 30-second countdown to change your mind and then the computer will start Preparing for Developer Mode. This will take several minutes and erases any data on the Chromebook’s solid state drive.

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4. Watch as your screen displays multiple messages that explain that the system is moving to Developer Mode, which deletes all of your local files, which I mentioned above.img 5266

5. You'll see an OS Verification is Off screen. Continue to wait.

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6. Click Let's go, and then sign into your Google account and local network, as Developer Mode cleared your account and network information.img 5277

7. Open Chrome.chrome1

8. Navigate to this URL: https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton.

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9. Click the Goo.gl URL next to "Chromium OS Universal Chroot Environment." A Crouton file will download.chrome3

10. Click Ctrl+Alt+T to open a terminal window tab.chrome4

11. Type "shell" (without the quotations) next to crosh> and hit Enter.chrome5

12. If you're using a touchscreen Chromebook, type "sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -e -t touch,xfce" next to "chronos@localhost / $" and hit enter.

If you're using a non-touchscreen Chromebook, type "sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -e -t xfce" instead, and hit Enter.chrome6

13. Enter a new password you'll use for Chromium and click Enter.chrome7

 

14. Verify your new password by entering it again, and click Enter.chrome8

15. Enter an encryption passphrase, which is essentially a second password, and click Enter.chrome9

16. Confirm that passphrase by entering it again, and click Enter.chrome11

17. Time to watch a lot of code fly across your screen, and it lasts a while.  You're waiting for a prompt that asks you to enter a username.chrome13

18. Type in a username for your Linux account and hit Enter when prompted.chrome14

19. Type in a third new password, which will be the password for your Linux account, and click Enter.chrome15

20. Retype that password to confirm, and click Enter.

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21. Type "sudo startxfce4" and hit Enter.

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22. You're now in Linux on your Chromebook!img 5282

23. You can move between Chrome OS and Linux with Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Back and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Forward. If you don't see a Forward key (it's not on our PixelBook), you'll use Ctrl+Alt+Back and Ctrl+Alt+Refresh instead.

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Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on