Running Ubuntu on a Google Chromebook

C7-Ubuntu

A lot of people have jumped the ship on Google’s first entry to the PC market with it’s Chromebooks. A big part of the success is probably due to the low cost and reasonable good design of the machines.

However, being a Chromebook running Google’s own spin of Linux which is called Chrome OS it is a fairly basic computer. Chrome OS is heavily reliant on being connected to wifi or 3G as most applications for Chrome OS is simply hyperlinks to web pages, and although Google is improving offline support it still isn’t a full laptop experience.

That’s where Crouton comes in handy. Not only does Crouton allow you to run a full Ubuntu installation alongside Chrome OS, it also makes switching between the two as easy as a key combo!

The first thing to do in order to run Crouton is enabling developer mode. This will allow your Chromebook to run a so called unsigned operating system (very much like disabling secure boot on a Windows 8 machine).

Different Chromebooks have different ways of entering developer mode, and a quick search on the internet should indeed tell you how to do it on your Chromebook.

However if you have the Samsung Chromebook (with the ARM processor) or the luxurious Google Pixel you will just have to hold down the ESC and Refresh keys and hit the Power button.

When hitting the key combo your Chromebook will reboot and at the first screen you’ll have to accept to enable developer mode, here simply hit CTRL + D. Enabling developer mode will remove everything stored locally!.

After the process is done (10-15 minutes) you will be able to use your Chromebook as you always have, the only difference now is the possibility to load a different operating system.

To install Crouton you need the latest install script from their website:

https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton

or using the direct link here

After the download is done it’s time to fire up the terminal. If you’re used to Linux this will feel very familiar, as you just have to hit CTRL + ALT + T. This will open a terminal as a tap in the Chrome browser. To access the Linux shell, just type shell and hit return.

Now you have to execute the script which is the last step to install crouton. This is done by entering the following command:

sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t unity

This will install crouton with the Unity desktop environment but of course you can choose a different DE (this is Linux after all) if you so wish. There are probably going to be more options in the future, but for now I have only successfully installed Unity, KDE and XFCE (Although never tried LXDE). As you might have guessed, all you have to do to change desktop environment is changing the last bit of the command above with the appropriate name.

Ex:

To install the crouton with KDE type:

sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t kde

After the install process has finished (in my case about half an hour) you’re now ready to start using it by typing this command:

sudo startunity

If you did not install Unity you’ll have to change the command accordingly to fit your choice (startxfce4, startkde etc.).

As the Crouton installation is rather minimal (to take up less space and resources) you might find that some default Ubuntu applications are missing, but fear not, if you want to get a full Ubuntu desktop you can simply run the following command in a terminal within Crouton:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop


Steffen Christensen

Steffen Christensen is a Danish Computer Science student. He currently works as a developer for a company specialized in E-learning. Besides studying and working, he is a very enthusiastic Linux user and open source supporter.

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  • Cameron Connell

    please help I cant ge t the network to work on my acer cromebook I am only haveing this problem with unity but chrome OS network works fine. Do you know a fix?

    • DrMcLaser

      How did you install Ubuntu ? Using Crouton?

  • nickg

    mine says no chroots found

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