How to Run a Full Linux Desktop Desktop on a Chromebook

June 21, 2023 by No Comments

Want to install a complete Linux desktop on your Chromebook but not give up ChromeOS? This will allow you to run both operating systems simultaneously and switch between them using a keyboard shortcut.

You can already run ChromeOS and individual Linux applications on the “Crostini partition.” This method requires users to use the command line exclusively, without the additional functionality that a Linux desktop environment provides. Installing a complete Linux desktop distribution, including the desktop environment, may be better for you.

I tried a half-measure a few years back to run KDE on a Chromebook in the Crostini Environment. This method needed to be fixed. Before that, I played with running GalliumOS on a USB drive to convert Chromebooks to Linux boxes without removing ChromeOS.

Crostini is Google’s term for the Linux application development that goes into ChromeOS. It installs a Linux OS command-line version to run Debian Linux on Chromebooks.

Chromebook users can run Linux apps in a virtual machine-like sandbox on ChromeOS.

An alternative approach involves using Crouton. It creates the environment necessary for a complete Linux installation, including a desktop. Crouton is an automated set of scripts that installs the components needed to develop a Chromium OS centered chroot generator. The term “chroot” is geek-speak for “change roots.”

Learn the Lingo

Theoretically, Chromebook users could use the Chroot tool to install Linux distributions. This would require someone in the Linux community to create scripts based on the locations of each distro’s files.

The chroot utility scripts available for Chromebooks are geared towards Debian Linux and Ubuntu Linux. Some Chromebooks with Arm processors may not be able to install Linux distributions. You’ll get better results using a Chromebook with an Intel processor.

Depending on your command, Crouton will install Ubuntu Xenial and one of four desktops: LXDE (Linux Desktop Environment), Unity (Unity), Xfce, or Gnome. Step Four contains more details.

I prefer the Xfce desktop because of its additional features and configuration options. Despite several more powerful and newer Chromebooks, the installation was done on an Asus Chromebook flip model C213S.

It was released in July 2017 and runs on Intel Celeron N3350 with 4GB of RAM. This unit can run ChromeOS, Android apps, multiple Linux apps, and ChromeOS in parallel with many browser tabs.

Prepare the preliminary

The instructions below will help you install a complete Linux distribution on your Chromebook safely and securely. The process is completely reversible.

We recommend that you back up your Chromebook before starting. You can restore your Chromebook with a USB recovery stick or a powerwash. Google help files have detailed instructions on how to perform both procedures.

You can usually turn off the Linux part of the partition by going to the Settings menu. This will erase all traces from the Linux installation, and you will find ChromeOS intact.

Start by ensuring that you’re running the latest version of ChromeOS. To check or update the operating system of your Chromebook, go to Settings > About Chrome OS. Make sure the Linux partition in Advanced Settings is enabled.

Prepare for the Crouton Alternative

Crostini cannot run Linux desktops. It launches Linux applications by clicking on their icons and runs Linux commands via the command-line interface (CLI).

Crouton (as in “ChromiumOS Universal Chroot Environment”) goes beyond this limitation. You must, in essence, replace Crostini with Crouton.

Do not hurry through the process. Check that you have followed the instructions exactly.

A mistake is unlikely to affect the Chromebook’s basic operation. A mistake will produce an error message. If this happens, repeat the failed step.

Please be patient as the process continues. The files will download and install slowly. Your internet connection speed and the internal hardware of your Chromebook are important factors.

Set Up Developer Mode

Turn off your Chromebook. Press and hold the Esc, Power, and Refresh keys simultaneously. Once the screen has shown signs of being powered on, release all three keys.

The Chromebook will display the ChromeOS screen when it is fully displayed. Choose Developer Mode from the Advanced Options. You can also press Ctrl+D.

You may then see a message that asks you to confirm the operating system. Enter if you see this message.

Use the arrow keys and scroll down to Advanced Options. Select Developer Mode, or press Ctrl + D. Chromebook will now be in Developer Mode.

NOTICE 1: Each time you turn on your Chromebook, the OS Verification screen will appear. No problem. Wait 30 seconds, and the device will start automatically on ChromeOS, or press Ctrl+D for a quick boot.

NOTE 2 You may disable Developer Mode on Chromebooks at any time. Do this:

Then, turn it off. Press the power button or lift the clamshell from its closed position.

Press the spacebar when the Chromebook displays the OS Verification message.

You can reset your Chromebook and restore it to its original configuration. Easy Peasy!

NOTE: You must perform the setup for the first-time user after the reset. The backup files you mentioned earlier will come in handy. You must reset the flags if you previously enabled desktops in your configuration. All of your Chrome browser settings and tools will be installed.

Download Crouton

This step is simple and quick. Download the Crouton file to create the chroot. This will create a Linux-only environment on your Chromebook.

Complete the Installation

Restart the Chromebook after powering it off. The Chromebook won’t load the ChromeOS web browser yet. It will instead display the Developer Mode. You can simply press Ctrl+D. Press Ctrl+Alt+T and enter when the screen updates.

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