Activating the Linux of Chrome OS [E]


The current Chrome OS comes with a Linux distribution. This Linux is based on Debian Buster as of May 2019. You can activate it on most Chrome OS devices via the system settings. Then it runs in a kind of virtual machine.

You can find a list of supported devices here at Google: link. If you are about to buy a Chrome OS device and you are interested in using Linux desktop applications, take a look at this list to see if the devices you are interested in are named there. It was a pity if the device you’d just bought doesn’t provide the Linux option! Isn’t it? 😉

If you now own such a device, you can install Linux (beta) easily with a few clicks. First, you have to open the system settings of Chrome OS. To do this, simply click in the clock section and then on the gear wheel:

Activating Linux Step 1
Image: own screenshot of the author

Important notes

Notes for beginners: My posts usually contain some basics so that you can understand how to proceed. I partly repeat the basics in other posts, so you don’t have to jump back and forth all the time.

Here is the meaning of the abbreviations after the headings: [E] Everyone [A] Advanced [B] Beginner [P] Professional

If you still miss something, feel free to comment. The community will try to help you! 🙂

Notes for professionals: My posts usually have the form of a knowledge database entry and should be equally suitable for beginners, advanced users, and professionals. Just pick out what you need right now. You can also find content specifically targeted to professionals. These are marked accordingly with [P] and other finger points.

Do you want to have more professional content on a topic? Add it to the comments 😉

Disclaimer of liability: As always on this blog, I warn you that all changes to your system mentioned in this post are at your own risk! It is theoretically possible that there are system or application errors that could lead to data loss and further problems!

How to activate Linux on Chrome OS [E]

Then the system settings of Chrome OS will appear, where you can find more options under Linux (beta):

Activating Linux Step 2
Image: own screenshot of the author

How to install Linux on Chrome OS [E]

As shown in the screenshot, you can now start the installation of Linux by clicking on “Turn on.” However, the following message will appear shortly afterward:

Activating Linux Step 3
Image: own screenshot of the author

Are you connected to the Internet, you can now finally initiate the installation by clicking on “Install.” Change the proposed user name if you’re not happy with it. Afterward, the following dialog will appear to inform you about the progress:

Activating Linux Step 4
Image: own screenshot of the author

That has never failed with me on six different Chromebooks over three years. It should be the same with you! If the system has now completed all steps, the well-known Linux terminal appears:

Activating Linux Step 5
Image: own screenshot of the author

How to update Linux and its applications [A]

That means Linux (beta) – and how I like to call it: The Linux of Chrome OS – ready for you. Next, I would recommend you to update Linux to the latest version before you install any more software there.

You can do this with the following command:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

You can copy the command from the box above and paste it into the terminal window by right-clicking. Then all you have to do is press the Enter key and you are ready to go:

Activating Linux Step 6
Image: own screenshot of the author

As you can see in the screenshot, you still have to confirm the execution of the commands with a “Y” and a press of the Enter key. That can take a while and should be completed sometime. When everything is finished, it will look like this:

Activating Linux Step 6b
Image: own screenshot of the author

How to set your Linux to your native language [A]

With the following commands you can set your Linux to your native language:

sudo apt-get install -y locales-all
sudo localectl set-locale LANG=de_DE.UTF-8 LANGUAGE="de_DE"
sudo apt-get install -y task-german

Once you have done this, whenever you install additional tools from the software catalog, for example, they are usually automatically installed in a German version. In other places, too, everything becomes more comfortable if you want to use the system in German.

However, if you want to install another language, you can call up an overview of what is possible before the second command:

localectl list-locales

Then a list of all available languages appears. The entries are structured similar to the German “de-DE.UFT8” . You would then have to enter and call the desired language in the second command instead of the German abbreviation.

The task-packages are also available in many languages. Here, for example, the Spanish package task-spaniish.

Afterwards it is best to reboot the system once.

New system settings for Linux after installation [E]

If you open the system settings of Chrome OS again from now on, you will have more options for your installed Linux:

Activating Linux Step 7
Image: own screenshot of the author

If you click on the small arrowhead there, as shown in the screenshot, some options will appear, which I will describe in another post:

Activating Linux Step 8
Image: own screenshot of the author

Installing a graphical App Store for Linux applications [A]

Are you also deterred from using this strange or even terrible cryptic terminal? No fear! In the blog, I also described how to install and use graphical “app stores.” Link will follow soon! You can use it to install standard software, like LibreOffice, in the Linux of your Chrome OS device – analogous to the Windows Store and App Store of macOS Catalina – with just one click. That would look something like this:

Activating Linux Step 9
Image: own screenshot of the author

Do you have any open questions? Leave a comment! I like to help where I can! 🙂


Update May 16, 2020: Added information on how to install e.g., language packs for your native language in the Linux of Chrome OS and change the system language.

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