Chrome OS comes with a Linux distribution and this Linux is based on Debian 11 Bullseye as of February 2022. You can activate it on most Chrome OS devices via the system settings. Then it runs in a kind of virtual machine in a container.
You can find a list of supported devices here at Google: link. All newer devices since 2019 should be compatible. 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 easily with a few clicks. First, you have to open the system settings of Chrome OS. To accomplish this, simply click in the clock section and then on the gear wheel:
Notes for beginners: My posts usually contain some basics 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 base entry and should be equally suitable for beginners, advanced users, and professionals. Just pick out what you need immediately. 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 Developers:
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.”
Then you can configure the Linux disk size and change the proposed username if you’re not happy with it:
You can adjust the size later, too. With “Install,” here we go.
However, the following message will appear shortly afterward:
Are you connected to the Internet, you can now finally initiate the installation by clicking on “Install.” Afterward, the following dialog will appear to inform you about the progress:
That has never failed with me on six different Chromebooks over four years. It should be the same with you! If the system has now completed all steps, the well-known Linux Terminal appears:
How to update Linux and its applications [A]
That means Linux — and how I like to call it: The Linux Mode of Chrome OS — is ready for you. Next, I recommend you update Linux to the latest version before installing 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:
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:
How to set your Linux to your native language [A]
With the following commands you can set your Linux to your native language, e.g., German:
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:
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-spanish“.
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:
If you click on the small arrowhead there, as shown in the screenshot, some options will appear, which I will describe in another post:
In this screenshot, you can see two possible options. By right-clicking on the Terminal icon in the Shelf, you can shut down Linux mode via the drop-down menu that appears. That makes sense after software installations, for example. Even on a relatively slow tablet like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 10, Linux mode does not always have to run because the system is slower otherwise. Then turn it off whenever you do not need a Linux application.
Regarding the 2nd option: you can disable the Linux Mode accordingly by clicking “Remove” and delete it from your system completely:
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! You can use it to install standard software, like LibreOffice, in the Linux Mode of your Chrome OS device — analogous to the Windows Store and App Store of macOS — with just one click. That would look something like this:
Do you have any open questions? Leave a comment! The community and I like to help where we can! 🙂
Words in italics may be registered trademarks or companies! Examples: Google, YouTube, and Android. Or they are technical terms from the IT world, which are described in various locations in the blog.
02/25/2022: Included the current circumstances in the post. The Linux mode is no longer in beta. It’s now based on Debian 11 Bullseye. The size of the Linux drive can be adjusted. You can shut down the Linux mode. The design of the Terminal has changed. All screenshots are updated.
05/16/2020: Added information on how to install, e.g., language packs for your native language in the Linux Mode of Chrome OS and change the system language.