Installing Ubuntu on a Chromebook

I’ve been experimenting with Chromebooks for a few weeks now to try and come up with a low-power low-cost no-maintenance setup. There are a lot of very good blog posts covering the basics already, but I thought it was at least worth documenting how I got Ubuntu installed on my older Chromebook (which is a bit of a frankenstein that goes against the general ethos of not upgrading or otherwise tinkering with the hardware). This is probably best not attempted on anything with less than 32Gb of storage, and 4Gb of RAM is probably a good idea as well.

Enable developer mode

To enable developer mode, press escape and refresh and hold down the power key. When the scary message appears then press Ctrl+d and wait for the (fairly long) process to complete. This will unlock the full bash shell, and give you enough control over the Chromebook to set up a chroot.

Install Crouton

Crouton is the script that is used to install Ubuntu in a chroot. Download it from here and ensure it’s in your downloads folder. Then press Ctrl+Alt+t to open the chrosh terminal, and type shell at the command prompt. This will get you full shell access to the Chromebook.

To install Ubuntu (at time of writing 16.04) then issue the following command:

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

This will take a while, but when it’s done then issue the following command to start Ubuntu:

sudo startxfce4

To toggle between ChromeOS and Ubuntu use Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Back and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Forward. Performance is actually not bad, and productivity is only an apt install firefox away.

Other useful commands

The following commands could be useful (all issued within the ChromeOS shell):

See a list of possible distributions to install:

sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r list

Back up a chroot:

sudo edit-chroot -b name

Restore it:

sudo edit-chroot -r name

Delete a chroot:

sudo delete-chroot name