How to install Linux on a Chromebook

In today's open source roundup: Run Linux on your Chromebook. Plus: Team Fortress 2 for Linux gets an update on Steam. And Samsung dumps Google+ in the Galaxy Note 5


How to install Linux on a Chromebook

Chromebook sales have been red hot on Amazon, with various models regularly getting great reviews and comments from Amazon customers. But not everybody is in love with Chrome OS. Some folks prefer to run Linux and Expert Reviews has a helpful how-to that will guide you through the install process.

Michael Passingham reports for Expert Reviews:

There are many reasons you might want to install a Linux distro on your Chromebook. You might have an application that you can only run in Linux, you might want to play games on Steam (if you have a higher-end Chromebook with decent specifications) or you simply might want a wider range of applications than Chrome OS can provide.

The good news is that installing Linux is now very easy thanks to the open-source Crouton tool. The great thing about this method is that you keep Chrome OS and can instantly switch between your Linux and Chrome OS operating systems, without having to boot into them separately.

Installing Crouton is very simple, although your experience may vary depending on the Chrome OS device you're currently using. We carried out our testing on an HP Chromebook 11 from 2013. Before you start, ensure any local files on your Chromebook are backed up. Anything else, including installed apps, extensions and Google Drive files are stored in the cloud so you don't have to worry about using them.

Part 1: Put your Chromebook in developer mode

Part 2: Download Crouton

Part 3: Install your Linux distro of choice

Part 4: Run and enhance your Chroot

More at Expert Reviews

Other Chromebook owners have already added Linux to their machines, and some of them shared their thoughts in a thread last year on Reddit:

Rott3npunk: "I'm on an Acer C720 running Debian and it was pretty simple. You do have to remove a screw to flash the bios, which will void your warranty, but at the price that shouldn't be a big deal. Once you enable seabios and usb boot it's like installing linux on a normal laptop.

The only problem I had was that the kernel patch to make the touchpad work wouldn't work for me, but I updated to 3.17 and everything works fine.

I would suggest you spend the extra 50-60 dollars on a bigger SSD though, the space goes fast."

Donrhummy: "Only if you want to get rid of ChromeOS and install only linux. You can install Linux with ChromeOS using Crouton (officially supported by Google) and no need to remove screws."

Tidux: "I've got Arch on mine because I wanted the linux-c720 package from the AUR, but it's much nicer running regular 3.17 - the linux-c720 kernel config was missing silly things like USB serial drivers and the entire ethernet stack, which made using it as a NOC laptop or tethering it impossible. If Arch eventually renders itself unbootable, I'll go Debian Jessie for the next install."

Nathan: "I bought an Acer C720 two weekends ago with the sole intention of putting Linux on it. With a NewEgg pricematch, I paid just under $215 at Microcenter including sales tax. I had an old netbook that I needed to replace.

Installing Arch wasn't hard. You do have to void the warranty in order to do so since you have to remove a write protect screw from the motherboard. It's not hard to do. Then you enable developer mode and change some settings to the firmware defaults to SeaBIOS instead of ChromeOS. From there, it's simple to boot to a USB install drive and it's pretty much a normal linux installation from there.

The keyboard isn't great. I'd describe it as "mushy", but I've gotten used to it and it's not so bad, my old netbook just had a pretty good keyboard. There's a "search" key that's registered as a super (windows) key in Linux. I swap that with left ctrl since I normally have caps lock as an extra control. The F1-F10 keys are at the top but printed as shortcut keys (brightness, volume control, etc). You can leave them as function keys and use the super key to activate the shortcuts, or vice-versa. There are a few ways you can set up hotkeys such as these. Other than that, be aware there's no insert/delete/pageup/pagedown/home/end keys. Again, you can configure shortcuts that map to these if you like. Even with all of these problems I got used to the keyboard pretty quickly and program on it happily.

Other than that, the machine performs incredibly well. The CPU is fast, it runs KDE4 well, I have plenty of software installed and have used only about half of my available space. I get occasional GPU freezes, but that's not a common issue and I'm pretty sure there's a way to fix it, I just haven't tried much yet.

I get about six hours of battery life depending on screen brightness. The screen itself is very bright, I'm very happy with it.

All in all I highly recommend."

Chocolatemeowcats: "Have you tried TLP with your c720? I get way more than 6 hours."

Xphx: "Today I removed ChromeOS and installed Ubuntu Trusty (this is basically the only distribution that does not make you want to rip your hairs out during the setup process) on my Acer CB5. It's a 13" Chromebook with a good build quality, a Tegra K1 with 4GB memory and a 32GB eMMC. Linux works just as you would expect it to, ChromeOS cannot be started anymore after this installation (until you reset to factory defaults).

There is nothing to complain about, if you want a cheap laptop that has a good build quality and runs linux, the Acer CB5 is a very nice device. But as with every Chromebook it has a bad display - it is 1080 but still the viewing angles and overall quality are pretty terrible. At least it's not a glossy screen. For the money, my complaint about the display isn't valid, since I compare the display to a $2000+ Macbook (which is non-glossy too and has a fantastic quality)."

Terminalator: "I used to run Slackware on my Samsung CR-48. I loved it until my stepson sat on it."

Richeibful: "I'm using Xubuntu thru Crouton on my school-provided Dell Chromebook 10. This way, you can switch between Linux and ChromeOS with a hotkey. Take a look at the instructions and download here[1] . You're going to need to put it in developer mode[2] first."

Mthode: "I've installed gentoo on the original arm chromebook. I used it a little bit, but couldn't get over the keyboard. Love the form factor though."

Yuppie: "I put CentOS7 and Arch on my Google CR-48, which only has a 16GB ssd in it and it ended up working rather well. No major issues other than completely bogged down when trying to run a web browser like chrome or firefox. Couldn't handle youtube or any typical web browsing."

More at Reddit

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