So you’ve got yourself a brand-new Chromebook, featuring a 5th-generation Intel Broadwell CPU. Maybe you want to use Crouton to access a full Ubuntu environment, but don’t want to have to look all over the internet for the reference material you need to get started?
Good news: I’ve got you covered.
If you’re looking for a Crouton install guide and have a Haswell Celeron or Bay Trail Celeron processor, this will also work for you! Simply skip the sections regarding Intel driver updates and resolution adjustments.
Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide to installing Crouton and setting up Ubuntu in 8 steps:
- Enable Developer Mode
- Download Crouton
- Install Ubuntu
- Enter your chroot
- Adjust your Display
- Update your Intel drivers
- Install Ubuntu applications
- Exit your chroot
Each step is explained in detail, though I’ve tried to keep this basic enough that a novice could follow, and I’ve also focused on some specific options to keep this to a manageable size.
Again, while I’ve tailored this specifically to the new Broadwell-powered Chromebooks with a core i5 or i7 processor, the steps themselves will cover the vast majority of Intel Chromebooks; if you’re using a Haswell or Bay Trail-powered Chromebook, just skip step 6 as you won’t need to update your drivers. If using Bay Trail, strongly consider using XFCE rather than Unity.
NOTE: This guide also works for newer Core i3 Chromebooks including the Toshiba Chromebook 2015 and Dell Chromebook 13.
Please note that for those using the Intel Celeron 3205U Broadwell processor in the Acer C740, Acer C910, Acer Chromebook 15, and Dell Chromebook 15, you should be able to follow this guide as well, follow the appropriate steps listed below. I can confirm I was able to install Trusty 14.04 with XFCE and the Crouton Extension enabled, and it worked beautifully on my Dell Chromebook 13.
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Step 1: Developer Mode
In order to use Crouton, your Chromebook needs to be in Developer Mode. Enabling Developer mode is relatively easy, but there are three steps you should do first:
- Back up local files: The process of enabling Developer Mode will wipe all locally stored files on your Chromebook, so be sure to back up any data you want to keep.
- Create Recovery Media: This is really only relevant if you don’t have another computer, as any computer can create recovery media for Chrome OS, but if you’re installing Crouton on your only available computer, be sure to make a copy of Chrome OS recovery media just in case something goes wrong.
- Choose your Chrome OS Channel: It is preferable to select your chosen Chrome OS Channel (Stable, Beta, Dev) prior to setting up Crouton. You do this by going to Settings -> About Chrome OS -> More Info -> Change Channel.
With those things completed, let’s move on to the steps for actually enabling Developer Mode on your Chromebook.
How to Enable Developer Mode
- Press and hold the “Escape” and “Refresh” keys, and then while holding those keys, press the “Power” button. Your Chromebook will reboot into Recovery Mode.
- When the “Recovery Mode” screen appears upon rebooting – you’ll see a scary looking screen with a yellow exclamation – press “Control” + “D”. This will prompt a confirmation that you wish to enter Developer Mode.
- Press “Enter” to affirm your desire to enter Developer Mode. This will reboot your Chromebook again, and this process will take about 10 minutes.
- When it finishes, your Chromebook will reboot, and this time you’ll see a different screen with a red exclamation stating “OS Verification is OFF – Press SPACE to re-enable”. (see screenshot below)
- Going forward when you boot up, you’ll see this screen. You can either wait 30 seconds, after which your Chromebook will beep loudly and continue to the regular boot screen, or you can shortcut this by pressing “Control” + “D”.
Note that if you press “SPACE” on this screen you’ll revert out of Developer Mode and your Chromebook will be wiped of local data, which will delete your chroot. Thus if you’re using Crouton on a Chromebook, be aware of who has access to it and who may need to know about this issue.
Step 2: Download Crouton
This is probably the easiest step. Just click here, and Crouton will be downloaded to your Chromebook.
Step 3: Install Ubuntu
This step contains a staggering array of options, which I will not endeavor to detail in their entirety here. Those of you that are interested should read over the Crouton GitHub, here, and follow-up on any specific questions about various Linux distros utilizing some of the other resources available online.
Instead, for the novice user, I’m going to give you a couple of specific choices that I think are good starting points and will cover what most folks are looking for, and based on what I’ve personally experienced.
Here’s a list of decision points:
- Unity or XFCE
- Encryption or No Encryption
- Enable Touch (Pixel only)
- Choose your Ubuntu release
- Install Browser Extension and/or Xiwi
Your first choice is whether you wish to use Unity or XFCE. Unity is a more graphically intensive and user-friendly flavor of Ubuntu with a GUI that will not feel overly foreign to Windows and OS X users. However, as a result of this, it is a bit more resource-heavy, so you’ll want to consider the impact on performance.
I personally suggest XFCE for the Celeron processors, and Unity for the core i3/i5/i7 processors. XFCE is super-light and thus has very little impact on performance, but is also less friendly to Linux novices; that said, I know it works correctly including on Broadwell Celeron systems.
Your next choice is whether you want to encrypt your chroot, which will add an additional password prompt when entering Ubuntu. I think for most people this is probably not necessary, but extra security never really hurts, either.
If you’re on a Pixel 2015, you can enable Touch in Ubuntu; this is obviously not necessary on the Acer Chromebooks with Broadwell processors at this time, but if and when they add touchscreen versions, it may become relevant.
You’ll also need to choose which release you wish to install. By default, you’ll get 12.04 (Precise). You may want to use 13.04 (Raring) or 14.04 (Trusty). My strong recommendation at this point is 14.04 (Trusty). It is stable and up-to-date and is also a long term support release. 12.04 is dated with some applications and 13.04 is not a long term support release.
Finally, for those familiar with Crouton, you’re no longer limited to just using a hotkey combination to switch back and forth between Chrome OS and Ubuntu. You can now actually run the chroot in a browser tab. This has some benefits, such as making it easy to cut/paste between the environments, or to dual-display with Chrome OS on one screen and Ubuntu on another. That said, I found that I still prefer to have the two separated and have less window management and re-sizing to worry about. Most importantly, there’s no graphics acceleration running Crouton in a tab, so you can’t play games, among other limitations.
Use the Extension option to enable various functions from the Crouton Integration extension. See below for additional info.
With these choices listed, let’s look at the command to actually install Ubuntu:
- Enter a Shell by pressing “Control” + “Alt” + “T”
- Type “shell” and press “Enter”
- Type out your install script
The basic script I suggest is as follows:
For “core” Intel processors:
sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity,touch,extension
For Celeron processors:
sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t xfce,extension
Let’s break down the install scripts.
- If you chose XFCE, replace “unity” above with “xfce” as follows: sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t xfce,touch,extension
- If you chose encryption, add “-e” as follows: sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity,touch,extension
- If you don’t have a touchscreen Chromebook or just don’t wish for Touch to work in Ubuntu, remove the “touch” from the script: sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity,extension
- If you wish to choose a different release, replace “-r trusty” with your selection, either “-r precise” or “-r raring”
- If you wish to enable running your chroot in a browser tab, add “xiwi” to the target: sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity,xiwi
You can read more about how these various options work and other commands available to you during install, at the GitHub link above.
Once you enter the install command, the actual install will take around 10-20 minutes depending on your internet connection and your specific Chromebook. When it completes, you’ll be prompted to enter a password, which you’ll need whenever you complete an action that requires privileges (such as installing an application).
If you chose encryption, you’ll also have to select a password to enter whenever you launch the chroot. Note that these passwords should not be the same, and in addition, you don’t have to match them to your Google password (and in fact, probably should not do so).
NOTE: For some Chromebooks, the keyboard becomes inactivated while the Crouton installer is working. In order to finish the install process, plug in a USB keyboard, enter your username and password, and finalize the install. Then, reboot, and your keyboard will be working normally.
Additional Info on Crouton Integration Extension: you may also want to install the appropriate Extension for Chrome, which you can get at the Chrome Web Store, here. It enables extra functionality like supporting cut/paste across Chrome OS into Ubuntu and vice versa, amonth other features, but isn’t required for Crouton to work. (This is free, in case you were concerned)
Step 4: Enter your Chroot
To enter your Ubuntu environment, open a tab using “Control” + “Alt” + “T” and type “shell”, then press “Enter”. Now type:
depending on which you selected when doing your install.
If you chose encryption, enter your password.
If you’re running in a browser tab, you’ve now got Ubuntu running in one of your Chrome tabs. You can resize it as you see fit. Remember that Chrome has a fullscreen mode and a dedicated button to toggle this on and off.
If you’re not running it in a tab, then you’ll be in fullscreen by default. To change back and forth between Ubuntu and Chrome OS, press and hold the following keys:
“Control” + “Alt” + “Shift” + “Forward”
Note: Your first time installing your chroot, DO NOT go back to Chrome OS after you’ve installed it. You will need to update your Intel drivers so that everything functions correctly. This only needs to be done once. See Step 6, below.
Step 5: Adjust your Display [Optional]
If you’re on a Pixel in particular, you’ll immediately want to adjust your display resolution. In Unity, this is very easy: in system settings, adjust the display resolution to 1600×1024 (3:2) which instantly makes everything look great across the entire UI. In XFCE, you’ll have to do a bit more work: you can adjust the resolution, adjust the icon size, and so on.
My suggestion is that, if you’re doing this on a Pixel, just do a little research ahead of time on the Display options for your selected distro. GitHub has a few suggestions listed as well for how to handle display challenges.
Step 6: Update your Intel Drivers
This step is critically important for Broadwell-powered Chromebooks, including:
- Acer Chromebook 15
- Acer C910
- Google Chromebook Pixel
- Acer C740
- Dell Chromebook 13
- Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015
If you do not update your drivers, you’ll have all kinds of nasty graphical glitches in Crouton. You can either go to the Intel website and do this manually, or just enter the commands below one by one into the terminal (which is my suggestion). You can also find these steps listed here.
sudo apt-get install software-properties-common python-software-properties sudo add-apt-repository https://download.01.org/gfx/ubuntu/14.04/main wget --no-check-certificate https://download.01.org/gfx/RPM-GPG-KEY-ilg -O - | sudo apt-key add - wget --no-check-certificate https://download.01.org/gfx/RPM-GPG-KEY-ilg-2 -O - | sudo apt-key add - sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get upgrade
As of October 2015 I can confirm this works with the Dell Chromebook 13 and suspect it will work with the other Broadwell Celeron systems as well, at least in XFCE 14.04.
Step 7: Make Ubuntu Awesome
There are quite a few popular applications available for Ubuntu. I’ve listed a number of them below, but keep in mind this is a small sample size; the world of Ubuntu is vast and this is a full-fledged OS with dramatically stronger file format compatibility and offline functionality than Chrome OS offers.
As soon as you enter your chroot for the first time, run the following via command line:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
Then install any number of the following applications, or whatever else you’d like. Keep in mind that in order to take advantage of many applications you will want to install Restricted Extras and Java Runtime.
Install Software Center: sudo apt-get install software-center
Install Firefox: This is easily done through Software Center, which I prefer as you can also install any selected add-ons through Software Center as well.
Install Java Runtime Environment: sudo apt-get install openjdk-7-jre
Install Ubuntu Restricted Extras: sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras (OR, this is accessible via the Software Center)
Install VLC Media Player: sudo apt-get install vlc browser-plugin-vlc
(OR, accessible in Software Center)
Install GTK graphical toolkit: sudo apt-get install gtk2-engines-pixbuf
Install Steam: You can install Steam via store.steampowered.com or via the terminal:
sudo apt-get install gdebi-core
sudo gdebi steam.deb
NOTE: Apparently there is no longer an issue with Steam recognizing controllers when being used via Crouton, so you can use controllers such as the XBox 360 controller in “Big Picture” mode and in gameplay just as you would in Windows.
Install Minecraft: You can install Minecraft by downloading the launcher from https://minecraft.net/download or via the terminal:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:minecraft-installer-peeps/minecraft-installer
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install minecraft-installer
Install WINE: I strongly recommend downloading WINE via their website as in my experience Software Center does not always have the most recent version. Note that I have not yet tried WINE on my Pixel and have had varying degrees of success with it on other Chromebooks. If you’re trying to play games, also check out PlayOnLinux.
Install Classic Game Emulation Applications: Rather than retype this here, please see my full article on this subject which contains step-by-step install instructions for a number of recommended emulators.
Install GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program): You can install GIMP via the Software Center, or:
sudo apt-get install gimp
Install Skype: Download via the web at http://www.skype.com/en/download-skype/skype-for-linux/
Step 8: Logging Out
Once you’re done in Ubuntu, log out using the “Log Off” command and wait for the system to log out and for the shell prompt to reappear. At that point you can close out that tab and go back to Chrome OS as usual.
To re-enter Ubuntu, just follow the steps listed in Step 4, above:
- Open a shell (Control + Alt + T)
- Enter your startup command, ie “sudo startunity”
- Enter your password (if encrypted)
This is by no means a fully comprehensive resource, and I am not an expert, but rather am attempting to compile all the information that I wished was available in one place when I was most recently setting up Crouton on my Pixel 2015.
In addition to the GitHub linked several times above, I also recommend checking out Lifehacker’s resources on Crouton which are excellent; if you have any interest in installing Crouton on external media such as a USB 3.0 Flash Drive or an SD Card, check out this guide, which is exceptionally detailed.
Note that your best bet is either a fast USB 3.0 flash drive or a high-speed SD or Micro-SD card that is read by a USB 3.0 adapter; unfortunately the Pixel SD card slot is capped at a sadly low rate of speed.
As always, feedback as well as likes and/or resharing are greatly appreciated.
I have a number of recent Chromebook-related articles that you may find useful, including: