Google is making life a little easier for those who want to install their own Linux operating systems on Chromebooks. Enthusiasts have long been using workarounds to install Ubuntu and other Linux distros on the cheap laptops, which predominantly run on Google’s Chrome OS – a lightweight operating system that offers little more than a web browser.
Now, according to a Google+ post from the company’s Francois Beaufort, Google will be making it easier for tinkerers to install their Linux distros, including the ability to boot from USB and install an OS image from a USB thumb drive for the first time. Previously, Ubuntu could only be installed by typing commands into the terminal, as shown in this tutorial from our sister site PC Pro.
Running Linux on a Chromebook still isn’t a walk in the park and requires some technical knowledge. The device has to be switched to the Dev Channel – predominantly intended to for application developers and not consumers – and effectively reset before a new operating system can be installed, wiping out existing user settings.
And although Google’s making the process a little easier, it doesn’t officially support the installation of alternative operating systems on Chromebooks, so if anything goes wrong you’re on your own. It may even invalidate the Chromebook’s warranty, so only proceed with a Linux installation if you’re confident you know what you’re doing. It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not currently possible to install Windows on a Chromebook.
Chromebooks represent a cheap way to get a fully functional Linux laptop, with many models selling for less than £200. However, there are some limitations. Many Chromebooks, especially older models, run low-power processors that may struggle with a full-blown Linux distro such as Ubuntu. They often also come with very limited storage, with Chromebooks generally relying on cloud storage. That leaves little room for music, photos or other files once the Linux OS is installed.