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I unleashed the full Linux potential of my Chromebook

Chromebooks are very cheap laptops, basically. And that is because they don't run an expensive operating system, Instead, they run Linux, be it by default a bit of a limited version.

And people who know me better, know that this poses a potential dilemma for me: I love cheap, but I hate limited. On the other hand, people who know me better also know that I wouldn't be anything if not quite handy with computers. And so, the challenge began, to unleash the full potential of my laptop. Because one thing is for certain: if it can run one Linux flavour, it should be able to run them all.

I can already assure you: yes, that is in fact the case. So this time, no blog post about something that I ended up failing to do. 😉 What is needed for this party trick, is to switch the device in developer mode, update the BIOS firmware and boot from USB. And if you do it well, you're not even destroying Chrome OS (which, believe me, is a handy thing to keep unless you want to use your old Chromebook as a server or something).

My Chromebook running Kali Linux

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

1. Make a backup of your laptop. Everything on your harddisk will be erased!

2. Turn off your Chromebook and turn it back on again while keeping Esc+F3 pressed (F3 is the Refresh key on a Chrome keyboard). Keep it pressed until you see a warning screen telling you your system is damaged (it isn't, but this is the screen we are looking for).

3. Press CTRL+D. This will enable developer mode. This is also the point where your entire harddisk will be erased. Don't worry about that, you made a backup after all, right? RIGHT???

4. Follow the instructions until your system reboots again. When the warning is shown that OS verification is off (don't worry about that, that's exactly what we want), press CTRL+D. Your Chromebook will boot. It is now in developer mode and it will behave like a fresh, new Chromebook, even though your casing may have several damages already from putting the wrong screws in the screwholes because you've opened it up a few times too often and mixed up the screws late in the evening (may or may not be based on a true story - don't ask). You can follow the wizard to set up your account again.

5. Press CTRL+F2 (F2 is the -> key on a Chromebook keyboard). A black screen with a login prompt will appear. Those familiar with Linux will now scream of joy: yes, Chrome OS has multiple ttys now! Login with user chromos and no password (I advise you to change this if you intend to keep Chrome OS as dual boot).

6. Enter this command:
chrossystem dev_boot_usb=1
Press enter to run this command.

7. Press CTRL+F1 (that's the <- key on a Chrome keyboard). This will bring you back to the graphical environment. Press CTRL+ALT+T and enter shell and press enter. This will bring you to a similar environment you just came from.

8. Copy and paste the following command to this tab:
cd; curl -LO mrchromebox.tech/firmware-util.sh;sudo install -Dt /usr/local/bin -m 755 firmware-util.sh;sudo firmware-util.sh
Press enter to run it. After a bit, a menu will appear. Choose option 1 from this menu.

You are now done!

Each time you reboot your Chromebook, it will show the same warning that OS verification is off. This is fine. At that screen, press CTRL+D to boot Chrome OS. Press CTRL+L if you instead want to boot from USB. If you do nothing, after 30 seconds it will automatically boot Chrome OS.

Do google your device for known issues with other Linux versions on your Chromebook though, Chromebooks often have some proprietary hardware that need specific kernel modules that are usually not shipped with (some or all) Linux distributions. I recommend checking out Gallium OS, which is a Linux distribution specifically made for Chromebooks. But even with that one, on my Chromebook the sound card and the camera didn't work. I have yet to look into that. There, I still ended this blog post with something that didn't work for me. It's starting to become a pattern.

Last modified: 20 January 2022 22:38:05.
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