Monday, 9 February 2015

How To Install Ubuntu On The HP Chromebook

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  23:24 24 comments


One of the most popular articles on this site shows how to install Ubuntu and Minecraft on the HP Chromebook.

Some people have found the guide difficult to follow and so I have decided to rework it and I also retested all the steps to make sure they work correctly.

This guide shows how to install Ubuntu with the Unity desktop on a HP Chromebook using Crouton. 

I have cut out any waffle and I have left out all of the other switches that you can use with Crouton so that this is a basic streamlined approach to installing Ubuntu and Unity.

Feel free to read the original guide if you would prefer to try out different desktop environments or Debian.

Create Recovery Media

Before you begin make sure that you have created recovery media in case everything goes wrong.

Switch To Developer Mode

Bookmark this page (CTRL + D) or send a link to your email as the next step will place your Chromebook into developer mode.

To enter developer mode press the following key combination:

Esc + Refresh + Power Button
(The refresh button is the 4th button from the left at the top and looks like a curly arrow).

Enter Recovery Mode On HP Chromebook
Enter Recovery Mode On HP Chromebook

Don't panic when the screen above appears. This is part of the process. Simply enter the following key combination to enter developer mode:

A message will appear stating that you are about to enter developer mode and that this voids your warranty. This is why you need to create a recovery drive first.

If you are happy to continue press the enter key.

Enter Developer Mode On HP Chromebook
Enter Developer Mode On HP Chromebook

The computer will now enter developer mode and it can take quite a while to do so. (Approximately 30 - 40 minutes).

When the process is complete you will see the following screen.

Developer Mode
Developer Mode 

Every time you start your Chromebook using the power button the above screen will appear. 

NOTE: Always press CTRL + D to get past this screen.

NOTE ALSO: You will be required to set up your internet connection and enter your user details the first time you use the Chromebook in developer mode.

Download Crouton

To install Ubuntu on the HP Chromebook you will need to download a script called Crouton.

Install Ubuntu Using Crouton

Open the Chrome browser and press the following key combination:

Crosh Shell
Crosh Shell
A terminal window will open. 

Now enter the following command into the window to switch to a command shell:

Command Shell
Command Shell

To install Ubuntu with the Unity desktop enter the following command:

sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity -e

I am not going to go into too much detail about the command.

Please read the original guide to installing Ubuntu on the HP Chromebook  to find out about all the switches.

All you really need to know is that the above command installs Ubuntu 14.04, which is the LTS version, with the Unity desktop.

How long this process takes depends on your internet connection speed. It took about 45 minutes on my Chromebook.

When the script is near the end you will be asked to enter the name of a user to be associated with Ubuntu and a password. This will be your login information for Ubuntu.

NOTE: To get back to Chrome after Ubuntu starts press CTRL + ALT + LEFT ARROW
(The left arrow is the one next to the ESC button at the top).

When the installation is complete you will be back at the command prompt. To start Ubuntu enter the following command:

sudo startunity

Setting Up Ubuntu

Ubuntu On The HP Chromebook
Ubuntu On The HP Chromebook

This is the section that really improves on the previous guide as it shows how to get Ubuntu to be just like the Ubuntu you would install on a normal laptop.

As you can see from the screenshot above, this is a barebones Ubuntu and Unity install. There are no applications installed.

To set up Ubuntu properly open up a terminal window by using the following key combination:

A terminal window will open.

Now enter the following command into the window:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
Enter your password when asked to do so.

All of the files required for Ubuntu will now be downloaded, extracted and installed. Again this can take some time depending on your internet connection.

Restart Ubuntu to see the changes.

Starting Ubuntu On Subsequent Boots Of The Chromebook

Whenever you start the Chromebook from a powered off position you will find yourself at the following screen.

HP Chromebook In Developer Mode
HP Chromebook In Developer Mode

Press CTRL + D to enter ChromeOS.

From ChromeOS open a Chrome browser window and press CTRL + ALT + T to open a terminal.

Enter shell into the terminal window to reach a command shell.

Finally type sudo startunity to start Ubuntu.

Important Key Commands

Press CTRL + ALT + LEFT to get back to ChromeOS from within Ubuntu.

Press CTRL + ALT + RIGHT followed by CTRL + ALT + REFRESH to switch back to Ubuntu from ChromeOS.

NOTE: The left arrow is the one next to the escape key on the top row of keys and the right arrow key is the one next to it.


Hopefully this guide will make it easier for people to install Ubuntu on the HP Chromebook.

As usual, feel free to use the comments section below if you need further guidance.

Installing Minecraft On The HP Chromebook

I have rewritten the part showing how to install Minecraft on the HP Chromebook as well.

About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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  1. Could you please tell me why I am getting this?

    sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity -e
    unity target does not work in xephyr in trusty due to missing egl support.
    Invalid target "unity".

    1. I was getting the same issue and I found the solution in the link below. It appears that if your Chromebook is using a ARM processor Trusty doesn't work.

      For ARM Chromebooks: it's important to note that Unity only works in Ubuntu 12.04 (because only Unity 2D works due Xephyr lacking EGL support).

      To see what processor your Chromebook is using enter "chrome://system" in the browser without the quotes.

      Good Luck


    2. I got this to work on my HP ARM Chromebook 14 by using precise instead of trusty.
      Is there a UX for 14.04 (trusty) which will work on ARM ?

  2. Hi Gary, a great article, thanks for sharing this. I have two questions: do you think these instructions work on my Acer Chromebook? And, is the Chrome OS still installed and operational, or does Ubuntu replace Chrome?....Jim

    1. It works unless Acer has good enough memory/graphics processor or not. Chrome is still installed on your device.

    2. My toshiba chromebook 2 keeps rebooting and does not enter recovery mode after the key combo is pressed, tried everything, does it have to be on or off, the combo is the same on all recent chromebooks.

  3. Hi, thank you for this article. I have a question: there is any way to make the computer start ubuntu automatically? like a regular ubuntu computer? or the only way to do it is entering in chrome and press the button sequence?
    thank you in advance.

  4. Hi.
    After installing ubuntu using crouton I then started a new terminal. Typed in shell. Typed in sudo startunity. It then comes up with Enter encryption passphrase for precise:
    What do I put?
    Hope someone can help. I have a HP chromebook 14.

    1. Hi Amy,

      Hope you were able to get it working. If not, I created a passphrase (like a password). I'm not a developer and it seemed to work for me :) Good Luck.

      Chris Scott

  5. When I try to download crouton, a notification pops up saying chrome does not support that type of file and asks to see what apps will. What should I do from here?

    1. once you have downloaded the file do not try to open it go straight to the command terminal and follow the instructions

  6. I used this installation process awhile back and it has been fantastic. On an HP Chromebook. I have gone thru two upgrade Ubuntu cycles. Ubuntu upgrade just announced that I can upgrade to 15.10.

    Can I? Should I? I took the plunge, after backing up of course, and it failed. So am wondering, is it possible, advisable, to upgrade the Ubuntu version via the standard channels? Or is there a better method? Or...... don't upgrade?

    Tx, this is has been a most excellent application.

  7. anything I try to do says that its a wrong command..

    1. How far did you get through the guide

    2. i went to the sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop but it said command not found?

    3. i got to getting all the downloads for ubuntu but it said the command wasn't found

  8. I am on the Ubuntu Destop. When hit the ctrl+alt+back the screen doesn't go back to chrome OS. What am I doing wrong?

  9. I got to the Ubuntu Desktop on my chromebook Dell 11. I cont get back to ChromeOS though when I press cntrl+Alt+back.
    What am I doing wrong?

    1. Press the circle thing in the top right corner and log out

  10. My screen is frozen. At the bottom it says 'please specify a username for the primary user:' but I can't move my mouse or type.

  11. Same problem - people are saying you should plug in a USB keyboard to fix this. I don't have one available right now - agh!

  12. I haven't been able to boot into developer mode on a Toshiba chromebook 2. I start the recovery process, but when I hit Ctrl+D, nothing happens. I've looked all over the next for something about this, and I'm stumped. If anyone knows how to get around this, I'll appreciate the info.


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