How to install Google's Chrome OS

How to install Google's Chrome OS

Summary: You don't need a Chromebook to try Google's Linux-based Chrome OS. Here's how to give it a try today.


The commercial Chromebooks are almost here, but if you want to try Chrome OS sooner than that you can do it. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as you might think. Here's how to do it.

First, if you just try looking for "Chrome OS download" on Google, ironically, you're going to have trouble finding it. Instead, you're most likely to find links that will eventually take you to Chrome OS Linux. This is not Google's Chrome OS. It's a Linux distribution that uses Chrome OS. It may be fine. I don't know. I haven't tried it, but it's not the Chrome OS that you're looking for.

The real Chrome OS, which is indeed based on Linux flavored by Ubuntu, is available as source code, along with build instructions, at the Chromium OS Developer Guide. If you're not an experienced programmer with access to a 64-bit Linux system, Ubuntu 10.04 Long Term Support (LTS) version for choice, you don't want to go this route though.

For people who don't program in C for a living, the smart thing to do is to download a Chrome OS virtual machine (VM) or USB stick live image from Hexxen.

These images, but I'll let Hexxen explain what they're up to: "Each day at around 6PM GMT the latest code is downloaded automatically and compiled into images you can try out, containing the latest changes. You can get images in either USB, VirtualBox or VMware format. For the best experience, it's recommended you use the USB images. If these don't boot on your device then go ahead and try the VirtualBox or VMware image. These should always work (assuming the build wasn't broken at the time they were built), but you'll find they're quite slow, because there's no graphical acceleration."

These builds are, in my experience, safe. They are not, however, stable. These are beta programs with all the foibles that come with betas. In addition, some of them will indeed prove to be broken. Welcome to life at programming's cutting edge.

Personally, I run Chrome OS hard drive images on VirtualBox on one of my Dell Inspiron 530S test boxes. These are powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. It has 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB Serial ATA (SATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator). But, for running Chrome as a VM, you can forget about the GMA. Chrome OS can't use it.

Yep, sure enough. Chrome OS looks just like the Chrome Web Browser.

Yep, sure enough. Chrome OS looks just like the Chrome Web Browser.

I also use the USB versions on my Dell Mini 9. For Chrome OS, this early model Ubuntu Linux netbook, with its 1.6Ghz single-core Intel Atom 270 Diamondville with a gigabyte of RAM and am 8GB solid state drive (SSD) and Diamondville's built-in 945GSE graphics is underpowered. Still, Chrome OS works better on it than it does on a VM.

If I were you, and wanted to play with Chrome OS, I'd used a more up-to-date low-end notebook. Chrome OS will use local storage-unlike what some people seem to think-and it's optimized for SSDs. You can run it on a laptop or desktop with a conventional hard drive, but in my own experience it clearly does better with SSDs.

So, ready to give it a try? Well be aware that it's going to be a bumpy ride at time and that Chrome OS' interface is essentially the same as the Chrome Web browser. You should know that you're not going to see the kind of speed you're used to with the Chrome Web browser. This is, one more time with feeling, a beta. But, if like me, your idea of a good time is playing with operating systems, you're ready to go now. Good luck!

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Topics: Software, Browser, Google, Linux, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems

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  • No, thanx (NT)

  • Why would you want to install crapware full of spyware?

    ... when you can pick from a large number of Linux distributions that will provide a full operating system, with thousands of available applications ... all for free?
    • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS


      Because Google is likely to be a little quicker with the upkeep on Chrome OS than the Linux guys at Ubuntu/etc. are.
      • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

        @Lerianis10 I run Ubuntu 10.4 LTS and get updates around twice a week or so. I'm still waiting for an upgrade to Froyo on my Galaxy Tab (neither Samsung nor Verizon has a schedule), and specifically a fix for an Android email bug first reported 17 months ago. I really don't expect Google ever to push any update to 2.2 onto my device. Is there really any evidence that Google provides end-user support, at least in the US market?
        • Wow

          You're incompetent. I feel sorry for you.
    • Yeah....Why would you want to install/run Windows full of spyware?


      linux for me
    • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

      Why indeed install windows
      • Install Windows

        Can you suggest some easy to use graphing software for Mint 13??? I am using MathGV for windows, I would hate to lose it.....
        • Wine

          MathGV seems to work perfectly in Wine. But wouldn't a web-based function plotter be adequate?
    • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS


      Keep hugging the old lady then.
  • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

    Why would we? When we have access to more powerful operating systems which all support a wide range of applications?

    No thanks.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

      @Cylon Centurion

      I have to agree.... unless Google ALSO makes a way that you can run ANY Windows or OSX program on Chrome OS (better than WINE)? Forgeddaboutit.
    • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

      @Cylon Centurion

      Why did my post get flagged? I only speak the truth. Why install a cloud OS, when local storage is cheap, RAM plentiful, and processors are as powerful as ever?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • AND, more to the point, one's intellectual property remains their own

        @Cylon Centurion -;col1

        That article can't be referenced enough. Google's TOS are outrageous.

        And, of course, cloud security as well. For-profit companies only care about doing the least amount of work for the most amount of profit. That mindset is poison to begin with, so the whole industry doing the same thing will only lead to big problems down the road.
      • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

        @Cylon Centurion : Because companies want you to hold you on the next bottle neck... the network speed is the next bottle neck... As you told : "when local storage is cheap, RAM plentiful, and processors are as powerful as ever"...<br><br>It seems companies like to hold peoples in bottle necks... They do a lot of money when peoples are stocked in bottle necks...
  • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

    Isn't the easiest way to experience the chrome book just installing google chrome? O.K. Speed, but that is probably due to the SSD and the OS optimized for the particular hardware. I wonder why google doesn't distribute an iso-image of the OS.
  • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

    Thanks but no thanks. Maybe once the builds get better but it seems pointless to mess around with it now.
  • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

    [i]the latest code is downloaded automatically and compiled[/i]

    Some things will never change in linux. LOL!!
    • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

      You say that like it's a bad thing.
      Ed Burnette
      • RE: How to install Google's Chrome OS

        @Ed Burnette<br><br>LRD's grindingly humorless bids for external validation (or another paycheck) commonly have him repeating like a broken phonograph record that users of Linux have to regularly compile code to make the OS work--like they did in, say, 1995 before dynamically loadable kernel modules became standard. (Alternatively, he'll bleat that telnet is "wide open" in Linux and some reader who dislikes such casual and calculated defacement of fact by fiction will correct him; as I did--once.)<br><br>In this case, of course, SJVN has triggered the LRD transponder by mentioning that ChromeOS code is not available in ready-to-use binary form and must be compiled, as (as you know) is common with code under active development, unless a third-party makes builds available--which in this case at least has been done. Those of us who like to fiddle can have fun with it as a VM or in USBable form with minimal hassle. The biggest thing I've ever compiled was the full KDE desktop, back in 2002 or so; maybe it's time to try an entire OS!