How to Install Linux Apps on a Chromebook

This step-by-step guide will explain how to install Linux on your Chromebook and then show you how to install Apps and/or games via the “command line” and the GNOME Software Center (think ‘App Store’).

This guide is broken into two sections – the first is setting up Linux on your Chromebook. Then, we’ll show you how to install the GNOME Software Center – which is kind of like an App Store for Linux. Let’s jump right in!

Setup Linux on Your Chromebook

  1. Before you do anything, make sure your Chromebook is running the latest version of Chrome OS (link will open in a new tab/window). There are a whole bunch of reasons you’ll want to make sure you’re using the latest version of Chrome OS, one of the big ones is that Linux apps only recently got audio support.
  2. Now that you’re sure you’re using the latest version of Chrome OS, click (or tap if you have a touchscreen device) the Launcher button found on the bottom left corner of your Chromebook screen.
  3. the Chrome OS Launcher button

  4. Scroll down to the Settings icon and select it.
  5. the Chrome OS Settings icon

  6. Scroll down to the Linux (Beta) option and select it.
  7. the Chrome OS Settings list with an arrow pointing to Linux (Beta)

  8. Click the Turn on button.
  9. a Turn On button

  10. The ‘Setup Wizard’ will launch. Select Next to begin.
  11. the install Linux on a Chromebook install wizard

  12. Type in the username you’d like to use in Linux (the default is perfectly fine). Unless you have reason not to, leave the Disk size at the recommended size. If the hard drive in your Chromebook is particularly small, you can lower the size. Select Install.

    selecting a username for Linux on a Chromebook and the disk size

  13. Now Linux will install – which won’t take very long
  14. installing Linux on a Chromebook

  15. You’ll know the installation was successful when a Terminal window appears.
  16. a Terminal window on a Chromebook

  17. There will also be a new Linux apps item in your App Drawer. Select it.
  18. the Chromebook App Drawer with the Linux apps item highlighted

  19. Right now there will only be one item – Terminal.
  20. an arrow pointing to the Terminal app icon

  21. If you open the Files app, you’ll notice there’s a new item named Linux files. This is where all of the – you guessed it – Linux files are stored.
  22. the Chrome OS File Manager with an arrow pointing to the Linux Files folder

Install Linux Apps on Your Chromebook

  1. There are a number of ways to install Apps in Linux. Two of the most common are using “apt” via the Terminal (command line) or to use something like an App Store (graphical). We’ll cover both – by using apt and the Terminal in order to install the GNOME Software Center – which is very similar to the Mac or Windows App Stores.

    Back in the Terminal, enter the command: sudo apt-get install gnome-software gnome-packagekit

  2. install Linux apps on a Chromebook via the Terminal

  3. NOTE: hopefully you can ignore this step, but if you got an error when you tried to run the previous command, enter this command: sudo apt-get update and once it’s done, repeat the above step. That should clear it up.
  4. Some text will fly by the screen and you’ll be asked with a “Y/N” prompt if you want to continue. Tap the “y” key to continue.
  5. install Linux apps on a Chromebook via the Terminal with an arrow pointing to the Y/N option

  6. Now the GNOME Software Center will be downloaded and installed – along with all of the components required to run the Software Center. Oddly, in all likelihood this will take longer than it took to install Linux itself.
  7. a Chrome OS Terminal with a bunch of code

  8. Once it’s done and you’re back at a command prompt you’ll need to issue another couple of commands to make sure everything gets updated, including the list of Apps in the Software Center. Enter the following command: sudo apt-get update
  9. issuing an apt-get command in a Terminal in on a Chromebook

  10. Once that’s done, enter the following command: sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
  11. the apt-get disk-upgrade command in a Terminal on a Chromebook

  12. Now you’ll need to reboot your Chromebook. Power it off by opening the Notification section and click the “Power Off” button. Once it’s off, use the power button on your Chromebook to turn it back on.
  13. a Power Off button

  14. Once you’re back up and running again, take a look inside the Linux app section of your App Drawer – there will be a few new items. Select the Software icon. Please note: it can take a few minutes for the Software center to open for the first time – this is normal. Just wait it out.

    an arrow pointing to a Software app icon

  15. Welcome to the GNOME Software center! From here you can search or browse through all sorts of apps and games, then install them with just a click.
  16. the GNOME Software center in Chrome OS

  17. Once you’ve located an App or Game you’d like to try out, just click the Install button. No account is needed, no sign ups or email addresses are required. Just click and install.
  18. an arrow pointing to an Install button

  19. Depending on the App/Game you decided to install, this process could take anywhere from a couple of seconds to … a long time. If you think it’s stalled or frozen just keep waiting – sometimes it can take much longer than it should.
  20. install apps on a Chromebook via the GNOME Software center

  21. Click the Launch button to try out the newly installed software. Depending on the software, it can take a few minutes to open up for the first time. Again, patience is key.
  22. opening GIMP on a Chromebook

  23. Or of course, launch it from the Linux apps section of your App Drawer.
  24. the App Drawer Linux apps section

  25. Have fun!

If you’d like to install more cool stuff on your Chromebook, check out our guide on installing Spotify in Chrome OS.


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