Chromebooks aren’t the ideal Minecraft laptops, that’s for sure. There’s no web-based or Chrome app version of Minecraft, which is written in Java. But Chromebook owners aren’t completely out-of-luck if they want to play Minecraft.
If you’re a big Minecraft player and you don’t want to tinker, you probably won’t want to play Minecraft on your Chromebook. But, if you’re willing to tinker, here’s how you can.
Enable Developer Mode and Install the Linux Version
Mojang’s website makes it clear that Minecraft isn’t officially supported on Chromebooks. If you do want to play Minecraft on a Chromebook, they recommend enabling developer mode and running Minecraft for Linux.
Mojang says this “defeats the purpose of a Chromebook,” which is sort of true. Installing a Linux system alongside your Chrome OS system adds additional complexity, and Chromebooks are supposed to be super-simple. However, if you’re the kind of person who likes to tweak and mess with your system, installing Linux alongside Chrome OS can be a fun little adventure. You’ll have access to both Chrome OS and a traditional desktop Linux system, and you can switch between them with a hotkey — it won’t even require a reboot.
To do this, first put your Chromebook into developer mode and install a desktop Linux system with Crouton. Our guide to installing a Linux system on your Chromebook with Crouton will walk you through the process.
Afterward, you can install the Java runtime on your Chromebook’s Linux system, download Minecraft, and run it like you’d run any other desktop Linux program. Follow our guide to installing Minecraft on Linux for instructions.
When you want to play Minecraft, you can fire up the Crouton system. You can then flip back and forth between the two different environments with a keyboard shortcut. It certainly isn’t as convenient as Alt+Tabbing between Minecraft and your desktop operating system on a traditional Windows, Linux, or Mac desktop, but it’s not too bad.
Don’t bother doing this on an ARM Chromebook. ARM Chromebooks like the Samsung Chromebook that was a big best seller don’t offer graphics acceleration in the Linux environment, so Minecraft won’t run well at all. It should run well on Intel-based Chromebooks, and those use Intel’s integrated graphics so they should be well-supported by the integrated drivers. You shouldn’t have to mess with installing proprietary NVIDIA or AMD drivers.
Install Minecraft: Pocket Edition via the Android Runtime
The Minecraft for Linux option has been the only way to run Minecraft on a Chromebook, but there’s now another option. Google’s been developing an Android runtime for Chrome, and it’s designed to allow any Android app to run on Chrome OS. The runtime is in development, and it only officially supports a handful of apps.
But the Chrome community has leapt into action here. There’s now a modified runtime named ARChon, and there are tools that will easily package up any Android APK into a Chrome app that can be installed on Chrome OS. Minecraft: Pocket Edition is available as an Android app, so it could theoretically be run on a Chromebook.
This is an option, and it’s one that will certainly get better as time goes on. With any luck, the Chrome runtime developers might even work with Minecraft’s developers to officially package Minecraft’s Android app for use on Chromebooks. Microsoft is in the process of buying Minecraft, though — and their open disdain for Chromebooks might prevent this from happening.
For now, you might try installing the ARChon runtime, and using a tool like ARChon Packager on your Android phone to take the Minecraft: Pocket Edition application you own on your phone and package it up for installation on your Chromebook.
As of October, 2014, we were unable to get Minecraft: Pocket Edition working on a Chromebook. However, we found many people saying modern versions of Minecraft for Android wouldn’t run under ARChon. Ideally, this will improve over time, as Google’s goal it to get every Android application running under Chrome OS.
The nice thing about this method, if it begins to work well, will be that Minecraft just runs in a window on your Chrome OS desktop with no Developer Mode fiddling. The problem is that it will just be the mobile Minecraft: Pocket Edition application, not the full version of Minecraft for desktops and laptops — which is available on Linux.
There’s also the possibility of setting up a remote desktop system, running Minecraft on a desktop PC in another room, and streaming it to your Chromebook so you can play Minecraft in another room in your house. This is possible, but it probably won’t work too well with the kind of remote desktop-solutions available for Chrome OS. Chrome OS can’t function as a client for Steam in-home streaming or NVIDIA GameStream, which would be the ideal ways to stream Minecraft with less of a performance penalty.
Image Credit: Kevin Jarrett on Flickr