How to Manage the Crouton Linux System on Your Chromebook

Crouton — made by a Google employee — is the ideal solution for running Linux on your Chromebook. If you’re a Crouton user, there are some extra commands you’ll want to know.

We’ve previously shown how to install Linux on a Chromebook with Crouton and how to run that Linux desktop in a Chrome browser window.

Crouton stores the Linux systems you install in “chroots.” You can have multiple chroots. The commands below will help you work with and manage those chroots.

Choose a Target

When installing Crouton, you have to specify a target. For example, “sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce,xiwi” installs the Xfce desktop with the software that enables the Chrome OS extension. You’ll find other targets here too — Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, KDE, GNOME, LXDE, Enlightenment, and even command-line only targets like “core” and “cli-extra” if you don’t need a fancy desktop.

After downloading the Crouton script to your Downloads folder, you can run the following command to see a list of targets:

sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t help

Pick a Linux Distro and Release

Crouton still uses Ubuntu 12.04 as its default Linux distribution, but you can install other releases of Ubuntu, Debian, or Kali Linux. Specify a release with -r name while running the Crouton command. For example, “sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t unity,xiwi” installs a  chroot with Ubuntu Trusty, the Unity desktop, and the software that allows the Chrome OS extension to show it in a browser tab.

Run the following command to see a list of Linux distributions and their releases:

sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r list

Update a Crouton Chroot

When a new version of Crouton comes out, the software in your chroot will be outdated. It won’t automatically update itself, but you can update it fairly quickly.

First, enter your chroot and run the following command. That means this command must be run from that Crouton Linux system:

croutonversion -u -d -c

Next, exit the chroot and run the following command from the Chrome OS shell, replacing “name” with the name of your chroot. If you didn’t specify a name, it’s probably the name of the release you installed — for example, “trusty” or “precise.”

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -u -n name

Encrypt a Chroot

When installing a Crouton chroot with the installer script, add -e to the command to encrypt your chroot. You can also re-run the Crouton installer script with the -e switch to encrypt an existing chroot. For example, to update an existing chroot and add encryption, you’d use the same command as above, but add an -e:

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -u -e -n name

Create Multiple Chroots

Crouton allows you to create multiple chroots, so you can experiment with different Linux desktops and distributions. To create a new chroot after you’ve already created one with Crouton, run the Crouton installer script again and add -n to the command. For example, the following command would create a new chroot named testchroot with the LXDE desktop:

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t lxde,xiwi -n testchroot

Back Up a Chroot

Run the following command to back up a Crouton chroot, replacing “name” with the name of the chroot. This will create an archive in the current directory with your chroot’s files in it.

sudo edit-chroot -b name

You can restore the backup later with the following command:

sudo edit-chroot -r name

Or, when setting Crouton up from scratch — perhaps you’ve powerwashed your Chromebook and want to get your customized Linux environment back on it — you can run the following command while installing Crouton. The Crouton installer script will restore your chroot from the backup file you provide, so replace “backupfile.tar.gz” with the name of the backup file you want to restore.

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -f backupfile.tar.gz

Delete a Chroot

Disable developer mode on your Chromebook and it’ll automatically powerwash itself, restoring your Chromebook to its factory state. This will also wipe Crouton and all your Linux chroots. But, if you just want to get rid of one of your Linux chroots, you can run the following command in the Chrome OS shell, replacing name with the name of the chroot.

sudo delete-chroot name


This information comes from the official Crouton documentation on the Crouton github page. In the interest of helping our readers, we’ve tried to make it a bit easier to digest. If a command here doesn’t work, it’s possible something has changed — head over to the official Crouton site for the latest up-to-date documentation.

Image Credit: TechnologyGuide TestLab on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.