When Chromebooks first began getting support for Android apps, there was some confusion as to just which Chromebooks would be supported. The same thing is starting to play out—though to a lesser degree—with support for Linux apps.
You’ve always been able to install Linux applications (or other Linux-based operating systems) on Chromebooks through a workaround called Crouton because Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel. The new method for installing Linux apps is much easier than before since it’s a baked-in part of the operating system.
But not all Chromebooks will get official support for Linux apps. Here’s the deal.
Why Aren’t Some Chromebooks Supported?
The HP Chromebook X2 runs version 4.4 of the Linux Kernel
The new method for installing Linux apps on a Chromebook (internally known as Crostini) relies on changes introduced in version 3.14 of the Linux kernel. When a Chromebook is developed, its firmware is written around a specific version of the Linux kernel. The main reason for this is stability; by keeping the kernel version locked, it’s easier for Google to update Chromebooks without performance becoming compromised. A Chromebook performs just as well in year five as it does on day one.
The significant change in kernel 3.14 is better virtualization support. This means the app runs in a sandbox, so a bad process in one app doesn’t crash your whole system. This also makes the Crostini method more secure, which is a big selling point behind Chromebooks.
Some models may not have the hardware support for many Linux apps as well. A good portion of that list includes Chromebooks that use 32-bit ARM processors, while most desktop Linux apps are written for 64-bit X86 platforms.
A lot of the unsupported Chromebook models are also getting near the end of guaranteed software updates. The Chromebook will still do all the things it does today, but it just doesn’t make sense from Google’s perspective to spend time and money adding new features to a device that’s not going to be supported much longer anyway.
Which Chromebooks Won’t Be Supported?
According to Google, these are all the Chromebooks that won’t be able to use the new method for installing Linux apps:
- Acer AC700 Chromebook
- Acer C7 Chromebook
- Acer C720 / C70P /C740 Chromebook
- Acer Chromebase
- Acer Chromebook 13 CB5-311
- Acer Chromebook 15 CB3-531
- Acer Chromebook 11 C730/C730E/C735
- Acer Chromebox
- ASUS Chomebit CS10
- ASUS Chromebook C200
- ASUS Chromebook C201
- ASUS Chromebook C300
- ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA
- ASUS Chromebox CN60
- AOpen Chromebase Commercial
- AOpen Chromebase Mini
- AOpen Chromebox Commercial
- AOpen Chromebox Mini
- Dell Chromebook 11
- Dell Chromebook 11 3120
- Dell Chromebox
- Google CR-48 Chromebook
- Google Chromebook Pixel 2013
- HP Chromebook 11 G1/G2/G3/G4/G4 EE
- HP Chromebook 14
- HP Chromebook 14 G3
- HP Chromebox G1
- HP Pavilion Chromebook 14
- Lenovo 100S Chromebook
- Lenovo N20 Chromebook
- Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook
- Lenovo ThinkPad X131e Chromebook
- LG Chromebase 22CV241/22CB25S
- Samsung Chromebook (2012)
- Samsung Chromebook 2 11″
- Samsung Chromebook 2 13″
- Samsung Chromebook 2 11 – XE500C12
- Samsung Series 5 Chromebook
- Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550
- Samsung Chromebox Series 3
- Toshiba Chromebook
- Toshiba Chromebook 2
If you’re unsure exactly which Chromebook you have, it’s easy to find out which model it is.
Here’s What You Can Do If You Have an Unsupported Chromebook
If you want full Linux apps on your Chromebook, you can still use the older installation method known as Crouton. This works on any Chromebook, no matter the processor or Linux kernel version. If you want to easily switch back and forth between your Linux apps and web-based tools, you can run a Linux desktop inside a single browser tab. If you’d prefer each app to have its own window so that it feels more native, you can do that too.
If you really want to experiment, you can also install another Linux-based operating system like Ubuntu. If you’ve had your Chromebook for a long time, it’s not a bad idea to research this ahead of time for when Google stops sending security updates to your device. Since Chrome OS is based on Linux, you shouldn’t have any problems with display or audio drivers keeping you from using the device.
Or, you can keep using your Chromebook as is. You’re not losing any features that you’ve come to rely on, so if you’ve already learned how to be productive with web-based tools, you can keep on going.