Want to check out Chrome OS without spending any money on a new computer? Wondering if a cloud operating system could improve the Raspberry Pi's performance as a productivity tool? I no longer wonder – it is possible to install Chrome OS on the $ 50 machine and see how well it goes.
Why install Chrome OS on the Raspberry Pi?
Various operating systems are available for the Raspberry Pi. While the standard option is preferred by many, there are a variety of Raspbian alternatives for Linux only.
However, Chrome OS offers something else: cloud computing. The Raspberry Pi's relatively low specification makes it ideal for Chrome OS. The operating system is designed to run most of its software as web apps and rely on servers for processing.
If your Raspberry Pi is equipped with an Ethernet or wireless Internet connection, you benefit from these computer dynamics. This way you can set up your Raspberry Pi as a productive desktop PC on a budget!
Another reason for installing Chrome OS on the Raspberry Pi is its ease of use. Google has polished and perfected the operating system for years. These changes were felt in both the official version and the open source Chromium OS.
The open source Chrome OS
While Google manages and publishes Chrome OS, the operating system is based on an open source project, Chromium OS. This has been published on various devices and can be installed on the Pi thanks to the FydeOS project.
Note that several other versions of Chromium OS have been released on the Raspberry Pi. These are now being discontinued; There is every chance FydeOS will be abandoned in the future. Therefore, you may prefer to download and build from the original source code, which is available at www.chromium.org.
In this tutorial we will use the preconfigured code available in FydeOS.
Obtain this to install Chrome OS on Raspberry Pi
To install and run Chrome OS on a Raspberry Pi computer, you will need:
With a mouse, keyboard, HDMI cable, and replacement display, you can get started with Chrome OS.
Prepare your SD card for Chrome OS
The downloaded IMG file is compressed in XZ format, so you need to extend it with a suitable tool. 7-Zip is the best option on Windows. XZ can be expanded natively on Linux systems.
Next, the IMG file must be written to the SD card. The easiest option here is the excellent etching tool that will also format your SD card. Download, install, and run Etcher. Then click on choose picture to look for the Chromium IMG file.
Then make sure that the microSD card is recognized by Etcher. If not, reinsert the media into your PC's SD card reader and wait for it to appear.
Finally click on lightning write the data. A few minutes later, Chrome OS will be installed on the microSD card and ready to start.
Start Chrome OS on the Raspberry Pi
After safely removing the microSD card from your PC, it can be started in your Raspberry Pi.
The first start can take a while. You will then be prompted to complete the setup steps. If you've used a Chromebook or Android device, you'll recognize this. Basically, it's about entering (or creating) your Google account information.
Once logged in, you'll see a blank desktop that can be configured. You can find the launcher in the lower left corner and the notifications in the lower right corner. Everything should feel somehow familiar.
You'll find that Chrome OS on the Raspberry Pi doesn't quite look like the version on a Chromebook. For example, the launcher icon on the shelf is a circle, not a 3×3 grid. However, this is largely cosmetic and does not affect the functionality of the operating system.
Wondering what your first step should be? Right click on the desktop and select Set wallpaper.
With a stunning backdrop, you are ready for anything!
Does the Chrome OS software run on the Raspberry Pi?
As with the main version, the Raspberry Pi version of Chrome OS will also have various apps preinstalled. For example, when I signed in with my usual Google account, I had the Photos app, Google Keep, and more.
This shouldn't be that surprising. The Chrome OS is based on Linux and mainly supports web applications. "Web apps" are platform-independent and based on a web browser.
Almost all Chrome OS apps run on the Raspberry Pi – so far none have been found that don't. Looking for suggestions beyond the usual Chrome OS options? Check out our list of the must-have apps for your new Chromebook.
Does it feel like a $ 50 Chromebook?
Chromebooks are affordable computers, usually in the $ 150 to $ 1500 price range. If you install Chromium OS with FydeOS on the Raspberry Pi, you can create your own Chromebook.
Plus, you probably only need to spend $ 50 on a new Raspberry Pi. Chromium OS on the Raspberry Pi is not as fast as the top-end Chromebooks, but it is quite comparable to the cheaper Chromebook devices.
Once you've installed all of your favorite productivity apps for Chrome OS, you're good to go. Do you need help? Check out our Chrome OS cheat sheet for tips.
A Budget Productivity Pi with Chrome OS
The Chromebook line of computers and Chrome OS have been the biggest challenge for Microsoft and Apple over the past decade. Could they really replace standard desktop and laptop computers?
It remains difficult to say. However, you can safely find out if you're interested in Chrome OS. Just follow the steps above to install the parent operating system Chromium OS with FydeOS on your Raspberry Pi. You can even install ChromeOS on a virtual machine.
You don't want to use Raspbian, but you like the Raspberry Pi? Check our list of other operating systems for the Raspberry Pi.
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About the author
(1418 articles published)
Deputy Editor for Security, Linux, DIY, Programming and Technology explains. He also produces The Really Useful Podcast and has extensive desktop and software support experience.
Christian is an employee of Linux Format Magazine and a Raspberry Pi hobbyist, Lego lover and retro gaming fan.
More from Christian Cawley
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