Chrome OS is the operating system created by Google, and used on their Chromebook devices. You can’t install it directly on other devices, but an open-source version is available : Chromium OS.
As for the browser of the same name, Chromium OS can be installed on Raspberry Pi, and I will show you how in this tutorial.
Chromium OS is the open-source version of Chrome OS, and is available on Raspberry Pi through a GitHub project: FydeOS. Releases are updated regularly and can be installed on a Raspberry Pi with a tool like Balena Etcher.
Thanks to this work of the developer team, the installation is straightforward.
I will explain everything to you, step-by-step, but also show you how to upgrade this light system into something you can really use as your main system.
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Chromium OS introduction
What is Chromium OS?
As mentioned in the introduction, Chromium OS is an open-source version of the system created by Google (Chrome OS), that you can use for free, as a Linux distribution.
Google took some bricks of Linux, like the kernel and Portage to manage packages (as on Gentoo), but the main goal is to use all the Chromium apps from the browser in a more classic computer system.
Yes, when you think about it, once you have all the websites and apps from Google (Google Docs, YouTube, Hangouts, Gmail, etc.), you have almost everything you need for a desktop computer.
It’s a new way to use a system, with everything in the cloud, but it should be interesting to try (I never had a Chromebook before for information, so it’s new for me at least ^^).
Differences between Chrome OS vs Chromium OS
As a whole, Chrome OS is the system distributed by Google directly in their Chromebooks, while Chromium OS is the open-source edition, with code available to anyone, and that can be installed on other devices, like a Raspberry Pi.
As for Google Chrome and Chromium browsers, there are two versions of this operating system: Chrome OS and Chromium OS.
Google Chrome OS in the product that Google install on Chromebooks (for information, Chromebook is the brand of computers that run Chrome OS, often cheaper and less powerful models than the Windows version, here are some examples on Amazon).
The Chromium OS is the open-source version, a development version, mainly used by developers directly. You can view the source code on their GitHub project, and download an image to test it on any device.
So, the difference for the user is minimal, but I’ll use Chromium OS all the time now because I’m talking about the open-source version.
As you might see this name on GitHub, I will explain directly.
FydeOS (previously known as Flint OS), is the name of the Chinese team that is working on Chromium OS.
So all the repositories are named like this because it’s the name of the developers.
It’s not a big deal for us. If you want, you can look at their website to get more details about the exact differences between everything, but the idea is that it’s the best way for us to download a Chromium OS image, pre-made for Raspberry Pi.
Why would you use Chromium OS on Raspberry Pi?
The Chromium OS is a pretty lightweight operating system. As everything is in the cloud, usage of local resources should be limited.
Also, speed is a core value for Chrome OS, as it is for Google Chrome, so developers are particularly attentive to think about this while adding new features.
In theory, Chrome OS is also intended for entry-level computers, has its main users are those who are mostly using a computer to do things on the Internet, they don’t have the latest generation computer. Chromebooks are also shipped with low-end processors, so the Raspberry Pi should be ok with this.
In a real usage, Chromium OS can have some peaks in the CPU usage depending on what you are doing (as on Google Chrome, more tabs and more apps can slow it a bit). But the difference with another OS is that all the Raspberry Pi power is reserved to Chromium, so it should be ok, especially on Raspberry Pi 4.
Install Chromium OS on Raspberry Pi
Here are the required steps to install Chromium OS on Raspberry Pi:
- Download the latest release from the FydeOS project on GitHub.
- Flash the file to an SD card with Balena Etcher or Raspberry Pi Imager.
- Boot your Raspberry Pi and log in to start using Chromium OS.
Download the Chromium OS image
As I told you previously, the easiest way to try Chromium OS on the Raspberry Pi is to download FydeOS from the GitHub repository.
New releases are available regularly for Raspberry Pi 3B / 3B+ and also 4 and 400.
Here is how to download the latest version :
- Go to the releases page on GitHub
- Find the latest version corresponding to your Raspberry Pi model, for example :
On some versions, there is only the image for one model, so make sure to get the correct one.
- Click on the link corresponding to your device to download the file.
Flash Chromium OS on a SD card
Then, the process is almost the same as with any operating system :
- Download and install Etcher if you don’t have it yet.
It’s a small program to flash an image on a SD card.
It’s available for free on any operating system (Windows, Linux, macOS).
- Start the program, a window like this shows up:
- Click on “Select image” and browse your computer to find the Chromium OS image (you don’t need to decompress it).
- Insert your SD card (I recommend at least 8 GB, as a minimum disk space to run Chromium OS). Etcher should detect it automatically.
- Then click on “Flash!” to start the SD card copy.
A few minutes later, your SD card is ready to use, and you can insert it in your Raspberry Pi.
Obviously, you can also use Raspberry Pi Imager and select “Use Custom” to flash Chromium OS on your media.
First boot with Chromium OS
On the first boot, Chromium OS should start directly, and a setup wizard will ask you a few questions to configure your device :
- The first screen is a welcome screen.
Nothing to do here, except if you need to change the system language or accessibility details.
For example, if you are not using a US keyboard, I recommend changing this directly, as you will need it just after (you need to change the language too if you want to use an internation keyboard …).
Click on “Get started” once ready.
- Then you can edit your network settings.
In my case, I have an Ethernet cable plugged with DHCP, so nothing to do.
But you can connect to a Wi-Fi network here if you want.
- After a quick check for updates (in theory, nothing to download), the wizard will ask you to sign in with your Google account.
If you don’t have an account right now, or want to create a specific one, you can create one here (from your computer, for example).
There is also a way to create sessions for children with specific rules if needed.
- Click on “Get Started” and the Chromium desktop should open
As I already tried Chromium OS before, my settings and apps are automatically installed on this fresh installation, which is pretty cool.
Tips to Use Chromium OS
Ok, so if you are new to this, let’s start with the basics.
The Chromium OS desktop is a bit different from what you might be used to.
The desktop is empty and will stay like this.
On the bottom left, you have a circle icon that open the shelf with the latest used apps shortcuts.
You can change the position of the self with a right click on the desktop (and put it on the left, for example, like on Ubuntu).
If you want to see all installed apps, you need to click on the “up arrow icon”, or unroll the menu with a drag and drop.
From here, you can do a left click on any icon to start the app, or a right click to pin it to the shelf for fast access from the desktop.
If you have many apps, the search engine can help you find an app.
Note: there might be several pages, even if the pages are not full, make sure to click on the dots on the right to see the following pages.
On the bottom right of the screen, there is the clock. But a click on it will give you quick access to a few actions:
- Log out, reboot or stop the system.
- Network settings (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth).
- Notifications and Night Light.
- Keyboard and language configuration.
- Volume and shortcut to the settings (we’ll see that just after).
Ok, so there are not many things to configure on Chromium OS, but still, there is a configuration app to do the basic stuff.
You can find the “Settings” icon in your apps.
Basically, it’s the same presentation as in Google Chrome settings, with a bit more things as you also configure the computer from here.
All settings are divided into a few categories, so it’s fairly intuitive to find the configuration you want :
- Network: Nothing new here, but you can configure your Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections if you want.
- Bluetooth: Enable and disable it, or pair new devices.
- Connected devices: The only device I see for the moment is an Android phone. I think you can pair it to use it as an authentication method, but I didn’t try.
- People: Manage your account or create other users for this computer.
- Device: all the settings for the hardware are here if you need to change something (mouse, keyboard, display, disk usage, power)
- Personalization: If you want to change your wallpaper, it’s here 🙂
- Search Engine: Change the default search engine for the system, as on any Chrome browser the option is available.
- Apps: From here, you can quickly see the apps you have and uninstall them
That’s pretty basic, but it should be ok to customize your system a bit. You can also open the Advanced menu to have access to more things.
If you are used to Android and Google Chrome, this Settings app should be pretty familiar :-).
If you want to do more with Chromium OS, there is no a way to enable a traditional Linux environment in the advanced settings:
It’s still in beta at the time I’m writing this, so take it more as an experience. You’ll need at least a 16 GB SD card (and to expand the partition), and it will download a virtual machine for you to use basic Linux features (great for developers).
Install new applications
Chromium OS is installed with almost zero apps by default.
You have to install everything you want after the system installation.
To do this, find and open the Web Store in the shelf.
Then, you can install all apps from the Chrome Web Store, so you have a bit of choice here 🙂
For information, the difference between an app and an extension is that an extension is installed only in the Chromium browser, while the app is available in the shelf as a standalone program (even if it runs in Chromium most of the time).
If you want to try one, I have found the “Cog” app to display the system usage in real time that works very well:
But I mainly recommend installing all the apps from Google you need, to take a good start with Chromium OS.
You can also try good apps like Zoom and Caret, tools to open MS Office documents or PDF, etc.
Install a printer
Some of you may still be skeptical about using this system as your main one.
So, I just wanted to show you that some cool things are possible. For example, you can still use a printer on a cloud operating system.
If your printer is detected automatically on the network by the Chromium printing tool, there is nothing to do, you can use it directly.
If not, follow this procedure to configure it manually:
- Open the “Settings” app.
- Open the advanced menu and go to “Printing”
- Click on “Add Printer” and fill the form with your printer settings:
You can also use a printer server if you have one (like CUPS on another Raspberry Pi).
- Once done, the new printer you created is listed in the settings and can be used each time you print something.
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That’s it, you now know a bit more about Chromium OS, how to install it on Raspberry Pi and how to get started with the first few things to do after the installation.
I hope this post was useful for you, let me know if you experienced any issue with it. And if you are searching for other alternatives, you should probably check my top 15 distributions for the Raspberry Pi here.
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