I have a chromebook series 5. I want to install Ubuntu onto a USB stick. When I downloaded Ubuntu onto my USB stick, it won't start up.

Do I first have to download Ubuntu onto my chromebook hard drive, open Ubuntu and then make USB stick bootable? And then return back to chrome?

Or is there a way to download directly onto USB and make the stick bootable?

I appreciate any help.

  • You have to write the downloaded image to a USB stick in a special way to make it bootable. Just downloading is not enough. Not sure if Chromebooks have the needed tools to do it. Probably not, as they are supposed to web-centric, browser-based machines. Apr 6 '13 at 4:57
  • @mikewhatever Actually, they're Linux-based, once you figure out how to access the Shell, you have access to fdisk, dd, and the whole crew! (yes, even sudo. :) Apr 6 '13 at 5:07
  • 1
    Hey, if my answer solved your problem, be sure to Accept it by clicking the green checkmark to the left of the answer. Apr 22 '13 at 21:43
  • 4
    Possible duplicate of True Ubuntu on Chromebook ARM
    – Amolith
    Jul 3 '17 at 12:56

How did you make the USB stick? Did you use UNetBootin? There's supposed to be something you can do with fdisk, but I'm too lazy to talk about that right now. (Don't worry, there's like a 90% chance someone else will add an answer detailing that method.)

I'd recommend this alternative method - it's a little more "hacker-ish" (you're basically tricking your computer into thinking the USB stick is a CD-ROM,) but it's the simplest method ever to make your bootable USB drive.

Okay, first off, we're going to enter Crosh - ChrOme SHell is what I think it stands for. Anyway, it's basically useless, except to open up the "real" Shell.
Press CTRL-ALT-T to open it up, then type shell and press Enter. You'll now be presented with a $ with (maybe) some text before it. If you see this, congrats. You're in. If not, reread the instructions and try again.

Once you've gotten the Shell open, type cd Downloads (assuming you saved the ISO to your Downloads folder.)
Now, we need to figure out what Device your USB stick is. It's usually /dev/sdb, if it's your computer's only USB stick plugged in, but it you're nervous, type fdisk -l - it'll reply with a bunch of tech stuff. Upload it to Pastebin, then post the link as a comment below my post.

Once you've figure out what your USB drive is, type:

dd if=ubuntu-12.*-desktop*.iso of=/dev/sdb

(except, edit the *'s to complete the filename.)
This will "burn" the Ubuntu disk image to your USB stick, as if it were a CD. In fact, it basically turns the USB stick into a CD, albeit one that runs significantly faster than your average optical drive.

When it's finished, reboot your computer and spam F12 while it's booting up - it should ask you what you want to boot from. Choose USB CD-ROM or something similar. Ta-da, you have just booted from the USB stick! If that didn't work, reboot and try a different F# key or perhaps a different boot device. There's not really much to screw up here, unless you enter the BIOS settings and break something (but that's highly unlikely. ;)

Just remember that after you have done this to the USB stick, you can't use it as a USB stick until you reformat it. Normal Windows utilities can't do this, use something like Gparted instead. Create a new partition table (if it asks, use msdos,) and then create a new partition with the Type as FAT32.

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    JamesTheAwesomeDude, your instructions are good except for some little things. In order to get to your downloads you can't just type cd Downloads its cd /home/user/*/Downloads without * *. Once in that directory, all you have to do it type NAMES The 1st USB drive plugged into an x86 Chromebook will be /dev/sdb The 1st SD Card plugged into an x86 Chromebook will be /dev/mmcblk0 The 1st USB drive plugged into an ARM Chromebook will be /dev/sda The 1st SD Card plugged into an ARM Chromebook will be /dev/mmcblk1 sudo dd if=put your os name here.iso of=dev/name of your usb bs=4 for example, (fo
    – user164960
    Jun 6 '13 at 13:21
  • @user164960 Under most circumstances, a terminal will begin in $HOME. The chance that the shell would start out in a different directory is so low as to be negligible and may be disregarded. Dec 17 '14 at 16:39
  • I am trying to follow these instruction with an Asus Chromebook 13. The first problem I have is a "Command not found" in Chros when I type shell; cd is not recognised either. Another problem I see is that there is no F12 key to access the BIOS (or any other F key). Oct 7 '15 at 13:57
  • I have been trying to follow these guidelines the whole afternoon to no avail. It is missing a great deal of important information, like switching to developer mode or how to fall back to the legacy BIOS. In any case, this answer is referenced in this thread at Google Groups, where Mike Frysinger claims it is not supposed to work. Oct 7 '15 at 16:07
  • Actually, my shell did not start in $HOME and I had to do cd ~
    – dramzy
    Aug 15 '16 at 0:36

You can install any iso file on a USB using Chromebook/ChromeOS.

There's an app called Chromebook Recovery Utility, which it's main purpose is to create a recovery of your chromebook on a USB.

But, it has the Use local image option that can install any iso file on a USB drive. See screencap below.

* In order for the iso to appear in the listed of available images, you'll need to rename the iso file to have the extension .bin.

enter image description here

  • Used ChromeOS install Ubuntu on a thumb drive. Mar 21 '18 at 18:26
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    I knew the Recovery part from prior Google searches, but nobody mentions the .bin part. Thanks!
    – the4tress
    Jan 1 '19 at 3:42
  • talking about ANY distro it does not make vSphere bootable
    – Richard
    Sep 30 '19 at 12:49
  • @Richard - what's the error? An image is an image, regardless of what's on it, right? Nov 12 '19 at 10:31

I had issues simply changing *.iso to *.bin--the Recovery Utility seemed to work, but the resulting USB wasn't always bootable.

Fortunately there is an easy fix:

  1. Right-click on the *.iso image you want to write

  2. Choose the "Zip selection" option from the menu

    this will just create a *.zip file of the *.iso image and should only take a couple minutes. Once that's done...

  3. Open Recovery Utility

  4. Select "Use local image" from the settings menu, represented by a gear symbol

  5. Navigate to the folder where the iso and zip file are located ("Downloads"??)

    You should see the *.zip file you just created listed in the resulting menu of files Recovery Utility can use.

  6. Select the zip file, and let Recovery Utility work its magic.

    Once it's done writing to the USB drive...

  7. Eject the USB and use it like any other bootable USB.

I was able to create a bootable Xubuntu USB drive, among others.

  • nice adjustment... talking about ANY distro it does not make vSphere bootable
    – Richard
    Sep 30 '19 at 12:49

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