Installing the Chrome Operating System

General geekiness found me trying to get the Chrome OS running this weekend. It took a lot of time to work through all the resources, including conflicting instructions and bad software. It all worked out, though, and I now have the OS running on a netbook. This post is a summary of what was involved and doesn’t include the numerous dead ends and problems I encountered

This is Google’s attempt to develop a small footprint control system for netbooks running web-based apps. The core plumbing is Linux, and the UI is a variant of the Chrome browser. Whether or not this will find large-scale mindshare won’t be determined for quite a while. The official release will probably be a year from now. But it is an interesting concept, and I wanted to get my arms around it. If it does become popular, it will be something that user assistance professionals will need to understand to support their apps effectively. The two major elements are the device hardware and the Chrome OS software.

Operating System


The pre-release version of Chrome OS has many hardware dependencies. So, I did web research to pick a device on which the OS has been successfully installed. There were several candidates. I liked the Asus Eee PC Seashell because it met the requirements and looked like a nice netbook.

The netbook comes with Windows 7 installed. To use the Chrome OS, you need to boot from a USB flash drive with an image of the software.

I already had a couple of the tools mentioned in the article. Jorge Sierra’s page referenced below provides instructions, a Chrome build, and an image writing tool. I did all the flash disk processing on my Toshiba/Vista laptop.

The Sierra article links a Bit Torrent package with the Chrome OS and an image writing tool. I ran the torrent, and the download took about ten minutes. I opened the zip file in the torrent package and then extracted the Chrome OS build: chrome_os-img. There are other Chrome OS builds available, but this one worked fine.

The next step was to format a flash drive. Since the image file was close to 3 GB, I purchased a 4 GB SanDisk Cruzer. Any brand will work, but I wanted one with an LED to indicate activity on it. I used the HP Disk Storage Format Tool to format the USB drive using the NTFS setting. The Format Tool is available from several sites.

I checked the formatting using the Windows Manage command. Click Computer/Manage/Storage/Disk Management. If the arrangement went correctly, you should see the USB drive listed and a “Healthy” message.

Next, I used the Win32 Disk Imager utility to install the image file on the USB drive. This was included in the Sierra package, but I already had it. After launching the utility, I pointed to the chrome_os—ing file. My USB drive (E) was already selected. Click Write, and the process begins. When the Progress bar is full, the copying is complete. The USB drive is now ready to be used.

After unpacking the netbook, I activated the Windows 7 Starter kit included on the device. I don’t think you need to do that, but I wanted the device to work with Windows anyway. And I wanted to test the wifi connection. The wifi found my network just fine, and I powered it down. The last step requires a change to the BIOS so the netbook boots from the USB drive.

I plugged the USB drive into the netbook, pressed the power button, and tapped the F2 key until the BIOS setup appeared. The BIOS key is probably different from device to device, so I had to wipe the F2 key rather than hold it down.

The boot instructions I found online didn’t quite work for me. I had to make two changes to the BIOS. The following instructions worked for this Asus netbook.

From the Boot Menu, select Boot Device Priority. The first option should be the device’s HDD hard drive. Press enter, and you should see Removable Dev as an option. Select that by pressing enter.

Below Boot Device Priority is the option for Hard Disk Drives. The 1st Drive was the HDD hard drive. My USB was listed by name (SanDisk Cruzer) as the 2nd Drive. Pressing enter on the 1st Drive brought up a pop menu. I selected the USB drive, and it swapped places in the list with the HDD. Then, F10 saves and exits from the BIOS setup.

The device immediately booted to the Chromium OS login screen. I used the username and password provided by Jorge Sierra: “Chronos” and “password.” I believe this is a logon applied by Jorge for his specific distribution. I saw instructions for a different Chrome OS distribution, and the logon was separate.

The first thing to appear in the Chrome browser is the same browser you have on Windows or Mac. The OS doesn’t automatically recognize your wifi. A small icon in the top right corner of the screen has a wifi menu. Click that and select your network. I also tested out my ethernet cable, and that worked fine. Once that was done, I could begin browsing the web.

After all that work, I hadn’t accomplished anything you couldn’t do in any other OS with any browser. The OS loads fast, much faster than the Windows 7 Starter.

You can see the screen capture on the Sierra web page. There is a page that operates as an application dashboard. A Chrome icon in the top left corner of the screen launches that page. From there, I found Facebook, Google Docs, etc., and put in my logins for each. I couldn’t change or add any items to the control panel. I assume that will change. For unlisted applications, like LinkedIn, I launched them in the browser and set bookmarks.

You could test an important OS feature: Cut and Paste. I could cut and paste between the various web apps without a problem. While we take this for granted on Windows, Mac, etc., that is the behavior you need an OS for.

Another important behavior is printing. This isn’t supported right now. I tried using the print commands in the various apps. Mostly, I received error messages. In Gmail, the only choice was Print to File. I didn’t expect there to be support for explicit printers. That will be a difficult proposition for Google, I think. But it’s probably a necessary one.

I had set the date and time in Windows. The date was recognized in Chrome OS but not the correct time. There was a menu item to change time options, but the dialog box did not have a way to change the time—only the time zone.

There is no OFF button in the OS. I just used the power button. However, the next time I booted, Chrome showed a message that the system hadn’t been shut down correctly. I assume there will be some fix for that.

When I pulled out the USB drive and powered it up again, Windows started just fine. However, that also reset the BIOS to the original settings, which was irritating. I have to repeat the BIOS adjustments when using Chrome after using Windows. The adjustments only take a few seconds, but you must remember to hit F2.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.