How to Access and Use the Command Line Terminal in Chrome OS

Key takeaways:

  • Chrome OS includes a built-in command line interface called Crosh (Chrome OS Shell)
  • You can access more advanced Linux commands and tools by enabling Linux support
  • The Terminal app provides a full Linux command line environment for development and advanced tasks

Chrome OS is known for its simplicity and ease of use, but did you know it also includes a powerful command line interface? Whether you’re a developer looking to run Linux tools or just curious about exploring the inner workings of your Chromebook, the Chrome OS terminal is worth checking out.

Accessing Crosh

The first way to access the command line in Chrome OS is through Crosh, the Chrome OS Shell. To open Crosh, simply press Ctrl+Alt+T on your keyboard. This will open a Crosh terminal in a new browser tab.

Here are a few basic Crosh commands to get you started:

  • help – Displays a list of available commands
  • ping – Tests network connectivity
  • top – Shows running processes and system resource usage
  • battery_test – Runs a battery diagnostic test
  • set_time – Allows you to manually set the system time

While Crosh provides some useful diagnostic tools, it’s fairly limited in scope. For more advanced Linux commands and tools, you’ll need to enable Linux support.

Enabling Linux (Beta)

To unlock the full power of the command line on Chrome OS, you can enable the Linux development environment. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Chrome OS Settings app
  2. Click on “Advanced” and then “Developers”
  3. Click the “Turn On” button next to Linux development environment
  4. Follow the setup wizard to install Linux

Once Linux is set up, you’ll see a new Terminal app in your app launcher. This Terminal provides access to a full Linux command line environment based on Debian 10.

Using the Linux Terminal

With the Linux Terminal, you can run most common Linux commands and even install additional tools using the apt package manager. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • ls – Lists files and directories in the current folder
  • cd – Changes the current directory
  • mkdir – Creates a new directory
  • rm – Removes files or directories
  • cat – Displays the contents of a file
  • grep – Searches for text within files
  • sudo – Allows running commands with admin privileges

To install new Linux packages, you can use apt commands like:

  • sudo apt update – Updates the package list
  • sudo apt install package-name – Installs a package
  • sudo apt remove package-name – Removes an installed package

Keep in mind that Linux runs inside a container on Chrome OS, so it doesn’t have direct access to hardware or the Chrome OS file system. However, you can easily share folders between Chrome OS and Linux through the Files app.

Advanced Tips

Here are a few more advanced tips for using the command line on Chrome OS:

  • You can customize the Terminal’s appearance and keyboard shortcuts in the Terminal app settings
  • The top command provides an interactive process viewer similar to the Chrome OS Task Manager
  • You can use ssh in the Terminal to securely connect to remote servers and devices
  • Developers can install IDEs, compilers, and other tools to code directly on a Chromebook
  • For web developers, the python3 -m http.server command can quickly start a local web server for testing


Do I need to enable Developer Mode to use the Linux Terminal?

No, the Linux (Beta) feature is available in stable versions of Chrome OS and does not require Developer Mode. Enabling Developer Mode is only needed for more advanced debugging and modification of the Chrome OS system.

Can I run graphical Linux apps or just command line tools?

Yes, in addition to command line tools, you can install and run graphical Linux apps on Chrome OS. These apps will appear in the Chrome OS launcher alongside your other installed apps.

Is it safe to use Linux on my Chromebook?

Linux runs inside a secure container on Chrome OS, which helps isolate it from the rest of the system. However, be cautious when running unfamiliar commands or installing packages from untrusted sources, as they could potentially cause issues within the Linux environment.

Can I access my Chrome OS files from the Linux Terminal?

By default, Linux only has access to files within its own container. However, you can easily share folders from Chrome OS with Linux using the Files app. Simply right-click a folder, select “Share with Linux,” and it will become accessible within the Linux environment.

With the command line tools available in both Crosh and the Linux Terminal, you can supercharge your Chromebook and tackle more advanced tasks. Whether you’re a developer or just a tech-savvy user, exploring the Chrome OS terminal is a great way to expand your Chromebook’s capabilities.