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ChromeOS 121 will upgrade Linux on Chromebooks to Debian 12

ChromeOS 121 brings a big Linux upgrade to Chromebooks

Last month, I reported that the upgrade of Linux to Debian 12 on a Chromebook was nearly here. Today I was able to test it because ChromeOS 121 brings the next big Linux upgrade to Chromebooks.

I updated one of my devices to the ChromeOS 121 Dev Channel this morning and found this out. Google added a nice little notification nudge to tell me.

I decided to run through the process and found it quite seamless.

To kick off the Linux upgrade from Debian 11 to 12, I clicked the notification that appeared. That took me to my Chromebook Settings, explaining the Debian 12 upgrade was available.

ChromeOS 121 brings a big Linux upgrade to Chromebooks

Clicking the “Upgrade” button on the above screen started the process.

Google suggests that you back up your locally stored Linux files. You can modify the backup location but I left it set to the default.

After that, I clicked the “Upgrade” button, as shown below.

ChromeOS 121 will upgrade Linux on Chromebooks to Debian 12

The process to back up your Linux data can take up to 30 minutes, according to Google. The time will vary based on how many Linux files you have, of course.

In my case, the backup took roughly five minutes. Considering how much I use Linux on a Chromebook, I’m surprised it wasn’t longer.

Once the backup is complete the Linux upgrade will continue. Again, Google says it can take up to 30 minutes. I estimate it took about 10 on my 2022 Acer Chromebook Spin 714 laptop. If you have a Chromebook with slower CPU, you could be waiting at least twice as long.

ChromeOS 121 will upgrade Linux on Chromebooks to Debian 12

I like how the actual commands appear during the Linux upgrade process. I didn’t capture an image of this because they happen so quickly and there are so many of them. They appear where it says — START OF UPGRADE — in the above image. Most people won’t care but I thought it was nicely done.

My Linux upgrade from Debian 11 to Debian 12 took roughly eight minutes to complete. Again, your time will vary based on the performance of your Chromebook. Once completed, ChromeOS lets you know and you’re good to go.

ChromeOS 121 will upgrade Linux on Chromebooks to Debian 12

I verified that my Linux apps still worked — they did — and that my Chromebook was running Debian 12 — it was. So the upgrade went without a hitch.

One suggestion I’d add for anyone that runs through the ChromeOS 121 Linux upgrade on Chromebooks: Clean out unnecessary packages from Linux afterwards. I did this using the apt autoremove command and recovered more than 230 MB of local disk storage on my Chromebook.

Removing unneeded packages in Debian 12 Linux on a Chromebook
author avatar
Kevin C. Tofel

9 thoughts on “ChromeOS 121 brings a big Linux upgrade to Chromebooks

  1. So Chrome OS runs on top of Linux? Or just uses the Linux kernel? I know Chrome OS is a Linux derivative, but didn’t realize you need to update Linux independently of the rest of Chrome OS…

    1. Some clarifications to help answer these good questions.

      ChromeOS is effectively a Linux platform running Google’s desktop environment: https://www.aboutchromebooks.com/news/now-more-than-ever-chromeos-is-linux-with-googles-desktop-environment/

      Google updates the Linux kernel that ChromeOS runs on, so there’s no need for users to do anything. This happens with ChromeOS software updates pushed by Google.

      The Linux container is an optional feature that lets your run full Linux desktop apps (either CLI or GUI-based) natively on a ChromeOS device. These are run seamlessly, just like Android apps. https://www.aboutchromebooks.com/news/how-to-use-the-most-underrated-chromeos-feature-on-a-chromebook-install-with-linux/

      It’s the Linux container part that this particular article addresses.

      Hopefully, that helps, but let me know if you have any additional questions. Cheers!

    2. The main ChromeOS is based on Gentoo Linux. On the other hand this article is talking about the Debian based KVM (Kernel Level VM) that can be install separately in ChromeOS for installing Linux softwares in a VM environment. ChromeOS natively can’t install any Linux software.

    1. Yup, I’ve been saying for years that Google should add a Linux app store of sorts. And you can install those in the Linux partition if you want to. I don’t think Google will ever put a third-party one on ChromeOS though. It would want to control the experience and guarantee a certain level of performance and stability. So that means managing its own Linux app repository for ChromeOS, testing it, etc…. Not sure Google thinks there’s enough of a user base to spend the time and effort.

      1. Google don’t talk about the Crostini container that much and mainstream tech websites don’t talk about Crostini either rather mainstream media still says ChromeOS is “just a browser” OS.
        So many people doesn’t know that they can install graphical Linux apps in ChromeOS.
        So, it became a chicken and egg situation. If Google don’t advertise ChromeOS can run Linux apps most people won’t know or use it. If people don’t use it that much then Google won’t create a Linux Store 😑

  2. Would love to know how to put on a third-party interface like a store. I used Ubuntu years ago and loved their app store experience.

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