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Linux on a Chromebook Debian 11.3 upgrade

How to upgrade Linux on a Chromebook to Debian Bullseye 11.3

If you’re using Linux on a Chromebook, you might be interested to know that a new version of Debian just launched. It’s a minor update to version 11, also known as Bullseye, but there are 83 security updates and 92 bug fixes in it.

Here’s how to upgrade Linux on a Chromebook to Debian 11.3, which is quite easy.

Obviously, you need to have Linux enabled on your Chrome OS device. This is done in Chrome OS Settings -> Advanced -> Developers.

Before you do that though, I’d make sure that Chrome OS is set up to use Bullseye, which is version 11. Initially, version 10, aka Buster, was the default. I believe that Bullseye is the current default, but it makes sense to check first.

You can verify or force the installation of Bullseye by visiting chrome://flags#crostini-container-install and choosing Bullseye from the options. (Note that Stretch is Debian 9 and won’t likely appear in your options.)

Debian Bullseye for Linux on Chromebooks

Once you’re sure that Bullseye will be installed, follow the prompts in the Chrome OS settings (mentioned above) to download and install Linux.

After the installation, you can verify the Debian version by opening the Terminal app and typing the cat /etc/debian_version command.

Here’s what it shows on my Chromebook after a fresh install of Debian Bullseye:

Debian 11.2 on a Chromebook

Clearly, my new installation is version 11.2. And I want to get version 11.3. It’s just a matter of running a few more commands in the Terminal so the updates are downloaded and installed.

The first is sudo apt update, which checks to see what updates are available.

Debian upgrade command

And the next is sudo apt upgrade, which downloads and installs the updates. Note that you have to type the letter Y to kick off the process.

Debian upgrade command on a Chromebook

This shouldn’t take long but depends on your internet connection speed and your Chromebook’s performance. Here at home on my 2018 Acer Chromebook Spin 13, it was complete in around two minutes.

To double-check that you’re running Debian 11.3 on your Chromebook, just use that cat /etc/debian_version command again.

Linux on a Chromebook Debian 11.3 upgrade

As you can see, my upgrade worked and I’m all up to date with Linux on my Chromebook.

Keep in mind that you won’t see any visual changes when using Linux on a Chromebook after the upgrade. All of the updates are security-related or bug fixes. And if you’re going to use Linux, you might as well have those!

author avatar
Kevin C. Tofel

11 thoughts on “How to upgrade Linux on a Chromebook to Debian Bullseye 11.3

  1. If I don’t do the flag how long before this gets put on my chromebook linux by itself ?

    1. That depends on Google. It would have to update the container to pull the latest version. And even then, it would only apply to brand new, fresh installs of Linux on your Chromebook. I run the “update” and “upgrade” commands on my devices once a week because that also picks up app updates. So personally, I think that’s a good practice.

  2. @Tom I have done a lot of re-installs, powerwashes and channel moves lately so I don’t know what Debian version I was on before my current setup, but I suspect that I was on Buster. Crostini would not install into the Canary channel so I moved back to stable, installed Linux then went back to Canary. I don’t believe I had set the Bullseye flag in stable and after a few days I got a notice, just like a Chrome update notice, that a new version of Linux was available. The update offers to back up your Linux install and then updates Linux. As mentioned, I am on Canary which is Chrome 102 so Bullseye should be along soon.

    1. That’s good to know! I switch devices and channels so often that I probably didn’t give Google time to tell me that an upgrade to Linux was available. 😉

  3. Thanks for this Kevin,
    I have been running bullseye 11 on my Chromebase for a while
    now, but had been checking status using “cat /etc/os-release”.
    That only displays the “11” and not the number to the right of the dot.
    Using cat /etc/debian_version shows the rest, so I now have more detail.

    1. Sure thing! There are a few commands to get the Linux version; some show details about the kernel, while others are pretty generic. This one is exactly what I wanted. 🙂

  4. And just for reference, you can concatenate your update and upgrade lines into one. Makes it easier to get on with other things rather than needing to wait for update to finish before running upgrade.
    sudo apt update ; sudo apt upgrade -y
    The dash y just says yes to the upgrade.
    Most command line things can be run the same way by using the semi colon between commands. Obviously this is only useful for things that don’t require some user input to complete or where you want or need to watch over carefully. The commands don’t need to be related as in the update/upgrade scenario.
    ls -la > files.txt ; vi files.txt ; rm files.txt which does a directory listing, brings it up in vi for viewing (and scrolling) and then removes the file when you quit vi.

  5. I’ve been running Buster, and the method you outlined failed for me. What did work was setting the flag: chrome://flags#crostini-bullseye-upgrade
    This required rebooting, then using settings, advanced, developers, linux development environment, upgrade
    Afterwards, I opened a command prompt and ran:
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt full-upgrade -y
    sudo apt -y autoremove

    Not much if anything was upgraded, since it was already handled, but a whole lot of stuff was autoremoved.

  6. it keeps saying that the files nessecery to upgrade linux aren’t installed, and every time I try and install them, it tells me the file is locked for some reason, despite me never putting any sort of lock on the files in my computer. I’m not sure what to do.

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