Easy Chromebook Boot from USB With Just a Few Steps

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Chromebook Boot from USB

There was a time when all laptops came with an optical drive. To boot an operating system, all you had to do was insert a CD or DVD. It would whir, do its thing, and everything was good to go. Nowadays, with the proliferation of digital media. Optical drives aren’t as popular as they once were. Add to that while booting from a USB when dealing with a Windows PC laptop is a rather straight-forward process. With a Chromebook boot from USB, not so much. Your best bet? Use a USB device, like a flash drive or an external hard drive to bootup a Chromebook. Here’s how to get it done.

How to Create a Bootable USB Device

Making a USB device bootable is pretty straightforward. It can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. First, you need to download a Chromebook’s (OS) operating system, called the Chrome OS. Google doesn’t officially provide this operating system. Yet, there are a couple of sites where you can get it for free.

One is Arnold the Bat. It’s the best place to get Chromium OS, which is what the Chromebook OS is based on.

A second website you can try is Neverware. This site provides the open-source code for the Chrome OS via its product, CloudReady. School and business versions are sold separately on the site. Yet, the CloudReady Home Edition is free of charge.

Here’s how you can create a bootable USB device.

  1. Download Chrome OS image that contains the OS, executable, and data files.
  2. Extract the file.
  3. Format the USB device as FAT32.
  4. Download Etcher or the official Chromebook Recovery Utility.
  5. Select [Use local image] on either utility.
  6. Select the USB device you’ve just formatted.
  7. Click [Flash] or [Create Now] to start the image installation process.
  8. Once it says 100% done, you’ll have a bootable USB device with Chromium OS.

How to Boot Chromebook from a USB Device

Chromebooks are simple, lightweight laptops that run on Chrome OS. Their features were pretty limited when they first came out in 2011. Yet, nowadays, they come with advanced capabilities and pretty decent battery life. The price isn’t too bad either.

Follow these quick and easy steps for a Chromebook boot from a USB device.

Step 1: Enable Developer Mode

On the original Chromebooks, there was a switch you can use to enable Developer Mode. On more modern versions, you can enable Developer Mode while in Recovery Mode.

  1. The first step is to back up all your data on the Chromebook.
  2. Select Power and turn off the Chromebook.
  3. Press [Esc] + [F3] at the same time. Chromebook will turn on and you’ll receive a [insert recovery media] prompt on the screen.
  4. Some Chromebooks have small slits on the side marked “Recovery.” If you have one of these, insert a paperclip while pressing the [Power] button.
  5. On the [insert recovery media] screen, press [Ctrl] + [D].
  6. A confirmation message will appear. Press [Enter] to confirm.
  7. You’ll receive a message that says, “OS verification is OFF.” This message will appear each time you turn on Chromebook.
  8. On the “OS verification” screen, press [Ctrl] + [D].
  9. You’ve now enabled Developer Mode.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Store your data online before going into Developer/Recovery Mode. Entering Developer Mode will erase everything on your Chromebook. This includes any user accounts and customizations you’ve made.
  • Going into Developer Mode voids the warranty. Google doesn’t offer support for this feature because it’s mainly used by developers.
  • Before getting warranty support, make sure you disable Developer Mode first.
  • To disable Developer Mode, you’ll need to reboot the Chromebook. Then, press the [Space bar] when instructed. All the files and settings will be erased again. Then, you’ll revert to factory-default settings.

Step 2: Enable Chromebook Boot from a USB Device

  1. Press on [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [F2] on the home screen.
  2. A black screen with white text will appear, known as the console window.
  3. At the prompt, type “sudo crossystem dev_boot_usb=1.”
  4. Press [Enter] to run the command. This enables you to boot from the USB device.
  5. Insert the bootable USB device.
  6. Press, [Ctrl] + [U] to reboot. Now, your Chromebook should boot from the USB device.

Bootable USB Device Troubleshooting

Did you try booting from a USB, but things didn’t go quite as planned? Or maybe you have a Windows or a Mac and want to turn it into a Chromebook? Now that you have the bootable USB device, you can take the Chrome OS for a spin on almost any computer.

Check out these tips below for a no-fuss booting process.

Other USB Devices

Make sure you remove all other USB devices, such as printers or external drivers. They can cause the computer to boot from the wrong device.

Having several USB devices attached to the Chromebook may consume large amounts of power. It can slow down the booting process. The easiest solution is to remove all other USB devices except the one you want to boot from.

Change the USB Port

Keep in mind that BIOS firmware doesn’t check every USB port on the device, only the first one or two it comes across. Another problem could be a faulty port.

Try moving the USB drive to another port. Then, reboot the computer.

Update BIOS

If you’re using an old computer, chances are the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) is ancient. If this is the case, the booting firmware won’t support booting from a USB device.

The quickest fix is to update the BIOS on your PC. Then, restart and check again for this option.

Enable UEFI

Today, most motherboards use a chipset called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). It offers a more secure booting process. Plus, it comes with advanced capabilities that are lacking in BIOS.

That being said, certain operating systems, like Chrome OS, don’t support traditional UEFI. One way to fix this problem is to use Chromium OS or CloudReady. Both are designed to boot with UEFI. Another option is to use a GPT file format designed to work only in UEFI mode.

Security Boot

Today’s computers have a feature called Security Boot. It protects them against malicious attacks, viruses, rootkits, and unauthorized software updates. The problem is Security Boot may also be the reason why the USB device isn’t booting.

If you can’t boot from the flash drive, then you’ll need to disable the Security Boot option. The method differs from one computer to the next and whether you’re running UEFI or BIOS, but the idea is the same.


While a Chromebook boot from USB takes more than a few keystrokes before you’re on your way. It can be done relatively seamlessly. The reason for the extra steps (compared to booting on a Windows PC) lies in the fact that the Chrome OS is one of the most restricted and secured operating systems. While this is good for security during general use, it adds to challenges when performing upgrades or laptop maintenance like these. Chromebooks usually have 16, 32 or 64GB storage capacity. This limited local storage is one such aspect of the Chromebook system that results in more steps required for booting from a an external USB.