How to Enable Developer Mode on Chromebook – Everything You Need to Know (2021)

Enabling Developer Mode on your Chromebook might have you running circles in your head.

You may have heard that Developer Mode deletes all your data or that it voids the warranty of your Chromebook.

Fear not.

This guide will answer all those questions you may have (and then some!).

And it’ll teach you how to enable it so you can do things like install Linux or run Play Store apps.

You need to enable it because Chrome OS by itself doesn’t let you install third-party software on it.

Last updated: 1/29/21. This guide will constantly be updated so you get the newest and most accurate information so you can do your stuff without a hitch. If you find any errors, please let me know in the comments and I’ll fix them!

Does it delete all my stuff? Does it void my warranty?

Enabling Developer Mode will void Chromebook warranty.
It may void the warranty of your laptop. But then again, it may be worth it.

Firstly, let’s answer all these common questions and get them out of the way.

Developer Mode erases your Chromebook

Switching to it does indeed delete all your local data.

When you enable it, it basically forces the Chromebook to delete your personal files you have saved on your local disk.

It’ll basically perform a Powerwash on itself.

Although other options like Linux have gotten a Beta feature on Chrome OS, enabling Dev Mode still requires you to go through the steps.

This means you’ll have to back up all your data to an external hard drive. Be sure to do this before proceeding because once you start, there’s no going back.

(Don’t have an external hard drive? Check out some of the best backup storage devices that are compatible with Chromebooks.)

You can use the free cloud storage provided by Google on Google Drive to easily save most (if not all) of it.

Or if you have some other cloud service (like Dropbox or Amazon S3), you can easily stash your stuff there as well.

There have many comments from readers (as you can see on this page) regarding possible workarounds to avoid deleting all your data.

Unfortunately, that’s how Chrome OS is wired. If you want to turn on Dev Mode, it wipes your system completely.

The bad part is that you have to back up everything. The good part is that if you screw up, you can just reset your device over and over since you have nothing important on it.

Plus, your Chromebook will probably run much faster since it’ll be like new.

It also semi-voids your Chromebook’s warranty

Enabling it also kinda voids the warranty. But not exactly.

If you break your machine, Google will offer no support for the matter.

This is clearly stated in the many warning prompts you’ll see when going through the process of enabling it.

If you should break or screw up your machine, make sure you disable it before attempting to send it in for repairs (though, this probably will be useless since they can check if the laptop was put into that mode).

The basic warranty doesn’t cover any damages due to you playing with the machine with it enabled.

This mode is intended for power-users, hardcore Chromium fans, or people who know what they’re doing.

If you’re just a regular user and you want to install something that requires root access, consider the pros and cons of doing so.

It’s easy to restore it to the original settings if you screw up

But then again, with a simple Powerwash, you can restore it back to factory settings. This basically makes it like new again as if it was never used before.

Google just doesn’t provide support for the product when you’re in Dev Mode. But when you’re out of it, you get support. Dev Mode just enables a lot of features that are currently in “beta,” so not everything will work properly. This is why they can’t provide support.

But when you Powerwash it, it’ll revert back to the original settings. Most retail stores will also gladly take it back in the event you need to return it as well. With a Powerwash, it’s pretty much impossible to tell if it was ever used (not that you should abuse it).

In fact, if you do decide to return or exchange a Chromebook in general,  you should definitely Powerwash it to clean it up and delete everything tied to your personal data to protect yourself. They’ll probably appreciate it as well since the device will be like new.

If you ever break something, just check out this guide on how to Powerwash your Chromebook.

You shouldn’t be scared to play around

Don’t be afraid to experiment though.

But then again, it’s pretty hard to destroy your laptop. Chrome OS has a lot of built-in features that make it possible to self-repair and go back to factory settings in just a few clicks.

You shouldn’t be that worried about switching modes unless you’re planning to do something drastic.

In other words, stop worrying. I haven’t heard of anyone permanently screwing up their laptop by turning it on.

Chromebooks are very easy to restore back factory settings if you screw one up.

And to be honest, it’s quite fun playing around with it enabled. You can get new updates that are in beta, install third-party software, and even see a whole bunch of techy jargon code that you probably won’t understand. If you break something, just restore it.

As long as you back up all your stuff, you’ll be fine.

(Don’t know how to back up your stuff? I wrote a complete guide about that.)

Still here? OK.

Let’s keep moving.

Why would you want to enable it?

You’ll want to enable it to grant yourself root access so you have the necessary admin privileges to do anything you want on your device.

It’s kind of like “Run as administrator” on Windows (if you’re familiar with it).

This allows you to install kernels like Linux, install popular programs like Steam, play games like Minecraft, Hearthstone, Roblox, RuneScape, and even World of Warcraft, and also get access to Chrome updates that aren’t released yet, just to name a few.

There are a ton of goodies just waiting to be discovered!

Enable Developer Mode

  1. Boot your Chromebook into Recovery Mode by holding “ESC + Refresh” (4th key on the top row) keys, and then pressing the Power button.
  2. You’ll then be promoted with a scary warning that’ll take over your screen. Read it and accept the consequences. This will occur regardless of what you do.
  3. Press “CTRL + D.” This is basically another fail-safe. Google’s way of making sure you really know what you’re doing.
  4. On the next screen, you’ll see another message that states- “To turn OS Verification OFF, press ENTER.” Go ahead and do it. You may hear beeping during this step.
  5. Press “CTRL+ D” again, or just wait for the beeping to stop and your Chromebook will reboot itself.
  6. It’ll take about 15-20 minutes for it to boot into Developer Mode. You’ll see the status of the boot. You only have to go through this process during your first boot after enabling it.
  7. You’re now in Developer Mode!

Congrats! So now that you’ve officially “hacked” your Chromebook, you can do some nifty things that you couldn’t before- like change your browser and even download media players!

But at the same time, there are plenty of risks.

For one, Chrome OS usually verifies the core files during boot. Now it won’t do that anymore.

The security that you previously had is now gone, so be extra careful what you do.

Enable the Chrome OS debugging features

You may see an option to enable debugging features. This is optional, but may be useful when you’re trying to fix something down the line.

If you do this, you get some benefits such as booting from a USB drive, accessing your Chromebook remotely via SSH, and other useful features.

But if you don’t need all the extra functionality, or don’t even know what they do, you don’t have to enable them.

Now you can do things you couldn’t normally do with full reign.

Access the command line

For starters, you can access the root shell by pressing “CTRL + ALT + T” to open a new command terminal window.

In this window, type “shell”, and then press Enter to open a bash shell.

Doing so will let you use “sudo” which is needed to execute many commands.

You’re now in Dev Mode!

This is pretty much all you need to do. You’re now officially in Dev Mode.

It’s now enabled and you can begin installing Linux or doing whatever you plan to do.

Getting errors?

Here are a few of the most common errors you may encounter- and their solutions!

If you get an error that reads:

  • “ERROR: unknown command: sudo”

It means you didn’t type “shell” first. Try typing that in before you start using “sudo.”

  • ERROR: unknown command: shell”

It’s likely because you’re not in Developer Mode.

Chrome OS has a tendency to revert back out of Dev Mode quite often. This happens when you reboot your device or wake it up from hibernate mode.

A warning will pop up on the screen that offers you the option to either stay in Dev Mode or revert back to the normal mode. This is a security measure built into Chrome OS.

If you don’t press the right keyboard combination on the screen to keep your Chromebook in Dev Mode, it’ll automatically revert back to the normal mode. It also works on a timer- if you do nothing, it’ll also automatically switch out of Developer Mode.

When you see the warning come up, you want to keep “OS Verification” off. This is important because if you don’t, you’ll have to start over from the first step again.

  • “Chrome OS is missing or damaged”

Don’t worry too much about this.

This is normal to the process and if you get this error, you can safely ignore it if it lets you proceed with the guide.

You should see this error show up regardless during the process.

If you don’t, it means something went wrong and you may have to restart.

Done playing? Ready to disable it?

When you’re doing playing around and you want to disable Developer Mode, just reboot it.

You’ll get warning screens all over again when it boots up. Just press the spacebar and your Chromebook will reset to factory settings.

This will delete everything you’ve done while it was enabled and switch back to the default mode. It’ll be like turning on your laptop for the first time again.

When it’s done restarting, you’ll have to log into your Google Account again on that familiar splash page.

You’ll be back at where you started- minus your files you started with. (But you backed them up, right?)

Well, there you have it. Easy and straightforward. If you have any issues, leave a comment and I’ll look into it.

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (check the "Contact Us" page).
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