Okay, so you want to play some Steam games on your new Chromebook.
Is it really possible?
Yes. But it’s not for everyone.
Before you fill your thoughts with doubt, let me tell you why exactly this may not work for you, so you can save time before you get knuckle-deep into this tutorial and get stuck.
Last updated: 1/27/20. This guide will constantly be updated to provide the most accurate information possible. If you discover something that requires an update, please leave a comment.
So, why would Steam games not work on a Chromebook?
Quickly put, it won’t work if:
- You don’t have an Intel-based CPU laptop
- Your laptop isn’t powerful enough
We’ll cover both these points in detail in just a bit.
This guide covers one main method and then offers multiple alternatives to get Steam up and running.
If you happen to actually go through all the methods and still can’t get it running, some other technical issue is probably at bay.
This tutorial should work for the majority of Chromebook owners. It’s basically a “guarantee.”
But first, we need to make sure your laptop meets the minimum requirements to get this working.
If you have any of the following reasons, you won’t be able to play Steam games on your Chromebook. You may be able to install Steam, but you won’t be able to play anything.
Before we begin, let’s check if your Chromebook can even run Steam…
Here’s a list of 3 reasons that you should double-check before continuing.
If you or your laptop matches any of these reasons, you should just stop now or consider returning your laptop and getting one that can actually run Steam.
1. Your Chromebook is made by Samsung or has an ARM-based processor
If your laptop is ARM-based, which is a CPU commonly found in many Samsung-based Chromebooks, it probably won’t work.
Though, Samsung has been pushing out various laptops that utilize Intel processors in their newer Chromebooks.
This guide only works for Intel-based Chromebooks, such as the majority of Acer, HP, Dell, and Lenovo laptops.
If you’re using a Samsung Chromebook such as the Samsung 2 (or original Samsung Chromebook), this won’t work. Sorry.
(Don’t know what processor you have? Find out what Chromebook you have.)
ARM and AMD processors don’t have the right chipset architecture to install Linux, which is required to get Steam in the first place.
Your laptop needs to have an Intel CPU to install Linux, which will then allow us to install the program.
So it’s like this: Intel > Linux > Steam.
As of now, there are two main methods to get Linux running on your device:
- Using Crouton
- Or using Linux (Beta)
The latter method allows you to skip the whole Crouton installation, however, not all Chromebooks support it yet.
If you have a device that has access to Linux (Beta), you’ll have a much easier time as it allows you to skip many steps!
You can check out this tutorial on getting Linux Beta.
Be wary though, some Intel chipsets don’t work as well. But the majority of them should work. If you get issues, it’s probably your processor. Sorry again.
By default, Chrome OS doesn’t allow third-party software to be installed, which is why we need to bypass this by installing such software with a different OS. More on this later.
2. Your Chromebook isn’t powerful enough
If you have a model with a questionable setup, you may not be able to play any Steam games because it’s simply too weak. This is the case with any computer whether it’s Windows or Chrome OS. If your computer doesn’t have the necessary hardware performance, it’ll stutter, lag, or simply freeze up and stall.
This is entirely dependent on the games you want to play from the Steam library. If you just want to play basic games that don’t require too much hardware, you’ll probably be able to run them without any issue. Games like Minecraft and RuneScape run without a hitch. Even though they’re not Steam games, it just shows that Chromebooks are capable of running such games.
However, if you’re planning to play all the latest and newest games, forget it. It’s not going to work your laptop no matter what because they simply don’t have the power to run demanding games on ultra settings. Most models only have 2-4GB of RAM and about 16-32GB of storage with an Intel Celeron Dual Core processor and Intel HD graphics.
The main bottleneck is the integrated graphics card- also known as the coprocessor. Intel HD graphics aren’t bad and can handle some of the newer games with ease, which is surprising. But it’s still not a dedicated card and therefore will slow down the performance of the computer.
So, depending on what you’re looking to play, you’ll have to see if the game is runnable by your Chromebook. Check out the game’s recommended and minimum system requirement on its store page and see if your particular laptop fulfills them.
You should be able to run many popular games like Counter-Strike and Portal with full multiplayer capabilities. But don’t expect to run stuff like Call of Duty or Paladins, as those games are much more demanding. It really depends on what you plan to play.
3. You’re not comfortable with tweaking settings or playing around (hacking) with your Chromebook’s files
I’ll go ahead and say it. You need some level of technical experience to get this working.
Although the main reason you’re reading this guide is to get Steam up and running on your Chromebook, it’s not always straightforward and as easy as it seems. Settings change. Steam updates. Chrome OS updates. Linux distros vary.
The possibilities of a technical issue or error arising are obviously going to happen, and you need to have the know-how or just be ready to do your own research on hacking into your system to get things running.
Again, it’s not always as straightforward as following this guide. There’ll be steps and points where you’ll need to do a Google search for a specific line of code, a specific setting, or a specific something if you get stuck.
I’ve tried to write this guide in a way that’ll work for the majority of them, but it won’t work for all as they all function differently even though they run the same copy of Chrome OS (assuming they’re all on the same version). It’s weird. Something that works for one Chromebook won’t work for another.
That’s where you come in and you’ll have to do some research to figure it out. Feel free to contribute to this tutorial by telling us some tips in the comments to help out a fellow Chromie.
Getting Steam to run – an overview and method
Okay, so if you’ve read all 3 reasons and you’re ready to get Steam on your Chromebook, let’s go over how we’ll achieve this.
First, we’ll cover why you need to do some hacking to get Steam running in the first place, and we’ll go over an overview of what we’re doing and why.
Chromebooks run Chrome OS, which isn’t compatible with java or a host of other third-party apps and applications you’re used to on Windows or Mac.
This is why we need to install a copy of Linux onto the same laptop since it’ll allow us to install whatever we want, in this case, Steam and Steam games.
To do this, we’ll need to have two different operating systems on the same Chromebook.
This is also known as dual-booting in the computer world. Chromebooks have the ability to run multiple operating systems and you can easily switch between them using hotkeys, which I’ll cover later in this guide.
To have two operating systems, we’ll need to enable Developer Mode, which is basically a mode that allows you to install and run applications that the default Chrome OS won’t allow you to do.
It’s like turning off the “firewall” and getting into the core files of Chrome OS.
I should clarify though that it’ll act like two separate operating systems, but it’s not.
We’ll be using Crouton, which basically hosts a second OS within Chrome OS. The benefit is that there’s no lag because the Linux OS is run natively within Chrome OS. No RAM splitting and no virtualization.
For those with Linux built-in (AKA Linux Beta)
If you have a newer Chromebook with Linux Beta, you can skip the whole Linux installation process.
Just jump straight to the Steam installation.
We can get Chromebooks to run Steam by installing Linux OS
But for simplicity’s sake, we’ll think of them as two “separate” operating systems.
Doing so will obviously open your laptop up to security issues and other file corruptions. This is just a risk you’ll have to take if you want to install stuff like Steam.
The nice thing about Chromebook is that they’re easy to self-repair back to the factory default state. If you screw something up, you can always easily reset it to back to how it was when it was brand new.
This means you can really do whatever you want to your laptop and you can always restore it. Restoring is also a cinch. It’s fast, easy, and doesn’t require any messy license keys like Windows.
You’ll need to stay in Developer Mode if you want to play Steam games. This is the only way to have Linux and Chrome OS both running.
So that means after you’re done with this tutorial and everything works, you’ll need to keep your laptop in the current state. Reverting to default mode will turn the “firewall” back on and disable your access to Linux, which means no access to Steam.
This is just a consequence of the process of getting Steam on your Chromebook.
You shouldn’t feel insecure with Developer Mode enabled, as it’s pretty safe if you keep all your files updated and don’t do anything that may result in a security breach. Linux itself is safe. Chrome OS is safe. You shouldn’t have any issues.
Are you ready? Things are about to get Steamy.
Okay, enough talk. Let’s get started with the actual guide.
Here’s how to get Steam on your Chromebook.
A note of warning: I’ve simplified these steps to make it easier to follow and omitted some of the miscellaneous information in Step 3. For example, if you have a touchscreen and want to use it in Linux, you’ll need to type in a different command line. I’ve left notes here and there throughout the steps that give you a heads up that if you want any additional functions, you’ll need to do your own research and look it up.
The reason for doing this is because many people get confused with so many steps and information on the screen, so I just trimmed the fat and left the core steps. Any additional upgrades will require you to take the initiative and find out how to do it for yourself.
As it stands now, simply following this guide will work for a basic setup to get Steam going. So if you’re lazy or unconfident, just do the following and you’ll be fine.
Step 1. Enable Developer Mode on your Chromebook
This is the first thing you’ll need to do.
As we’ve discussed before, you may have to restore your Chromebook if you screw something up, so I suggest backing everything up before continuing.
You should do this first because this step will literally wipe everything from your hard disk in one fell swoop! There’s no going back now. So back up your stuff!
Turning on Developer Mode is easy and I wrote a detailed guide on that already. Just go here and follow the steps to enable it, then come back here when you’re done.
If this is your first time enabling it, I suggest you read the whole guide over there. If you’ve done this before, just know your precautions and enable it.
Here’s a quick refresher if you’ve done this before:
- Get into Recovery Mode by holding “Esc + Refresh” (the refresh key is the 4th key on the top row) keys, and then pressing the Power button.
- Press “Ctrl + D.”
- Press Enter to turn off OS Verification when the warning prompts you. Your laptop will beep at you. This is normal.
- Press “Ctrl + D”, or just wait for the beeping to stop and your Chromebook will begin the reboot process.
- It’ll take about 15 minutes for it to fully boot into Developer Mode.
- You’re now in developer mode.
Step 2. Download Crouton
Crouton is basically an installer that’ll let us easily install a copy of the Linux environment for your Chromebook.
Go ahead and download Crouton by visiting the GitHub here.
You can read about it on the same page, as it contains a lot of information about it as well as useful FAQs.
I suggest you skim through it as it answers a lot of questions about how it works and modifiers you can add to your installation of Crouton. For example, if you have a touchscreen, you’ll need to add arguments to your command line. This is something that you’ll need to look up how to do, but it’s easy.
Step 3: Install a copy of Linux via Crouton
Okay, so now that you’ve downloaded Croton, you can install a copy of Linux on your Chromebook.
Doing this is easy with the command prompt.
Don’t worry, I’ll cover the exact code you’ll have to type in. But be sure you’re typing the following lines in exactly as you seem them here, because one little character mistake will throw you an error. If that happens, don’t sweat. It’ll prompt you to try again. That’s how command lines work.
And be sure to not type any of the quotations, but type them with all the other symbols, since it matters. Also, casing matters. If you type a command with the improper case, you’ll get an error. So be sure to type the commands exactly as shown.
If something isn’t working for you, just leave a comment and I’ll try to help you out ASAP.
First, open up the command prompt by pressing:
After you press that combination, you’ll see a window pop up prompting you to type in a command.
Type “shell” and press Enter.
Type the following line:
“sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce -r trusty”
And press Enter.
This installs the Xfce version of Linux. You can also install other distros, like KDE which is more “pretty” but is more bloated. Xfce is a basic bare-bones version of Linux that’s fast and easy to use. If you want to use KDE instead, replace “xfce” with “kde” above. That’s what I’ll stick with for this guide to keep it straightforward and simple.
If you want to install another distro or desktop environment (or if you get stuck on this step), I’ve written a complete tutorial on how to install Linux on a Chromebook you can refer to. It goes over the process step-by-step and covers how exactly you can install the other desktop environments instead of Xfce.
Some versions have more eye-candy. Some have tons of features that make it almost like Windows. Others are built for performance and speed. There are dozens of distros you can install if you wish.
Linux will now install and it’ll take a bit. Have a cookie. Take a break. Browse the Steam library in anticipation.
Warning: You’ll be prompted to create a password. Make sure you write this down. There’s no way to recover it and you’ll need it to install Steam and other applications on your copy of Linux. If you forget it, you’ll have to start over. So don’t forget it. Write it down.
Step 4: Launch Linux
After it’s done installing, we’ll have to launch it.
Doing this is super easy. Just type the following command in the shell terminal exactly as shown without the quotations:
“sudo startxfce4” and press Enter.
It’ll load up Linux Xfce (or KDE) and it’ll wait for your input. You’re now in Linux.
Right-click the desktop and open up the Internet browser. Go to Steam’s website, click the big download button, and download it.
While it’s downloading, you can customize your new desktop to suit how you like it.
Go ahead and play around with the settings and learn about where everything is. Steam will take a while to download, so you can mess around for a bit with Linux, or have another cookie. Or continue gawking at the Steam library.
Step 5: Install the Ubuntu Software Center
Steam should be downloaded onto your laptop and ready to install.
It should’ve downloaded and saved as a debian (.deb) file. Next, you’ll have to install some additional software to run it.
Find and open the Terminal Emulator. It’s probably tucked away in the menus somewhere.
When you find it, install the Ubuntu Software Center, which is basically like a marketplace of add-ons for your system.
Look for the command prompt within the emulator and type the following command:
“sudo apt-get install software-center”
This will fetch and download, then install the Software Center.
It’ll prompt you to type in a password that you created earlier, so go ahead and type it in before you install it. You can’t install it without the root admin password, so that’s’ why it’s important to remember it and write it down.
Did you forget it? You’ll have to restore your Chromebook to factory settings and start over.
Step 6: Install Steam
You can now finally install Steam.
Find the .deb file saved in your downloads folder and open it up. It’ll now let you install it and will prompt you for your password again.
Steam should install fairly quickly and without issue, as it’s compatible with Linux devices from the start. While it’s installing, you can look over the next few steps to save yourself some time and anticipation.
- Can’t open your .deb file? Install GDebi from the Software Center. Then right-click on the .deb file and use GDebi to install it.
- Still can’t install Steam? Try using the following command to directly install the program:
- “sudo apt-get install -y steam”
- Then hit Tab and select “Yes” and hit Enter.
- Steam will then install and update automatically.
Step 7: Launch Steam
After it’s done installing, open Steam.
It’ll ask for your account details. Type them in and log into Steam and it’ll launch up on your laptop.
There you go. You’ve officially installed Steam on your Chromebook.
That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Go ahead and install your games, browse the store for new games, or chat with your friends. You now have a working copy of Steam on Chrome OS.
Step 8: Make it faster to get to Steam
Once you have everything set up and going the way you like, you should make it easier the next time you use it.
Whenever something goes wrong due to an update, you’ll have to follow all these steps again unless you make a backup. I suggest you make one so you can jump here super fast.
Press “Ctrl + Alt + T” and then type “shell” and press Enter.
Type in “sudo edit-chroot -b trusty” and press Enter.
This will make a backup of your current Crouton setup for easy installation next time. You should be prepared for it because updates mess things up constantly.
You can also save the games onto an external hard drive or USB thumb drive. This way, whenever you reset your Chromebook and it erases everything, you don’t have to install the games again. You can do this easily:
Open up the Applications menu and find the File Manager.
Press “Ctrl + H” and it’ll unhide all the hidden folders and files.
Go to “.local”, “share”, “Steam” and then copy and paste the “SteamApps” folder to your drive. This will save all your games locally in case your Chromebook needs to be reset.
Other alternative methods to get Steam on your Chromebook
There are two other methods to get this to work if the above isn’t working for you.
Alternative method #1: Use the Ubuntu App Store
This method may work for you instead of the main method doesn’t work. It’s actually much easier than it, so give it a try.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a Chromebook with an Intel CPU for this to work.
Here’s how to install Steam using the Ubuntu App Store:
- Basically, go ahead and follow the steps to enable Developer Mode
- After you’ve done that, install Xfce4
- Then, install Chrome browser within Xfce4
- Download and install the Ubuntu App Store
- Look for Steam within the store
- Download Steam and install it
This method is a lot easier and may just work for you if you can’t get Steam to install on your Chromebook using the method above, or if Steam isn’t working.
This does require a little more work compared to the previous method. But if you’re a Linux user and just prefer it, this method should work with no problems.
Alternate method #2: Use CrossOver for Android
CrossOver Android is software that lets you run almost any Windows app on your Chromebook. You’ll need an Intel-based CPU for this to work, just like any other of the methods on here.
The program is technically a full-fledged Windows compatibility layer that enabled many native Windows programs to run directly on Chrome OS, macOS, or even Linux.
The program uses your Android-based device so you only need one phone to render all Windows programs.
CrossOver is based on WINE using modified source code that makes it compatible and user friendly.
Here’s how to get Steam on your Chromebook with CrossOver:
- Download CrossOver on Google Play and install it
- Follow this video to set it up
- Start the software and enjoy
From there, you can natively run Windows programs without the remote desktops. The software eliminates using remote connections, which is a nice alternative to Chrome Remote Desktop. You also can run all of Windows on one device.
You’re not actually running Steam, but rather emulating it using their modified WINE code.
Basically, CrossOver allows you to seamless run Windows software that normally wouldn’t be available to you, unless you get it through WINE and Linux. This means you can download and install programs like Office, play DirectX games on your Chromebook, or get Steam (which is why you’re here).
Here’s a video demonstrating how it works:
You can also do this using the Chrome Remote Desktop app, which is also a good option if CrossOver doesn’t work. It’s an app for Chrome OS which basically lets you form a remote link to a remote host computer and view it from your laptop.
You can grab the Chrome Remote Desktop app here, and for your convenience, I also wrote on setting up the Chrome Remote Desktop viewer. Woot.
Keep in mind that using emulation software depends on many factors. Internet speed and your hardware specs both affect the quality and speed of your gameplay experience. It’s advertised to not bog down your system, so there’s that.
For most Chromebooks, it should work just fine for older titles. If you have a newer one with more power, you should have a decent experience with your Steam library.
Update: A reader pointed out that CrossOver is an emulation program for Windows, rather than a remote desktop protocol. I’ve updated the terminologies to reflect this after reviewing CrossOver more in-depth. (Thanks =]!)
Get the Steam app for your phone
Do you just want to chat with your Steam friends on your Chromebook?
You don’t need to install it and go through this whole process. You can do that simply by using the Steam app for your smartphone. You can grab it here.
If you need to use your laptop to chat, you’ll have to use a previous method to get it to work.
You could also try third-party apps to forward your messages. Pushbullet comes to mind, but I’m not sure you can configure it to support chat services.
Get the Steam Enhancement app for your Chromebook
This app is made exclusively just for your Chromebook or Chrome OS device.
You simply add it from the Chrome Web Store and it attaches to your browser. It provides a whole bunch of Steam improvements for your device when you visit the official Steam website.
It doesn’t actually change the website itself. It just adds a bunch of neat features to your browsing experience.
Some of the improvements included with the Steam Enhancement app:
- Highlight any DLC you’ve purchased for a game
- Highlight owned games
- Calculating bundle discounts based on owned games
- Fixes “no image available” for game icons in your wishlist or DLC
- Shows how much money you’ve spent
- Highlight games on your wishlist
Note that this won’t let you run Steam on your Chromebook. It simply enhances your visit to the Steam website when you’re browsing around. Still useful though for shopping, price comparison, and other data-collection stuff because it’s like a tracker just for you and your game library.
Nonetheless, it’s pretty awesome and makes the experience very convenient and handy. If you buy stuff from their store often, just get this app. It’s definitely worth the install if you’re running Chrome OS. Impressive stuff.
You probably need to see it fully understand how useful it can actually be.
You can grab the Steam Enhancement app here.
Did you screw something up?
If you think you broke something, don’t worry a bit.
Chromebooks are very versatile and the developers have thought about other developers wanting to do some “fun” stuff on their devices once in a while (or all the time). So they’re designed to easily restore to factory settings and everything will be reverted back to like when you first turned it on.
All you need to do is perform a Powerwash and you’ll be given a fresh, clean slate to work with. Your device will wipe everything and start over with just the default apps installed. And bugs, corrupted files, or errors will be deleted and only the verified Chrome OS files will be used.
As long as you made a backup, you should be fine (remember at the beginning you were supposed to?). You can easily import your saved files back into your hard drive by connecting your external storage or downloading it from a cloud provider.
It’s that easy. You can’t really “brick” a Chromebook.
You’ve now installed Steam on your Chromebook. Congratulations!
Well, there you have it. Congrats.
Three methods to install Steam on your Chromebook.
You’ve just learned three methods to install Steam on your Chromebook.
If you can’t get any of them to work, I’d suggest using a video tutorial or directly contacting a friend who can help you out, as some of it can be very technical.
Be sure to also double-check that your Chromebook can run Steam in the first place. If it’s not Steam-compatible, it won’t work no matter how many tutorials you read. You can read the requirements in the first section of this tutorial.
If you found that this guide has helped you, consider telling one other person about it.
Go ahead and start downloading those games to your laptop. Don’t forget to back ‘em up.
If you have any questions or tips, add them to the comments. Or simply leave a “thank you” comment if this guide has helped you. I’ll be glad to hear about it. And consider telling a friend about it as well.
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Thanks for reading. Now go get gaming already. What are you waiting for?