How to Get Garry’s Mod on Chromebook (Tutorial)

So, you want to play Garry’s Mod on a Chromebook.

Just can’t get enough of Prop Hunt, huh?

In this tutorial, we’ll cover:

  • Requirements to get GMod on Chrome OS
  • How to set up Linux and Steam to download the game
  • Optimizing FPS for Garry’s Mod on a Chromebook
  • Alternative methods using Lutris, PlayOnLinux, and remote desktop
  • And pretty much everything else you’ll ever need in one guide

The game can be demanding. So I can’t guarantee that your Chromebook can run it!

NOTE: It does require some coding/command line stuff. So if you’re not comfy with that, just follow the commands or copy and paste them!

But if you’re a hardcore GMod fan, it’s still worth a shot. Besides you can play a bunch of other games once you have Steam.

Sound good? Let’s fire up those addons and get crazy!

Can you play GMod on a Chromebook?

Alright, so to get started, you’ll need these things to install, download, and run Garry’s Mod:

  • An Intel-powered Chromebook (MediaTek, Rockchip, etc. don’t work)
  • A WiFi connection
  • An external hard drive, SD card, or USB drive (whichever backup device works with your Chromebook)
  • 30-60 minutes of time (depending on how smoothly things go)
  • Patience of a steel prop

That’s pretty much all you’ll need to set up the process.

System requirements

GMod noclip meme.
Yes. (Via meme.)

So to actually play GMod on Chromebook, you’ll need to meet the system requirements or else suffer a laggy fate.

I’m happy to say that most modern and newer models (2018+) should be able to run the game because they meet the minimum system requirements.

But this isn’t the case for all Chromebooks out there.

Even some newer ones only have 2GB of RAM or a weak processor.

The system requirements for GMod calls for:

  • 2 GHz CPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 512MB GPU
  • DirectX 9.0c

These are the minimum requirements for Linux, which is what we’ll be using since Chrome OS doesn’t play nicely with Steam (or any .exe’s for that matter).

CPU

The thing to note here is that you need an INTEL processor.

This won’t work with ARM or MediaTek processors as they’re incompatible with Linux.

If you don’t know what processor you have, check out this guide to identify it.

The majority of Chromebooks out there meet the basic requirements- most have Intel Turbo Boost which clocks the CPU above 2 GHz.

RAM

Entry-level ones have just 2GB of RAM, so that may pose a problem.

If you only have 2GB RAM, you can try to optimize the game using the settings to see if you squeeze out a few more FPS to playable frames.

GPU

As for the 512MB of dedicated GPU, this is where most Chromebooks will suffer performance.

99% of them don’t have any dedicated graphics the last time I checked, so that’s one major bottleneck that lags the game.

This is actually what made me give up and uninstall. But if you’re feeling risque, go for it.

Disk space

The rest of the requirements are nothing special.

Just be sure that you have at least 6GB of free space on your SSD. You may want to remove all your junk if needed to free up space.

Actually, scratch that.

You’ll have to anyway because we’ll need to enable Developer Mode to do this.

Dev Mode will erase your entire hard disk, so you’ll want to back up your stuff regardless. More on this later.

Running GMod on a Chromebook – A primer

GMod meme Toy Story.
Ready for this?

The game plan will be straightforward.

We’ll basically be doing the following:

  • Back up data
  • Enable Developer Mode
  • Get Crouton
  • Get Linux
  • Get Steam
  • Download GMod
  • Optimize FPS
  • Play Garry’s Mod!

We’ll cover each step one at a time. If you get stuck, post a comment and let me know.

Alright, let’s fire up those RPG-propelled chairs and aim for the airships.

Onto step one!

Transfer your important files

Garry's Mod server error.
Everyday. (Via QuickMeme.)

Note: If you want to download Garry’s Mod on your Chromebook, you’ll have to erase your device. Completely.

This is because you have to enable Developer Mode during the process which wipes the chromebook back to factory defaults.

A lot of readers ask if there’s a way to play games without having to wipe the device, without Linux, or without Developer Mode.

Sadly, there’s no way to bypass this unless the game is available on the Play Store.

This means you can just download and install the game directly from Google Play as an app and run it on your Chromebook. No linux. No erasing your hard disk.

However, this doesn’t always suit everyone because:

  • Not all Chromebooks have the ability to install Android apps. 
  • Not all games are available for download on the Play Store (such as official GMod)

The Android app usually is a slimmed down version of the full desktop game (as you would play on Steam)

So as you can see, there are some tradeoffs.

Something interesting to note for Garry’s Mod- while there’s no official GMod for Android phones, you can get the GMod apk for “Free Garry’s Mod” which seems pretty cool.

I didn’t actually download and install this app, but it’s out there.

Perhaps someone can try it out and report back with some results? Decent game? Or utter garbage?

So this brings us to the first thing you should do if you want to play the official game:

Make a backup of your important stuff

The process is super easy and it’s just like backing up files on Windows.

Just plug in a Chrome OS compatible backup drive and transfer your files to it.

If you need a detailed tutorial, check out this guide.

Do that first and then come back and continue.

Okay, done? Let’s move on.

Turn on Developer Mode

Garry's Mod meme.
Now I just need a canvas and paintbrush. (Via Funnyjunk.)

Alright, so now that’s you’ve made a copy of your stuff, the next thing to do is to enable Dev Mode.

It’s very easy and will basically allow you more privileges on your Chromebook.

It’s necessary to get Linux, which is necessary to get Steam, which is necessary to get GMod. See the pattern?

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to do so.

Go there and follow the steps. Then come back here. It should only take about 20-30 minutes if it’s your first time.

If you’re using a school or work chromebook that’s enrolled into a managed network, this won’t work.

Dev Mode is disabled by default to prevent you from messing with your device, and there’s no way around this.

You’ll have to get permission from whoever manages the Chromebooks in your network. Sorry about that.

If you bought a secondhand device that’s still enrolled into some network, you can try to remove your device from the network or contact the seller and get a refund.

They may have failed to enroll the device or didn’t know how to.

Did you get stuck? Check out this tutorial for troubleshooting Developer Mode.

Note that some Chromebooks actually have a physical switch on the side that you need to toggle with a paperclip.

This is true for some older models and could be the reason why your attempt fails. Check out the linked page above for more details.

Get Ubuntu

DarkRP starter pack.
DarkRP, anyone? (Via Reddit.)

The next thing you’ll need is Linux.

We’ll be installing the Ubuntu distro with the Xfce desktop environment. Easy and clean with minimal resource hogging.

After all, you want the CPU/GPU to render the game. Not the desktop!

There are two ways to get Ubuntu:

  • Turn on Linux beta
  • Download Linux via Crouton

We’re using Crouton

We’ll be using Crouton because it’s the tried-and-true, old-fashioned method that seems to work better compared to Linux Beta. I won’t go into detail about Linux Beta.

It’s pretty much a “built-in” Linux kernel that avoids using Crouton.

The pros are that it’s easy to set up because all you need to do is toggle a setting and don’t need to mess with Crouton. So it can definitely save you steps.

The cons are that it doesn’t work with all Chromebooks and that it may not work with GMod. It has some compatibility problems with Linux and doesn’t always play nicely.

So we’ll be ditching all that and sticking with good ol’ Crouton!

If you want to try using Linux Beta, check out this step-by-step tutorial. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Okay, let’s get Ubuntu! The method we’ll be doing is Crouton > Linux/Ubuntu.

How to get Ubuntu using Crouton

Here comes some code! Don’t panic.

Just copy and paste directly from here into the command prompt.

Here are the steps:

  • Download Crouton.
  • Read the FAQ page.
  • Press “CTRL + ALT + T” to launch the command line.
  • Type the following commands, hitting Enter after each line, exactly as shown:
    • sudo install -Dt /usr/local/bin -m 755 ~/Downloads/crouton
    • sudo crouton -t xfce
  • Wait for Ubuntu to load up. This may take a few minutes depending on your Chromebook speed.
  • During the process, you’ll be prompted to create a username and password.
  • When you type your password, you may notice that the cursor doesn’t move- that’s normal on Linux! Just type as you normally would and don’t forget your credentials!
  • After it’s done and you see the Ubuntu home screen, log on to Linux by typing this command:
    • sudo enter-chroot startxfce4
  • And you’re all set!

Congrats, you now have Ubuntu up and running.

You can toggle back to Chrome OS by pressing “CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + Forward/Back Arrow.” This lets you easily jump back and forth between Ubuntu and Chrome OS like a multitasking ninja.

Next, we’ll get Steam. We’re almost there.

Can you smell the roleplaying and Prop Hunt?

Get Steam

Prop Hunt IRL. (Via Tenor.)

We’re almost there, are you ready to take on Prop Hunt yet?

The next step is to get Steam.

There are two ways to do this:

  • Use the command line
  • Use the Ubuntu Software Center

Let’s go over both. Pick one and use it.

Command line

Thankfully, this is super easy with the command line.

Here’s how to download Steam using the command line:

  • Launch the command prompt by pressing “CTRL + ALT + T.”
  • Type this command:
    • $ sudo apt-get install -y steam
  • Press “Tab” and select “OK” to agree to the terms of use.
  • Wait like a good person for it to finish installing.

If you don’t like using commands or you get errors, try the alternative method of using the Ubuntu Software Center.

Ubuntu Software Center

The USC is much easier to use because all you do is just click buttons. No commands needed!

Here’s how to get Steam using the Software Center:

  1. Click on the Ubuntu button to bring up the menu.
  2. Look for Ubuntu Software Center, which should’ve been installed by default when you got Linux.
  3. Click on it to start the program.
  4. Search for “steam” in the Software Center using the search bar- it works just like an app store. Find the official Steam client for Linux in the search results. There should only be one officially made by Valve. Or just click here to go there directly.
  5. Click “install” to add Steam to your Chromebook via Linux.
  6. Be patient and let it install. Check out some cool GMod videos.
  7. Find Steam in the menu under Applications > Games > Steam and launch the program.
  8. Steam will probably need an update (like usual). Let it update if needed.
  9. Sign in to your Steam account.

Congrats. You now have Steam set up and running. You can now get Gmod and a bunch of other Steam games like Adventure Capitalist, Realm of the Mad God, and Terraria.

Download and install Garry’s Mod

Garry's Mod Steam meme.
Who knows this feel?

This step is pretty self-explanatory.

Just search for “garry’s mod” on Steam and add the game to your Library.

If you already have it in there, Steam will prompt you to download the game and install it.

Go ahead and do so.

After it’s installed, launch GMod through Steam and it should start running on your Chromebook.

The first thing we’ll want to do is to get the best performance so it’s not a laggy, unplayable mess.

How else are you gonna launch yourself into an airship on a rocket launcher using the Nyan Gun?

Play GMod!

Well this step is pretty obvious. I think you know what to do =]. Enjoy your roleplaying like Rambo.

Optimize FPS on a Chromebook

Garry's Mod hacking meme.
Cheats enabled.

There’s only one proven solution to get higher frames

And that’s to remove ALL server addons and only keep the ones you need for the server you’re playing on. This will boost your FPS like crazy.

Wherever you host your server, only use the bare necessities.

As for other miscellaneous graphic settings, here are some ways you can bump the performance and FPS.

Go to the “Video – Advanced” screen.

Change these settings:

  • Antialiasing to “2X MSAA”
  • Filtering mode to “Anisotropic 4x”
  • Wait for vertical sync to “Disabled”
  • Multicore rendering to “Disabled”
  • Model detail to “Low”
  • Texture detail to “Low”
  • Shader detail to “Low”
  • Water detail to “Low”
  • High dynamic range to “None”
  • Motion blur to “Disabled”

Lower the resolution

Change the video resolution to the lowest possible.

Your Chromebook may be 1368 x 720 natively.

There’s no need to have it at the native resolution.

Change it something like the following:

  • 1280 x 720
  • 800 x 600
  • 640 x 480
  • 320 x 210

As you adjust the resolution, each step down will make a huge difference on the FPS.

The lower the resolution, the faster the processing.

Of course, you’ll want to play the game in windowed mode. If you try to fullscreen it at a lower res, it’ll look super pixelated and stretched out.

Change the DirectX level

Find the autoexec.cfg file. It should be under garrysmod > cfg > autoexec.cfg

You may need to install a text editor to edit the file.

If you can’t find the file, just make one and save it as a “.cfg” file.

Open the file in a text editor. Scroll to the bottom and click your cursor into a new line.

Type in this command:

cmd -> mat_dxlevel 70

And then save the config file. This changes the video settings of Garry’s Mod.

This will set your DirectX level to 70, which is perfect for low-end machines. The game will look like crap, but you can adjust it as needed.

You can make the details look better by slowly increasing the DirectX engine:

  • mat_dxlevel 80
  • mat_dxlevel 81
  • mat_dxlevel 85
  • mat_dxlevel 90

Force low textures

In the .cfg file, add the following command:

  • mat_picmpi 4

This will turn the texture details to the lowest option to increase FPS.

Use HL1 textures

Use the command:

  • mat_showlowresimage 1

To force all graphics to HL1. This looks pretty bland and ugly, but it should help your FPS.

.cfg commands not working?

Note that if the commands don’t work, add the this line to the top of the .cfg file:

  • sv_cheats 1

The game struggles to get playable FPS

Again, you’ll need a decent amount of RAM and a CPU that’s not terribly underpowered to put out any FPS.

The game is pretty demanding, especially when you have a ton of props on the screen.

But for those who have a more “powerful” Chromebook, you should be able to at least run the game at playable FPS.

For the rest of us, we can only tweak the performance by optimizing the game settings.

That was the only thing stopping me from having a good time the last time I briefly had GMod installed and frustratingly removed it from my Chromebook.

If you have any questions, post them below. I’ll be happy to chime in with the casually-limited technical knowledge I have and try to help you out.

Alternate methods

Still struggling? Here are some other altenrative ways you can try out to download and install GMod on your Chromebook.

Lutris

Lutris is a free platform that’s basically a game management library similar to Steam.

You’ll have to download Lutris first, then you can add GMod to your library launch it from there.

Here are the steps to download Lutris. Follow the tutorial there exactly as shown. Then come back here. You’ll want to download the Ubuntu version.

After you get Lutris, download Garry’s Mod from the game library here.

Add GMod to Lutris and install it. Then you can start the game from the Lutris UI.

I also suggest reading their FAQ page in case you get stuck. It’s also very helpful and easy to digest, so don’t worry about reading walls of text (like this tutorial).

PlayOnLinux

PlayOnLinux (POL) is another similar program to Lutris and has its own copy of Garry’s Mod.

The steps are exactly the same:

Stuck? Check out their FAQs page, forum, or post a comment below.

Emulate the game

The last option you can try is to use a remote desktop to mirror the game.

This basically means you’ll be running GMod on your gaming computer, but “playing” it through your Chromebook.

Your PC will be doing all the heavy lifting (graphics rendering, etc.) but you’ll be controlling the game from your Chromebook’s keyboard and touchpad (please tell me you’re using an external USB mouse).

So it’s basically like your laptop will be your monitor and your PC will be your tower.

You can set this up using a Chrome extension called the Chrome Remote Desktop. It’s free and extremely useful.

All you need to set this up is:

  • A copy of GMod on your PC
  • An active, FAST connection to the Internet on your PC and Chromebook
  • Chrome Remote Desktop extension installed on both devices

Setting it up takes a few minutes only:

  • Install Chromebook Remote Desktop on your PC
  • Install Chrome Remote Desktop on your Chromebook
  • Bridge the connection and set up the authentication codes
  • Connect to your PC from your Chromebook
  • Play GMod!

I also wrote a tutorial for setting up remote desktop on Chrome OS.

If you get stuck, you may find it useful for troubleshooting.

Some common questions about this:

Does the computer running Garry’s Mod need to be on?

Yes. For the remote desktop extension to work, your PC running GMod must be powered on and connected to the Internet.

Does the PC need to be online?

Yes. Both the PC and the Chromebook need an online connection for them to communicate and for this to work.

Does it work anywhere?

Yup. You can play GMod using your PC through your Chromebook anywhere in the world as long as they’re both connected online.

Firewalls may affect your experience. Your results will vary.

Does it lag?

Your PC is doing all the rendering, so lag is minimal from performance. The major problem is slowdown and lag coming from your Internet connection.

The data needs to travel from your PC to your Chromebook and your performance depends on how fast BOTH the upload and download speed of your PC and Chromebook.

Are you playing GMod on your Chromebook yet?

So Perfect GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
This could be you. (Via Giphy).

That’s the end of the tutorial.

Did you get it working? Does it run smoothly?

Yes? Then enjoy your endless and mindless crazy creations that only GMod can offer.

No? How about playing some other games on Steam?

Or if you got the game running smoothly, let me know! I’d be happy to hear.

Consider telling a friend so you can launch rocket-strapped NPCs riding off-road vehicles from the top of a quad airship using ACF propulsion. On wheels.

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 (platy@platypusplatypus.com).
guest
1 Comment
Best
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments