How to Get Steam on a Chromebook

There are ways to access the massively popular gaming platform

Steam running as a native Linux app on a Chromebook.

Steam is the biggest computer gaming platform out there, and it's available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. More games are made available through the Linux version every day, and you actually play them if you install Steam on your Chromebook thanks to the fact that there are a couple different ways to run Linux apps on Chromebooks.

Should You Install Steam on a Chromebook?

Your Chromebook probably isn't powerful enough to run brand new AAA games, but there are plenty of games that run just fine on lower powered hardware. A lot of older games, and even newer indie games, are capable of running on the pared down hardware found in most Chromebooks.

Installing Steam on your Chromebook also gives you the option to use in-home streaming to run a game on your powerful desktop PC, but play it wherever you want using your Chromebook.

How to Use Steam on Chromebooks

There are two ways to use Steam on Chromebooks. The first way is to install Steam as a native Linux app. This is a somewhat complex process that requires you to enable Linux apps on your Chromebook, then install Steam using terminal commands. This option is only available if your Chromebook supports native Linux apps, and not all Chromebooks do.

The other option works on all Chromebooks, but it's even more complicated. This option requires you to install Linux on your Chromebook, then install Steam through a Linux desktop environment like Ubuntu.

The native Linux app is the best option if you want to avoid enabling developer mode, while the full Linux installation version is the better way to go if you want to have a real Linux desktop environment on your Chromebook.

How Check to See If Your Chromebook Supports Linux Apps

Some Chromebooks support Linux apps, and others don't. XDA Developers has a list of supported Chromebooks, Chromebooks that won't ever receive Linux app support, and other information you can use to determine whether or not your Chromebook makes the cut.

The easiest way to actually verify whether or not your Chromebook supports Linux apps is to just check and see if the option is available in your system settings. For instructions on how to do that, check out the following section.

If the Linux apps option isn't available, try switching to the Chrome OS beta or developer channel.

How to Enable Linux Apps on a Chromebook

If your Chromebook is capable of running native Linux apps, you'll have to actually enable the feature before you can install steam. This is an extremely easy process that just involves selecting a toggle in your Chrome OS settings.

  1. Select the system tray in the lower right corner of your screen, then select the gear icon to open the settings menu.

    A screenshot of the Chrome OS system tray menu.
  2. Scroll down to locate the Linux (Beta) section, then select Turn on.

    A screenshot of Chrome OS settings.
  3. Select Install.

    A screenshot of the Linux Chromebook beta setup screen.
  4. Wait for the installation process to finish. When it's done, you'll be greeted by a terminal window. This window is how you will install and launch Linux apps through Chrome OS.

    A screenshot of the Linux terminal window on Chrome OS.

How to Install the Linux Steam App on Chrome OS

Once you've successfully set up your Chromebook to run native Linux apps in Chrome OS, you're ready to install Steam. This process is more complicated than you might be used to if you've never used Linux before, but it isn't difficult.

The way this process works is you need to open the Linux terminal on your Chromebook. Then you need to enter a series of commands, one at a time, and wait for each to finish executing before entering the next one.

We'll show you the exact commands you need to enter, and you can even copy and paste them if you want. To do this, simply copy a command from these instructions, select inside the terminal window, press SHIFT+CTRL+V on your Chromebook keyboard, then press ENTER to execute the command.

Here's how to install Steam on a Chromebook as a native Linux app:

  1. Press SHIFT+CTRL+T to open the Linux terminal window, if it isn't already open.

  2. Enter the following command into the terminal window. You can copy and paste it, or type it out, then press enter to execute it.

    echo 'deb jessie main contrib non-free' | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
    A screenshot of the Linux terminal on Chrome OS.
  3. Enter the following command into the terminal window:

    sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
    A screenshot of the Linux terminal window on Chrome OS.
  4. Enter the following command into the terminal window:

    sudo apt update
    A screenshot of the Linux terminal on Chrome OS.
  5. Enter the following command into the terminal window:

    sudo apt install steam
    A screenshot of the Linux terminal on Chrome OS.
  6. Press Y to confirm the installation.

    A screenshot of the Steam install process on Chrome OS.

    During this step, the installer will show you how much storage space Steam will take up. If your Chromebook doesn't have enough storage, you won't be able to install Steam.

  7. Agree to the Steam license agreement to finalize the installation procedure.

    A screenshot of the Steam license agreement on Chrome OS.
  8. Wait for Steam to update itself.

    Steam updating on Chrome OS.
  9. Select LOGIN TO AN EXISTING ACCOUNT to log in to your Steam account.

    A screenshot of the Steam login on Chrome OS.
  10. You're ready to use Steam on your Chromebook.

    A screenshot of Steam running on Chrome OS.

How to Install Steam on a Chromebook That Doesn't Support It

Prior to the introduction of native Linux apps, smart users found a workaround that allowed every Chromebook to run Linux alongside Chrome OS. This is a more complicated option than simply installing a Linux app through Chrome OS, but it's the only option for most Chromebooks.

  1. Use Crouton to run Ubuntu Linux on your Chromebook. If you want to use this method, you need to start by using Crouton to install Ubuntu, or another version of Linux, alongside Chrome OS on your Chromebook.

    This method doesn't replace Chrome OS, so you can continue to use your Chromebook just like you always have. However, it does require you to enable developer mode.

  2. Switch from Chrome OS to the Ubuntu desktop. Once you have Ubuntu running on your Chromebook, you can switch between Chrome OS and Ubuntu whenever you want with a simple key combination.

    • Intel and AMD Chromebooks: To switch back and forth, press CTRL+ALT+BACK and CTRL+ALT+FORWARD, then press CTRL+ALT+REFRESH to refresh the new desktop.
    • ARM Chromebooks: To switch back and forth, press CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+BACK and CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+FORWARD.
  3. Navigate to the official Steam site, and select Install Steam. When Ubuntu Software opens, select Install and the app will install automatically.

Using this method, you'll have to switch to Ubuntu every time you want to use Steam. You can't access it directly from the Chrome OS interface.