How to Get Steam on a Chromebook

There are ways to access the popular gaming platform on a Chromebook

Steam is one of the largest and most popular video game distribution platforms. It is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Through Linux, Chromebook can also enjoy the community and convenience of a Steam account.

Should You Install Steam on a Chromebook?

Most Chromebooks are not powerful enough to run brand new AAA games. But a lot of older games and many new indie games are capable of running on the pared-down hardware found in most Chromebooks. Alternatively, you can play CPU-intensive games by streaming them from a desktop PC to a Chromebook installed with Steam.

How to Use Steam on a Chromebook

There are two ways to use Steam on a Chromebook. The first way is to install Steam as a regular 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 regular Linux apps, which not all Chromebooks do.

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

The regular Linux app is the best option if you want to avoid having to enable developer mode, while the full Linux installation is the better option if you want to have a real Linux desktop environment on your Chromebook.

How to Check to See If Your Chromebook Supports Linux Apps

Some Chromebooks support Linux apps and some do not. XDA Developers has a list of supported Chromebooks and related information. The easiest way to verify whether or not your Chromebook supports Linux apps is to check your system settings, which you can learn how to do in 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 regular Linux apps, you'll have to enable the feature before you can install Steam. This is an easy process that involves selecting a toggle in your Chrome OS settings.

  1. On a Chromebook, select the system tray in the lower right corner of the desktop, then select the gear icon to open the settings menu.

    Settings gear on Chromebook
  2. Scroll down to locate the Linux (Beta) section, then select Turn on.

    Turn on Beta
  3. Select Install.

    Install button
  4. Wait for the installation process to finish. When it is complete, you will be greeted with 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 have successfully set up your Chromebook to run regular Linux apps in Chrome OS, you are ready to install Steam.

This process is rather complicated if you've never used Linux before, but it is not difficult. As an overview, you will need to open the Linux terminal on your Chromebook, then enter a series of commands and wait for each to finish executing before entering the next one.

To make things easier you can copy and paste each command from these instructions. To do so, copy the command text, then press SHIFT+CTRL+V inside the terminal window to paste the copied text. Finally, press ENTER to execute the command.

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

  1. Press SHIFT+CTRL+T to open the Linux terminal window.

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

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

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

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

    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 will not be able to install Steam.

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

    Steam license agreement
  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. You can now use Steam on your Chromebook.

    Log in to an existing account

How to Install Steam on a Chromebook That Does Not Support It

Prior to the introduction of regular 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.

A screenshot of Steam running on Chrome OS.

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.

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.

Navigate to the official Steam site and select Install Steam. When Ubuntu Software opens, select Install and the app will automatically install.

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