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How to Create a Bootable USB on Chrome OS (Chromebook)

If you’ve been thinking about getting a Chromebook, you’re probably wondering what exactly are you going to miss out on. Chromebooks run Chrome OS and while the hardware is pretty decent, the OS itself is pretty limiting. Sometimes, Chrome OS isn’t even enough against Android. This was helped by porting Android apps to Chrome OS. There are still a lot of things you cannot do on Chrome OS compared to any other desktop OS. However, creating a bootable USB on Chrome OS is very much possible. Check out more Chrome OS tips and tricks to make the most of it.

A bootable USB drive can be used to install a new operating system, as well as for using tools such as GParted. The former is the more popular use of a bootable USB drive though. Chrome OS doesn’t have many (or any, in fact) third-party tools to create bootable recovery media. It may be making headlines often, but Chrome OS is still used by a very small number of people. This makes developing apps for it less beneficial for the devs now that Google is pulling Chrome app support from other platforms.

Fortunately, Google does provide its own Chromebook Recovery Utility. It is designed to create Chrome OS recovery images for Chromebooks, and also works on Windows, Mac, or a Linux system. It normally downloads the image from Google’s servers but it does allow you to select an image locally stored on your machine. While meant to create Chrome OS recovery images, using a Windows or a Linux image does seem to work as well.

If you bought a Chromebook with decent specs and feel like the OS is holding it back, creating a bootable Windows or Linux USB drive can be just the thing you need. Using it you can install a more powerful desktop OS which can make much better use of your Chromebook’s hardware. Keep in mind though that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may end up damaging your Chromebook. It is advised that you create a recovery utility first using the Chromebook Recovery Utility, something it was actually meant to do. Here’s how you can create a bootable USB on Chrome OS after that.

Chromebook Recovery Utility

chromebook recovery utility

Chromebook Recovery Utility can be installed from the Chrome Web Store like any other Chrome app if it’s not already installed. You can head over to the Chrome Web Store and search for it or simply follow the link below.

Download Windows or Ubuntu Image file

Since you are looking to create a bootable USB on Chrome OS you probably already have an image you want to boot from. In the odd case that you don’t, you can download the latest Ubuntu 19.04 images. Ubuntu or any other Linux distributions are full-fledged desktop operating systems and are completely free. If you have a Windows 10 license, you can also download a Windows 10 image from Microsoft’s website.

Whichever image you use, you have to remember that the recovery utility wasn’t meant to handle ISO images. As such, you’ll have to rename the file and replace the iso in the name to bin. For instance, rename ubuntu-18.04-desktop-amd64.iso to ubuntu-18.04-desktop-amd64.bin.

Create a bootable USB on Chromebook

Now that you have the Chromebook Recovery Utility and an image you want to install on it, we can proceed ahead.

  1. Insert the USB drive that you want to make bootable.
  2. Launch Chromebook Recovery Utility from the Chrome app drawer. bootable usb chrome os
  3. Click on the Settings icon in the top right and select Use local imageubuntu image file
  4. Select the image you want to flash onto the drive and click OPEN. If you haven’t renamed the file as mentioned earlier, it won’t be listed here. usb flash drive creation
  5. Next, select your USB drive from the drop-down menu and click Continue.create recovery image
  6. You’ll be warned that all the data on the drive will be lost.  Click Create now to start the process. Depending on the hardware specs of your Chromebook, the size of the image and the read/write speed of your USB, this can take some time. bootable usb created
  7. Click on Done when the process is complete.

Having created the bootable USB successfully, you should also check out these must-have apps for the Chrome OS.

43 thoughts on “How to Create a Bootable USB on Chrome OS (Chromebook)”

  1. Hey, I created the bootable drive using the Chromebook Recovery Disk. I will post tomorrow whether I was successful installing galliumos using this drive. Thanks for the tips.

  2. When I used this method, I keep getting an error when trying to do a fresh install of Windows 10 on my box that says something like: missing media driver, insert USB or disk that contains the files to continue the install.

        1. I just attempted this process and my laptop will not recognize that there is bootable information on the flashdrive I just used. Very disappointing.

    1. Yeah same
      “No device drivers were found. Make sure that the installation media contains the correct drivers, and then click OK.”
      i9-9900 nonK, Gigabyte Z390 I Aorus Pro Wifi, USB 2.0 Lexar Jumpdrive S50. Tried all onboard USB ports as well as all case ports. Will try and report back if I find a way using Chromebook to do this.

      1. It may be possible to install Windows 10 on a new PC using only a Chromebook and a thumb drive. *tldr* Chrome can hook us up with Ubuntu. However getting from Ubuntu to Windows is complicated. */tldr* All of the following is trivial if you have access to another functional Windows machine. Last night on a HP Chromebook 14-ca053cl I download, zip, and feed into Chrome Recovery Utility the Ubuntu 2.04.1 ISO image to create a bootable drive on a 16GB Lexar JumpDrive S50. I also copy the ISO file itself into Google Drive for later. With this USB drive at the top of the boot order I successfully use it to full-install Ubuntu on a 1TB TeamGroup EX2 SSD. I download into the new Ubuntu system the Ubuntu ISO file from Google Drive. I also download Ventoy 1.0.29 for Linux as well as the Windows 10 ISO image (whatever file was available 11/21/2020). Using the Terminal app included with the OS I clean out the USB drive and then successfully install Ventoy in it. In the file manager app I now drag and drop the Windows and Ubuntu ISOs into the formatted USB drive. With the Ventoyed USB drive at the top of the boot order I successfully use it to run a live installation of Ubuntu. In temporary Ubuntu I use the included GParted app to deallocate a bunch of space on the SSD for Windows (in this case the Ubuntu installation had hogged the whole SSD GPT-style but Windows install will want unallocated space or maybe NTFS). I reboot and this time in the Ventoy GUI I select the Windows 10 image rather than Ubuntu. From the USB drive I successfully install Windows 10 on the SSD, skipping product key entry. The Windows partition of the SSD in this case was moved to the top of the boot order automatically. I leave a small Ubuntu partition in there in case I want it later. Presumably it will be possible to enter an old or new product key later, as long as the installed version is of the same tier associated with that key. Indeed the OS demonstrates an intense interest in the fact I have not yet entered a key and it will be happy to help me do that.

  3. Will this bootable USB work with computers other than Chrome OS Recovery mode? I would like to use this drive to install Windows 10 on my new PC.

    1. Hi Ruben, yes it most definitely should. I’ve tried Linux and it works perfectly. Haven’t tried Windows so I can’t guarantee anything but it should.

  4. Just wanted to say, thanks for the guide Vivek. I’m going to try to install Linux on my PC using this recovery tool. This really saved me since I don’t have access to any windows/Linux computer or anything besides my chromebook basically.

  5. Wow! I thought I had found a gold mine when I found this….but it didn’t work. All went like clockwork to make the bootable Ubuntu stick. I tried to use it on my Acer Chromebook 14 and could find no way to make it access the boot stick…tried Ctrl + L and Ctrl + U, looked through settings…no way. So I tried it on the wife’s Lenovo ideapad; set the bios to boot from usb, put in the mem stick and booted…didn’t work. Any idea why the Lenovo didn’t work or how to make the Acer look to book from the usb? The mem stick has the Ubuntu files on it. Thanks.

    1. Same situation using a samsung chromebook. Made the drive effortlessly but cant get it to boot despite a plethora of tips and tricks.

  6. When your Lenovo is booting, before the Lenovo logo, try pressing F12 or F2 to get to the boot menu and select USB. On some Lenovo laptops simply enabling USB boot doesn’t do. It’s also possible the key to accessing the boot menu on your particular laptop is entirely different than mine. So you may have to google.

  7. Try using another image. Maybe Ubuntu, just for the sake of experimentation. Sometimes the problem is with the image file being used.

  8. Nothing works on my Samsung Chromebook 2 (XE503C32)! Tried so many diffrent ways to boot from USB drive but nothing works. When I use this method the screen on my Chromebooks says that “the device you inserted does not contain Chrome OS”. Seems like my Chromebook is the only one in the whole world that can’t install any other OS on it! How is this possible!?

  9. Doesn’t work for new PC builds, error states “no device drivers were found, make sure that installation media contains correct drivers and then click ok”. It appears that chrome reformats the thumbstick to a unusable format.

  10. I prepared my windows bootable usb using the chromebook utility. Once I select to boot from the USB, my Samsung chromebook is throwing error “No botable disk found”. Can anyone suggest what could be going wrong?

  11. Does this only work with Ubuntu? I’ve tried the same process (renaming to .bin) with both Linuxpuppy and Zorin but neither has worked?

  12. I did these steps using Windows 10 iso, renamed the file to bin, everything worked perfectly up until I went to boot my device. I have an Acer Chromebook 15, and once I got into the screen to boot up from usb, it first told me that no bootable device was found, then told me that it couldn’t read the usb, and said that it would try again in 60 seconds, but then didn’t. When I tried the process over again I hit the same problem as before, long story short, it won’t boot up from the usb and I’m not sure what the issue is as I followed all the steps and everything worked fine up until that point. Is anyone else having this issue and if so, does anyone know of a fix or know what the problem is?

  13. How do I enable USB booting to boot up a OS on USB using lenova S340-14 chrombook. As I followed many tutorials without any suscess if you can direct me be very greatfull

  14. This creates media fine, not for non-linux users but….
    For Linux distros at least, you also need to set the partition bootable on the USB key. Only problem is, you need to know what device to use and have an already running Linux system to use the fdisk command.
    The ‘fdisk’ command is used via terminal (sudo) with the proper device (ie. ‘$ sudo fdisk /dev/sdb’). Once connected, issue an ‘a’ command (sets partition bootable), choose partition 1, issue a ‘w’ command to write changes back to USB drive. Fdisk should exit back to a $ terminal prompt.
    Another issue can be your PC BIOS settings are not set to boot from USB before your hard drive (or you can use a boot menu on startup).

  15. I think there’s some steps missing (after Step 7). I’m using an Asus C523. Steps 1-7 worked fine, but it doesn’t boot to the USB stick 🙁

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