How to use Debian with i3 on a Chromebook

Chromebooks are great. Cheap, Light, efficient, safe, easy. But a little limiting if you’re used to a full Linux environment. Thankfully, crouton makes it very easy to run full Debian on a chromebook with a lightweight window manager like i3.

First-off, you have to put your chromebook into Developer Mode and install Crouton. I won’t repeat that here, because you know how links work. Then pop open a crosh (Ctrl+Alt+T) and type shell to get a full linux shell.

Using crouton, create your chroot

sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -e -n debian-i3 -r jessie -t x11,extension,keyboard,cli-extra,gtk-extra

This may take a while. You’ll be prompted for username and passwords.

Once it’s built, enter your new chroot.

sudo enter-chroot -n debian-i3

Now we can install i3 from the debian repositories and set it to start with the X server.

sudo apt-get install i3
echo "exec i3" > ~/.xinitrc

You’ll also want to configure the keyboard:

Then you can start i3 from within your chroot using:


Or enter your chroot and start i3 all in one go with this (tip: create an alias):

sudo enter-chroot -n debian-i3 xinit

You can swap back and forth between Debian and ChromeOs with Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Back Arrow and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Forward Arrow.