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How to Install Chromium OS in VirtualBox

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Not too long ago you may have ready my post about turning your old laptop into a Chromebook by using the open source version of Google’s operating system known as Chromium OS.  While this will work, I received a few questions about other ways you can run Chromium OS with particular interest in running the operating system inside a virtual machine.

So, this week, I decided to take a look at the options with VirtualBox so I could post a guide that would help everyone run this OS on their machines without having to reformat them if an older laptop simply wasn’t available.

What I Found

After much research and playing around, I discovered a few things about Chromium OS and VirtualBox.  Some of these may make excite you, while others I’m sure will leave you disappointed.  Here is what I found:

  1. Yes, you can run Chromium OS in VirtualBox.
  2. However, you cannot run the latest versions in VirtualBox.
  3. Your performance in VirtualBox will be limited.
  4. This problem is not limited to just VirtualBox, but other virtual machine applications as well.

So what does this mean exactly?  Basically, you cannot install one of the latest builds of Chromium OS in VirtualBox.  It simply isn’t supported.  While sometimes you can get it to install, many users have reported kernel errors when trying to boot the operating system for the first time.  However, some of the older builds will work.  Unfortunately, you cannot install the VirtualBox Guest Additions on your Chromium OS virtual machine so your resolution will be low and the mouse performance will be somewhat limited as well.

So Why Do It?

If your goal is to try to use Chromium OS on a day to day basis on your laptop, then this isn’t the method for you.  Instead, you should look at installing it on your machine instead, which, depending on how you use your laptop, may not be the best solution, either.

Still, if you are wanting to give Chrome OS a test, installing one of the older versions that will work in VirtualBox so you can play around with it is a good way to go.  You just have to remember that you won’t see some of the latest and greatest updates and features that you will find on most modern Chromebooks as you are using an older version.  But, you can still get a good idea on the basic functionality of the operating system and it can give you some pretty decent insights into how the operating system will function and perform.

Now that you understand the limitations, let’s walk through exactly how you do it.

Install Chromium in VirtualBox

Before we can begin, you need to be sure you have everything you need to install it on your system.

What You Will Need:

  • VirtualBox
  • Chromium Build
  • 7-Zip

Install VirtualBox and 7-Zip

Installing the tools you need is a fairly straightforward process.  Just visit the VirtualBox website and the 7-Zip website to download and install them.  When you download the software, just be sure you select the one that is right for your version of Windows.  This could be the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version of the software.  Check your local copy of Windows to find out which one you have if you are not sure.

Download Chromium

Now that you have the tools you need, we need to grab a copy of Chromium.  While ArnoldtheBat is still the best place to grab a recent build of the software if you want to install it on a laptop, it is not the best place to pick up a version to run in VirtualBox.  This is simply because Chromium OS is “technically” not a supported operating system by the virtual machine application.

1.  Go to Hexxeh’s ChromeOS website.


2.  Scroll down the page to find his latest builds. You will notice they are a couple of years old.  But remember, they will work!

3.  When downloading, be sure you select the build that you want to try and the proper file. You want to make sure you select the one made for VirtualBox.

4.  Once the download is complete, go to your downloads folder to find the file.

5.  Right click on the file once the download is complete and move the cursor down to 7-Zip.


6.  Choose Open archive.

7.  Open a new window and navigate to Hard Drive – Users – Your User – VirtualBox VMs.

9.  Drag the file inside the archive in your 7-Zip Window to the VirtualBox VMs window.

10.  Once the decompression and copying has completed, close 7-Zip. You now have a new .vdi file ready to be used with your new Chromium virtual machine.

Create Your Virtual Machine

We have our virtual machine software, and now we have the virtual hard drive build of Chromium OS ready to go, so we can begin to create our new virtual machine.

1.  Open VirtualBox and select New.


2.  Name your new Chromium OS virtual machine and choose Linux as the type of operating system and choose Other Linux (32 bit) as the version of Linux. Click Next.


3.  Increase the RAM to 1024MB. If you have a lot of RAM on your computer, try increasing it even more.  The more you give it, the better it will perform.  Click Next.


4.  Instead of creating a new virtual hard disk, we will use the build we downloaded as the hard disk. So select Use Existing Hard Disk and then navigate to the location of your download .vdi file and select it.  Click Create.


5.  Before starting it for the first time, select ChromiumOS in the left pane of VirtualBox and then click on Settings.


6.  Go to System – Processor and check “Enable PAE/NX”.


7.  Go to Display and increase the video memory to 128MB. This will help with performance.

8.  Go to the Network Tab. Click on Advanced and select the Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop.


9.  Click OK.


10.  Select your Chromium OS Virtual Machine and click Start.

11.  Go to Machine and click on Disable Mouse Integration. This will improve the sluggish mouse performance.

12.  On the first screen, click Continue.


13.  Enter your Google account information.


14.  Choose a profile picture to use.


Congratulations, you have now installed Chromium OS as a virtual machine.  Unfortunately, there are some limitations making this more for testing than anything else.  But it is a good way to get an idea of how Chromium OS works so you can decide if you want to purchase a Chromebook or install it on an older laptop you have just setting around your house.

I’m sure some of you will be disappointed with the results of this guide as, unlike most virtual machines, you lack a lot of the smooth user experience you have come to expect.  However, it’s not my fault.  Chrome OS is simply not supported and getting it to work at all can be a challenge.  Ultimately, if you want to use Chrome OS, you are just going to have to install it on a computer or buy a good Chromebook.  If you are in the market for a Chromebook, you can try looking at our Best Laptop Under $300 guide to find the perfect one for you.


While there are some limitations that you must accept if you want to run Chromium OS inside a virtual machine using VirtualBox, it is still a good alternative to setting it up on your laptop instead of Windows or Mac OS X.  You can use it to get a good idea on whether or not you should consider purchasing a Chromebook or if you just want to see what all the fuss is about.  Just keep in mind that your performance will be somewhat limited and you won’t see some of the latest and greatest features that have come to Chromium OS with some of the latest builds.  As long as you can accept these limitations, you will gain access to this relatively new operating system and you will be able to play with it and enjoy many of the offerings of Google without having to install it on another laptop or purchase something entirely new.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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