My ChromeOS to Linux migration: requirements and setup

I'm going back to Linux after nine years of ChromeOS.

In 2015 I had been using Linux for a couple of decades. Exasperated by the frequent maintenance issues, that year I migrated to ChromeOS. I was living in the browser anyway and ChromeOS seemed like a stable alternative, so I switched. Linux system updates often broke the Nvidia drivers or X11 and dumped me to the text console with no clue what to do. At some point I even stopped performing updates.

Almost a decade later, something changed and made me want to leave ChromeOS for Linux. This post records the motivations for the switch, lists my requirements, and describes the hardware and software setup I came up with for my new Linux system.


ChromeOS served me well. It fulfilled my needs, nearly eliminated maintenance, and made upgrading to new devices as simple as signing into an account.

However, in all these years Linux has come a long way in features and usability. Getting a Raspberry Pi 400 gave me a glimpse at how much Linux improved.

These are not the only reasons for migrating though.

Google is considering for ChromeOS a feature similar to Windows Recall. Which is a deal breaker.

Although Google may implement the feature in a thoughtful way, it bothers me not just in itself but for the trend it hints at. I'm not interested in the wave of new AI features the market is pressuring tech companies to deliver.

Another motivation for moving to Linux is a consequence of how my use of ChromeOS changed.

Although I always relied on cloud applications, for the past few years I've been running more Linux programs under the Crostini Linux container of ChromeOS, such as emulators and specialized tools. And I've been increasingly bumping into subtle limitations of the Crostini environment like GUI rendering and keyboard issues, missing features, and minor incompatibilities here and there.

The solution is to move to a full, native Linux system.

The requirements

My experience with Chrome and Crostini on ChromeOS shaped the requirements for the new Linux system.


My ChromeOS daily drivers have been Chromeboxes, the latest of which an ASUS Chromebox 3 since 2018. The device has an 8th gen Intel Core i7 processor, an Intel graphics chip, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB of storage, and 1 G Ethernet.

With their compact size and easy access to all ports at desk level, Chromeboxes made me fall in love with the mini PC form factor. The new machine must be a mini PC too.

The performance of the ASUS Chromebox 3 matches well my needs based on a mix of web apps and Linux software. The most graphically demanding programs I run are astronomy applications like Celestia and Stellarium or tools like basic video editors. The graphics chip of the ASUS Chromebox 3 makes them run well with no noticeable lag or stutter.

My typical workload consists of a dozen Chrome tabs plus one or two Linux programs. This computing mix usually fills half a dozen GB of RAM out of 16 GB. The local files take up about 160 GB of the available 256 GB storage.

I'm not a gamer and don't need a gaming rig. I don't plan to do machine learning either. However, I want extra room in the specs to accommodate some growth in my computing needs.

An updated Intel Core i7 processor and double the current RAM and storage seem adequate. The hardware should have good Linux compatibility, which doesn't mesh well with Nvidia chips. I don't need all that horsepower anyway as an Intel graphics chip is perfectly adequate.


Again, my ChromeOS experience guided also my software requirements. I don't run servers and typically use web applications and Linux programs, so most Linux distros would do. However, I have a few extra requirements for a better setup and maintenance experience.

I want a desktop distro that's easy to install and maintain. It should be popular, actively maintained, and not controlled by a corporation.

On the technical side, my ideal distro should support a wide range of hardware and peripherals. Since most of the programs I need are available as .deb packages the distro must be based on or derived from Debian, default to APT, and not force alternate package managers like Snap. In addition, the distro should provide common software and support for installing multimedia codecs without jumping through hoops.

Although I'd appreciate a distro ready for Wayland, I actually have no immediate need for Wayland's features. I'd just like to put the transition from X11 behind me.

I never used Android apps much, which few developers bothered to adapt to ChromeOS anyway. I won't miss them on Linux.

The setup

Researching the right hardware and software combination was harder than anticipated because of two main reasons. First, I have been out of the Linux and PC loop for so long I'm not much familiar with the latest Linux features, desktop environments, and PC hardware.

Searching the web to make sense of the computer market and the huge selection of mini PCs was equally hard. Most keywords associated with the relevant queries are so high traffic the search result pages are filled with ads, SEO-optimized content, and noise.

I mostly skipped googling and went with asking around and browsing through the product listings of manufacturers I already know, who design for Linux, or are recommended by trusted sources.

A lot of reading and thinking later, I came up with a setup I'm pleased with.


My new daily driver is a System76 Merkaat mini PC with a short case, a 13th gen 5 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 32 GB RAM, 500 GB SSD, 2.5 G Ethernet, and Wi-Fi 6.

The machine has two killer features. It's designed for Linux and should have little or no compatibility issues. Also, System76 let me configure the product with exactly the specs and features I wanted: processor, RAM size, storage size, and so on. The one size fits all models by other manufacturers typically miss one or more of the features I want.

I need no additional peripherals as I'll use those of the Chromebox: a 23” HP Pavillon 23cw monitor, a wireless TedGen keyboard, a wireless Logitech M220 mouse, a Logitech c920 webcam, a Blue Yeti microphone, and a Brother HL-L2340DW printer.

The only downside is System76 is an American company and I live in Italy, so dealing with import taxes and duties will be a bloodbath. But I hope the investment will pay off.


Linux Mint is the distro that ticks all my boxes and I'll install on the System76 Merkaat.

It's popular, easy to use, low maintenance, and with no known incompatibilities with System76 devices. It comes with a lot of software out of the box, including multimedia codecs.

A non technical feature that impressed me is Mint is a community distro, which makes the interests of users align with those of developers. Making Snap optional drove this home.

Wayland is optional and experimental on Mint. Hopefully, when Wayland is ready, Mint will provide a smooth upgrade path.

What's next

I ordered the System76 Merkaat and the device is on its way to me. It should land here in a week or so. When I set up the system and play with it a bit, I'll share my impressions.

In the meantime, please excuse me while I refresh the tracking status of the shipment.

#Linux #ChromeOS

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