XDA Basics: How to turn on Chrome OS developer mode on your Chromebook
Chromebooks are very powerful devices. Although many users pick up a Chromebook because of the simple browser-based experience, there’s much more you can do. There are many ways to unlock the full power of Chrome OS, such as joining a Beta or Dev channel or enabling Chrome Flags. Another way you can add to the Chrome OS experience is to enable developer mode. For those familiar with Android phones, Developer mode is similar to enabling root access on your mobile device. Developer Mode allows you to enable functionality not present in the standard Chrome OS settings.
Before you begin, keep in mind that Developer Mode is really intended for developers. You can use this additional access to modify your device in a number of ways. For instance, you can use Developer Mode to install an entirely new OS on your Chromebook.
Perhaps the most popular use for Developer Mode is enabling the ability to side-load Android apps. There are many APKs on sites like APK Mirror that simply aren’t available for Chrome OS devices on the Google Play Store. Keep in mind there are also some drawbacks to Developer Mode, and we’ll discuss these at the end.
Enabling Developer Mode in Chrome OS
The most important thing to realize when enabling Developer Mode is that this wipes your login information and any locally stored data. You absolutely need to back up all data you want to keep. If you’re using Chrome OS full time, you can probably just back up everything to your preferred cloud storage service. Once you’ve done that, here’s how to get to Developer Mode:
- Turn on your Chromebook.
- Press and hold the Esc key, refresh key, and the power button at the same time.
- When the Chrome OS is missing or damaged. Please insert USB stick message shows up, press and hold the Ctrl and D keys simultaneously.
- Press Enter (when prompted).
- Wait for the device to restart and go through the Chromebook setup process.
- You’ll get an odd screen saying that OS verification is off. Keep in mind this screen will happen every single time you boot up.
- Press Ctrl and D to restart successfully.
Now you’re all set with Developer Mode on your Chromebook. With this new power you can choose to install different Linux distributions, side-load as many Android APKs as you want, and have plenty of new adventures with your Chromebook. You can of course also use it for access to the developer shell, if you want to actually do some development for Chrome.
Drawbacks and risks with Developer Mode
As with all tinkering and modding, there are a few drawbacks and potential risks enabling Developer Mode in Chrome OS. Here are a few potential issues with keeping Developer Mode on all the time:
- Security issues: Chrome OS is a fairly secure operating system with its sandboxed structure. When you run Developer Mode, all of that completely goes out the window. You won’t have access to all of the protection typically guaranteed by owning a Chromebook. Obviously this isn’t a big deal if you’re a power user and use the device properly, but it can be risky for the average user.
- Warranty issues: Since Developer Mode isn’t officially recognized or supported by most OEMs or Google, you may void your Chromebook’s warranty by enabling it. This isn’t usually the case for more powerful Chromebooks (which OEMs recognize may be used by developers in practice), but it can happen with lower-end models.
- Data wipes: You have to wipe your data completely each time you enable (or disable) a Developer Mode in Chrome OS. This is fairly inconvenient if you want to just jump in and out of Developer Mode to play around.
- Warning screen: When using Developer mode you’ll always get a warning screen when booting your device. This slows down the fairly impressive boot speed of most Chrome OS devices, which is a major appeal to some people in the first place.
So what if you enabled Developer Mode and don’t like it after all? The good news is that disabling Developer Mode is just as easy. The bad is that you need to wipe your data again. Make sure you have a back up of everything you want to keep. Next, follow these steps:
- Turn on your Chromebook or reboot it if it’s already on.
- When the screen that says OS verification is off shows up, press the spacebar.
- This will technically perform a factory data reset and wipe the laptop clean.
- Go through the Chromebook setup process again.
As you can see, enabling and disabling Developer Mode are both quite simple. If you want to test out Developer Mode, make sure you’re fully aware of the inherent security risks and back up all of your personal data. Developer Mode can add a layer of exciting extra functionality to your Chromebook or Chromebox — just make sure you use it with caution.