Chrome OS is about to become even more powerful, with Google’s “Bruschetta” project adding support for using the Linux distro of your choice.

One of the biggest shifts for Chrome OS in recent years has been the addition of Linux apps support, which runs a full version of Debian GNU/Linux in a virtual machine. This project was done under the codename “Crostini,” which is itself a pun on an earlier community project called Crouton.

Bringing Linux apps to Chrome OS opened up a whole new category of applications for Chromebooks, particularly for developers, but it was designed to be deeply integrated into your everyday experience. From the beginning, enthusiasts have been eagerly playing with Chrome OS’s virtual machine system — or “CrosVM” — to run other operating systems, usually other flavors of Linux. Google themselves have even offered some documentation and a talk at Google I/O of roughly how to do just that.

It seems the next step for Linux on Chrome OS is to make it easier for enthusiasts to use their preferred variety of Linux. The project is being undertaken with the codename “Bruschetta,” continuing the bread-related theme. As with many other Chrome OS features, things will initially be gated behind a flag in chrome://flags.

Enable the third party VMs feature

Enables UI support for third party/generic VMs

#bruschetta

The key difference from the previous do-it-yourself way of bringing your own Linux is that these “third party VMs” will tap into the same “Sommelier” system that helps each of your Linux apps appear like a native Chrome OS window. By comparison, the DIY method resulted in a single window that hosted the other operating system, similar to using software like VirtualBox or VMWare.

For that to be possible, we can assume that the Linux distros that Chromebook owners will be able to choose from will be optimized for use within Chrome OS. Tools like Garcon and Sommelier will need to be pre-installed, and it seems Google has even begun preparing for your files to be accessible via the Files app, just like when using Linux apps today.

A second flag in chrome://flags suggests that the Files app will have access to the files of your “Guest OS.” Beyond this being a fitting description of Bruschetta (and other projects like Borealis) the flag is associated with the same bug number as used to add a “BruschettaService” to Chrome OS.

Enabled Guest OS Service + file manager integration

The files app sources information about guests from the Guest OS service, instead of querying each type individually.

#guest-os-files

Another aspect worth noting is that Google is looking to offer in-depth compatibility and security by allowing an entire BIOS/UEFI to be run virtually, if necessary.

So what sorts of Linux distros should we expect for Chrome OS to offer when it launches more in-depth Linux support? That part isn’t quite clear yet. Given the need for these distros to include Google’s tools, it’s likely things will start out with a few select partners before expanding more broadly.

Windows 10 & 11 actually offer a similar feature today with their Windows Subsystem for Linux. Through the Microsoft Store, you can install official versions of popular distros like Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Kali. Or, with a bit of know-how you can install others like Mint and Fedora.

As development seems to only just now be getting fully & publicly underway, we likely still have a few months or more of waiting to do before Chrome OS expands its support for Linux distros.

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About the Author

Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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