How to Turn ON Chrome OS Developer Mode

The first Chromebooks had a physical switch you could flip to enter the developer mode. With the modern Chromebooks, the developer mode is an option you need to enable in the Recovery Mode. As such, you need to boot your Chromebook into the Recovery mode to activate the developer mode. 

By default, Chrome OS devices are designed to allow for minimal changes to the software. This is in an effort to maintain the security standards, and inherent simplicity the Chromebooks are known for. Activating the developer mode in Chrome gives you root access to the system, allowing you to go beyond the basic capabilities of the device. 

This guide will help you understand what the developer mode is, what it allows you to do, and its associated risks. The guide also describes the steps you need to follow to activate the developer mode in Chromebook. 

What is Chrome OS Developer Mode? 

Enabling the developer mode in Chrome OS may be compared to rooting an Android device or jailbreaking an iPhone. Enabling this mode offers you more control over the device, allowing you to alter much more than you would in the factory mode. 

Not only does the developer mode allow you to change the system, but also makes it possible for you to install Apps from ‘unauthorized’ sources. However, activating this more will ‘Powerwash’ the Chromebook. 

This means that you will lose your login information as well as any data that is locally stored on the device. Despite all this, the developer mode Chrome has a number of benefits to offer, and you may need to try it out. 

What Can You Do With the Developer Mode Chrome? 

Activating the Developer Mode on your Chromebook device will offer you root access, as well as allow you to modify the system files on your device. Shifting to the developer mode will give you access to the Chrome OS developer shell (also referred to as the Crosh). 

To open Crosh in the Chrome browser, you need to press the Ctrl + Alt + T while in the developer mode. Access to the developer shell will allow you to carry out advanced tasks like connecting to a Secure Shell (SSH) server and pinging a website or IP. 

In the developer mode, you will also be able to install a Linux desktop environment on the device. As such, you may retain the Chrome OS interface, and still, be able to switch to a full Linux environment. Although it is possible to access the developer shell on your Chromebook without enabling the developer mode, you can only run advanced Linux commands in the developer mode. 

How to Enable the Chromebook Developer Mode 

For security and simplicity reasons, Google limits what you can do with your Chromebook device. The procedure for activating the developer mode varies from one model to another. For instance, the older Chromebook models like the Samsung Series 5, and the Cr-48 feature a physical developer mode switch. 

Check this list to see whether your model has a virtualized developer switch. In other models, you need to boot the device into the Recovery mode in order to activate the developer mode. In either case, you first need to back-up the important files stored in the device.

This is because switching to the developer mode will wipe your login information and some of the locally-stored data. Once you have done that  the following steps will help you activate the developer mode Chrome OS:

Step 1: Boot Into the Recovery Mode 

With the Chromebook turned off, press and hold the Esc + Refresh keys, along with the Power button simultaneously. This operation will automatically power the device into recovery mode. At the recovery screen, you may get an error notification that says, “Chrome OS is missing or damaged.”

You will need to bypass the error screen to proceed. 

Step 2: Enable the Developer Mode 

To bypass the recovery screen, press the Ctrl + D keys combination on the keyboard. This will take you to a screen with a notification that reads, “To turn OS Verification OFF, press ENTER.” When you see this message, press the Enter key to enter the developer mode. 

By so doing, you will have deactivated the ‘Operating system verification’ feature. As such, you will be able to modify the OS system files without a problem. 

Step 3: Boot with the Developer Mode Enabled 

While booting the Chromebook with the developer mode enabled, you will get an error screen that says, “OS verification is OFF”. This means that the system cannot verify its files because the device is in developer mode. 

To ignore this message, hence boot the device, press the Ctrl + D keys combination at this error screen. If it is the first time you are starting the device with the developer mode enabled, the system will tell you that it is preparing for the developer mode. This should take 10 to 15 minutes to complete. 

 Step 4: Step 4:Enable Additional Debugging Features

If you are booting the Chromebook for the first time with the Developer mode activated, you should see a setup wizard, especially on Chrome 41 and above. You should click on the ‘Enable Debugging Features’ link towards the bottom-left corner of the setup wizard window. 

This operation will enable additional features that you will find useful for the Chromebook developer mode. For instance, it makes it possible for you to disable root file system verification, and boot from a USB device. 

It will also enable an SSH daemon, which allows you to access the Chromebook remotely via an SSH server, and set a custom root password. 

Chromebook Developer Mode Possible Drawbacks 

While enabling the developer mode on Chrome offers you additional control over the system, you will also predispose the device to several problems. Here are some of the hazards the Chromebook developer mode poses to your device: 

Data Loss 

Booting the device with the developer mode enabled will erase your login information as well as the locally-stored data on Chromebook. Again, it increases the likely hood of wiping the hard drive by accident as the device boots up. 

Not Encouraged by Google 

Google does not encourage Chromebook users to enable the developer mode, hence modify system files. As a result, using the device in this mode may void your warranty. 

Less Secure 

Generally speaking, starting the Chromebook with the developer mode enabled renders the PC less secure. This mode automatically disables some of the security features that are built into the Chrome OS, leaving the computer more vulnerable to attacks. 

Slows The Device 

Chromebook takes a little longer to boot up when started with the developer mode activated. This is probably due to the time spent on the warning screen. 

How to Disable Developer Mode (Turn Off)

Owing to such downwards, you would not want to leave the developer mode on for too long. To disable this mode, you first need to shut the Chromebook down. Now turn it back on, and allow it to boot up until you get to the ‘OS verification is OFF’ screen. 

Once you get this notification, press the spacebar on your keyboard. You should then follow the on-screen prompts to set up the Chromebook device once again. 

Final Verdict 

Whether you want to alter the system files for the operating systems or just install unauthorized apps, you will need to turn the developer mode on. Enabling this feature also allows you to open Crosh, and run an assortment of Linux commands as well as install a Linux desktop environment. 

In older Chromebook machines, you can activate the developer mode using a physical developer switch. In newer Chromebooks, this operation can only be accomplished by first booting the device into the recovery mode. 

Activating the developer mode comes with some risks, and you should only try it if you know what you are doing.