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How To Access the Command Line in Chrome OS

Posted by Jamie on August 24, 2018

Chrome OS is an operating system in its own right but it works differently to Windows and Mac OS. It is based on Linux and anyone familiar with working with that operating system will feel right at home under the hood of Chrome OS. This tutorial is going to walk you through accessing the command line in Chrome OS and show you a few neat things you can do while you’re there.

Chrome OS comes installed on a bunch of devices but is mainly for Chromebooks. It should not be mistaken for Chromium OS, which is an open source version of the Chrome browser and not the Chrome operating system. Chrome the browser and Chrome OS are also different things.

Now that’s clarified, let’s get to the command line in Chrome OS.

Accessing the command line in Chrome OS

The command line in Chrome OS is called the Chrome Shell, CROSH for short. Where you access Terminal in Linux or Mac or CMD in Windows, you don’t have to do any of that with Chrome OS.

To access it all you need do is press Ctrl + Alt + T on your Chromebook. You can use some very basic commands from here or type ‘shell’ to access a version of Bash. If you want to dig deeper, you will need to switch into Developer Mode and use Bash from there. This tutorial is looking at CROSH so will concentrate on that.

Here are some basic commands you can use in the Chrome OS shell. Some of these require Bash so it’s best to log into that first.

  • Help : shows the general commands you can use in the shell.
  • Help_advanced : list debugging and advanced commands you can use in the shell.
  • Help <command> : verify what a command does before you do it.
  • Exit : exits the shell.
  • Set_time : manually set the time in Chrome OS.
  • Uptime : check how long the Chromebook has been running. It also shows logged in users.
  • Sound record 10 : record audio input from the microphone for 10 seconds. Time can be adjusted.
  • xset m : Manually adjust mouse acceleration.
  • xset r : Manually adjust autorepeat behavior of the keyboard.
  • Connectivity: checks network status
  • Inputcontrol : adjust touchpad and mouse controls on compatible devices.
  • Top : shows all running processes on the system.
  • Battery_test TIME : check the battery info and how much battery is used up in a given time. For example, ‘Battery_test 60’ asks the system how much battery is used every minute (60 seconds).
  • Memory_test : runs tests on available memory. Memory used by Chrome OS is not tested.
  • Storage_status : provides information on SMART storage devices.
  • Storage_test_1 : Performs low level SMART device test.
  • Storage_test_2 : Performs deep level SMART device test.
  • Ping URL : performs a Packet Internet GroPe to check connectivity.
  • Network_diag : performs network diagnostics
  • Tracepath : performs a trace of a route, same as traceroute.
  • Route : displays routing tables.
  • Ssh : established an SSH connection to a given address.
  • Ssh_forget_host : forget a previously connected SSH host.
  • Set_apn : sets an APN for cell connected Chromebooks.
  • Set_cellular_ppp : set PPP username and password for cellular connections.
  • Tpm_status: Trusted Platform Module status.
  • Upload_crashes : upload crash reports to Google.
  • Systrace: start system tracing for system debugging

Unless you’re having problems with your Chromebook, there should be no need to ever use the shell or bash in Chrome OS. However, those of us who love all things technical are going to want to have an explore to see what you can do. Some of these commands will be useful for troubleshooting but to be honest, the Chromebook doesn’t go wrong very often and there are lots of software tools that can get the job done too.

That said, CROSH is a decent way to access under the hood of your Chromebook. Your options are purposely limited as there isn’t much to test or adjust within Chrome OS and that is intentional. The purpose of Chromebooks is to provide simple, reliable internet-enabled applications for light use. I think Chrome OS delivers on that and is an excellent option for people who don’t require a full laptop.

For the geeks among us there are multiple versions of Linux, Mac OS and Windows 10 if we want to get technical. For everyone else, Chrome OS balances ease of use with decent features for a good price.

Do you know any other useful CROSH commands you’re willing to share? Know any other tricks to tame the Chromebook? Tell us about it below if you do!

One thought on “How To Access the Command Line in Chrome OS”

Roger M. Aarons says:
I just started running my XE303 Chromebook in developer mode so I can try using the command line interface to do various things, like low-level operations (fdisk?) on an external USB drive. I have bash running, and an external drive with 4 volumes is fully accessible through the GUI, but I can’t see any way of doing something as simple as viewing any volumes, internal or external, with the shell, or doing other such simple things as using cmp or wc.

An I missing something? I had years of experience using UNIX on BSD computers and, more recently, on Macs, so I am not a novice, although my brain, like the rest of me, is no longer young.

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Roger M. Aarons says:
After playing around quite a lot with the shell interface, I realize that most of my confusion was due to differences between Chrome OS and Mac OS in regard to where things are located in the file tree . In particular, I found that, instead of in /Volumes, the external volumes are in /media/removable. I also figured out where many commands are that appeared not to exist because they weren’t reachable using the $PATH value set by default.
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