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How to run Steam on Chromebook computers

Chrome OS may not be for gaming, but we've managed to get Steam working on Chromebooks!
By
October 14, 2022
Google Pixelbook Go Review rear profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Steam is one of the most popular gaming platforms and a powerful digital distribution service. Steam is officially supported on Windows, Mac, and Linux, but what about Chromebooks? Though the experience isn’t perfect, it’s possible, and a few catches are involved in the process.

Read: What is a Chromebook, and what can it do?

QUICK SUMMARY

To run Steam on a Chromebook, you can install the official Steam for Chromebook Alpha on select Chromebooks. On unsupported Chromebooks, you can either use the Steam Link Android app, install the Linux version of Steam, install the full Ubuntu Linux OS, stream Steam from another PC, or use cloud computing.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

Can Chromebooks run Steam?

steam
Steam

Does Steam work on a Chromebook? The short answer is: yes, it’s possible. The longer answer is that it isn’t a simple process, as the native Steam Chrome OS app is only in Alpha right now, and supported on only a few higher-end Chromebooks. Also, your Chromebook’s internals may not even be able to handle Steam. Let’s dig deeper into the details.

Warning: Some of these methods require using commands and even more complex processes like installing a new operating system on your computer. Avoid taking on these challenges if you don’t feel very confident with such techniques.

Is your Chromebook powerful enough?

Google Pixelbook AA 1 e1571425184690
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Chromebooks are known for making great affordable computers. This is because Chrome OS is not very resource-intensive, and manufacturers can get away with keeping specs modest while still showing outstanding performance. But that only works if you do basic computer tasks with an affordable Chromebook. Don’t think you can run powerful Steam games on Chromebook devices that fall under the lower-end spectrum.

If you use a Chromebook for gaming or other resource-intensive tasks, we recommend that you first get a Chromebook powerful enough to do so. Some devices come with more powerful processors like an Intel Core i5 or i7 chip, which seems to be the requirement for the official Steam app for now. Look at our recommendations for the best Chromebook devices to find some of these.

Installing the official Steam Alpha for Chromebooks

Acer Chromebook Spin 713 angled mode
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Google recently revealed its plans to bring Steam to Chromebooks officially, and now we have an Alpha version of the app. It’s a very early version and only works on the following Chromebooks with Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 11th Gen Core i5 or i7 processors, and at least 8GB of RAM.

Remember that versions of these Chromebooks with an Intel Core i3 or 4GB of RAM aren’t supported. Additionally, Chromebooks with 8GB of RAM apparently have issues running games that require 6GB of RAM. Another common problem is that computers with less than a 1080p screen can have scaling and performance discrepancies.

If you have any of these Chromebooks in the aforementioned specifications, follow these steps to get the Steam for Chromebook Alpha.

How to install Steam Alpha on your Chromebook:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Chromebook.
  2. Go into About Chrome OS.
  3. Select Additional details.
  4. Next to Channel, select Change channel.
  5. Select Developer – unstable.
  6. Hit Change channel.
  7. Go back to About Chrome OS and let the computer update.
  8. Restart the computer when it prompts you to.
  9. After updating, open Google Chrome, type chrome://flags in the address bar, and hit the Enter key.
  10. Find #borealis-enabled and #exo-pointer-lock and set the button next to each to Enabled.
  11. You will see a Restart button at the bottom of the Flags menu; click it to restart your Chromebook.
  12. Once restarted, open a Crosh terminal using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + T.
  13. Typeinsert_coin volteer-JOlkth573FBLGaand hit the Enter key.
  14. You will see a Restart button at the bottom of the Flags menu; click it to restart your Chromebook.
  15. Follow the setup steps to install Steam.

Check if your Chromebook can run Linux and Android apps

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook tent mode
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Some methods used for running Steam on Chromebook devices require using native Linux apps or Android applications from the Google Play Store. Not all Chromebooks can handle Linux and Android apps, so you must ensure the one you will be using to run Steam on Chromebook does. We have a handy list of Chromebook devices that can take advantage of Linux and Android apps. Check it out to see if yours is listed. Then you can try our guide for installing Linux apps on Chromebooks.

How to get Steam on Chromebook devices using Steam Link Android app

Steam Link

This is the easiest way to run Steam on Chromebook computers, but it has more demanding requirements. The Steam Link Chromebook app brings the gaming experience to any mobile device (including Chromebooks), but it operates by connecting to a PC in your same network. You would essentially be streaming games to your Chromebook from another PC.

This brings certain limitations. For starters, you can’t take the gaming experience everywhere, as it limits you to the network you have your other computer connected to. It also requires that you own another computer, at which point you might as well game using the other PC. But this is a great method if, for example, you have a powerful family computer at home and want to game from another room.

How to use Steam Link on a Chromebook:

  1. Open the Google Play Store and install Steam Link.
  2. Ensure your Chromebook is connected to the same network as your other computer.
  3. Open the Steam Link app.
  4. Hit Get Started.
  5. Pair a Steam-compatible controller if you have one. If not, you can use touch controls.
  6. Steam Link will search for computers running Steam on your network. Find the one you want to use and select it.
  7. You’ll get a PIN, and the computer will send you a notification telling you to authorize the Chromebook.
  8. Go to Steam, enter the PIN, and hit OK.
  9. Let the system do its thing, and you’ll be connected in a minute or two.
  10. You should see your computer listed in the Steam Link app when ready. Tap on the Start Playing section.
  11. You’ll see a list of your games on both your computer and the Chromebook. Game on!

How to install Steam on Chromebook devices using the Linux app

Typing Writing Coding Keyboard - Steam on Chromeobok

If your Chromebook can run native Linux apps, you can install the full Steam Linux application and run everything locally. This requires more tinkering and know-how, but it can be done. Check the instructions below to learn how to download Steam on Chromebook using Linux app compatibility.

Start by enabling Linux apps on your Chromebook:

  1. Click the System Tray, which is the area in the bottom-right corner of your Chrome OS UI.
  2. Select the gear icon to open the Settings.
  3. Click Advanced to see more options.
  4. Find the Linux development environment (Beta) section.
  5. Select Next. Follow the instructions and hit Install.
  6. A command terminal window will appear when everything is installed.

You are now ready to install the Steam Linux app:

  1. Go to the Steam download page using Chrome.
  2. You’ll see a few small logos below the Install Steam button. One is Apple’s, and the other is a Steam icon. Click on the Steam icon, which is the option to download the Linux app.
  3. Open the Files app. Copy and paste the Deb file you just downloaded. Make sure it’s in the Linux files folder.
  4. Open the Deb file.
  5. Select Install.
  6. Hit OK and let the system install the Linux app.
  7. When done installing, you can look through your apps and find Steam.

Install Steam on Chromebook by installing Ubuntu Linux OS

Ubuntu - How to run Steam on Chromebook
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Installing a second operating system in your Chromebook sounds like a huge undertaking. If you have some technical knowledge, are willing to do some research, and don’t mind a challenge, it’s a good way to have all the benefits of Chrome OS while also accessing a full desktop OS from your Chromebook. You aren’t really replacing Chrome OS with Ubuntu. They can run side by side, making this a convenient option for gaming and other tasks.

Just keep in mind anything that happens to your computer while doing this is your responsibility. We can provide the steps, but you should know what you are doing before following them.

First, enable Developer mode:

Keep in mind that enabling Developer Mode will wipe your Chromebook. Not that it matters much, as most Chromebook data lives online, but make sure you back up any local data first.

  1. You need to boot into Recovery Mode.
  2. Turn your computer off.
  3. Press the Esc + Refresh + power buttons simultaneously (the combination could be different on some Chromebooks).
  4. Once in Recovery Mode, press Ctrl + D.
  5. You will be asked if you want to “turn OS verification off.” Press enter to do so.
  6. A warning will appear every time you reboot. Press Ctrl + D to continue.

Install Ubuntu with crouton:

  1. Download the crouton script from here.
  2. Open Shell by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T.
  3. Type shell and press enter.
  4. Type sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t unity and press enter.
  5. The installation process will begin. This will take some time, so let the computer do its thing.

Once the installation finishes, Ubuntu and Chrome OS are available. It’s now possible to switch between operating systems by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Back and Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Forward. You will be thrown back into Chrome OS if you log out of Ubuntu. Get back in Ubuntu by typing the command sudo startunity in shell.

Now you have a Linux OS at your disposal. Open the terminal and enter the sudo apt install steam command to install Steam on the Chromebook.

Streaming Steam from another PC

This is not the best solution because streaming usually involves some lag, but streaming Steam from another PC is an option if you have good network speeds with minimal ping. You can do this using something like Chrome Remote Desktop.

This Chrome feature allows you to connect to a PC and control it from any other device, whether that be another computer or a mobile device. Of course, this requires you to own another PC, so not everyone can go this route.

How to use Chrome Remote Desktop on Chromebook:

  1. Install Steam on the PC you will be accessing remotely.
  2. If you haven’t yet, download the Chrome browser.
  3. Go to the Chrome Remote Desktop website.
  4. Go to the Remote Access tab.
  5. Under the Set up remote access section, select Turn on.
  6. Choose a name and hit Next.
  7. Choose a PIN and pick Start.
  8. Now move to your Chromebook and open the Chrome browser.
  9. Go to the Chrome Remote Desktop website.
  10. Select the computer you want to access.
  11. Enter the PIN you selected.
  12. Now you can access your PC remotely and open Steam (or any other program).

Alternatively, you can use something like TeamViewer or Windows Remote Desktop. We also have a list of the best remote desktop apps available. We recommend Chrome Remote Desktop because Chrome is built into Chromebooks already.

Use Steam on Chromebook through cloud computing

Shadow Cloud Computing
Shadow

There are ways to stream a Windows machine to your Chromebook without owning another device. Cloud computing is a newer way to use powerful computers at a distance, but it requires a stable internet speed with minimal ping to be a viable option.

We recommend Shadow Cloud Computing, which offers a monthly subscription service that starts at $29.99. This will grant you access to a virtual machine with equivalent specs to a gaming PC. You can pay extra for upgrades too.

Shadow recommends the following data speeds: 15Mbps download, 5Mbps upload, no more than 30ms ping, and no more than 10ms jitter. If your internet meets these requirements, you can use your Shadow virtual machine from any mobile device, including Chromebooks. This remote Windows computer can run Steam and most games with no issues.

FAQs

The answer to this question depends on how you plan to run Steam. Any Chromebook with a good internet connection will do if you want to play remotely or use cloud computing. If you plan to run the Linux or Steam Alpha apps natively, you’ll need to find a Chromebook that supports Linux apps. You’ll also want a Chromebook with enough specs to handle the games you want to play.

There are no extra fees for using Steam on any particular devices. That said, you’ll have to pay for paid titles. That’s the case regardless of which device you’re using, though

While it’s possible to run Steam on a Chromebook, we don’t really recommend it. There’s usually a good amount of bugs and compatibility issues. If you’re streaming or playing remotely, this usually involves lag. There is always a downside to running Steam on Chromebooks, regardless of which method you’re using.