Here at Ausdroid, we have a bit of a fondness for Google’s other operating system, Chrome OS. Unfortunately, there is no official way to get Chrome OS on your own PC; Google only ship it for dedicated hardware known as Chromebooks. A couple of weeks ago, I heard of an application called DriveDroid, which lets you use your Android phone as a Linux live USB, and I was intrigued at the prospect of using it to test out Chrome OS (or rather, its open-source equivalent, Chromium OS). It was surprisingly easy to set up, and some slight performance issues aside, it worked like a dream.
Disclaimer: This may not work for every phone. It works fine on my HTC One X running Paranoid Android, but not on my One, with the MoDaCo.SWITCH ROM, in either Google Play Edition mode, or Sense mode. DriveDroid requires UMS mode, which is removed by some manufacturers in favour of MTP. I contacted DriveDroid’s developer for assistance, and he is working on a new version that will hopefully add support for more devices.
First things first, DriveDroid requires your phone to be rooted. Once you install the application from the Play Store, you can opt to download a new image, or to use one you’ve already downloaded to your phone. The list of distributions to download includes all the old favourites – Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian and XBMCbuntu, as well as a swag of others. Unfortunately, there is no official build of Chrome(ium) and so it isn’t available for download directly. Being open-source though, anyone is free to compile it, and a chap named Hexxeh compiles and releases builds on his website. Once you’ve downloaded the image, copy it into the /Download/images folder on your device’s SD card. Be sure to download the USB image, rather than the VMWare or VirtualBox images, or it will not boot.
Then, as long as your computer is configured to boot from USB, you just have to plug your DriveDroid-bearing Android device into your computer’s USB port and reboot. It will take a few minutes, but Chromium should boot right up.
Unlike other live USBs, changes you make to the system are persistent, and Chromium will remember your login details and restore your settings and applications when you reboot. This makes the entire operation much more useful as you can take your DriveDroid installation with you across PCs.
- Download DriveDroid from the Play Store
- Download the latest Chromium OS image from here
- Copy the Chromium OS image to your device, and select it in DriveDroid
- Enable DriveDroid
- Reboot your computer, and ensure that your BIOS is set to boot from USB
- Enjoy the Chromey Goodness
DriveDroid worked much better than I expected – setup was easy, and performance was pretty good, all things considered. There were a few issues, like my laptop’s trackpad being a bit jittery, but these are likely issues with Chromium itself, rather than a result of using it in a live USB environment. If you’re curious about Chrome OS, but don’t want to give up your primary OS just yet, or you just want to always have a live USB handy, DriveDroid is definitely worth a try.