There’s no doubt today that Chrome OS is great for what it does. But for all its worth, Chrome OS is tied to your Google account. So with all the Google-ness, you also have Google’s tracking. That’s a good reason to want Chrome OS alternatives.
But even if privacy isn’t your main concern, there are some valid reasons to be looking out for Chrome OS alternatives. While Chrome OS can run Linux apps, it limits them inside containers that don’t fully integrate with the desktop. Any files you download with the Linux apps are downloaded in a separate Linux partition.
There are similar minor but important compromises when it comes to Linux apps, and these make the experience a bit unpleasant. The most significant reason is that you can’t officially run Chrome OS on laptops that aren’t Chromebooks. So if you already have a PC, and you don’t want to buy another, you’ll need some Chrome OS alternatives.
Chrome OS Alternatives for Linux Users
There are some well-known alternatives to Chrome OS, such as Cloudready. However, since privacy is one of the important factors, we will stick only with Linux-based Chrome OS alternatives.
If you’re familiar with Linux desktop environments, you may be familiar with Budgie. Budgie is one of the newer DEs for Linux that has become of the favorites of the Linux community. Budgie is, in fact, a product of the Solus project. It was developed for Solus, which was originally called Evolve OS. Solus is fairly new, its first release as Evolve OS only happened in 2015.
However, it is one of the most polished Linux alternatives to Chrome OS. With the Budgie desktop, you get the familiarity of the Chrome OS desktop with the goodness of Linux underneath. Since budgie is based on GNOME, you also get all the goodness that comes with the GNOME desktop. Although, Solus does offer a GNOME version as well.
Key Features: Light Weight | Budgie Desktop | Beginner Friendly
Gallium OS is a popular Chrome OS alternative that is also based on Linux. Unlike most Linux distributions, Gallium OS ships with Chromium as the default browser. This allows you to have all the Chrome features and extensions, but with an open-source browser that doesn’t track you.
Gallium OS is built-on top of Xubuntu which is Ubuntu with the light-weight XFCE desktop. Gallium OS has built-in Chrome OS drivers, which lets you use Chrome OS touchpad gestures. It is optimized for better boot times and better battery life. As a result, it is also lightweight. If that sounds like Chrome OS, that’s because it is.
Key Features: Lightweight | Great performance | Xfce Desktop | Chromium | Designed as Chrome OS alternative
Download: Gallium OS
It’s one of the latest entries in the Chrome OS alternatives section of Linux distributions. Ubuntu Web also happens to be one of the truest alternatives to Chrome OS. Chrome OS isn’t just a desktop OS, and Ubuntu Web understands that. With Chrome OS are tied online Google services such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google, Google Drive, etc.
Ubuntu Web offers privacy-focused alternatives to not only the Chrome OS desktop but also these services. Naturally, that means Ubuntu Web has quite a lot of built-in apps that everyone might not love. That also means you will need yet another online account to make the best of these services.
But if you’re looking for a true Linux-based Chrome OS alternative, Ubuntu Web should be on your list. Oh, and it can run Android apps.
Key Features: Free and open-source online services | Android apps | GNOME desktop
Download: Ubuntu Web
There are many Linux distributions out there that are based on other distributions. Ubuntu itself is based on Debian. Void Linux, however, is an original Linux distro written from scratch. Void Linux is available with many versions with different desktop environments. There are versions with GNOME, LXDE, LXQt, Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce, and Enlightenment.
KDE Plasma is curiously missing from this list, however. Void Linux is lightweight, and that’s an understatement. In fact, the OS only requires 96 MB of RAM for installation. The distro ships with its own package manager as well.
Key Features: Lightweight | Available with a variety of Desktop Environments
Download: Void Linux
Peppermint OS is one of the very best Chrome OS alternatives based on Linux. It is usually not touted as a Chrome OS alternative due to the fact that it’s not designed as such. However, just one app on Peppermint makes it a Chrome OS alternative. That app is called ICE, and it allows you to turn any website into a web app.
That’s easy to do with Chrome, you might think. But Ice, also allows web apps to integrate with the desktop like a native app. Such web apps can then use system tools such as showing you a download notification, changing the app icon, or opening files with the app directly from the desktop. Apart from being excellent for running web apps, Peppermint OS is one of the most lightweight Linux distributions around.
Key Features: Lightweight | Web app integration | Lubuntu desktop
Download: Peppermint OS
Worth Mentioning: NayuOS
NayuOS isn’t based on Linux, and hence is not included on the list, but it was worth mentioning. NayuOS is actually based on Chromium, which is the open-source, de-Googled version of Chrome. Chromium OS already exists as an open-source alternative to Chrome OS. But NayuOS takes things a step further by providing tools for developers. The de-Googling does come with its own disadvantages.
There is no support for Android apps, flash, external devices, Chrome web apps, and plenty more. The reason it is a compelling option though is that it is just a kernel with a browser running on top of it, just like Chrome OS. As a result, you should expect similar performance and battery life.
If you’re looking for a Chrome OS-like experience but don’t want to give up your privacy to Google, Linux is a good alternative. As it stands, Linux actually has more support when it comes to third-party apps compared to Chrome OS. Of course, you can do everything you can do on Chrome OS and more. That’s because Linux has a vast ecosystem of native desktop apps.
Unlike Windows or macOS, Linux is also very lightweight, like Chrome OS. If your computer can’t even run something like Ubuntu, there are even more lightweight options available. So, Linux itself is a pretty great alternative to Chrome OS.