Windows 10 on Chromebook (Linux 'Crostini' container)

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Using Windows 10 Chromebook (using the ‘Crostini’ Linux container)

My Chromebook, a Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 with i5-10210U CPU and 8GB of memory, is extremely versatile. It can operate Android apps which are not available for Linux e.g. Pleco (a Chinese dictionary) and the YouVersion Bible App, as well as powerful and useful Linux applications such as RStudio, a data analysis environment, and Zotero, an academic citation tool.

Using and application compatibility layer such as CodeWeavers Crossover, some Windows such as Wenlin (a Chinese dictionary), work just fine, and Microsoft Office more-or-less works, with encouragement.

However, sometimes it is nice to have a complete Windows virtual machine available.

Unfortunately Virtualbox doesn’t work, because of a current lack of nested KVM support.

However, it is possible to use a different virtual machine (qemu) to install Windows. The process is described on Chrome Unboxed and Beebom.

Here is the process described on Chrome Unboxed, which works for me.

In Crostini:

sudo apt install qemu-kvm libvirt-clients libvirt-daemon-system bridge-utils virtinst libvirt-daemon virt-manager -y

Start the Virtual Machine Manager and install Windows 10 from a downloaded ISO file.

Sharing files between Windows (in Crostini) and Linux (in Crostini)

This was a bit tricky, and nowhere near as easy as using Virtualbox.

In theory, qemu/libvirt (which is started by the Virtual Machine Manager) can start its own samba server instance.

Unfortunately, libvirt does not directly allow access to -net parameters, but it is possible to add those -net parameters using virsh edit.

The resulting XML file should look something like:

<domain type='kvm' xmlns:qemu=''>
        <qemu:arg value='-net'/>
        <qemu:arg value='nic'/>
        <qemu:arg value='-net'/>
        <qemu:arg value='user,smb=/path/to/shared/directory'/>

…where the reference to xmlns:qemu is added to the domain specification near the top of the file, and the qemu:commandline is a section added to the bottom. The ‘answer’ on stackexchange didn’t have the value='nic' definition, but I found without that section nothing happened. Unfortunately with the value='nic' definition there is a complaint about PCI/argument conflict between the ethernet device and the graphics driver. Changing some PCI values removed the complaint, but it still didn’t work!

Using a command something like:

qemu-system-x86_64 /path/to/windows10.img -enable-kvm -net nic -net user,smb=/path/to/shared/directory -m 1024

did work, but meant I wasn’t using all those wonderful options that libvirt made available. It is possible to see those options in the libvirt log, but I decided to set up a SAMBA share from Crostini/Linux instead.

The guides I used to set up Samba shares on Linux are found on ‘yodiw: install samba Ubuntu 20.04 and Windows 10 sharing’ and reddit ‘Use your chromebook as a samba server!’.

sudo apt-get install samba -y
sudo smbpasswd -a 'username' # the user name. a password will be asked for

Then I edited the smb.conf file in /etc/samba. To use a graphical editor using sudo I used the command xhost +si:localuser:root.

To the [global] part of smb.conf I added

  passdb backend = tdbsam
  security = user

I also added a section to [global] to allow use of symbolic links

  allow insecure wide links = yes

Check interfaces using sudo ifconfig. I used eth0 Edit the interfaces section in smb.conf.

  interfaces = x.x.x.x eth0 # replace x.x.x.x with the IP of the Crostinin container
  bind interfaces only = yes

In the user part, disable bad_user map and force user.

  #map to guest = bad user
  force user = 'username' # replace 'username' with the user

I edited the [homes] section in smb.conf, rather than set up a separate [users] section

  comment = Home directories
  browseable = yes
  read only = no
  follow symblinks = yes # only if required to follow symlinks
  wide links = yes # only if required to follow symlinks
  create mask = 0660
  directory mask = 2770
  valid users = %S

Then testparm to test the SAMBA configuration, and restart the samba server.

sudo service smbd restart
sudo service nmbd restart
sudo service smbd status

The share will be at the eth0 IP address found earlier with sudo ifconfig, e.g.\username.

The credentials to connect a network drive from Windows will be WORKGROUP\username.

David Fong
David Fong
Lead doctor, Kensington site, coHealth

My interests include sustainable development in low-resource populations, teaching and the uses of monitoring and evaluation in clinical practice.