Over the years, we’ve only talked about Developer Mode on Chromebooks on an as-needed basis. There are reasons for that and they mainly revolve around security and safety for ChromeOS users. While I wouldn’t say that you should enter Developer Mode on a regular basis simply because you lose the Verified Boot feature that keeps your Chromebook super-secure, there are times you may need to get something working on your Chromebook and the only route to do so is Developer Mode.
One such reason would be to sideload and test/try an Android app that isn’t available in the Play Store. For now, the only way to do this on a Chromebook is to enable Developer Mode. And while I wish that would change, it hasn’t just yet. As there are quite a few of you out there wanting this feature to simply try out a few things, we figured that – along with the proper warnings – you could take this info, understand the inherent risks and be trusted to use it wisely.
Caveats to enabling Developer Mode
Two issues exist with Developer Mode, but if you know about them going in, you’ll be fine. First and probably most important is the fact that turning on Developer Mode removes the security of Verified Boot. This is the vehicle ChromeOS uses to match your current OS build to the one on Google’s servers, and when those don’t match, steps can be taken to get things back on track. Removing it obviously hurts the rock-solid security of your Chromebook, so it’s not advised that you leave it on.
Second, moving in and out of Developer Mode will completely wipe your Chromebook’s local storage. As long as you are prepared and synced up, it isn’t an issue, but you need to be ready to deal with that slight inconvenience as you go through this process.
How to put your Chromebook into Developer Mode
Alright, now that we have all that setup out of the way, here’s the way you actually get your Chromebook into Developer Mode. First up, you need to locate the ESC, Refresh and power keys on your device. For convertibles, the power button will likely be along the side. For clamshell Chromebooks, the power button is likely up on the keyboard deck somewhere. Once you find these buttons, you are ready to go.
At any point, you can press all three of these and begin the process. You can be powered on, powered off, or at any stage of the ChromeOS experience. Push ESC+Refresh+Power and your Chromebook will immediately go to a black screen and reboot into the recovery screen.
From there, you can use your arrow keys to move around the interface, but the first thing you’ll need to do is arrow down to Advanced options, hit enter, and then select Enable developer mode. You’ll see a warning about wiped storage and less security, but after you select Confirm, the Chromebook will reboot.
You’ll find yourself back in the recovery screen, so you’ll now need to tell the Chromebook to Boot from internal disk. The first time you do this, you’ll have to wait a few minutes for the transition to Developer Mode to happen. Subsequent reboots will take you to this same recovery screen when you power up, but selecting Boot from internal disk will simply boot your Chromebook up quickly and normally.
How to leave Developer Mode on your Chromebook
After this simple process, you are in Developer Mode until you choose to leave it. In order to do this, you can simply reboot and select Return to secure mode from the options on the recovery screen. Once you do this, your Chromebook will be wiped once again and returned to factory settings. With this step completed, you’ve returned your Chromebook to the secure state it should be in long-term.
That’s it! With these steps, you can freely move in and out of Developer Mode on your Chromebook with relative ease. I can’t stress enough, however, the care you should take if you choose to do this. While I’ve been in Developer Mode many, many times without any security issues, that doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. Tread lightly, use this tool carefully, and I hope the best for you as you stretch the limits of your Chromebook.