Understanding the Chrome OS Developer Shell

Chrome OS, by many, is viewed as a simple, web-only platform that the masses can use without having to know about the underpinnings of how things work.  To a large extent that is a correct and fair assumption.  However, to assume there are not more advanced controls or the ability to do deep level troubleshooting and testing in Chrome OS would be an incorrect assumption.  Like OS X for Mac and Windows for PC, Chrome OS also has a shell app that allows you to get deep into the platform and run tests, gather information and logs and even revert to a previous build of the OS.  It is called the Chrome OS Developer Shell and it is built into every device running the platform.

For the vast majority of users – I mean like 98% of users – the Developer Shell will never be needed.  The platform as users know is remarkably stable and the releases that Google makes each month to the platform are equally as stable.  But there are Chrome OS users who want the ability to tinker or there may be the need to do a bit of troubleshooting on your Chromebook.  That is where the developer shell comes in handy.

In this How To I’ll show you the key command that you need to use to gain access to the shell and will point out some of the basics.  This is not a full blown tutorial on using it but rather an overview so you can check it out for yourself.

To open up the Developer Shell, on your Chrome OS device press and hold CTRL+ALT+T at the same time.  A Chrome browser page will open and you will see the shell.   You will note that there is a friendly message at the top basically to prevent you from panicking if you got here accidentally.  🙂

Chrome OS Developer Shell
Chrome OS Developer Shell

Once in the shell, the first thing to do is use the Help command.  Type in help and press Return and you will get some basic commands and information.  The real fun is when you use the help_advanced command.   Type that in and press Return.  This returns a long list of functions that you can use in the shell.  Some of these are pretty technical while some are design to give you basic information about your Chrome OS device.  Some of the commands include:

  • Ping:  Test the connectivity to a site (ping www.clintonfitch.com)
  • Tracepath:  Trace your way to a particular destination on the Internet to see where you are going to get there (tracepath www.clintonfitch.com)
  • time_info:  Tells you the last time your Chrome OS device synchronized
  • top:  Is a program manager that will tell you what apps & services are running on your device
  • memory_test:  Performs an extensive test of your free memory on the device
  • battery_test:  Performs a test on your battery that includes the discharge rate of your battery
  • rollback:  Attempts to rollback your system to a previous update
  • exit:  Exits the shell

As you can see, there is a lot of things you can do with the Developer Shell and this is only the surface.  There are far deeper and more technical commands that are available that most users will

Chrome OS Developer Shell Advanced Help
Chrome OS Developer Shell Advanced Help

really never need to use.  But, if you are so inclined, the are there.

For more How To’s and other information, be sure to check out the How To pages on the site.