ChromeOS Flex can turn your old laptop into a Chromebook – what you need to know

After launching in beta in February, Chrome OS Flex is now generally available for download and use by anyone wishing bring their old PC or laptop back to life.

By installing ChromeOS Flex on an old PC or laptop or even just running it on one of the best usb drivesyou’ll be able to breathe new life into the devices you already own without spending a penny.

The beauty of ChromeOS is that it’s easy to use, fast, and new updates are coming now every four weeks (opens in a new tab). Google’s operating system also boots up in seconds, and because it’s cloud-based, you can pick up where you left off on any of the best windows laptops Where best MacBooks as long as you use Chrome.

However, this comes with a few caveats, mainly that you won’t have access to Android apps or the ability to run Windows in a virtual machine using Parallel office.

Switch to a web-first mindset

A person working on a Google spreadsheet in their browser on a Chromebook

(Image credit: Google)

Here’s something about ChromeOS you might not know: it was actually announced just nine months after Google Chrome launched over a decade ago in 2009.

Around this time, Google’s new open source operating system was created to initially target netbooks. While netbooks were cheap, readily available, and wildly popular, they simply didn’t have enough power under the hood to run Windows reliably like users expected from a laptop or desktop computer.

According to a blog post (opens in a new tab) announcing Chrome OS (now ChromeOS), the search giant explained that speed, simplicity and security were the key aspects of its new operating system and this is still true today.

Just like with the original Chrome OS, most of the ChromeOS Flex user experience takes place on the web. While Android app support is certainly helpful on the best chromebooks, the latest iteration of Google’s desktop operating system, takes things back to basics to deliver the best experience possible. It also makes it easier to support a wider variety of existing laptops and PCs out of the box.

From CloudReady to ChromeOS Flex

Shortly after the launch of Chrome OS, Jonathan Hefter founded Neverware, whose first product, PCReady, was designed to refurbish old computers in New York schools.

As Neverware soon faced fierce competition from Chrome OS and Chromebooks, the company responded by developing its own distribution of Chromium OS (the open source version of Chrome OS) called CloudReady.

Just like you can use ChromeOS Flex to revive an old PC, users were also able to do the exact same thing with CloudReady. However, in December 2020, Neverware announced that it had been acquired by Google. The company explained in a FAQs (opens in a new tab) regarding the news that it would eventually become an official Chrome OS offering.

Now, two years later, CloudReady has become ChromeOS Flex and it’s ready to download and deploy today.

Years of support, for certified models

If you’re thinking of installing ChromeOS Flex on one of your old devices, the first thing to do is take a look at Google list of certified models (opens in a new tab).

Here you will find a list of PC and laptop manufacturers including Acer, Apple, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft and even some smaller brands like Minisforum and Zotac. Once you find your device brand, simply click the drop-down menu to view all supported models from each manufacturer.

It should be noted that certified models (those with a green circle and a checkmark) should work perfectly with ChromeOS Flex while models with expected minor issues (indicated by a gray circle with a lowercase “i”) are likely to take supports at least the basics. Feature. Another useful piece of information is the end of support date next to the current status of each model.

Before I decide to turn my old monitor into a digital dashboardmy original plan was to put CloudReady on the minicomputer I use to power it. According to Google’s certified model list, my Zotac ZBOX CI327 will be officially supported for use with ChromeOS Flex until the end of 2028. I plan to upgrade it from Windows 10 to ChromeOS Flex as a DAKboard (the program which I used to define my digital dashboard) was designed for use in Chrome. This way my mini PC will boot up even faster and I won’t have to worry about Pesky Windows Updates.

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The perfect stepping stone to a real Chromebook or Chromebox

What if ChromeOS Flex doesn’t support Android apps and maybe never will? The original vision behind ChromeOS is that it’s lightweight and designed to work on the web. Instead of installing programs like you do on Windows, Mac, most of the services people use these days are available online, which is what Chrome OS was designed for.

At the same time, you can also do a lot on ChromeOS Flex as you have full access to Google’s online collaboration tools and they work offline too. As such, you can edit documents in Google Docs, work on spreadsheets in Google Sheets, and assemble and present any presentations you make in Google Slides.

Since ChromeOS Flex is free and probably always will be, it’s a great starting point for anyone considering the switch to ChromeOS. Kind of a try-before-you-buy situation, but without any limitations on key features.

If you like using ChromeOS Flex, you can always upgrade to a Chromebook or even a Chromebox (a desktop computer running ChromeOS) if you want access to Android apps and the Google Play Store, full Linux support, and the ability to run Windows in a virtual machine.

For most people, however, they will be more than happy enough to be able to use more of their old devices that are no longer officially supported or were just too slow to use comfortably before.

About Jon Moses

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