It is possible to install ChromeOS on types of computers. That is right! You do not need to buy a Chromebook in order to have ChromeOS. In fact, many people think that installing ChromeOS on an old computer can speed it up significantly and make it usable again. ChromeOS can run on older computers that Windows may start being slow on. This is why many people recommend installing ChromeOS on old computers to “breathe” new life into them.
Installing ChromeOS on Old Computer Converting to Chromebook
If you have (or can buy cheap) an old laptop (or desktop) that isn’t getting much use, and if you are at least a little computer savvy (or have a friend who is) … you should consider installing CloudReady to breathe new life into the old machine.
What is CloudReady and ChromiumOS?
CloudReady is a vendor-backed, free (for personal use) version of Google’s open source Chromium OS which Google then adds a tiny bit to in making their proprietary Chrome OS. CloudReady is basically Chromium OS with Linux drivers added, with its main focus being to make older computers very usable again:
What You Need to Install ChromeOS
Before you can get started installing CloudReady on your laptop, you will need some preparation:
- A USB drive with 4GB or more storage
- Open Chrome browser, go to Google Chrome Store and install Chromebook Recovery Utility.
- Change BIOS settings of your target PC so it can boot from the USB
How to Install ChromeOS on an Old Computer
There are several considerations to installing ChromeOS on an old PC and using CloudReady.
- Unless you are installing it alongside Windows, currently CloudReady has to reformat the entire hard drive from scratch. Remember, when reformatting an entire harddrive, you will lose all your files. Make sure to back everything up before installing CloudReady. You can then shrink CloudReady’s largest partition to make room for a reinstall of Linux or other OS’s as long as they will set up their dual booting environment, but CloudReady has to be installed first (except in the case of Windows). Also, setting up dual booting with Windows probably won’t work with any computers that aren’t on their official list of Dualboot Certified Models
- Netflix doesn’t work out of the box, but Netflix compatibility is easy to set up.
- General installation instructions can be found at http://www.neverware.com/installation
- Not every computer will work. It also requires at least 2GB of RAM. They have a list of CloudReady Certified Models … you might be able to use CloudReady on computers that are not listed, but do this at your own peril
System Requirements for CloudReady and ChromeOS
It is very easy to install ChromeOS! After-install configuration is only a little bit more than you’d have with a Chrome browser (or Chromium browser in CloudReady’s case). With at least 2GB of RAM, it’s very fast and lightweight and doesn’t really need further optimization tweaks. Assuming the installation goes smoothly, your laptop will turn off. You need to remove the USB stick, power the laptop back on and you should arrive at the Chromebook sign in screen where you must enter your Google login details. If you’ve used a Chromebook before, you’ll be right at home.
If not, you’ll quickly discover that there’s not much to do on the desktop. Like ChromeOS, CloudReady is all about its Chromium browser. Note that it isn’t the official Google Chrome web browser, so there may turn out to be slight incompatibilities. Unfortunately, you can’t just download Chrome, as this isn’t Windows. The OS and web browser are inseparable with CloudReady.
ChromeOS Performance on Old Computers
The developers at Neverware have done a remarkable job packaging Chromium to work on so many different machines, but there are Chrome features that are missing, and there are features that don’t work. The free version of cloudready is essentially the beta test for their paid version, so sometimes things break.
Remember, do not expect to set up a CloudReady machine for a non-tech savvy person and expect it to “just work”, they will probably need help from time to time to fix things. There are bugs sometimes that require shell commands to workaround until the next patch is released. Speaking of which, the free version of CloudReady has developer mode enabled, so it is not as secure as Chrome.
It is a good idea to take some extra steps to secure a machine running CloudReady such as setting a BIOS password and changing the default password for the ChromeOS user. All that being said, I would definitely recommend cloudready to anyone who wants to give Chrome a try without buying a Chromebook first. I hope Neverware is successful and continues to improve its product. I think their most important challenge will be adding Android app support in the future–assuming Google releases the code to make this possible.