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How to turn an old laptop into a Chromebook

Sometimes, Chromebooks outperform Windows laptops. Complexity often makes the lives of computer-obsessed users and those who support them more difficult. A Chromebook’s simplified interface eliminates driver management, endless system updates, and even malware.

What’s more, Chromebooks run a lightweight OS that feels fast and responsive on older and budget hardware, making them more affordable. In fact, if you have an old laptop handy, you can create your own Chromebook for free for free. All you need to do is install a variant of ChromeOS on it.

The process takes less than an hour, and the end result tends to be faster than today’s cheap Chromebooks. Here’s how to do the conversion.

Updated (September 2022): Google officially launched ChromeOS Flex, which is based on CloudReady and replaces CloudReady. Existing CloudReady installations are automatically upgraded to ChromeOS Flex, and you don’t need to install them manually. The items below now reflect this change.

How to Convert a Laptop to a Chromebook

For this project, we will use ChromeOS Flex. This variant of ChromeOS is an evolution of Neverware’s CloudReady operating system and is based on Chromium OS, the open source code that Google built ChromeOS on. (Google bought Neverware back in December 2020.) If you’re curious, you can read more about the basic differences between the two, but you just need to know that ChromeOS Flex is pretty much the same as ChromeOS.

While Google has Neverware, a key feature missing is support for Android apps. So if that’s integral to your needs, you’ll have to buy an official Chromebook. Otherwise you are good to go.

Step 1: Check if your laptop meets the requirements

Certified models info for ChromeOS Flex ChromeOS Flex has increased system requirements compared to previous CloudReady releases. Major change: You now need 4GB RAM (up from 2GB) and a processor made after 2010. Certified models info for ChromeOS FlexCertified models info for ChromeOS Flex


Certified models info for ChromeOS Flex

Like standard ChromeOS, ChromeOS Flex’s System requirements are fairly low, although they have become more stringent than before. Laptops must have 4GB RAM (up from 2GB), 16GB storage, an Intel or AMD x86 64-bit processor, full BIOS access, and preferably built after 2010 (previously 2007). However, you still need to check your CPU model, as processors with Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500, 600, 3600, or 3650 graphics hardware do not meet ChromeOS Flex performance standards. (In other words, Atom processors from the Silverthorne, Lincroft, and Cedarview lines, which were found in low-end laptops from 2008 to early 2012.)

Your most The best case is to find your laptop on Google’s list of certified devices. (Unfortunately, unlike Neverware’s documentation, this list no longer explicitly states support for features like the webcam or touchscreen.) We were lucky that our test model, the 2014 Lenovo ThinkPad X240, fully supported the feature.

Certified models info for ChromeOS FlexCertified models info for ChromeOS FlexCertified models info for ChromeOS Flex
Our test machine was lucky, a Lenovo ThinkPad X240, which is on the list of certified devices.


Certified models info for ChromeOS Flex

NOTE: In the compatibility list, you will also see to desktop systems like iMacs and NUCs, so if you have a spare monitor, mouse, and keyboard, you can fire up a Chromebox instead. Systems running integrated graphics work best.

If your laptop meets the hardware requirements but is not on the list of certified devices, don’t worry . You can try out ChromeOS Flex from the flash drive you will create next, which will allow you to test how well it works without breaking your system.

Friendly reminder: Before starting to install ChromeOS Flex, please backup your existing All files in the operating system! The process is the same as a fresh install of Windows, Linux or MacOS and will completely wipe your drive.

Step 2: Prepare the flash drive for installation

To install ChromeOS Flex, you’ll need an 8GB USB drive (at least) and a PC, Mac, or Chromebook to create installation media. The process takes about 20 minutes.

ChromeOS Flex relies on the Chrome browser and the Chrome Recovery Utility extension to create USB installation media. Download and install the Chrome Recovery Utility extension, then verify that the extension is turned on. (Click the puzzle icon next to the address bar, then the three-dot icon next to the extension, then Manage Extensions.)

Next, click the extension’s icon to start. If it’s not visible, click the puzzle icon, then the pushpin icon next to the extension.

To make the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension icon visible, click on the puzzle icon, then the pin icon next to the extension. Certified models info for ChromeOS FlexCertified models info for ChromeOS Flex


Certified models info for ChromeOS Flex

Select model from list by selecting ” to start the creation process and select Google ChromeOS Flex for the manufacturer and ChromeOS Flex for the model. Continue with the installation process. The tool will take about 15 minutes to download and write the required files to your USB drive.


In order to boot to your newly created flash drive, you must bypass your laptop’s autoboot sequence, which usually defaults to the primary storage drive. You can do this by pressing a key on the keyboard when the PC first starts up, similar to entering the BIOS. Search online how to access the boot priority menu for a specific laptop as it is not universal. For example, our Lenovo ThinkPad X240 needs to mix F12 directly at boot, while for our HP Spectre x360 it’s F9. Google even provides a list of launch keys for major laptop manufacturers.

Another way is to go into the laptop’s BIOS (again, you need to search for which key was pressed on your laptop at power on) and rearrange the autoboot order, then in Undo this change after ChromeOS Flex is installed.

In either case, you should be able to select the USB drive as the boot device. A black screen with the ChromeOS logo will appear shortly thereafter.

Hint: Although repeated Key mashup, are you still in the laptop’s default OS after booting up? You may have waited too long to start pressing the keys, or you may not have pressed the correct key combination. (Example: Function keys may also require holding down the Fn key or not.)

Step 4: Install ChromeOS Flex

When When the welcome screen appears, you can do one of two things: immediately wipe the laptop’s drive and install ChromeOS Flex, or configure ChromeOS Flex on a flash drive. Choose the latter if you want to try out ChromeOS Flex for a short period of time – doing so will allow you to try out ChromeOS without making any destructive changes to the system.

Notes: Due to performance and storage limitations and lack of OS updates, Google does not recommend running ChromeOS Flex from a USB drive indefinitely.

Option 1: Install

After booting to the flash drive, wait for the welcome screen to appear, then click the Get Started button. In the next screen that appears, select Install ChromeOS Flex .

Certified models info for ChromeOS FlexChromeOS Flex start screen on a Lenovo X240
This default option is to wipe your PC and install ChromeOS Flex permanently. If you choose this option, make sure your old data is backed up! Certified models info for ChromeOS FlexCertified models info for ChromeOS Flex


Certified models info for ChromeOS Flex

Confirm that you have backed up your data before continuing Do a hard drive wipe and ChromeOS Flex install. The process will take from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the speed of the flash drive and the size of the laptop hard drive.

Once completed, your laptop will shut down. Remove the USB drive and power cycle the system (and undo any changes to the BIOS autoboot order, if applicable). You will again see a welcome screen, now running on your laptop. Click the Get started button to start the setup.

As you go through the setup process, keep an eye out for the checkbox that grants permission to share your usage and device data with Google. These are automatically set to allow sharing, so be sure to uncheck these boxes if you want this information to remain private.

ChromeOS Flex start screen on a Lenovo X240Option 2: From flash drive Try ChromeOS Flex

When the welcome screen appears, click Get started button to start setup. After logging in through the configuration screen for Wi-Fi, Account Type, and Google Account, you’ll arrive at the desktop. For faster setup, you can skip the Google Account login and browse as a guest instead.

ChromeOS Flex install from login screen
Install ChromeOS Flex when you’re done and try it out, log out of your account (or log out as a guest), then click Install ChromeOS Flex option. Certified models info for ChromeOS FlexCertified models info for ChromeOS Flex


Certified models info for ChromeOS Flex

You can install ChromeOS locally later Flex by clicking on the bottom right screen (where the time is) and logging out of your account or as a guest. In the screen that follows, look for the Install ChromeOS Flex button along the bottom of the screen. When done, your laptop will shut down. Remove the USB drive and power cycle the system (and undo any changes to the BIOS autoboot order, if applicable). You will see the welcome screen again, now running on your laptop; click the Get started button to start the setup.

ChromeOS Flex start screen on a Lenovo X240Step 5: Sign in to your Google Account

If you installed ChromeOS Flex to your laptop’s storage drive, you can now just connect to the internet (via Wi-Fi or Ethernet) and log into your Google Account. You’ll then arrive at the desktop with a welcome message – close it to start using your DIY Chromebook. You are all set!

How does it work ?

ChromeOS Flex start screen on a Lenovo X240
Being a Windows PC, our Lenovo ThinkPad X240 teeth started to grow longer. As a Chromebook, its hardware automatically makes for a smooth, enjoyable experience. Certified models info for ChromeOS FlexCertified models info for ChromeOS Flex


Certified models info for ChromeOS Flex

In this article, we use a A 2013 Lenovo ThinkPad X240, borrowed from a retired laptop in our IT department. This 12.5-inch touchscreen laptop is outdated by today’s standards, largely due to the spinning-disk hard drive — when working in Windows 8.1, the system felt sluggish even during basic use.

But our X240’s Intel Core i5-4300U processor, 8GB RAM, and 500GB hard drive absolutely smashes today’s budget Chromebooks. Although its display has a resolution of 1366×768, it also matches the mid-range model well. When we tried ChromeOS Flex on a flash drive, the touchscreen worked immediately and the system ran smoothly; even when installed on a hard drive, ChromeOS Flex had much faster response times than Windows 8.1. Usually in older laptops I’d replace the SSD to extend its life ife, but I found that I could use ChromeOS Flex on the X240’s existing hardware without having to upgrade.

Standby battery life has also been improved, allowing us to go from a day of use to a few days of charging in Win 8.1 to ChromeOS Flex.

If you don’t have the old Laptops

Try to find a used laptop among trusted friends or family members. Local universities also sometimes have redundant departments, which are made available to the public by Sell ​​old computer equipment to uninstall it. Sometimes you can find a good refurbished computer through an Amazon warehouse

    Remove non-product links

Or Woot, also.

Final Tip

If your old laptop has a If the hard drive is paired with low-end hardware (or very old hardware), you can get better performance by replacing the SSD. Find out the height of your existing hard drive before buying to make sure it will fit. ChromeOS keyboard shortcuts are the same as Keyboard shortcuts in Windows are a bit different, but if your laptop is on the list of compatible devices, the function keys should work as marked. The full list on the Chromebook Help site will get you up and running quickly.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 24, 2020 and last updated on September 2022, the successor to CloudReady following Google’s acquisition of Neverware Current Installation Instructions for ChromeOS Flex .



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