Turn an old Mac or PC into a Chromebook with Chrome OS Flex

Google’s Chrome OS is a lightweight and secure operating system that was originally built around Google’s Chrome web browser, but has become more versatile over the years with an integrated file manager, media player and other tools… and optional support for running Android and Linux apps.

Most Chrome OS users probably purchased a Chromebook with the OS pre-installed. But now Google is making it easier to turn virtually any PC into a Chromebook with the release of Chrome OS Flex.

In a nutshell, Chrome OS Flex is a version of Google’s operating system that you can download and install on virtually any PC or Mac. The operating system is free and receives automatic feature updates and bug fixes on the same schedule as the Chromebooks that ship with the operating system.

Chrome OS Flex is currently available as an “early access” project, and Google notes that users may notice some instability or other issues. But if that doesn’t scare you, you can register to get download link and installation instructions to prepare a bootable flash drive that you can use to test Chrome OS on your computer before deciding whether or not to install the operating system on local storage.

Google is positioning Chrome OS Flex as a solution for people with older hardware who might have dated specs or compatibility issues with the latest versions of Windows or macOS. And Google’s timing seems especially good for people who may hang on to older Windows PCs, as many of them won’t officially support Windows 11 (although Windows 10 will continue to be supported until later). in 2025).

Of course, there are other options – if your old computer can run Chrome OS, it can probably run Ubuntu or another GNU/Linux distro. But Chrome OS is simple, fast, and familiar enough for millions of users who may not be comfortable learning an operating system that works as differently than most desktop Linux distros.

There’s also an option for a Chrome Enterprise upgrade, which will bring support for network administrator features, including advanced security services, controlled updates, and granular device controls. This could be useful for businesses, governments, or educational institutions that want to reuse old hardware rather than investing in new Chromebooks or other computers.

In fact, the enterprise and education markets are probably Google’s main target for Chrome OS Flex, but it’s accessible to everyone.

Chrome OS Flex is not a entirely new product. It’s the Google-branded version of CloudReady, a service that’s been letting you turn an old PC into a Chromebook since 2015. Google acquired CloudReady maker Neverware in 2020 and last summer it became clear that the company planned to release its own version of the software.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of ​​Chrome OS Flex, but don’t want to risk using “early access” software, Google says a stable version of the software should be available within a few months.

Going through Ars-Technica and Gizmodo

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Steven L. Nielsen