Simple Method To Convert Your Laptop Into A Chromebook

Sristi Singh By Sristi Singh - Content Writer
10 Min Read

Simple Method To Convert Your Laptop Into A Chromebook , Chromebooks aren’t for everyone, but for some people, they’re a perfect fit. Running Windows is not always the right decision – its complexity often makes life difficult for users easily confused by computers (and the people who provide them with IT support). Chromebooks’ simple interface doesn’t require driver management or endless system updates, and malware is a very minor concern.

More importantly, Chromebooks run a lightweight operating system that feels fast and responsive on older and budget hardware, making them far more affordable. If you have an old laptop lying around you can make your own Chromebook for free. All you need to do is install a variant of ChromeOS on it. The process takes less than an hour, and the result often feels faster than today’s extremely cheap Chromebooks. Here’s how to make the conversion.

For this project, we will be using ChromeOS Flex. This version of ChromeOS is an evolved version of Neverware’s CloudReady operating system and is based on Chromium OS – the same open-source code on which Google built Chrome OS. (Google purchased Neverware in December 2020.) You can read more about the basic differences between the two if you’re curious, but ChromeOS Flex is almost identical to ChromeOS.Despite Neverware being owned by Google, one main feature that is missing is support for Android apps.

There may also be some security differences related to verified boot and encryption strength, as ChromeOS Flex can be installed on a wide range of devices. So if any of these are integral to your needs (and you can’t manually modify your old laptop to bring its security up to your preferred level), you’ll need to buy an official Chromebook. Otherwise, you are good to go.

Like standard ChromeOS, ChromeOS Flex’s system requirements are fairly minimal, although they have become more stringent than before. The laptop should have 4 GB RAM (no more than 2 GB), 16 GB storage, an Intel or AMD x86 64-bit processor, full BIOS access, and ideally be manufactured after 2010 (earlier 2007). However, you will still need to check your CPU model, Because processors with Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500, 600, 3600, or 3650 graphics hardware do not meet the performance standards of ChromeOS Flex. (In other words, Atom processors from the Silverthorne, Lincroft, and Cedarview families, which were found in low-end laptops between 2008 and early 2012.)

Your best bet is to find your laptop in Google’s list of certified devices. (Sadly, unlike Neverware’s documentation, the listing no longer explicitly states support for features like webcams or touchscreens.) I was fortunate that my test model, a 2014 Lenovo ThinkPad Had support. If your laptop meets the hardware requirements but is not on the list of certified devices, don’t worry. You can try ChromeOS Flex from a flash drive the next time you create it, which will allow you to test how well it works without disturbing your system.

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

ChromeOS Flex relies on the Chrome browser and the Chrome Recovery Utility extension to create the USB installation media. Download and install the Chrome Recovery Utility extension, then verify that the extension is running. (Click the jigsaw puzzle icon next to the address bar, then the three-dot icon next to the extension’s name, then click Manage extensions.)Next, click on the extension’s icon to get started. If it doesn’t appear, click the jigsaw puzzle icon and then click the pushpin icon next to the extension’s name.

A window should appear that says Create a recovery media for your Chromebook. In the Identify your Chromebook screen, click the Select model from the list link, then select Google ChromeOS Flex for the manufacturer and ChromeOS Flex for the model. Proceed with the installation process. The tool will take about 15 minutes to download and write the required files to your USB drive.

To boot from your newly created flash drive, you’ll need to bypass your laptop’s automatic boot order, which usually defaults to the primary storage drive. You’ll do this by pressing a key on your keyboard when your PC first turns on, such as to enter the BIOS. Search online for how to access the boot priority menu for your particular laptop, as it is not universal. For example, the Lenovo ThinkPad Google also provides a list of boot keys for major laptop manufacturers.

An alternative method is to enter your laptop’s BIOS (again, you have to find which key to press when turning on your laptop) and rearrange the automatic boot order, then after your ChromeOS Flex install Undo that change.

In any case, you should be able to select the USB drive as your boot device. Shortly thereafter a black screen with the ChromeOS logo will appear.

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

After booting to the flash drive, wait until the welcome screen appears, then click the Get Started button. In the next screen that appears, select Install ChromeOS Flex. Confirm that you have backed up your data, and then proceed with the hard drive wipe and ChromeOS Flex installation. This process will take between 5 and 20 minutes depending on the speed of your flash drive and the size of your laptop’s hard drive.

When completed, your laptop will shut down. Remove the USB drive, then turn the system back on (and undo any changes to your BIOS’s automatic boot order, if applicable). You will once again see a welcome screen, now running from your laptop. Click the Get Started button to begin setup.

As you go through the setup process, be alert to checkboxes that allow sharing of your usage and device data with Google. These are automatically set to allow sharing, so be sure to uncheck the box if you want to keep that information private.

When the welcome screen appears, click the Get Started button to begin setup. After going through the configuration screens for Wi-Fi, account type, and Google account login, you’ll reach the desktop. For an even faster setup, you can skip the Google Account login and browse as a guest instead.

You can later install ChromeOS Flex locally by clicking on the bottom-right-hand side of the screen (where the time is) and then logging out of your account or exiting as a guest. Then in the screen that appears, look for the Install ChromeOS Flex button at the bottom of the screen.

After completion, your laptop will shut down. Remove the USB drive, then turn the system back on (and undo any changes to your BIOS’s automatic boot order, if applicable). You will see the welcome screen once again, now running from your laptop; Start the setup by clicking the Get Started button.

If you installed ChromeOS Flex on a laptop’s storage drive, now all you need to do is connect to the Internet (either via Wi-Fi or Ethernet) and log in to your Google Account. You’ll then reach the desktop and have a welcome message—close it to start using your DIY Chromebook. You are all set to go!

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By Sristi Singh Content Writer
I'm Sristi Singh, an expert in computer technology and AI. Adhering to Google's E-A-T policy, I ensure authoritative content. As a Computer Science Engineer with a journalism degree, I excel in conveying complex tech trends in an engaging manner. My dedication reflects in bridging the gap between intricate technology and my audience.
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