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How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

Chris Hoffman
How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebookChris Hoffman
Editor-in-Chief

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

Do you prefer Google Chrome to Microsoft’s Windows 8 apps? Well, you’re in luck, even if you have a Windows 8 PC. You can swap the entire “Modern” environment for the Chrome OS desktop, hiding the Windows 8 interface entirely.

You can also use the Chrome desktop as just another app on Windows 8, swapping back and forth between other Windows 8 apps and the traditional desktop. That’s more practical, but where’s the fun in that?

Make Chrome Your Default Browser

The Chrome desktop is now available in the stable version of Chrome, so you don’t have to seek out anything special — just install Google Chrome. This still requires a full Windows 8 PC, not a Windows RT device like a Surface RT or Surface 2 — you can’t install Chrome on Windows RT.

If Chrome is set as your default browser, you can make it appear in Windows 8 mode by opening its menu and selecting Relaunch Chrome in Windows 8 mode. In the latest version of Chrome, this now gives you a full Chrome OS-style desktop environment where you can run Chrome browser windows and use Chrome apps from the Chrome web store.

Note: Google Chrome’s “Windows 8 mode” does not currently work on devices with high-DPI displays, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro. It also requires hardware graphics acceleration. If your PC isn’t supported, this option won’t be available in the menu.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

The Chrome OS-style desktop functions as a Windows 8 app, so you can switch between it and other apps normally. You can even snap them — so you could have a Windows 8 app, Chrome desktop, and the traditional Windows desktop appear side-by-side with the snap feature.

This is more practical, but the environment you’re using is still Windows 8! There’s a way to hide most of the Windows 8 interface entirely.

Lock Windows 8 to the Chrome Desktop

Microsoft allows us to lock a Windows user account to only have access to a specific app, and the Chrome OS desktop is just a Chrome Windows 8 app. This means we can use the Windows 8.1 Assigned Access feature to lock a user account to the Chrome desktop. When the user logs in from the welcome screen, they’ll see the Chrome desktop. They won’t be able to switch to other Windows 8-style apps, use the Windwos desktop, access the charms, or do anything else — they might as well be using a Chromebook.

To do this, you’ll need to go through the Assigned Access setup process. You’ll probably want to create a separate Chrome OS user account, then log in as that account. While logged in as the other user account, be sure to make Chrome the account’s default web browser. If you don’t, Chrome won’t be available as an option on the Assigned Access screen.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

Afterwards, you can log back in as your main user account and restrict the secondary user account to the Chrome app from the Assigned Access screen.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

When you log in as the “Chrome” user account, you’ll only be able to use the Chrome desktop. You won’t see the Start screen, charms, or other parts of the Windows 8 interface. Microsoft’s “kiosk mode” is perfect for hiding most of Windows 8.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

Using The Chrome Desktop on Windows 8

Like on Chrome OS itself, the Chrome desktop can’t run Windows desktop apps or Windows 8 apps. All you have are Chrome browser windows, web apps that run in normal Chrome browser windows, and Chrome apps from the Chrome web store.

Only Pepper API plug-ins — like Chrome’s included Flash player, PDF viewer, and native client — will function in Windows 8 mode. You won’t be able to use Java or Silverlight in this environment, just as you can’t in the Windows 8-style version of Internet Explorer.

Unfortunately, it currently doesn’t appear possible to leave this environment without rebooting the computer. To leave Assigned Access mode, you have to press the Windows key five times quickly, but Chrome intercepts the Windows key to open the Chrome app launcher.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

This can give you a taste on what it’s actually like to use Chrome OS, although part of the appeal of a Chromebook is that it’s simpler — you won’t have to install any Windows security updates on a Chromebook.

Is this practical? Not necessarily. But it’s an interesting trick that Microsoft can’t be too happy about.

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How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek.
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Turn your old and sluggish Windows run laptop into blitzing fast Chromebook

Many of us have that old laptop which runs agonisingly slow that we often ditch it for a new one. Now you can get better juice out of your beaten down laptop thanks to Google’s Chrome OS. Chromebooks use the cloud-based operating system have become very popular and it’s easy to see why. They are affordable because as long as you’re happy to carry out most of your work on the web and in your browser, they don’t require much expensive processing power. Turning your Windows run laptop into a Chromebook can be a boon for you.

CloudReady (www.neverware.com) brings ?the Chromebook experience to your PC, and can either replace your existing Windows installation or run alongside it. The OS is aimed commercially at schools but is being given away free to home users.

What you’ll need

For starters you will require a CloudReady image file, which is a 600MB download and can be got from www.neverware.com. You will also need the Chromebook Recovery Utility. This is an official Google tool that lets you create recovery drives for Chromebooks but it can also be used to install Chrome OS (via CloudReady) on your PC. It requires the Chrome browser to work. You also need an empty USB flash drive (or SD card) to write the installer to. This should have a capacity of at least 8GB, though 16GB would be better.

How to turn your old laptop into a Chromebook

  1. Go to www.neverware.com/freedownload and select either the 32-bit or 62-bit download file. Don’t unzip the CloudReady download yet, because it might cause problems.
  2. Insert a blank USB flash drive (or one you don’t mind losing the data on), open the Chrome web browser, then install and run the Chromebook Recovery Utility. Do not click the ‘Get started’ button. Instead, click the gear icon and choose ‘Use local image’.
  3. Navigate to the saved file and select the media you want to use for the installation. Make sure you select ?the correct drive. Click Continue and confirm that the details on the next page are correct. Assuming they are, click ‘Create now’. OK the UAC prompt that appears.
  4. Creating a recovery image should only take a few minutes – don’t unplug the USB drive during the process. When it’s done, restart your PC and boot from the USB drive. The CloudReady installer will load. Set your language, keyboard, and network, then click Continue to begin the installation process.
  5. During installation, you’ll need to agree to install Flash, then sign into your ‘Chromebook’ using your existing Google account. If you don’t have an account or want to create a new one to use with CloudReady, click ‘More options’ and choose ‘Create new account’. Click Next and enter your password.
  6. Choose a picture to use for your account and you’ll be offered the chance to take a tour of your new device. All the apps can be accessed through the launcher in the bottom-right corner. The System Tray provides access to the settings, which is where you’ll find the option to install CloudReady.
  7. Click the Install CloudReady button. You’ll have the option of installing it as a standalone operating system (which will completely erase anything on your hard drive) or as a dual boot alongside Windows. If you select the latter, you’ll be able to choose between loading Windows or CloudReady when you boot up.

Run CloudReady on VirtualBox

You can also run CloudReady on your laptop without actually installing it. The process is long but if your prefer to run CloudReady temporarily, you can do so using VirtualBox ?(www.virtualbox.org). This isn’t as straightforward as setting up other operating systems, such as the different versions of Linux, because the download comes as a BIN image file and you’ll need to convert this into a format that VirtualBox can work.

Unzip the chromiumos_image.bin file, click Start, type cmd and launch the Command Prompt. Inside the window, type: “c:\program files\oracle\virtualbox\ VBoxManage.exe ” convertfromraw “C:\Users\[username]\Downloads\ chromiumos_image.bin ” cloudready.vdi

You’ll need to add your username and the name of the location you saved the BIN file to. If for any reason you can’t ?find the saved file, search your hard drive for cloudready.vdi and copy it to the Desktop.

Launch VirtualBox and click New. In the Name box, enter cloudready. Set the type as ‘Other’ and the version as ‘Other/Unknown’, then click Next. Assign a minimum of 2GB RAM to the OS, click Next and, in the Hard Disk box, select ‘Use an existing virtual hard disk file’. Click the folder icon and browse to the cloudready.vdi file. Click Open, then click Create. Make sure the CloudReady entry is selected on the left and click Settings. Go to System, Motherboard and tick ‘Enable I/O APIC’ and ‘Enable EFI’. Next, select the Processor tab (still under Settings) and tick ‘Enable PAE/NX’ next to Extended Features. Increase the number of processors from one to two or more. Finally, click Display on the left, change video memory to 128MB and tick ‘Enable 3D Acceleration’. Click OK and the changes will be applied.

With CloudReady selected in VirtualBox, click the Start button at the top. The virtual machine will start and the memory will be tested. Once that’s complete, CloudReady will load and you’re ready to set it up.

Master CloudReady

Navigating CloudReady is fairly simple. You access your apps through the launcher and browse the web through Chromium. The system tray icon lets you switch Google accounts, manage your internet connection, adjust the volume and access Settings. You can also shutdown the OS or lock it.

The Settings screen lets you manage your internet connection and install and update media plug-ins such as Flash. You can also set the wallpaper, get themes, and adjust settings for the mouse, keyboard and display. The Advanced Settings screen lets you manage the date and time (you’ll probably need to change this because we found CloudReady couldn’t identify our location correctly, ?so it was displaying the wrong time), as well as privacy settings, languages and downloads.

Right-click a blank area of the Desktop to bring up a context menu that lets you autohide the shelf (the Chrome OS equivalent of the Windows taskbar) and change its position. By default, it sits at the bottom of the screen but it can be positioned on the left- or right-hand sides, which is useful for widescreen monitors.

Change the background

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

The dull, grey default background is one of the first things you’ll want to change in Chrome OS. Browse the web until you find an image you’d like to use as Desktop wallpaper. You can also use a photo of your own if it’s stored in Google Drive (you’ll need to download the Google Drive app from the Web Store).

To change the background, right-click the Desktop and select Set Wallpaper. Click the plus symbol under Custom, then Choose File and select the wallpaper to use from either Google Drive or Downloads. You can adjust the position of the image, which can ?be centred, cropped or stretched.

Install some apps

Google has released hundreds of Apps for Chromebook so you should have no difficulty in finding them. While there lots of apps to choose from, the ones given below are must have.

Well, sort of: Neverware’s CloudReady lets you install Chromium on nearly any machine, and now supports dual-boot. Here’s how to get started.

alt=”laptop-running-cloudready.jpg” width=”370″ height=”0″ /> Enlarge Image

This software will let you turn your old computer into one running Chromium.

For as long as I can remember, the go-to option for resurrecting an old PC was to install Linux. The open-source operating system has lower system requirements than Windows, so it’s better suited to older hardware.

However, could it also be overkill? If you’re not looking to run sophisticated software, or you just don’t want to deal with the complexities of choosing a Linux distribution (there are dozens), maybe you should consider another option: Chromium, the Chrome browser-based OS similar to what powers Chromebooks.

And now there’s a fairly easy way to deploy it: Neverware CloudReady, a Linux-style Chromium distribution that should work on systems up to eight years old.

Here’s what you need: an 8-to-16GB flash drive (nothing larger or smaller) and a PC that contains no important data. That’s because the installation could overwrite the entire hard drive.

For those hoping to keep your original data intact, Neverware also offers a dual-boot option that allows you to keep your Windows installation while adding CloudReady alongside it. Be sure to see the dual-boot considerations section before getting started.

Not sure if your old PC is compatible? Check Neverware’s list of certified models. Even if your machine isn’t listed, though, CloudReady may work. (If it doesn’t you can always reinstall Windows — assuming you have your original media and license — or fall back to Linux.)

Neverware already put together a very detailed, but very simple, CloudReady installation guide (PDF), so I’m not going to rehash the steps here. I will note that whatever PC you’re going to use to create your USB installer needs to have Chrome installed, because a key ingredient is the Chrome Recovery Tool extension.

You also need to make sure your old PC can boot from a USB drive, which may involve a trip into its BIOS settings.

I took CloudReady for a spin on an old laptop that originally ran Windows Vista. With the exception of this rather amusing dialog box.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

Some strange math at work here. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

. the creation of the flash drive went without a hitch, if a bit slowly (it took about 30 minutes).

From there I booted the flash drive on the old Asus. First, the installer didn’t like my Wi-Fi network, then Adobe Flash refused to install for some reason. In the end, the installation worked, but for whatever reason Wi-Fi seems to be intermittent.

I should also note that you don’t get a bunch of preloaded Web apps like you do on a Chromebook. There’s the Chromium browser and that’s about it. But this is kind of a nice option, actually — a clean slate from which to operate.

Also, remember that simply booting the flash drive and walking through the setup steps doesn’t actually deploy CloudReady on the PC. For that you need to complete the final step of actually installing CloudReady, otherwise it will remain a bootable USB option (which is fine if you just wanted to test-drive it anyway).

What are your thoughts on using Chromium instead of Linux? And if you gave CloudReady a try, how did it go?

Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally ran on October 20, 2015 and has been updated on February 22, 2016 with information on Neverware’s dual-boot option.

Buying a laptop used to involve a straight choice between two operating systems – Windows or OS X. But now there’s Google’s Chrome OS, which offers a low-cost third option. Chromebooks running the cloud-based operating system have become very popular and it’s easy to see why. They are affordable because as long as you’re happy to carry out most of your work on the web and in your browser, they don’t require much expensive processing power.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

The same principle can be applied to an old PC, so although it may not be able to run the latest version of Windows, your old computer may still have more than enough power to run the Chrome operating system. CloudReady brings 
the Chromebook experience to your PC and can either replace your existing Windows installation or run alongside it. The OS is aimed commercially at schools but is being given away free to home users.

What You’ll Need

In addition to the CloudReady image file, which is a 600MB download from the website, you’ll need the Chromebook Recovery Utility. This is an official Google tool that lets you create recovery drives for Chromebooks but it can also be used to install Chrome OS (via CloudReady) on your PC.

It requires the Chrome browser to work. You also need an empty USB flash drive (or SD card) to write the installer to. This should have a capacity of at least 8GB, though 16GB would be better. You can pick one up on Amazon for a few dollars.

How to Turn Your Old Laptop into a Chromebook

  1. Go to www.neverware.com/freedownload and select either the 32-bit or 62-bit download file. Don’t unzip the CloudReady download yet, because it might cause problems. How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook
  2. Insert a blank USB flash drive (or one you don’t mind losing the data on), open the Chrome web browser, then install and run the Chromebook Recovery Utility. Do not click the Get started button. Instead, click the gear icon and choose Use local image. How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook
  3. Navigate to the saved file and select the media you want to use for the installation and click Open. How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook
  4. Make sure you select the correct drive and then click Continue. How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook
  5. Next, confirm that the details on the next page are correct. Assuming they are, click Create now. How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook
  6. Agree to the UAC prompt that appears.
  7. Creating a recovery image should only take a few minutes – don’t unplug the USB drive during the process. When it’s done, restart your PC and boot from the USB drive. The CloudReady installer will load. Set your language, keyboard, and network, then click Continue to begin the installation process.
  8. During installation, you’ll need to agree to install Flash, then sign in to your ‘Chromebook’ using your existing Google account. If you don’t have an account or want to create a new one to use with CloudReady, click More options and choose Create new account. Click Next and enter your password.
  9. Choose a picture to use for your account and you’ll be offered the chance to take a tour of your new device. All the apps can be accessed through the launcher in the bottom-right corner. The System Tray provides access to the settings, which is where you’ll find the option to install CloudReady.
  10. Click the Install CloudReady button. You’ll have the option of installing it as a standalone operating system (which will completely erase anything on your hard drive) or as a dual boot alongside Windows. If you select the latter, you’ll be able to choose between loading Windows or CloudReady when you boot up.

Installing Chrome OS is a fairly simple process using CloudReady, the free version of Chromebook.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

In addition to Windows and macOS, Google’s Chrome OS is a low-cost third option for your laptop. If your old laptop can’t run Windows 10, maybe you can try to turn your old laptop into a Chromebook. Follow the steps in this post, you can successfully do this job. Get more information from MiniTool website.

When You Need to Turn Your Old Laptop into a Chromebook

You have to choose between Windows and macOS when buying a laptop, but now you have another low-cost third option – Google’s Chrome OS.

Chromebooks run a cloud-based operating system and they are affordable for most people, so it gradually becomes popular. As long as you’re willing to do most of the work on the web and browser, Chromebooks may be your best choice because they don’t need much expensive processing power.

In addition, when your old computer can’t run the latest version of Windows, it can still run Chrome OS. Thus, you can turn your old laptop into a Chromebook.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

What You Need to Prepare in Advance

If you want to turn your old laptop into a Chromebook, there are some things you need to prepare in advance.

1. You need Chromebook Recovery Utility. With this official Google tool, you can create recovery drives for Chromebooks. It should be noted that this software needs the Chrome browser to work.

2. You also need to create a bootable USB drive with an empty 8GB or 16GB flash drive.

Turn Your Old Laptop into a Chromebook

Just follow the steps below to learn how to turn your old laptop into a Chromebook.

Step 1: Download Neverware’s CloudReady Chromium OS and select either the 32-bit or 62-bit download file.

Google’s Chrome OS isn’t available for consumers to install, so you can choose to download Neverware’s CloudReady Chromium OS which looks nearly identical to Chrome OS and can be installed on any laptop or desktop, Windows or Mac.

Step 2: Insert the USB flash drive firstly, then open the Chrome web browser, now install and run the Chromebook Recovery Utility. Click the gear icon and select Use local image.

Step 3: Find the saved file and then choose the media you want to use for the installation. Make sure you select the correct drive. Click Continue. After confirming the details on the next page are correct, click Create now. Click OK when the UAC prompt appears.

Step 4: Restart your PC after finishing creating a recovery image and boot your PC from the USB drive. Then CloudReady installer will load. Set the language, keyboard, and network firstly, and then click Continue to begin to install.

Step 5: During the installation process, you should agree to install Flash and use a Google account to log in your Chromebook.

Step 6: Choose an image for your account and you’ll have a chance to see your new device. All the applications are accessible through the launcher.

Step 7: Click the Install CloudReady button from the System Tray. You can choose to install it as a standalone operating or as a dual boot alongside Windows. If you choose the former, everything on your hard drive will be erased. If you select the latter, you can choose to load Windows or load CloudReady when you boot up.

After you complete all the steps above, you can successfully convert a Windows laptop to a Chromebook.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this post has shown you how to turn your old laptop into a Chromebook step by step. If you want to do this job, just follow the steps above.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Position: Columnist

Echo is a technology enthusiast, has published many professional technical articles. She previously specialized in backup and recovery of data, files, disk partition, and system. Now she writes mostly about YouTube expertise.

As an enthusiastic technical writer, Echo believes that technology makes our life better and she has been trying to make her technical articles easier to understand and help more people. You must benefit a lot from reading her article.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

Want to make a Chromebook out of any old computer? Although Google does not provide official Chrome OS builds for devices other than official Chromebooks, there are ways to install the open-source Chromium OS software or a similar operating system.

Because they’re all simple to use, you can test them out entirely on a USB drive. It is not necessary to install them on your computer.

Table of Contents

Should You Really Do This?

Chromebooks are designed to run Chrome OS. Chromebooks are simple, lightweight devices that receive updates directly from Google. Chromebooks are about the whole package of a computer with a simple operating system, not just Chrome OS.

It’s also possible that not all of your computer’s hardware will work with the operating systems listed below, whereas Chromebook hardware will undoubtedly work with Chrome OS.

However, you might want to install a browser-focused operating system on some old PC hardware you have lying around—perhaps it used to run Windows XP, and you’d like to upgrade to something more secure. Here are some ideas for how to go about it.

Chromium OS (or Neverware CloudReady)

Google’s Chrome OS is based on the Chromium OS open-source project. Neverware CloudReady is a company that takes open-source code and turns it into a product. Google doesn’t offer builds of Chromium OS that you can install yourself.

  • Neverware sells CloudReady directly to schools and businesses who want to run Chrome OS on their existing PCs. CloudReady is essentially Chromium OS with a few additional management features and mainstream hardware support.
  • CloudReady is also available for free for home users from Neverware. It’s essentially Chromium OS that’s been tweaked to work on existing PCs. You won’t get some of the extra features Google adds to Chrome OS, such as the ability to run Android apps, because it’s based on Chromium OS. On some websites, certain multimedia and DRM features may not work.
  • While this isn’t Google’s official version of Chrome OS, it is better and more well-supported than previous enthusiast-created solutions. It even updates to Neverware’s latest CloudReady builds, though these tend to lag behind the latest versions of Chrome OS because Neverware has to customise them.
  • Neverware keeps track of which devices are officially supported and certified to work with CloudReady. It doesn’t matter if your computer isn’t on this list; there’s a good chance it will still work. However, as with a Chromebook designed for Chrome OS, there’s no guarantee that everything will work flawlessly.
  • Before you install Neverware CloudReady on a computer, you should probably give it a try. All you’ll need is an 8 GB or 16 GB USB drive, as well as a computer that already has Google Chrome installed. To create a CloudReady USB drive and boot it in a live environment, follow our instructions.

Give Neverware a try, and if you like it and it works well on your computer, you can install it by booting it up, selecting “install CloudReady” from the tray in the bottom-right corner of the screen. For more information, see the official Neverware CloudReady installation guide.

Alternatively: Try a Lightweight Linux Desktop

  • Chrome is now officially supported on Linux by Google. Any lightweight Linux distribution will suffice, providing a minimal desktop to run Chrome—or another browser such as Firefox.
  • You can install a Linux distribution with a lightweight desktop environment—or any desktop environment, really—and use Chrome on that instead of trying to install the open-source version of Chrome OS or a Linux distribution designed to look like Chrome OS.
  • Lubuntu, for example, is a great choice if you want a lightweight Linux desktop that will run on an older computer. Any desktop, however, will suffice. Check out our list of the best Linux distributions for beginners to find one that suits your needs.
  • If you’re looking for a basic desktop environment to browse on, Linux distributions are a great choice. They’re also a great way to give any old computers running Windows XP or Windows Vista a free upgrade to a modern operating system with security updates and an up-to-date browser. Netflix is now available in Chrome on Linux. It doesn’t require any dirty hacks; it just works.
  • It’s as simple as installing Neverware CloudReady once you’ve chosen a Linux distribution. Make a bootable USB drive for your Linux distribution, boot from it, and you’ll be able to try out the Linux environment without having to mess with your computer’s software.

You can install it on your computer directly from the live environment if you so desire. On some modern PCs, you may need to disable Secure Boot to boot some Linux distributions. Of course, you can’t make a Chromebook out of any old computer. They won’t receive Chrome OS updates directly from Google, and they won’t be as fast to boot. It won’t necessarily have the same battery life as a Chromebook if you’re using a laptop. However, if you’re looking for something similar, these are the best ways to get close.

Conclusion

I hope you found this information helpful. Please fill out the form below if you have any questions or comments.

User Questions:

  1. What are the disadvantages of using a Chromebook?

Another reason Chromebooks are problematic is that the Chrome OS is incompatible with much other software, including Windows-native applications. Graphics design software like Photoshop, for example, is frequently incompatible with Chromebooks, making such projects nearly impossible.

  1. Is it possible to use Word on a Chromebook?

You can use the web to access your Microsoft 365 apps, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and Outlook. Create, edit, and collaborate on documents and files using the web apps.

  1. Does Chrome OS outperform Windows?

A Chromebook running Google’s Chrome OS is a more simplified and optimised experience. In essence, a Chromebook can be thought of as a dedicated Chrome browser running on secure hardware. It can be hundreds of dollars less expensive than a comparable Windows PC, even with the same processor!

If your children use Google Classroom, this simple switch will make life easier.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

A computer and an 8GB flash drive are all you need to go Chromium.

The coronavirus dumped a whole mess of wrenches into the machine of everyday life. I suddenly have three kids at home all doing schoolwork online through Google Classroom and other services , and only one of them has a school-issued Chromebook , which is a laptop running on Google’s Chrome operating system .

Back before their school year started, though, I knew we might eventually need an extra laptop, so I converted an old Windows 7 HP netbook into a Chromebook. It wasn’t especially fast when I bought it in 2011, and I made the mistake of updating the laptop’s OS from Windows 7 to Windows 10 in 2016, which essentially turned it into a battery-powered paperweight. This has now turned out to be lifesaver given the current circumstances.

Google’s Chrome OS isn’t available for consumers to install, so I went with the next best thing, Neverware’s CloudReady Chromium OS. It looks and feels nearly identical to Chrome OS, but can be installed on just about any laptop or desktop, Windows or Mac. And, although Neverware has paid versions for enterprise and education users, its Home Edition is free for personal use. You don’t get tech support and it can’t be managed with the Google Admin console, but again, free.

To be clear, you do not need a Chromebook or Chrome OS to access Google Classroom — any web browser will work. However, it’s easiest to use Google’s free Chrome browser and your child just needs to sign in to their Classroom account aka G Suite for Education. If you do this in Chrome, though, you can install the Classroom web app to simplify things for the next time they sign in.

Switching to a Chromebook or Neverware’s CloudReady will give your child a more secure, controlled environment than working in a browser on a Windows PC or MacBook, though. They’re not going to inadvertently install malware or a virus, or access things your school district has blocked. Plus, since everything stays synced with their account, it’s easier for multiple kids to use one computer.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

You can boot CloudReady from a flash drive if you want to try it out first.

You choose: Trial run or full install

Installing CloudReady is completely painless. In fact, you don’t even have to overwrite your current OS first to test it out. If you have a Windows 7 PC or newer all you need to get started is an 8GB or 16GB flash drive to create a bootable USB drive. (SanDisk drives are not recommended because some, but not all, don’t work for one reason or another. There is a workaround you can try if that’s your only option.) The basic steps are below so you can see how little is involved, but you can head to Neverware’s install page for full instructions. Note, however, older Windows PCs and Macs require a manual install.

    CloudReady on the flash drive (it takes about 20 minutes and you don’t need to babysit it).
  • Turn off the laptop or desktop you want to run CloudReady on and plug in the flash drive.
  • Turn it on and press the function key needed to enter your computer’s boot menu options. (CloudReady has a list of function keys for different manufacturers in case you’re not sure.)
  • You should then see a screen giving you the option to boot from either internal storage or the flash drive (see photo above). Select the USB drive and hit Enter.

CloudReady will live boot from the flash drive and you can use the OS just as if it was installed on the computer. You can keep using it that way, too, though it will slow down the performance. Or you can wipe your internal drive and install it. Instead of overwriting my laptop’s old drive, I simplified the process by slipping in a $28 120GB Kingston SSD. I just removed the old hard drive — a few screws and a cable — and replaced it with the SSD, and then booted from the flash drive again. Plus, this way I still have the original Windows install if I need it for some reason.

How to turn a windows 8 pc into a chromebook

If you want to install, click on the clock in the lower right and click Install OS.

Once you’re in CloudReady again, you can click on the clock in the lower right corner of the screen. The settings menu will pop open and you’ll see an option to install the OS. After it’s installed you don’t need the flash drive, it will just boot from the internal drive.

Ta-da, Chromebook! At least, close enough for my kids’ needs. It doesn’t start up as instantly as an actual Chromebook, but it’s still quick at about 30 seconds to go from off to sign in. Performance is going to depend on what your PC has in it. With the Pavilion dm1z’s netbook specs, it can take a few extra seconds to load sites and open web apps, but it’s noticeably faster than when it was doing the same tasks on top of Windows 10.

If you’ve got a USB flash drive and an old laptop, it’s certainly worth the effort to test out and, again, it’s free.

Have you given CloudReady a try? Or would a different Linux OS be better for an older laptop? Let me know in the comments.

Laptops are in short supply globally—especially cheap ones like Chromebooks. But if you have an older Windows 7, 8, or even Vista laptop sitting in a closet somewhere at home, it's possible you can convert it into a secure and relatively performant Chrome OS device with the use of a totally free tool. The benefits are obvious: your old laptop gets a new lease on life, and you don't spend any money. As long your laptop still basically works, it's entirely possible you can be up and running with Chrome OS using just a USB stick and the relatively simple instructions below in minutes.

While Google officially supports only devices that are custom-built to fit Chrome OS, thanks to Neverware's CloudReady fork of Chromium OS, almost any x86 Windows or Mac OS laptop can become a Chromebook, plus: it's totally free. We'll show you how to get set up.

CloudReady officially certifies only a few models that you can find on Neverware's website. Still, the company says that it should work on most laptops, though "uncertified models may have unstable behavior, and our support team cannot assist you with troubleshooting." It's still worth a try since you can give the OS a test run from a USB drive before installing.

I chose a 2008 HP EliteBook 2530p to test this myself. It's a 12-inch Core 2 Duo laptop with 2GB of RAM and a 250GB HDD, so you can imagine that Windows is unusable on it these days. It's one of the certified Neverware models, so the company tells us exactly what works and what doesn't on the hardware. It warns me that I need to enable UEFI in my BIOS settings before attempting the installation and that the laptop's dedicated Wi-Fi and mute buttons won't work, so it encourages me to use the on-screen alternatives for that. Considering this computer is more than 12 years old and was never meant to run Chrome OS, that's a pretty small list of problems.

CloudReady vs. Chrome OS

Compared to the regular Chrome OS, this Chromium OS build has a few missing features. It doesn't support Google Assistant at all and you don't have access to the Play Store or any Android apps. The same is true for Linux applications. You also can't connect your Android phone to the OS. Geolocation and timezone info can't be accessed by CloudReady, so you can't use location-based applications and need to change time zones while traveling manually. More advanced features like Power Wash and Device Data Wipe are also missing to preserve Neverware's Chromium OS customization. Num Lock switchers aren't supported on any laptop, either.

Since Neverware hast to adjust its tweaks with each new Chromium OS update, CloudReady is always about a version behind the latest stable release of Chrome OS, and you can't use any of the beta, dev, or Canary versions of the OS.

When I set up the device in US English, I also encountered the problem that CloudReady thought my German keyboard had an English layout (which is particularly annoying while entering passwords), which I could only fix after I'd fully installed the system. This seems like an edge case, though — most people will probably use their laptops in the language its keyboard shipped with. Guest Mode generally exclusively works with a US English keyboard layout, though, so be warned when you give away your laptop and you have a different keyboard layout.

To see Adobe Flash content or watch protected media like Netflix films, you first need to activate the corresponding plugins in Settings -> Media Plugins — proprietary software like these doesn't come with the open-source Chromium OS base.

Other Chromium OS solutions

Of course, instead of going for CloudReady, you could also install Chromium OS right away without relying on a for-profit company at all. If you go this route, you won't have access to Flash and DRM-protected content, but in contrast to CloudReady, you can install Chromium OS on ARM devices. Older laptops rarely run on ARM chips, though, so this might be of little tangible advantage here.

There's also FydeOS (based on Flint OS, which has been bought by Neverware). It recreates more Chrome OS functions like Linux and Android app support and even works on Raspberry Pi units. However, this fork isn't as well documented for laymen as CloudReady, and it doesn't offer a selection of certified models that are guaranteed to work with limited issues only. While you might be happier with FydeOS in the long run thanks to its more advanced features, CloudReady is great if you want to dip your toes into the world of Chromium/Chrome OS. (Also, Neverware is a US company while FydeOS is Chinese, if that's important to you.)

Installing CloudReady

If your model isn't on the list of supported devices, make yourself familiar with the critical requirements stated on Neverware's website. It says you'll need a PC or Mac from 2007 or later and at least 2GB of RAM. For installation, you should also have a USB drive with 8 or more GB of storage at hand.

  • RAM: 2GB or greater
  • Storage space: 16GB or more
  • BIOS: Full administrative access, in order to boot from the CloudReady USB installer
  • Processor and Graphics: Components made prior to 2007 will likely result in a poor experience. Additionally, the following graphics hardware does not meet performance standards on CloudReady: Intel GMA 500, 600, 3600, 3650

Create the USB stick installer

If you're a Windows person, you can use CloudReady's automated USB installer tool, which is a little involved process well described by the on-screen instructions.

Chromebooks don’t officially support Windows. You normally can’t even install Windows—Chromebooks ship with a special type of BIOS designed for Chrome OS. But there are ways to install Windows on many Chromebook models, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty.

How do I install Windows on a Chromebook?

How to Install Windows Programs on Chromebooks Run CrossOver for Chrome OS. In the Search Applications box, start typing the name of your desired program. Depending on the program, CrossOver will now fetch the correct files online to install it. Go through the installation procedure as you would with any Windows program.

How do I Change my Chromebook to Windows?

Open up the Settings window on your Chromebook, and click on the menu button in the upper left corner. Click on About Chrome OS and then click on Detailed build information. In the resulting window, click CHANGE CHANNEL and then select the channel you want. You will then be prompted to click CHANGE CHANNEL AND POWERWASH.

Which is better Chromebook or Windows 10?

Google unveils ‘Pixelbook’ Chromebook, and it is much better than a Windows 10 PC. Fact — Chromebooks are much better than Windows 10 PCs. Well, for some people, at least.