New Update Google announces Chrome OS Flex: Easily turn your PC or Mac into a Chromebook

LASER_oneXM

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You can try out Chrome OS Flex with just a USB stick, or replace your current operating system.

A lot of us have an old laptop collecting dust in a closet somewhere. It probably boots really slowly, has outdated software, or just plain doesn’t work. If only there were a way to repurpose that machine into something useful instead of taking it to a landfill! Enter Chrome OS Flex, a new software system from Google. You can use it to install Chrome OS on Windows- or Mac-based machines. It essentially turns your laptop, PC, or Mac into a Chromebook or Chromebox for free.

Google is pushing Flex as a cheap way for business and education IT administrators to deploy large fleets of Chromebooks for very little cash. However, the system is free and open to the public as well, which could allow individual users to repurpose old machines or simply see what Chrome OS is all about.

Chrome OS Flex is based on the same core code as the Chrome OS that comes pre-installed on Chromebooks. That means you get access to the full operating system, Google Assistant integration, monthly updates, Google Play Store support, etc.

Flex is entering early access today. If you want to give it a try, you can head here. If you want to know more about it, read on.

Google understands that swapping out your current computer’s operating system might be a big ask. Thankfully, you can give Flex a shot with just a USB stick.
Using a provided software suite, you can create a bootable disk with a thumb drive you already own.

By following instructions provided by Google, you can use your current computer to boot from that drive and give Chrome OS Flex a test run. If you don’t like it, you can just take out the thumb drive, format it, and move on.

If you do like it, you can graduate from the USB stick to fully installing Flex on your system. Google gives you software tools to do that on both Windows- and Mac-based systems. This could breathe new life into an old computer, even if it’s up to 13 years old!
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Then why do Chromebooks have an end of life / auto update expiration date? 🤔
  • Every Chrome device receives regular updates from Google until it reaches its Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date, listed below, subject to support from component manufacturers. When a device reaches AUE, automatic software updates from Google will no longer be provided.
 

Andy Ful

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I used a Chromebook for 2 years straight. There's nothing in Chrome OS that you can't do with just Chrome.

I did not research this problem, but if I correctly recall, using Android applications on the Chrome web browser requires installing a special extension. So, the integration with Google Play is not as good as in the latest versions of Chrome OS. Did you notice any serious differences? Can your Chromebook support natively Android applications?

Edit
Here is a nice article about choosing between Chrome OS and others.
 
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SpiderWeb

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I did not research this problem, but if I correctly recall, using Android applications on the Chrome web browser requires installing a special extension. So, the integration with Google Play is not as good as in the latest versions of Chrome OS. Did you notice any serious differences? Can your Chromebook support natively Android applications?

Edit
Here is a nice article about choosing between Chrome OS and others.
Oh yes of course that. Android applications run using a specific emulator by Intel and Google which they probably don't want to share with everyone else because once we find out anyone could run Android apps on any platform with ease. I thought this was solely comparing Chrome OS vs Chrome apps. The biggest difference is that Chrome runs way more efficiently on Chrome OS. Documents, spreadsheets and presentations open more seamlessly in Google/Chrome apps. It's more difficult to force Windows or macOS to open a file using Chrome. The biggest takeaway from Chrome is that it made me realize that nothing is holding me back from mapping my Downloads folder to a cloud drive so that I can access what I downloaded everywhere. It also taught me that a lot of websites function well or even better as web apps than standalone apps.
 

Gandalf_The_Grey

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Chrome OS Flex can be installed on EOL Chromebooks, but Google doesn’t recommend it
Google announced Chrome OS Flex yesterday as a way to turn old Macs and Windows PCs into Chromebooks. It amusingly also breathes new life into older Chromebooks that have hit their Auto Update Expiration (AUE) or end-of-life (EOL) date.

Since the early access launch yesterday, more than a few people with Chromebooks that are no longer getting updates (EOL) have successfully installed Chrome OS Flex. So far, there are reports of it working well from Acer C720, Asus Chromebox CN60, HP, and Lenovo owners.

This process involves disabling firmware write protection in Chrome OS that ensures that a device is not tampered with before use. Those instructions vary on a device-by-device basis, while some related documentation is out there from alternative operating systems for Chromebooks. You might also need to flash custom (community-made) firmware. In short, it’s not a straightforward process like on Macs or PCs.

Additionally, Google officially recommends you don’t use Chrome OS Flex on computers that have reached AUE/EOL. The company acknowledges that it works, but won’t be supported:

"Google does not support installing Chrome OS Flex on a Chrome OS device that has reached its AUE date.
While you might be able to install Chrome OS Flex on Intel or AMD x86 Chrome OS devices, we don’t support devices that have reached their AUE date. You might have issues with firmware and hardware compatibility, installation, and updates."

There will presumably also be impacts to performance. Google’s FAQ also explains that dual-booting OSes is not supported. The company suggests running Chrome OS Flex via the USB installer, though the live-boot experience is storage limited and just for “temporary exploration or testing.”
 
L

Local Host

While you might be able to install Chrome OS Flex on Intel or AMD x86 Chrome OS devices, we don’t support devices that have reached their AUE date. You might have issues with firmware and hardware compatibility, installation, and updates.
The same applies to Windows PCs and Macs however, and the drivers alone will cause performance issues, which is why we all better off using Linux.
 

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