The Chrome operating system (OS) was reserved only for Chromebook users, but now, it’s available for other devices. It’s a great alternative to Windows or Linux, and you can run it without an installation. All you need is to download Chrome OS to a USB drive and use Etcher or some other software to make it bootable.
In this article, you will learn how to get Chrome OS working on any computer. Chrome OS is technically made for Chromebooks that are designed to be lightweight and straightforward. Google does all of the updates.
It’s one of the simplest operating systems you can get. Chromium OS (not Chrome OS) is an open-source version of Chrome OS, and it can work with all devices, including Mac, Linux, and Windows.
Some hardware won’t work perfectly, but most PCs can run Chromium without any issues. The company behind Chromium is called Neverware.
They used the open-source code to create Neverware CloudReady, which is the same as Chromium OS, but with some extra features and mainstream hardware support. Their OS is now used in schools and businesses all over the world. The open-source version of Chrome OS is ideal for older Windows XP and Windows 7 PCs because it provides more protection and it’s easier to update.
However, you can also use it on newer computers or laptops using Windows 10 or Linux. It’s an operating system that doesn’t take too much space, and it works great for basic operations and surfing the internet.
Don’t expect high-level gaming functionality, though. Before getting to the installation, there are some prerequisites you need to fulfill. After that, you start the installation process. Here’s what to do. First, you have to download the latest version of Chromium for your particular device. You will also need a program to work with the OS image. In this example, Etcher was used, along with a USB with at least 4GB capacity, and the PC for the Chromium installation.
Here are the links to software you should download to make things work:. Download 1: 7-Zip for Windows, Keka for macOS, or p7zip for Linux. Download 2: Etcher for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Prepare your USB, but ensure it’s empty.
Transfer all valuable data to your PC before you begin. When you’ve got everything ready, here is what to do:. Google offers an official Chromium OS build you can download to your PC. You can find many websites that provide Chromium for free, but we advise you to get it from Arnold the Bat. You will see a long list of Chromium versions because it’s continuously updated with new releases.
Follow the on-site instructions and download the latest version. When the download is completed, you will have to extract the image using 7-Zip. Right-click on the downloaded file and extract the data to a new folder. The process takes a few minutes to complete. Get the USB you want to use to boot Chromium and plug it into your PC. If you are using Windows, find the USB in My Computer, right-click on it, and select Quick format.
When the pop-up window appears, choose FAT32 as your file system and click Start. Know that all of the data on your USB drive will be wiped clean. For Macs, skip to Step 3. MacOS users can use the Disk Utility to format the USB as FAT32.
If it says MS-DOS DAT instead of FAT32, don’t worry because it’s the same format. Complete the process to prepare your USB. You have done most of the preparation by now.
Your Chromium is downloaded and extracted, and the USB is formatted, so you are ready to continue. Download Etcher using the link provided above. Here is what you have to do from there:. Click Flash from file, find the Chromium OS image you have previously downloaded, and add it.
Click Select Drive and select the USB you prepared. Hit Flash and Etcher will install a bootable version of Chromium to your USB device. The creation process takes a few minutes to complete. When it’s done, wait for Etcher to verify that everything works as expected. You are now ready to install Chromium on your PC. You have to run BIOS to set USB as your primary boot device.
When the PC is first starting up, you can run BIOS by pressing F8, F10, F12, or Del, the key you need to press will vary based on your BIOS. Every PC has different-looking BIOS, but you should look for an option labelled Boot Manage or Boot. Set the USB as your primary boot device and then select Save & Exit, the actual name may differ in your BIOS. Mac users also have to restart their computers and hold the Option key to enter the boot menu.
Select the USB drive instead of Macintosh to boot Chromium form your USB drive. Restart your Mac when done. The great thing about Chrome OS is that you don’t need to install it, and it doesn’t take any space on your hard drive. You can boot it right from the USB without installation, so your primary OS won’t be affected at all.
You can set up your Chrome OS with a Google account and use it only for surfing the internet. If you’ve tested everything and found it to your satisfaction, then it’s time to install it. Now that you got Chrome OS running, you can try it out on any device.
You will be surprised at how well it works. Better yet, it supports software from all platforms, including Mac, Windows, and Linux. The first question in your head is "why would I want to install Chrome OS, even on my old laptop, when there are perfectly adequate awesome full-fat Linux distros to choose from?"
Good question, and the answer is not everyone wants a full-fat distro, nor can everyone use a full-fat distro. Part of the success of Chromebooks – and they are successful with 5.7 million Chromebooks being sold in 2014 and 7.3 million predicted for 2015 – is their cut-down, lightweight Gentoo-based OS. If you want to give someone easy, no fuss access to Google services it should be a tempting choice. The good news is that it's easy to install Chromium OS, which is the open source project name for the official Google Chrome OS, which is only available through officially licenced Chromebook PCs.
While it looks superficially different with a blue-theme running through it, Chromium OS taps into the same Google Accounts and services and it offers the same advantages of automatically picking up your plugins and the rest, which are stored in the Google cloud. Built on Gentoo, it is Linux based and so has all the advantages of the Linux kernel, but keep in mind it was only rolled out in late 2009, so if you're planning on trying it on hardware older than that you might not have as much luck.
Having said that we tried it on a standard Lenovo X200 laptop from 2008 and everything worked without a hitch. A general rule of thumb is: any standard Intel hardware should work without a hitch. One thing we do know is that non-Intel wireless adaptors do cause issues, we'll go into this in more detail in a moment.
A number of sites have maintained builds of Chromium OS. It's unlikely you'll want to build it yourself from source, so there are versions ready for VirtualBox and for running and installing off a USB drive.
We're using this Chrome OS build, which is kept current. Another popular build is over at the Hexxeh website . This doesn't appear to be maintained as of April 2013, but it will still work. You've got an array of options for trying Chromium OS. The easiest of them is to download an image, write it to a USB drive or SD card and boot this from your laptop or PC.
There are live disc versions too, but with writable media you're able to save your settings and carry the OS around with you. It's not advertised within the OS but there's a command which easily copies the OS partitions to an internal hard drive. This does wipe all existing data but with cheap SSDs it's not beyond the realms of possibility you could buy a dedicated drive.
We did try dual-booting Chromium with Linux Mint, but it seems Chromium saw this as a repair state and wouldn't play ball. Let us know if you have more luck, as it seems a relatively straight-forward process of recreating the two ROOT-A and STATE partitions, dd over these from the USB drive and update Grub.
Read more: The best Chrome VPN extensions.
Two other low-profile but well-executed features in Chrome are autoupdating and translation. Chrome automatically updates when a new version comes out. This makes it harder to revert back to an older version, but it's highly unlikely that you'll want to downgrade this build of Chrome since this is the stable build and not the beta or developer's version. You can toggle the build among the three under About Chrome. The second feature, automatic translation of Web pages, is available to other browsers as a Google add-on, but because it comes from Google, it's baked directly into Chrome.
Already mentioned a little bit, the biggest OS hang-up in the operating system is offline support despite the improvements. Chrome OS will support the core Google apps of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs offline, but for most of your other apps, you'll be left in the dark. That might not be an issue on the Chromebox, Google's answer to the Mac Mini, but for the portable Chromebooks, prepare for a severely hamstrung experience. Anyone outside of the cloud crowd likely won't be comfortable with it.
You can print with Google Cloud Print, accessible via the common printing hot-key combo of Control-P. Google has anticipated the problems that still plague cloud printing, and so it offers instructions on how to do it. Still, most people will probably find the process way too fiddly because what's simple to print off a basic Windows 7 Netbook will take effort to set up properly from a Chromebook. Cloud Print does now come with access to FedEx stores in the United States, which is a nice improvement for remote printing.
Google is basing most of its claim of a secure operating system on a new feature in Chrome OS called "verified boot." Chrome OS will check its own integrity when booting, and if it detects any changes, it will allow you to restore a last-known good configuration.
The following benchmarks are of the original version of the Chrome OS that shipped on the Cr-48. There have been significant improvements since then, and CNET will update the results below as soon as possible.
Benchmarking the first beta of the Chrome OS proved to be a bit tricky. It's hard to measure the impact of various essential programs, such as a productivity suite or media player, on the operating system because they exist largely in the cloud. However, because the operating system is also the browser, we were able to run browser benchmark tests against it and compare them against the same version of Google Chrome, but running on a Windows 7 laptop.
These tests are admittedly not a direct apples-with-apples comparison. Google has not yet released the specifications of the Cr-48, saying only that it's running an Intel Atom processor. The Windows 7 x86 laptop we used is a high-powered Lenovo T400 laptop, running on an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 at 2.53GHz, with 3GB of RAM. However, they do provide a snapshot of what the Cr-48 with Chrome OS is capable of at this time, and we can expect these numbers to improve as Google continues to upgrade both the Chrome OS and Chrome browser. The two laptops were running nearly identical versions of the Chrome browser. Tested in December 2010, the Cr-48 was running Chrome v8.0.552.341, whereas the Lenovo was running Chrome v8.0.552.215. (By comparison, the version of Chrome OS available in early June 2012 is 12.0.742.77.)
What we can see from these tests is that the hardware will have a massive impact on the performance of both the browser and the operating system. This isn't news, but the fact that the Cr-48's version of the Chrome browser was so dramatically affected in all three tests tells us that what hardware future computer makers choose to support Chrome OS on will almost definitely change how well the public receives it.
We were also a bit surprised that the full cold-boot and log-on procedure, not counting the time it took to type in the log-on password, averaged to nearly 30 seconds. Some Windows 7 computers have, anecdotally, been found to boot up cold in similar times. As mentioned earlier, this time had been cut in half by early June 2011.
Of course, the real time-saving feature of the Chrome OS is the resume from wake, which is practically instantaneous. As long as the computer isn't shut down, it will wake extremely quickly.
Although Chrome OS does update regularly, the current iteration is more usable than where the operating system was even six months ago. The quirkiness of a PC without the traditional touches of a PC desktop have been replaced by something recognizable and usable. As long as Google continues to support the project, Chrome OS will keep improving. One day, and perhaps sooner rather than later, it might even be ready for all.