Here’s how to turn your computer into a Chromebook

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Have an old computer or laptop lying around deep inside your attic? Perhaps you don’t give it much thought, or maybe you were too confused and taunted by Linux’s confusing installation to breathe new life into it the traditional way. Why not have a little fun, resurrect it and turn it into a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is a computer that runs Google’s home brewed Chrome operating system. Available on its budget-oriented Chromebooks, Chrome OS is built and designed to be used on cheaper hardware meant for lighter productivity. This makes it ideal to install and run on decrepit systems. 

Technically speaking, Chrome OS is not actually available for open, public use. Its source base, Chromium OS, is however, and this is what we’ll be working with (it’s basically the same thing). Using something called ‘CloudReady’ by Neverware, the process is dead simple to turn your PC into a Chromebook.

To make it easier for you, we have drawn up a basic step-by-step guide with distinct steps that tell you exactly what’s happening, what to expect and what can happen.


 

But first: Take note of a few important things…

  1. Although Chrome OS is extremely light on specifications requirements, there are nevertheless some constraints and minimum specs which must be met. As a rule of thumb, it should work on most computers made since 2007. There is a largely incomplete supported devices list that can be found over here. If you are unsure if it will run, it is safe to attempt installing it.
  2. This is not the exact same perfect copy of Chrome OS you’ll find on a Chromebook. It does not support automatic updates or have any official support, nor does it come with Flash. It is however a legit version and will not spy on you nor steal your data (and you can install Flash later on).
  3. The installation process may wipe your data. Although you get to choose whether you’d like it to delete all the existing data on your hard drive or install it as a dual-boot, no one can guarantee that everything will work according to plan. In other words, it is probably not a good idea to try this on your work computer.

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What you’ll need:

  • An 8GB or 16GB memory stick. This has to be either 8GB or 16GB. No more, no less. Neverware does not elaborate why it has to be these specific ones, but warns that it may not work properly if not adhered to.
  • The CloudReady file. This is basically the Chromebook software that will be installed. Do not try to open it once installed. Download link here.
  • The Chromebook Recovery Tool. This is used to transform your memory stick into a working, bootable installer. Download link here.

If possible, you should download and prepare these files on another computer that you are not converting, just so you have a backup machine to fix the broken machine if something goes wrong.  Just keep in mind that it’s highly unlikely that anything will go awry.


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Once you’ve downloaded everything, you are ready to roll. You’ll now need to create the installation USB stick that basically takes the downloaded software and installs it onto your PC of choice.

  1. Launch the Chromebook Recovery Utility that you downloaded
  2. Select “Use local image.”
  3. Choose the CloudReady .bin file you downloaded from Neverware.
  4. Insert the 8GB or 16GB USB stick into your computer.
  5. Select your USB stick on the left side of the Chrome Recovery Utility app screen
  6. Click “Continue” and “Create Now” to create your USB installation stick.

Once completed, this USB stick can be used infinitely to install Chrome OS on computers.

For the next part, you are required to power down the PC getting Chrome OS, plug the USB in and start it back up.

This is where it gets a tad complicated.

You need to ensure that USB Booting is switched on in the BIOS menu so that your computer can accept the USB while starting up. Because of the countless computer models, there is no fixed way of accessing the BIOS menu to enable USB booting. I highly suggest you search the Internet on how to access the BIOS menu of your specific computer.

Once you are sure USB Booting has been activated, plug the memory stick in and start the computer up. Depending on your PC, you may be asked which storage you want to boot up from or you may have to press a certain key. Like I said, do some research. Once you have booted into the USB, you can begin to play around with Chromium OS. At this point, it is not actually installed yet, it is just reading off your memory stick.

Pay close attention now.

You will now have the option to install as a standalone operating system (everything will be wiped) or as a dual-boot operating system (if you still want your existing operating system and all of its data).

For a complete clean of the hard drive and a standalone install:

  1. Click the clock in the bottom-right corner of the CloudReady live interface.
  2. In the menu that appears, click “Install CloudReady”.
  3. A window will popup with a brief description. Click “Install CloudReady” again.
  4. Here you will have the option to install via dual-boot or as a standalone. Click “Install CloudReady Standalone
  5. Wait for the installation process to finish.

After installation, your computer will run like a normal Chromebook would.

For side-by-side installation with Windows and to keep all your data (dual-boot install):

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This is slightly more complicated than the other install method. It will require you to have a UEFI version of Windows which will basically allow Windows to work with other operating systems on the hard drive. Again, you’ll have to do some research here if you aren’t sure what is cutting with your PC.


 

According to the Neverware website, your computer must meet the following pre-requisites:

1.  The ability to use UEFI boot mode.

2.  A preexisting UEFI-mode installation of Windows 7, 8, 8.1, or 10.  Click here for instructions on verifying whether Windows is installed in UEFI mode.

3.  At least 32 GB of available free space in the main Windows partition you want to dual-boot with.

4.  On the Windows installation you want to dual-boot with, you must make the following changes before performing a dual-boot installation of CloudReady:

a.  Turn OFF “Fast Startup” (in Windows 8 or later) by visiting “Control Panel > Power Options > Choose what the power button does > Fast Startup”

b.  Turn OFF any encryption

c. Disable hibernation


 

Once you are sure you have meet the requirements, insert the memory stick, boot into it and you should be on Chromium OS. Again, it is not yet installed but reading the software off the USB. In order to install it as a dual-boot and keep your Windows OS and data:

  1. Click the clock in the bottom-right corner of the CloudReady live interface.
  2. In the menu that appears, click “Install CloudReady”.
  3. A window will popup with a brief description. Click “Install CloudReady” again.
  4. Here you will have the option to install via dual-boot or as a standalone. Click “Install CloudReady Dualboot
  5. Wait for the installation process to finish.

You computer should now be both a Chromebook and Windows machine. When you boot your computer up now, you should be given the option to boot into either Chromium OS or Windows.

If anything goes awry along the line, just keep in mind that the Internet is your friend. Here is the official Neverware guide PDF. You will have a fast, usable computer with a new operating system to explore.

 

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