How to Turn an Older Mac or PC into a Chromebook

How to Turn an Older Mac or PC into a Chromebook
Photo: Konstantin Savusia, Shutterstock

Before you take your sluggish old computer down to the e-waste disposal site, try bringing it back to usefulness by installing a Chrome operating system. Google has opened the downloading gates to Chrome OS Flex, a new iteration of its versatile OS, and it might be the perfect solution if your older Mac or PC is having trouble swallowing updates to its native operating system.

Flex is designed to modernise older computers by installing a leaner, cloud-focused OS. While it doesn’t have all of Chrome’s features, Google promises it will basically make your Mac or PC look and feel like a Chromebook running Chrome OS.

Google says Chrome OS Flex will provide a “fast, modern work experience from anywhere” that will make your gear boot faster, access VDI (virtual desktop interface) and web apps quickly, and prevent it from slowing down over time. Plus, it’s free.

While overhauling your computer with Chrome OS isn’t a new hack — CloudReady came out in 2015 — Flex OS provides more flexibility that warlier options by offering dual-booting, allowing users to easily switch between operating systems with a simple restart.

Before you install Chrome OS Flex, know that it is in early access mode, so there could be bugs/instability. Also, it won’t do everything Chrome OS does — some features are dependent on the hardware you’re using to run the OS, and Google Play and Android apps aren’t supported at all. (Here’s Google’s list of the differences between Chrome and Chrome OS Flex if you need more details.)

How to install Google OS Flex on your laptop or desktop

Photo: Stephen JohnsonPhoto: Stephen Johnson
  • Get a USB drive — 8GB or larger.
  • Register yourself.
  • Read (and follow) the instructions for creating a Chrome OS Flex USB boot stick.
  • Reboot your computer with Chrome OS Flex USB inserted.
  • Enjoy your Chrome-based computer.

I tried this out, and installation was as easy as promised. I offer you the above photographic proof that my 12 year-old iMac is now an iChromeFlexMac (or something.)

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