How to install ChromeOS on your old PC or Mac?

How to install ChromeOS on your old PC or Mac

How to install ChromeOS on your old PC or Mac

Installing ChromeOS on an old PC or Mac can breathe new life into aging hardware, especially for tasks like web browsing, document editing, and streaming. However, you can’t directly install the official ChromeOS (developed by Google for Chromebook) on non-Chromebook hardware due to licensing restrictions. Instead, you can install a variant called ChromeOS Flex, developed by Google, designed for PCs and Macs to provide a similar experience.

Before you start, ensure your device meets the minimum requirements:

  • Intel or AMD x86-64-bit compatible device
  • 4GB of RAM or more
  • 16GB of storage or more
  • Full admin access to the BIOS/UEFI
  • Ability to boot from a USB drive

Here’s how to install ChromeOS Flex on your old PC or Mac:

Step 1: Check Device Compatibility

  • Visit the ChromeOS Flex compatibility list to see if your device is certified to work with ChromeOS Flex.
  • First, ensure your device meets the basic requirements: Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor, at least 4GB of RAM, and at least 16GB storage.

Step 2: Prepare a Bootable USB Drive

  1. Download Chromebook Recovery Utility: Install this extension in Chrome browser from the Chrome Web Store.
  2. Prepare the USB Drive: Insert a USB drive (at least 8GB). Open the Chromebook Recovery Utility, and follow the instructions to create a recovery image. When asked for a model, select “Google ChromeOS Flex” and continue.

Step 3: Boot from USB

  1. Insert the USB drive into the PC or Mac you want to install ChromeOS Flex on.
  2. Enter the Boot Menu: Restart the device and enter the boot menu or BIOS/UEFI settings. This usually involves pressing a key like F12, F2, Esc, or another key right after you power on the device. The exact key varies by manufacturer.
  3. Select the USB drive as the boot device.

Step 4: Install ChromeOS Flex

  1. Try or Install: You’ll be greeted with an option to either try ChromeOS Flex without installing or to install it. Trying it runs from the USB without altering your device. To install, select the install option.
  2. Follow Instructions: The installer will guide you through the process. This will erase everything on the target device.
  3. Remove the USB Drive: Once the installation is complete, remove the USB drive and restart the device.

Step 5: Set Up ChromeOS Flex

  • After installation, the device will boot into ChromeOS Flex. Log in with your Google account and follow the on-screen instructions to set up your device.

Important Considerations:

  • Back up your data: This process will erase all data on the installation target. Make sure to back up any important data before proceeding.
  • Functionality Limitations: Some features and hardware may not work as expected on non-certified devices, such as certain function keys, proprietary hardware, or advanced graphics processing.

This is a great way to repurpose old hardware for new uses. ChromeOS Flex is designed to be fast, secure, and to provide a fresh, up-to-date operating system for a wide range of hardware.

Preparation Phase:

  • Compatibility Check: While the official compatibility list is a great starting point, some non-certified devices might still run ChromeOS Flex reasonably well. If your device isn’t on the list, you might still consider proceeding, but be aware of potential hardware compatibility issues.
  • Data Backup: Emphasize the importance of backing up all personal data from the device. Installing ChromeOS Flex will erase all existing data. Use external hard drives, cloud storage, or other backup solutions.

Creating a Bootable USB Drive:

  • Using the Right USB Drive: Not all USB drives are created equal. Some might have issues being bootable or might be too slow, affecting installation experience. Use a reliable, fast USB drive (USB 3.0 or newer is recommended).
  • Chromebook Recovery Utility Alternatives: If for some reason you’re unable to use the Chromebook Recovery Utility, there are alternative methods and tools to create a bootable USB drive with ChromeOS Flex, but these might require more technical steps and aren’t officially supported by Google.

Installation Nuances:

  • Dual Boot: ChromeOS Flex is designed to replace the existing operating system on a device. If you’re looking to dual-boot ChromeOS Flex with another OS (like Windows or an existing macOS), you’ll need to explore more advanced partitioning and boot management, which is not directly supported by the ChromeOS Flex installation process.
  • Secure Boot and BIOS Settings: Some devices, especially newer ones, come with Secure Boot enabled by default. You might need to disable Secure Boot from the BIOS/UEFI settings to proceed with the installation. Additionally, familiarize yourself with how to change the boot order in your BIOS/UEFI settings to prioritize USB drives.

Post-Installation Setup:

  • Google Account: You’ll need a Google Account to fully utilize ChromeOS Flex. If you’re setting this up for someone else or for a specific purpose, consider whether a new Google Account should be created for this installation.
  • Driver and Hardware Compatibility: After installation, thoroughly test hardware components such as WiFi, Bluetooth, audio, and graphics to ensure they work correctly. In some cases, you might encounter issues due to lack of driver support. Google provides some troubleshooting tips, but options might be limited for certain non-certified devices.
  • Updates and Security: One of the advantages of ChromeOS Flex is automatic updates, which include security patches and feature updates. Ensure your device is set to automatically download and install updates to keep it secure.
  • Applications and Extensions: Explore Chrome Web Store and Linux (Beta) on ChromeOS Flex to install applications and extensions. While you won’t have access to the full range of Android apps available on official Chromebooks, many web-based and Linux apps can fill those gaps.

Support and Troubleshooting:

  • Community Forums: If you encounter issues, the ChromeOS Flex community forums and Google support can be valuable resources for troubleshooting. Since ChromeOS Flex is intended for a wide range of hardware, community insights can be particularly helpful for addressing specific hardware compatibility challenges.

By following these detailed steps and considerations, you can successfully transform an old PC or Mac into a ChromeOS Flex device, extending its useful life and providing a secure, fast, and simple computing experience.

What is ChromeOS Flex?

ChromeOS Flex is a free version of Google’s ChromeOS designed to breathe new life into older hardware, both PCs and Macs, by providing a fast, secure, and simple operating system. It is aimed at individuals, schools, and businesses looking to extend the lifespan of their existing devices or to standardize their systems on a cloud-first operating system without purchasing new Chromebooks.

Key Features of ChromeOS Flex:

  • Cloud-Based: Leverages cloud storage and Google’s suite of productivity tools (like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides) for most tasks, minimizing the need for local storage and processing power.
  • Fast and Lightweight: ChromeOS Flex is designed to start quickly and run smoothly on a wide range of hardware, even on older machines that might struggle with more demanding modern operating systems.
  • Security: Offers the same level of security as ChromeOS, with built-in virus protection, automatic updates, sandboxing technology, and a read-only operating system that helps to prevent malware.
  • Easy Management: For organizations, ChromeOS devices (including those running Flex) can be centrally managed through the Google Admin console, allowing for simplified deployment and management of apps, extensions, policies, and updates.
  • Application Support: While it primarily supports web-based applications through the Chrome browser, it also offers support for Android apps and Linux development environments on compatible devices, making it versatile for different user needs.

Use Cases:

  • Reviving Older Hardware: Ideal for extending the life of older devices that are no longer supported or cannot efficiently run newer versions of Windows or macOS.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools can use ChromeOS Flex to quickly deploy a secure and easy-to-manage operating system across a wide range of devices.
  • Businesses: Businesses can utilize ChromeOS Flex for workstations that primarily access web applications and cloud services, benefiting from its security and fast performance.

How do ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex differ?

While ChromeOS Flex shares many features with ChromeOS, there are some differences primarily due to the hardware it runs on. Unlike ChromeOS, which is optimized for Chromebook hardware directly from manufacturers, ChromeOS Flex is designed for a broader range of devices, which may lead to some variations in performance or compatibility with certain hardware features (like touchscreens or special function keys).

ChromeOS Flex represents Google’s effort to expand the accessibility and benefits of ChromeOS beyond the Chromebook market, offering an option for users to experience ChromeOS without needing to purchase new hardware.

ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex share a core operating system and user experience but are tailored for different hardware platforms and use cases. Here’s a closer look at their primary differences:

Hardware Compatibility

  • ChromeOS is specifically designed for Chromebooks and Chromebox devices manufactured by Google’s hardware partners. These devices are optimized for ChromeOS, ensuring seamless compatibility and performance.
  • ChromeOS Flex is designed to run on a wide variety of hardware, including older PCs and Macs not originally designed for ChromeOS. This allows for the repurposing of existing hardware, potentially with varying degrees of compatibility and performance.

Purpose and Use Case

  • ChromeOS targets users looking for a new device that is secure, simple to use, and optimized for web and Android applications, offering a tightly integrated ecosystem.
  • ChromeOS Flex aims to extend the life of existing hardware or offer a low-cost alternative to purchasing new devices by converting them to a ChromeOS-like system, promoting sustainability and reducing e-waste.

System Features and Functionality

  • While both operating systems offer a similar user experience, ChromeOS on Chromebooks may support specific features that ChromeOS Flex does not, such as:
    • Better optimization for touchscreens and stylus input found on some Chromebooks.
    • Access to certain Google Play Store apps that may not be compatible with ChromeOS Flex due to hardware limitations.
    • TPM (Trusted Platform Module) support for enhanced security features, which might not be available or utilized in the same way on devices running ChromeOS Flex.


  • ChromeOS devices often benefit from hardware specifically chosen or designed to run ChromeOS, potentially offering better performance, battery life, and user experience.
  • ChromeOS Flex performance can vary significantly based on the specifications and condition of the hardware it’s installed on. While it’s optimized to rejuvenate older machines and make them more responsive, there may be limitations depending on the specific hardware’s capabilities.

Installation and Deployment

  • ChromeOS comes pre-installed on Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, with no installation required by the end-user.
  • ChromeOS Flex requires manual installation. However, it’s designed to be straightforward, allowing organizations or individuals to deploy it on multiple devices efficiently.

Target Audience

  • ChromeOS is aimed at end-users purchasing new devices, schools, and businesses looking for a simple, secure, and manageable computing environment.
  • ChromeOS Flex is particularly appealing to educational institutions, businesses, and individuals looking to repurpose existing hardware for new uses, reduce costs, or streamline their IT infrastructure with a cloud-first OS.

while ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex share many characteristics, including their cloud-centric design and emphasis on security and simplicity, they serve different purposes. ChromeOS is for new, optimized hardware, while ChromeOS Flex allows older devices to adopt a similar, streamlined computing experience.

install ChromeOS on your old PC or Mac

When it makes sense to update your computer with ChromeOS

Updating your computer to ChromeOS, specifically through ChromeOS Flex (since ChromeOS itself is typically pre-installed on Chromebooks), can be an appealing option in various scenarios. Here are some situations where making the switch makes sense:

Old or Slow Devices

If you have an older PC or Mac that’s become slow and inefficient, installing ChromeOS Flex can give it a new lease on life. ChromeOS Flex is designed to be lightweight and fast, making older hardware feel more responsive for everyday tasks like browsing the web, checking emails, and using web apps.

Looking for Enhanced Security

ChromeOS is known for its strong security features, including automatic updates, sandboxing for web pages and apps, and a read-only operating system partition that helps prevent malware. If your current system is prone to viruses and malware, or if you’re looking for a more secure OS, ChromeOS Flex could be an excellent choice.

Simplified Management and Maintenance

For organizations or individuals who desire a system that’s easy to manage without a lot of overhead, ChromeOS Flex offers a compelling option. Its automatic updates and cloud-first approach reduce the need for manual maintenance, making it ideal for schools, businesses, or less tech-savvy users.

Cost-Effective IT Solutions

Businesses or educational institutions looking to extend the usability of their existing hardware without the expense of purchasing new devices may find ChromeOS Flex appealing. It allows for a cost-effective way to update and standardize the computing environment.

Cloud and Web-App Heavy Users

If your daily computer usage revolves around web applications, cloud services, and online productivity tools, transitioning to ChromeOS Flex could streamline your experience. Given its design around the Chrome browser and cloud-based services, it’s well-suited for users who primarily rely on such ecosystems.

Environmentally Conscious Users

Choosing to install ChromeOS Flex on existing hardware is an environmentally friendly decision. Instead of disposing of older computers, you can repurpose them as efficient, cloud-connected devices, contributing to electronic waste reduction.

Compatibility Considerations

Before deciding to install ChromeOS Flex, consider the compatibility of your device with the OS, and whether the software and peripherals you rely on are supported. While ChromeOS Flex can run on a wide range of hardware, there may be limitations in support for certain applications, drivers, or hardware features compared to running Windows, macOS, or a full-featured Linux distribution.

updating to ChromeOS via ChromeOS Flex is worth considering for those with older hardware looking for a boost in speed, security, and simplicity, as well as for organizations aiming for cost-effective, easily manageable computing solutions. Always ensure your critical applications and hardware peripherals are compatible before making the switch.

How frequently is ChromeOS Flex updated?

ChromeOS Flex, like ChromeOS, is designed to receive regular updates directly from Google. These updates are typically rolled out every 4 to 6 weeks. This frequent update cycle ensures that users benefit from the latest features, security patches, and performance improvements, keeping the operating system up-to-date and secure.

Key Points About ChromeOS Flex Updates:

  • Automatic Updates: ChromeOS Flex updates are automatic, meaning the system downloads and installs updates in the background without requiring significant user intervention. This ensures devices always run the latest version with minimal disruption to the user.
  • Stable and Development Channels: Users can choose between different update channels. The Stable channel offers the most reliable experience, while the Beta and Dev channels provide early access to new features at the expense of stability.
  • Security Patches: Given the importance of security, updates often include patches for recently discovered vulnerabilities, ensuring devices are protected against the latest threats.
  • Feature Enhancements: Updates can introduce new features and improvements to existing ones, enhancing the overall user experience.
  • Performance Optimizations: Regular updates also focus on optimizing performance, ensuring ChromeOS Flex runs smoothly even on older hardware.

Managing Updates:

Users can manage their update preferences directly in the ChromeOS Flex settings, where they can also check for updates manually. However, the default settings are typically adequate for most users, prioritizing ease of use and security.

Update Policy:

Google’s commitment to regular updates is part of its strategy to maintain a secure, efficient, and user-friendly operating system. However, it’s worth noting that, like ChromeOS, the update policy for ChromeOS Flex ensures support for devices for several years from their release date, but not indefinitely. This policy helps balance the introduction of new features and the need to maintain performance and security across all devices.

ChromeOS Flex users can expect a robust and regular update schedule that keeps their devices up to date without much need for manual management, ensuring a secure and efficient computing experience.

All the things you need to download ChromeOS Flex

To download and install ChromeOS Flex on your device, you’ll need a few key components. Here’s a list of everything you’ll need:

1. USB Flash Drive (8GB or larger):

You’ll need a USB flash drive to create a bootable installation media for ChromeOS Flex. Make sure it has enough storage capacity and is formatted properly before use.

2. Chrome Web Browser:

ChromeOS Flex is distributed and managed through the Chrome Web Store. Ensure you have the Google Chrome web browser installed on your computer. If you don’t already have it, you can download it from the official website: Google Chrome.

3. Chromebook Recovery Utility Extension:

The Chromebook Recovery Utility is a Chrome browser extension that allows you to create bootable USB drives for ChromeOS Flex installation. You’ll need to install this extension from the Chrome Web Store. Here’s the link: Chromebook Recovery Utility

4. Stable Internet Connection:

A stable internet connection is required to download the ChromeOS Flex image and create the bootable USB drive. Ensure you have a reliable internet connection before proceeding.

Steps to Download ChromeOS Flex:

  1. Install Chrome Web Browser: If you haven’t already, download and install the Google Chrome web browser on your computer.
  2. Install Chromebook Recovery Utility: Open Chrome browser and navigate to the Chrome Web Store. Search for “Chromebook Recovery Utility” and install the extension.
  3. Download ChromeOS Flex Image: Open the ChromeOS Flex website (, and click on the “Get started” button. Follow the prompts to download the ChromeOS Flex image to your computer.
  4. Create Bootable USB Drive: Open the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension in Chrome browser. Follow the on-screen instructions to select the downloaded ChromeOS Flex image and create a bootable USB drive.
  5. Verify Bootable USB Drive: After the USB drive is created, verify that it’s bootable by restarting your computer and booting from the USB drive. You may need to access your computer’s BIOS/UEFI settings to change the boot order.
  6. Proceed with Installation: Once the bootable USB drive is verified, you can proceed with the installation of ChromeOS Flex on your device.

By following these steps and having all the necessary components, you’ll be able to download and install ChromeOS Flex on your computer effectively.

Chromeos install utility recovery

Install Chromebook Recovery Utility

To install the Chromebook Recovery Utility, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Chrome web browser on your computer.
  2. Go to the Chrome Web Store by typing the following URL into the address bar: Chrome Web Store.
  3. In the search bar at the top left corner of the Chrome Web Store, type “Chromebook Recovery Utility” and press Enter.
  4. Find the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension in the search results. It should be the first result.
  5. Click on the “Add to Chrome” button next to the extension’s listing.
  6. A dialog box will appear asking for confirmation to add the extension. Click on the “Add extension” button.
  7. Wait for the extension to be downloaded and installed. Once installed, you’ll see a confirmation message.

Now, the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension is installed in your Chrome browser and ready to use. You can access it from the Chrome App Launcher or by typing “chrome://apps/” into the address bar and pressing Enter.

How to create a bootable ChromeOS Flex installation drive

To create a bootable ChromeOS Flex installation drive, follow these steps:

1. Prepare the USB Drive:

  • Insert a USB flash drive (8GB or larger) into your computer. Ensure there’s no important data on it, as the process will erase everything.

2. Install Chromebook Recovery Utility:

  • Open the Chrome web browser on your computer.
  • Go to the Chrome Web Store.
  • Search for “Chromebook Recovery Utility” and install the extension as mentioned in the previous instructions.

3. Download ChromeOS Flex Image:

  • Visit the ChromeOS Flex website (
  • Click on the “Get started” button.
  • Follow the prompts to download the ChromeOS Flex image to your computer. Make sure to remember where you save the downloaded file.

4. Create Bootable USB Drive:

  • Open the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension from the Chrome App Launcher or by typing “chrome://apps/” into the address bar and pressing Enter.
  • Click on the gear icon (Settings) in the top-right corner of the Chromebook Recovery Utility window.
  • Select “Use local image” and then click “Select” to locate and choose the ChromeOS Flex image file you downloaded earlier.
  • Insert the USB drive into your computer if you haven’t already.
  • In the Chromebook Recovery Utility, click on the blue “Continue” button.
  • Choose the USB drive you inserted from the drop-down menu.
  • Click “Continue” to confirm and start the process. The utility will erase the USB drive and write the ChromeOS Flex image onto it. This process may take several minutes, so be patient.

5. Verify Bootable USB Drive:

  • Once the process is complete, you’ll see a confirmation message.
  • Eject the USB drive safely from your computer.

6. Boot from the USB Drive:

  • Insert the bootable USB drive into the computer where you want to install ChromeOS Flex.
  • Restart the computer and access the BIOS/UEFI settings. The method for accessing these settings varies depending on your computer’s manufacturer (common keys include F2, F10, F12, Esc).
  • Change the boot order to prioritize booting from the USB drive.
  • Save the changes and exit the BIOS/UEFI settings.

7. Install ChromeOS Flex:

  • Follow the on-screen instructions to install ChromeOS Flex on your computer. This process will vary depending on the device and the specific installation method provided by ChromeOS Flex.

Once the installation is complete, remove the USB drive and restart your computer. You should now have ChromeOS Flex installed and ready to use on your device.

Benefits of installing ChromeOS Flex

Installing ChromeOS Flex on your old laptop or MacBook can offer several benefits, making it an attractive option for repurposing aging hardware. Here are some of the key benefits:

1. Extended Device Lifespan:

  • ChromeOS Flex can breathe new life into older laptops or MacBooks that may be struggling to run modern operating systems efficiently. By converting them to ChromeOS Flex, you can continue to use these devices for everyday tasks like web browsing, email, and document editing.

2. Lightweight and Fast Performance:

  • ChromeOS Flex is designed to be lightweight and optimized for speed, even on older hardware. It boots quickly, runs smoothly, and provides a responsive user experience, making it ideal for basic computing tasks.

3. Enhanced Security:

  • ChromeOS Flex benefits from the robust security features of ChromeOS, including automatic updates, sandboxing technology, and verified boot. This helps protect your device against malware, viruses, and other security threats, keeping your data safe and secure.

4. Simple and User-Friendly Interface:

  • ChromeOS Flex features a simple and intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate, even for users with limited technical expertise. Its streamlined design focuses on web-based applications and services, making it straightforward to use for everyday tasks.

5. Cloud Integration:

  • ChromeOS Flex is tightly integrated with Google’s cloud services, including Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Docs. This allows you to easily access and sync your files, emails, and documents across devices, enhancing productivity and collaboration.

6. Automatic Updates:

  • Like ChromeOS, ChromeOS Flex receives regular automatic updates from Google, ensuring that your device stays up to date with the latest features, security patches, and performance improvements without any manual intervention.

7. Reduced Maintenance:

  • With ChromeOS Flex, there’s minimal maintenance required compared to traditional operating systems like Windows or macOS. Automatic updates, cloud-based storage, and simplified management contribute to a hassle-free computing experience.

8. Cost-Effective Solution:

  • Installing ChromeOS Flex on your old laptop or MacBook is a cost-effective way to extend the usability of existing hardware without the need to purchase new devices. It allows you to repurpose older machines for continued use, potentially saving money on hardware upgrades.

9. Environmentally Friendly:

  • Repurposing old laptops or MacBooks with ChromeOS Flex reduces electronic waste and contributes to a more sustainable computing ecosystem. Instead of disposing of old devices, you can give them a new purpose and prolong their lifespan.

In summary, installing ChromeOS Flex on your old laptop or MacBook offers a range of benefits, including improved performance, enhanced security, simplified maintenance, and cost-effectiveness. It’s a great way to make the most of your existing hardware and enjoy a modern computing experience without breaking the bank.


In conclusion, installing ChromeOS Flex on your old laptop or MacBook can be a smart and practical decision for several reasons. By repurposing aging hardware with ChromeOS Flex, you can extend the lifespan of your devices, benefit from lightweight and fast performance, enhance security, simplify maintenance, and enjoy a user-friendly computing experience.

ChromeOS Flex offers a streamlined interface, seamless integration with Google’s cloud services, automatic updates, and cost-effectiveness, making it an attractive option for individuals, schools, and businesses looking to make the most of their existing hardware.

Furthermore, transitioning to ChromeOS Flex contributes to reducing electronic waste and promoting environmental sustainability by giving old devices a new purpose and prolonging their usability.

Overall, whether you’re seeking to revive an old laptop for personal use, deploy budget-friendly computing solutions in an educational setting, or streamline IT management in a business environment, ChromeOS Flex offers a compelling solution that combines performance, security, and simplicity. Consider installing ChromeOS Flex on your old laptop or MacBook to unlock its full potential and enjoy a modern computing experience without the need for costly hardware upgrades.

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