Google has just surprised us with Chrome OS Flex, an easy way to bring old laptops back to life by installing Chrome OS. Google officially qualifies it as an unstable version for developers, but you are free to try it on any laptop you have at home.
Best of all, you can try Chrome OS Flex from a USB flash drive, without having to create partitions or alter anything on your computer: if you disconnect the flash drive and restart, everything will return to normal. And, if you really like it, you can always install it “for real”, to access all the functions.
Officially, Google wants you to fill out this form to show your interest in Chrome OS Flex and receive the next steps on installation. You are free to do so if you wish, although it is totally optional. The only thing that form does is take you to this help page where the steps are shown, and nothing else. And you don’t actually need to visit that help page either.
Before continuing, Google reminds you that Chrome OS Flex and Chrome OS are not the same. The former lacks features like app virtualization, so forget about loading Android apps on your revitalized laptop. Also, as a very beta version, there are several things that might not work, including some PC ports. You have more information about the differences between Chrome OS and Chrome OS Flex on this Google help page.
What you’ll need to try out Chrome OS Flex is quite affordable, which makes it great for breathing new life into an old laptop lying around the house. These are the Official requirements to try Chrome OS Flex:
A Windows or Mac PC and Google Chrome, to create the installation USB
A USB flash drive with 8 GB capacity or more (its content will be deleted)
The target PC must have X86-64 architecture from Intel or AMD
The destination PC must have at least 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage
It should be able to boot from a USB (and you should be able to configure it to do so)
Processor and graphics, if possible, that is from after 2010
If you have everything ready, the next step is install an extension in Google Chrome, on the PC you will use to prepare the matter. You will therefore need to have Google Chrome and download and install the Chromebook Recovery Tool, available from the Chrome Web Store.
After installing it, tap on its icon in the Google Chrome bar and it will open as a separate window where you can start the process to create bootable USBwhich will boot Chrome OS Flex.
Create Chrome OS Flex Bootable USB
The Chromebook Recovery Tool is a tool designed to reinstall Chrome OS on Chromebooks with a problem, although here it doubles functions as a mode of create a bootable/installation USB of Chrome OS Flex. It is a fairly simple step-by-step wizard.
In the second step of the wizard you must choose the device and version of Chrome OS that you want to download and install on the USB stick. In device you must choose Google Chrome OS Flex and, in the version, there is only one option available, Chrome OS Flex (Developer-Unstable).
Press next and you will go to the next step, where you must choose the USB stick you are going to use. Connect the flash drive to your PC and choose it from the list. Remember that all its content will be deleted, so if it had something of value inside, put it before safe.
You already have everything ready. Press create now and the Chrome OS download process will begin. It doesn’t take up too much, but depending on the speed of your connection and the writing speed of your flash drive, it may take more or less.
In my case, it took me about 30 minutes including download steps and subsequent writing and verification. When it’s done, you’ll be shown a window telling you that everything is ready. The pendrive can now be used to boot the PC with it.
Boot your PC using the USB
You already have the most important work done, but you will have to make sure that your PC use pen drive as boot devicewhich isn’t difficult, but it does take a few extra steps with the latest versions of Windows.
Basically, you will have to restart your PC to get to the BIOS, something that does not happen when doing a normal restart with Windows 10 or 11. On Windows 11you need to go to the menu Settings > System > Recovery and press Restart now. In Windows 10, it’s in Settings > Update & security > Recovery and Restart now.
After the PC restarts, the boot troubleshooting wizard will be displayed. You must enter Solve problemsthen click on Advanced Options and finally, UEFI Firmware Settings. Tap Restart.
Your laptop will “for real” reboot, so you will have to be attentive to enter the BIOS or change the boot device. Each PC is different, but normally you have a few seconds to press a key like Del or F2 to enter the BIOS settings and modify the boot devices.
In other cases, you will be able to directly press a key to choose the boot devices without going through the BIOS, or it is possible that the PC is already configured to prioritize the USB over the hard drive. Check your PC documentation for information on how to change boot device so that it uses the USB memory that you have created previously.
Set up your Chrome OS Flex
If all went well, the system will start to boot, displaying a Google Chrome logo during the process. In a few minutes, you’ll see the Chrome OS Flex Setup Assistant, which guides you through the installation and setup process. The first thing to choose is language and keyboardwhere you can easily choose the Spanish language.
Next comes the most important question: how do you want to use it. You can choose between install CloudReady 2.0 on PC or try it first. If you choose Install Cloud Ready 2.0it will crush your laptop’s operating system and your data, though it should run smoother in return.
Taking into account that it is an unstable version, the most sensible thing is try it first, which boots the operating system from the USB stick. Your settings persist between reboots, and as soon as you remove the USB stick, your PC will be back to how it was before.
The following steps allow you to configure some sections of the system, going through the Wi-Fi connection setupsign in to your Google account, or set up data sync and Google Assistant.
Chrome OS Flex setup is pretty quick, and probably have it ready in less than 5 minutes. Then you can start testing it on your PC, including the applications that you have associated with the Google account with which you have logged in.
To enjoy, without commitment
After finishing the installation wizard, you can start using Chrome OS Flex, which is something like a stripped-down version of Chrome OS. You will not have inventions like Google Play or Android applicationsbut Google applications such as Google Chrome, Gmail, Calendar, Drive and company, in addition to other web applications.
Taking into account that Google advises that it only guarantees that it works more or less on certified devices, Chrome OS Flex works reasonably well within its limitations. If you only use your PC for browsing the internet and little else, you might be better off than an old laptop that can barely boot the browser under Windows 10.
However, it is necessary to remember that it is an unstable version. In my case I have not had closures or blockages, but I did have some problems when connecting to the home Wi-Fi network (it only connected correctly to the access point created with the mobile).
In any case, as an experiment Chrome OS Flex is fine, especially considering that you can try it without commitment. The entire process can take less than an hour and is not complicated despite having several steps. Of course, it is much easier than the previous way.