If you havenât used a Chromebook in a while, theyâve come a long way. But you donât need to shell out cash for a new laptop just to run Chrome OS. You can install it on nearly any laptop with an application called CloudReady.
Googleâs version of Chrome OS isnât available for users to install, but its open source base, Chromium OS, isâand CloudReady, from developer Neverware, makes it dead simple to install it on your laptop. No need to fiddle with drivers or find compatible hardwareâjust click to install.
First: A Few Disclaimers
CloudReady will walk you through the process of installing Chromium OS and handles most of the technical stuff behind the scenes. This makes it as easy as installing any other operating systems. However, there are still a few disclaimers you should keep in mind:
- This wonât work on all computers. While CloudReady should work on most Windows and Mac laptops and desktops made since 2007, itâs impossible to guarantee it will work on everything. You can check out a list of tested hardware, as well as basic system requirements here. Chromium OS is generally designed to run on light hardware, so even if you have an old machine with dull specs, this may breathe new life into older hardware.
- This will wipe your system. At the moment, there is no way to dual-boot CloudReadyâs Chromium OS with another operating system, like Windows. Make sure youâre installing this on a device that you can fully erase. Donât install this on your primary machine. Be sure to back up any data you want to keep before continuing.
- This isnât perfect Chrome OS. While Chromium OS is mostly identical to Chrome OS, there are still a couple key differences. Most importantly, you wonât get regular, automatic updates or any official support. It also doesnât come with Flash built in, but CloudReady will give you instructions on how to install it manually the first time you boot.
As long as you can handle all that, you should be good. At the very least, this should give you a decent sense of whether or not you can live and work with a computer running Chrome OS.
What Youâll Need
Once youâve found a laptop that youâre willing to experiment on, youâll need to gather a few things. Hereâs what youâll need:
- An 8GB or 16GB USB stick: Yes, only those two. According to CloudReady, any size larger or smaller than this could cause problems. The company doesnât say exactly why any other sized may cause problems, but if youâre going to use something else, do so at your own risk.
- The CloudReady .bin file: Youâll (quite obviously) need to download CloudReady before you begin. You can find the free application here. Click âDownload CloudReadyâ at the top of the screen and save it to your computer.
- Chromebook Recovery Utility: This tool allows you to create a USB install stick using the CloudReady software. You can find it here and install it on any computer.
Ideally, you should download the CloudReady software and Chromebook Recovery Utility to a second computer, so you have something to work with in case the installation goes awry. However, you can technically download everything directly to the computer you want to install Chromium OS on and overwrite it when you reach the installation step. Youâll just lose the operating system you had in the process.
How to Install CloudReady
Once you have everything you need and youâve downloaded all the necessary software, youâre ready to get started. First, youâll need to create a CloudReady USB installation stick. This is a non-destructive process, so you can do this on any computer that can run Chrome. It will wipe your USB stick, though, so make sure there isnât anything on there that you need.
To create the USB installation stick, follow these steps:
- Launch the Chromebook Recovery Utility.
- Click the Settings gear icon in the top-right corner of the app once it opens.
- Select âUse local image.â
- Choose the CloudReady .bin file you downloaded from Neverware.
- Insert the USB stick into your computer.
- Select your USB stick on the left side of the Chrome Recovery Utility app screen.
- Click âContinueâ and âCreate Nowâ to create your USB installation stick.
Once this process has finished, youâll have a USB stick you can use to install Chromium OS on as many devices as you need. You use this to boot into the CloudReady installer, but you can also use it to try out Chromium OS before you install. If you want to just take a peek without erasing your whole computer, follow these steps:
- Make sure USB booting is enabled in your computerâs BIOS. If youâre not sure, check with your hardware manufacturer. You can also check out our guide on USB booting here.
- Insert the CloudReady installation USB stick.
- If presented with a boot menu, choose the USB stick connected to your computer. Some computers may require you to press a special boot key like F12.
At this point, you can play around with Chromium OS if you so desire. If you decide you want to install, you can do so from the same interface. Remember, installing CloudReady will wipe your computer. Donât begin this part of the process until youâve backed up everything on the machine and youâre sure you wonât need this computer in its current state again.
To install CloudReady, follow these steps:
- Click the clock in the bottom-right corner of the CloudReady live interface.
- In the menu that appears, click âInstall CloudReadyâ.
- The window that appears will ask if youâre sure you want to install. This will erase your hard drive. If youâre sure, click âErase Hard Drive & Install CloudReady.â
- CloudReady will ask you one last time if youâre super sure. Seriously, guys. Donât do this unless youâre ready to have your hard drive wiped. If you are, click âErase & Install.â
- Wait for the installation process to finish.
Once the installation process has completed, you can set up your device like a normal Chromebook. Since this is a CloudReady variant of Chromium OS, you may get some prompts guiding you through how to manually install things like Adobe Flash, but other than that, you should be left with a standard Chromium OS computer. Now that your Chromebook is ready to go, be sure to check out all the cool stuff you can do with it:
- The Best Chrome Apps Youâre (Probably) Not Using
- How to Run Android Apps Inside Chrome on Any Desktop Operating System
- Automatically Unlock Your Chromebook with Your Android Phone
- Perform Calculations, Conversions Right In The Chromebook App Launcher
- âSystemâ Tells You Everything You Need to Know About Your Chromebook