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Give your previous laptop computer a brand new lease of life with Chrome OS Flex

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Google Chrome OS Flex running on an Acer Aspire V5

(Picture credit score: Google)

We have all obtained them, I am certain, previous laptops which have seen higher days. Machines that had been as soon as very important companions to our gaming and work however are actually left to assemble mud underneath a settee or in a drawer someplace. Programs that when upon a time may fortunately run Home windows however now wrestle to remain up-to-date with the bloat of Microsoft’s working system. There is a good likelihood they can not even replace to Home windows 11 (opens in new tab), and Home windows 10 is pushing their ageing onerous drives a bit too onerous for consolation too. 

You have all the time had the choice of working Linux on such machines, and as time has handed the free OS distros have positively made the entire set up course of a a lot simpler expertise. The likes of Ubuntu (opens in new tab), Zorin OS (opens in new tab), Arch (opens in new tab) et al. make for the same sufficient atmosphere for anybody coming from Home windows to not be too freaked by the entire expertise. 

The actual fact that Valve’s Steam Deck (opens in new tab) runs on Linux and someway is not a dumpster fireplace exhibits what Linux is able to and likewise proves that loads of us are keen to step exterior of our working system secure zones. 

Properly, that is good, as a result of another choice has popped up not too long ago, Google’s Chrome OS. Particularly, Chrome OS Flex (opens in new tab) is a model of Chrome OS that has been examined on a good quantity of {hardware} already and was launched final week. That is Google’s proprietary code, by the best way, to not be confused with the open-source challenge, Chromium OS (opens in new tab). What you lose by way of open-source goodness, you doubtlessly make up for in ease of use.

Google has licensed near 400 units with Chrome OS Flex, together with laptops from the likes of Acer, Asus, and even Apple. The minimal necessities are very lenient, albeit with one vital proviso on the GPU entrance:

  • Structure: Intel or AMD x86-64-bit suitable system
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Inside storage: 16GB
  • Bootable from USB drive
  • BIOS: Full administrator entry. You’ll must boot from the Chrome OS Flex USB installer and make some changes within the BIOS when you run into points.
  • Processor and graphics: Elements made earlier than 2010 would possibly lead to a poor expertise. Be aware: Intel GMA 500, 600, 3600, and 3650 graphics {hardware} don’t meet Chrome OS Flex efficiency requirements.

I’ve tried Chrome OS Flex on a few previous laptops, with combined outcomes. The HP Pavilion 15 I attempted it on clearly wasn’t glad concerning the graphics drivers and produced a corrupt show on boot. 100% unusable. The marginally newer Acer Aspire V5 labored flawlessly. 

Be aware that not every little thing is assured to work: issues like webcams, fingerprint readers, and even perform keys could also be difficult. Undoubtedly strive it out first. 

The excellent news is you’ll be able to strive Chrome OS Flex with out truly putting in it.

The excellent news is you’ll be able to strive Chrome OS Flex with out truly putting in it. At boot time you get the choice to both set up it or run it straight from the USB drive. Go for the latter to strive it out. It is a great way of constructing certain that it truly works in your {hardware}. Plus you get to see if Chrome OS is for you. There isn’t any level changing Home windows when you uncover turning an previous laptop computer right into a Chromebook will not be one thing you really need or need in your life. 

The precise set up is somewhat odd, in that you simply create the boot picture by means of a Chrome browser extension, not from a standalone app. As a result of Google, clearly. Nonetheless, it really works, and it is all the time readily available do you have to ever must create a boot USB in an emergency—yeah, I am not satisfied both.

Head to the Chrome internet retailer in Chrome and seek for Chromebook Restoration Utility (opens in new tab) after which add the extension. Now click on the extension’s icon in Chrome (it appears to be like like a jigsaw puzzle piece), and choose Chromebook Restoration Utility from the drop-down record. Click on Get Began, and on the subsequent display screen elect to Choose a mannequin from an inventory. Click on the Choose a producer field on the prime and choose Google Chrome OS Flex from the record. 

You will want an 8GB USB stick to carry the picture, so when you’re certain there’s nothing on there that you will want, you’ll be able to pop that drive into your machine and hit the Proceed button. As soon as the picture has been written to the drive, you’ll be able to eject it and boot your laptop computer with the USB stick in place. 

You’ll most likely must get into your laptop computer’s BIOS and permit it besides from the USB stick, as many have this turned off by default. The way you try this relies on your machine: for some, it is F1, F2, or Del. For others it might be totally different. Do a search utilizing your search engine of selection. As soon as in your BIOS, merely set the boot choice to scan for USB drives first. Save the modifications and reboot with the USB stick in a port and you will be requested whether or not you wish to set up Chrome OS Flex or simply boot into it.

Google Chrome OS Flex running on an Acer Aspire V5

(Picture credit score: Google)

Google Chrome OS is a stripped-back working system that depends on an web connection to get just about something completed. You are in internet apps nation now. Critical work is dealt with by Google Docs, Google Sheets, and so forth. with sufficient apps accessible from the Chrome internet retailer to cowl most bases. There are a number of video games on there too, though Linux+Wine or sticking with Home windows is a greater choice if that is what you are actually on the lookout for.

The light-weight nature of Chrome OS makes for an honest little looking machine that you could rapidly seize to seek for one thing whereas chilling on the couch. Clearly what you employ it for relies on how massive the machine you are putting in it on is—a skinny and lightweight system goes to be a greater associate for Chrome OS than a cumbersome gaming machine, however work with no matter you have obtained.

You could possibly do all this after which move this machine onto somebody that might truly get some use out of it. A pupil possibly. Or a kiddy that may’t stand up to a lot mischief with it. Higher than returning it to some dusty nook within the attic, or including it to a landfill. 

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since earlier than 3D graphics playing cards existed, and nonetheless vividly recollects having to combat with MS-DOS simply to get video games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the primary time. He is very glad {hardware} has superior as a lot because it has although, and is especially glad when placing the newest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops via their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession however limits this to MTG Area nowadays.

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