Table of Contents
- Chrome OS Flex is an operating system that can help revive old PCs and MacBooks.
- If your PC or MacBook doesn’t run well anymore, you can erase the OS and replace it with Chrome OS Flex.
- All you need to install Chrome OS Flex is a USB drive and a compatible device.
- Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.
No computer lasts forever. No matter how well you take care of it, eventually that fancy laptop you bought six years ago will slow down — in some cases, to the point that it becomes totally unusable.
But you can do more with an old laptop than just throw it away. If you have a spare USB drive laying around, you can use Google’s new Chrome OS Flex software to help revive it. Flex is totally free, and can help squeeze even a few more years out of that fancy laptop.
Here’s a rundown on what Chrome OS Flex is, how it works, and how to install it.
What is Chrome OS Flex?
While almost everyone knows what Macs and PCs are, you might not be familiar with Chromebooks. Chromebooks are special laptops that are designed to use Google apps and not much else. They’re incredibly popular in schools because of the focus that Chrome OS — the operating system that Chromebooks use — puts on productivity apps like
Chrome OS Flex is a version of Chrome OS that’s designed to be installed onto PCs and Macs. It erases the original operating system and turns the computer into a makeshift Chromebook. But Chrome OS Flex also cuts down on what little fluff the standard version has, making it a streamlined OS that’s perfect to use on older systems.
Flex’s light load means that you don’t need powerful hardware to run it. And since it doesn’t take a lot of processing power or energy, it won’t put much strain on your system. These two facts are what let Chrome OS Flex run on such old computers, extending their lifespans for up to years.
The risks of installing Chrome OS Flex
Google maintains a “Certified models” list, where they track which computers Flex is guaranteed to work on. If you check it, you’ll notice that very few computers actually meet that standard.
Chrome OS Flex is currently in the “early access” phase, meaning that Google is still building it. As time goes on, Flex will work on more and more computers. But right now, expect some minor glitches and bugs when installing it. And if your computer doesn’t show up on that list, you might not be able to install Flex at all.
Additionally, when you install Chrome OS Flex, it’ll erase your computer’s operating system and all the files on it. This means that if you’ve been having software issues, Flex will refresh your system and bring it back up to speed. But it also means that if you have any important files saved onto the system, you should transfer them off before installing Flex.
The USB drive that you use to install Flex will have all of its files erased too.
Once you’re ready, here’s how to set up Chrome OS Flex.
How to install Chrome OS Flex
To install Chrome OS Flex, you’ll need two things:
If you have both, you can start getting Chrome OS Flex ready.
2. Once you’ve added the extension, open it and click Get started.
3. When you’re asked to Identify your Chromebook, click Select a model from a list. Use the first drop-down menu to select Google Chrome OS Flex, and the second to pick Chrome OS Flex (Developer-Unstable).
4. Insert your USB drive into the computer and select it on the next page. Remember that this process will format the drive and erase everything on it.
5. Keep clicking Continue to make a recovery image on the USB drive. This step will take a few minutes, but when it’s done, your USB drive will become an installer key that you can use to install Chrome OS Flex.
6. Once you reach the Success page, remove your USB drive.
Now it’s time to install Flex. Go grab the computer that you want to install it on and plug in your USB drive.
7. Turn on your computer while holding down the boot key to put it into boot mode. The key that acts as your computer’s boot key will change depending on what brand you’re using — here are the boot keys for the most popular computer brands.
If you can’t find your computer’s boot key, check the manual or contact the manufacturer.
8. Your computer should start up and show you either a screen asking how you want to boot the computer, or the BIOS/UEFI menu. Either way, find the option that lets you boot from the USB key and run it.
9. If you did it correctly, the Chrome OS logo will appear on your computer screen. When the Welcome to CloudReady 2.0 screen appears, click Get started.
10. When you’re asked whether you want to install or try Chrome OS, pick Install.
11. Wait for Flex to install — it can take a while — and then set up the device with your Google account.
That’s all there is to it. Your computer should boot into Chrome OS’ home screen, where you’ll be able to start using apps like Google Drive and YouTube right away.
If you encounter any issues when going through these steps, try again from the start. If it still doesn’t work, it might mean that Flex doesn’t support your computer yet.