Do you have an ageing PC or Mac that you want to give a new lease of life to? Or perhaps you bought a cheap laptop and regret not going the Chromebook route? Either way, Google has an answer for you in the form of Chrome OS Flex: a way of removing macOS or Windows from your life and up/down/sidegrading to Chrome OS.
“Chromebooks don’t slow down over time, stay up to date, provide proactive protection, and are easy to manage,” writes Thomas Riedl, director of product, enterprise and education at Google, in a blog post introducing the spin off operating system.
“Chrome OS Flex modernises devices you already own, allowing you to experience the benefits of Chrome OS on PCs and Macs,” he continues, highlighting speedy boot times, proactive security and the lightweight nature of the OS as reasons to give it a spin. “Rather than disposing of ageing PCs and Macs, refresh them with a modern and fast operating system to reduce e-waste,” the post urges.
Google is clear that this is an “early version” rather than the full product and warns you that you may “experience some instability” if you fill in the form on the website to get a version to install. The good news is that you can boot it from a USB stick to try it first before you install it properly and remove all traces of macOS or Windows from your system.
Even an OS as lightweight as this has some system requirements in place, however, so your old Toshiba T200SX will just have to revert to very slowly mining Bitcoin at a massive loss.
You’ll need at least 4GB RAM, 16GB of storage and for the device to be bootable from a USB drive. You also need a 64-bit CPU, but that doesn’t rule out much from this century — though Google does add that “components made before 2010 might result in poor performance” and emphasises that Intel GMA 500, 600, 3600 and 3650 graphics hardware doesn’t meet the minimum performance standards.
There’s also a full certified model list to crosscheck, though be warned that the majority warn of “minor issues expected”. Still, if you have an old laptop that can barely boot Windows without letting out ominous wheezing sounds, then it may be worth seeing if Chrome OS is for you. What’s the worst that can happen?