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Chrome OS Flex Turn Old Computers into Chromebooks and Chromeboxes! How to Install It


hey everybody it’s la inside and we’re taking a look today at chrome os flex this is software from google that you can download onto a usb stick and what it lets you do is convert old computers like this macbook into chromebooks and apparently you can run it completely from the usb or install it onto the computer so it boots up to this special version of chrome os whenever you want and i was really eager to check it out because i found this old mac in my basement the other day this was left over from a failed startup that i did a number of years ago i haven’t touched it in nine years and when i booted it up it was right where i left it it must have put itself to sleep and dumped the contents onto the disk and my web browser was tuned to google plus this thing is a real time capsule and we’re going to see if chrome os flex can be installed on this old mac now i do want to let you know in the interest of full disclosure that no one is paying for this review all the opinions you’re about to hear are my own and no one has reviewed or approved what you’re about to see before it was uploaded so let’s get to work now and see how this new chrome os flex works so let’s take a look at the system requirements that you need to run chrome os flex it is requiring an intel or amd processor at this point no arm-based devices and it has to be 64-bit compatible they’re recommending four gigabytes of ram at the moment this machine only has two gigabytes but i’ve read two gig machines do work as well and if i run into trouble maybe we’ll install some ram and see how it does with a little bit more memory on board but i think we’re going to be okay there it needs a minimum of 16 gigabytes so you could remove an old spinning hard drive and replace it with a compact flash drive or a cheap ssd if you want so the storage requirements are not heavy here because it is chrome os and it largely lives in the cloud you also need to make sure that your computer allows the machine to boot from a usb drive this mac does most windows computers do at least ones that were made in the last 15 years or so so you should be good there the one warning they have is that components in computers made before 2010 may have a poor experience so i think 2010 is probably the cut off for machines that are compatible now google does maintain a list of certified computers

for chrome os flex what they’ve been doing is getting old pcs into their labs and testing them and if it’s on the certified list there is some degree of certainty that this will run and if it’s not on the list you should try it and see if it runs because it looks like there is a lot of compatibility across all of these major brands here and it could just be that they haven’t gotten to the computer that you have yet to test so my advice would be download it and see what happens now in order to get this to work you do need a usb drive when you install the chromo s flex software it will erase the usb drive so copy everything important off of it before you start the process here you also need a relatively up-to-date computer running the chrome web browser the latest version of the chrome web browser because you have to install a chrome web browser extension to download the chrome os flex software and write it to the usb all right so we’re going to follow the steps on the google chrome website here step one is to install the chromebook recovery utility and to do that we’re going to follow this link to the chrome web store and that’s going to take us over to the extension that i talked about and we’re going to click on add to chrome and we’ll click on add extension and as you can see here just put this up in the upper right hand portion of my web browser if for some reason you don’t see it as you can

see it just disappeared you’ll click on this extension icon here and pin it so it will be visible and when we’re done with this process we don’t need it anymore so we can turn it off or uninstall it but for now we’re going to need to have that there now what they said you need to do next is make sure the extension is turned on which we just verified and then we’re going to click on that extension and begin the process of building out this installation now what i need to do is plug my usb drive into my computer which i’m going to do right now my advice whenever you do something like this is to unplug any other usb drive you have connected to your computer that includes backup drives hard drives whatever you’ve got that’s plugged in with a usb port unplug it to be safe so you don’t accidentally erase the wrong drive i have done that before and what i’m going to do now is plug this into my computer and we’ll pick it up from the first step of the installation process here all right so we’re going to click on the get started link down here in the lower right hand corner and next it’s going to ask me to identify my chromebook now this utility is used for restoring chromebooks that you might buy in the store but chrome os flex is also listed here and that’s what we’re going to use for this project so i’m going to select google chrome os flex and i think we just have to yep just select that unstable version right now it is unstable at the time i’m recording this

video but google is quickly working on making this stable so when you see this maybe a year or two from when i recorded this you’ll want to select the stable version just to be safe and now that we’re good with that i’m going to click on continue here now this is where you really want to be really careful because if you select the wrong drive bad things will happen but this drive that i have inserted right now is the one that i know i can safely erase here and it’s giving me the warning to make sure that i know that it’s the correct media and i am confident in that so i’m going to click on continue here and now it is going to erase my drive and create a install disk that we can plug into my mac here in a second so we’re going to let this finish writing and we’ll pick it up when it’s done all right it says our media is ready here so i’m going to click on done now this might take a few minutes because it is a pretty big file that it’s downloading and writing out to that usb drive so if it’s taken a while just let it do its thing until you see that check mark but now that we have the installation media written we’re going to try now to boot it up on this mac so i’m going to take out this usb drive and we’ll see what happens next all right so we’ve got the usb stick here with the chrome os flex software written to it and i’m going to just plug it into one of the usb ports on this old mac this is back when apple used to put a lot of ports on their computers we are going to get an error message on the mac side because it doesn’t know what to do with it we’re just going to ignore that and what i’m going to do here is hit restart and every computer will do things a little differently on the apple platform you’re

going to need to hold down the option key to force it to boot off of the usb but windows based computers have different key presses that you need to do to get to a boot menu and you will see links to that on the google instructions for the particular brand that you have so it’ll be a little trickier on the window side but here on the mac you just hold down the option key and you can see here that i have an option for efi boot which is going to point at this usb stick so i’m going to click on that and we’ll hit the button and we’ll see what happens here once that gets going so this will take a while especially on an older computer the usb speeds are not always that great but it is doing something so i’m going to let this thing boot and see what we end up with here but we are making some progress we’ve got the chrome logo up on screen and once this is getting to a point where we’ve got something to do we’ll pick it back up and see what’s next all right so we are now booted up and you’ll see here that we’ve got a screen for cloud ready 2.0 now cloud ready was a company that google acquired that was installing the open source version of chrome os onto old computers but google bought them and now cloud ready is going to become chrome os flex so that’s why it says that right here and there’s a good chance if you’re watching this in the future that you will have it say chrome os flex on this front screen i’m going to click on get started here and you have an option and this is what’s really neat is that you can install this and wipe out the

original operating system or you can just run it off of the usb drive and see if it works so you don’t have to commit to erasing your computer first to get going and that’s what i’m going to do here i’m going to select try it first just to see how this works before we wipe out my hard drive it looks like my wi-fi is working so i’m going to connect it up to my wi-fi access point and we’ll see what happens next all right so we’ve got it on the wi-fi all is good so far here i’m going to accept the terms of service i’m going to have it connect to my account and this is really reminding me a lot of the standard install process for a regular chromebook so the next thing we have to do because this is chrome os is log into a google account and i’m going to do that right now and we’ll pick it up from there okay just like on a regular chromebook it’s asking me if it wants to sync from my other chrome os devices i’m going to do that just so all my things are where i left them i’ll click to accept here and continue and one thing you get now with chrome os flex that you did not have with the cloud ready product is that the google assistant works on here so if you have it connected to your google account you can do all of your home controls like thermostats and light bulbs and all the other things that you can do with the google assistant so this is going to load up here real quick and we’ll go on from there all right so we are up and running here with chrome os and i’m going to load up the web browser real quick and go over to my youtube channel and we’ll see what happens when we do that i’m not expecting blockbuster performance out of this computer this is an

old core 2 duo based machine but as you can see here it does look like it is able to render this page just fine let’s take a look at a recent video that i did here and see if we have audio we’ve got audio and yeah looks like it’s working so that’s pretty cool uh let’s take a look at the google assistant now hey what’s the weather in new york city today today in new york city and there you go you can see there’s some glitches here right so this is the kind of thing that you might encounter some things that just don’t look right because it’s kind of a general operating system and not hardware specific but looks like a lot of it is working now one thing that you will not find on chrome os flex are android apps at the time i’m recording this video so if you go out and buy a chromebook today you will get the google play store and have the ability to install a lot of apps from the android side of the world you won’t have that here additionally this will not support vmware and their windows virtual machines that some people run on chromebooks but there are many cases where the linux development environment works and it looks like this one has that so i’m going to install this real quick and make sure that it does in fact work but it looks like at least on this configuration with this macbook we do have the option to install linux software i’m going to let this thing run its course and we’ll see if it works when it’s done so it looks like the linux installation at the moment is not working but i think it might have something to do with the fact that we’re still running off of the usb and not the computer’s internal hard drive so this is a good opportunity right now to reboot and see what happens when we actually install chrome os flex onto the hard drive so let me do that and we’ll pick it up on the first step of the installation process all right so we

just rebooted i held down the option key as before and the reason why i had to do that is because we have not yet installed chrome os on the hard drive but the next step here that we’re going to take will do that and we’re going to be replacing the mac operating system with chrome os and i’m going to select that efi boot here like we did before now what’s going to happen is that it’s going to bring us back to chrome os when we do this except it’s going to look a little different the reason is is that the version of chrome that we are running now on the usb stick is essentially connected to the google account that we set up with it earlier it’s kind of like a portable version of chrome if you will and we will have the option here on the boot up screen when it comes up here to install it which is what we’re going to do right now so it’s going to be right here at least at the time i’m recording this video and now it’s going to take us through the hard drive installation so we’re going to let this thing chew on that for a second and because we’re now ready to install it i’m going to click install now had we chosen this option at the outset this would be the same process but again i wanted to try it first to make sure it would work on this computer before i wiped out the native operating system and now you can see here it’s prompting me because it’s going to erase my entire hard drive so just like the usb stick now the internal hard drive is going to get erased and i am ready to go here so i’m going to click on install and it looks like it’s just going to do it for us

here so we’re going to let this kind of run i’m sure this is going to take a while and when this is done or if something pops up that we need to look at we’ll take a pause and see what we have to do to get uh through the installation process here so stand by we’ll see what happens here in a few minutes all right it is done here now it took about about five minutes or so and it’s going to shut down in 40 seconds it wants me to take the usb stick out which i’m going to do and what should happen here now after it reboots is this will now become a chromebook it will no longer boot the mac operating system so i’m just going to speed up the process here by shutting down and we’ll turn it back on here once it is finished with its shutdown process and it should now not require me to hold down the option key it should just boot up so let me wait for this thing to cycle itself and we’ll see what happens on a first boot all right unfortunately it looks

like we are kind of stuck in a boot loop here i’ve got the logo up it’s been up for a while i did try to do a reinstallation to see if maybe we had something go wrong on it and this thing is just sitting here so i think for this old macbook the best solution is likely going to be running it from the usb stick and not from the internal hard drive this machine again was not on the certified list of computers and this could very well be some issue that this particular model of mac has with the chrome os flex so i’m going to let this thing kind of sit here for a while but while it is sitting i’m going to grab a windows laptop that’s a little bit more current and see if we can get it to turn into a chromebook let’s put this aside and get the windows computer on desk all right so we’ve got this jumper easy book here operating now with chrome os flex i installed it on here like we were doing on the mac earlier and unlike the mac this thing booted right up into chrome os after that installation was complete this is running with a celeron n3350

processor this is an apollo lake chip it is a fanless low powered processor and it is a little faster than the core 2 duo in that mac and it looks like we’ve successfully converted this thing from a windows computer into a chromebook this is what it boots up to now and if i go to my youtube channel here and browse the web everything seems to be working just fine the browser feels a little more sluggish on chrome os flex versus windows and it’s probably due to a lack of optimization this laptop also by the way is not on the certified list but it is working better than the mac did here but all in it seems to work audio’s working browsing is working just fine another thing i was able to do here is get linux apps to install so we were able to get the linux virtual machine running and i can load up different linux applications like libreoffice here and have those working alongside of my chrome browser but again you won’t get the android apps working on chrome os flex just yet one other thing to note is that my mac does still boot off of the usb drive just not its internal hard drive and another thing that i discovered here is that if you do run it off the usb in trial mode as long as you keep that usb stick with the same computer you won’t have to re-install chrome os flex each time it’ll take you right to the login screen but if you take the usb stick out and put it in a different computer you do have to go through that process of setting up chrome os flex from the beginning again so it’s not a portable chrome os installation at least so far in my testing

every time you move it to a different computer it starts from scratch all right so that is going to do it for this look at chrome os flex it is definitely still in a bit of a beta mode here but this is going to be the direction that google is going to take for running chrome os on things that are not designated as chromebooks this will be replacing cloud ready and what’s nice about it is that you can try it on a usb stick to see if it works and just about anything with an intel or amd processor will work to some degree or another so if you’ve got mini pcs kicking around or some old computer just kind of sitting in a closet download it give it a shot see what happens in the usb mode you can just try it and make it a non-destructive kind of event it’s a fun little project maybe for a weekend to see if you can squeeze a little bit more life out of a pc that you haven’t really touched in a long time we’ll come back to this as things mature you saw how it was kind of a hit or miss sort of thing with the computers that i had here to work with but maybe you’ll have better luck let me know what you thought down in the comments below and until next time this is london thanks for watching this channel is brought to you by the lawn dot tv supporters including gold level supporters jim tannis and tom albrecht hot sauce and video games and eric’s variety channel brian parker and frank goldman amda brown and matt zagaya and chris allegretta if you want to help the channel you can by contributing as little as a dollar a month head over to lawn dot tv support to learn more and don’t forget to subscribe visit lawn dot tv s

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