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Google announces Chrome OS Flex: Easily turn your PC or Mac into a Chromebook

You can try out Chrome OS Flex with just a USB stick, or replace your current operating system.
By
February 15, 2022
Acer Chromebook Spin 713 presentation mode
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Google has announced Chrome OS Flex, which is an easy way to turn your existing computer into a Chrome OS machine.
  • You can boot the OS from a USB stick or replace your machine’s current operating system.
  • Google is pushing this as a green way to reutilize older machines. It enters early access today.

A lot of us have an old laptop collecting dust in a closet somewhere. It probably boots really slowly, has outdated software, or just plain doesn’t work. If only there were a way to repurpose that machine into something useful instead of taking it to a landfill!

Enter Chrome OS Flex, a new software system from Google. You can use it to install Chrome OS on Windows- or Mac-based machines. It essentially turns your laptop, PC, or Mac into a Chromebook or Chromebox for free.

See also: The best Chromebooks you can buy

Google is pushing Flex as a cheap way for business and education IT administrators to deploy large fleets of Chromebooks for very little cash. However, the system is free and open to the public as well, which could allow individual users to repurpose old machines or simply see what Chrome OS is all about.

Chrome OS Flex is based on the same core code as the Chrome OS that comes pre-installed on Chromebooks. That means you get access to the full operating system, Google Assistant integration, monthly updates, Google Play Store support, etc.

Flex is entering early access today. If you want to give it a try, you can head here. If you want to know more about it, read on.

Chrome OS Flex: Give it a try or fully commit

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook standing tent style
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Google understands that swapping out your current computer’s operating system might be a big ask. Thankfully, you can give Flex a shot with just a USB stick.

Using a provided software suite, you can create a bootable disk with a thumb drive you already own. By following instructions provided by Google, you can use your current computer to boot from that drive and give Chrome OS Flex a test run. If you don’t like it, you can just take out the thumb drive, format it, and move on.

If you do like it, you can graduate from the USB stick to fully installing Flex on your system. Google gives you software tools to do that on both Windows- and Mac-based systems. This could breathe new life into an old computer, even if it’s up to 13 years old!

Chrome OS Flex is the natural progression of CloudReady, which functioned in much the same way as Flex. Google acquired Neverware — the company that developed CloudReady — in 2020, and now Flex is the Google-sanctioned version of that product.

If you’re already using CloudReady, Google will automatically update you to Chrome OS Flex once the software exits the early access stage. Google didn’t give a time commitment for this outside of its usual “in the coming months.”