Eager to try out Chrome OS, but not ready to ditch Windows entirely? Thanks to the latest software package from Neverware, you can have both. By installing the company's CloudReady software, you can turn your Windows laptop into a Chromebook, and it's also possible to set up a dual-boot system using both operating systems.
First, a bit of housekeeping. This technically isn't Chrome OS (which is fully owned and operated by Google). Instead, this is the source base version Chromium OS. It's supported by the open source community and it doesn't have one or two of the features in Chrome OS (like integrated Flash and support for automatic updates). Other than that, there isn't much of a difference.
You're also going to need a UEFI-compatible Windows 7, 8, or 10 installation on your machine. Go here if you need help checking determining whether your PC is compatible. UEFI, or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, is a more modern version of the traditional BIOS, handling the most basic functions of your computer before an OS is loaded into memory.
It's also necessary to disable Fast Startup, encryption, and hibernation by navigating to Power Options in Control Panel. We'd also recommend backing up all of your important data before getting started, because even with a dual-boot setup, you never know... All set? Great! Here's what to do next.
Creating The Installer
You can use CloudReady free of charge "for individual and experimental use," so go ahead and download it from the Neverware site. You then need to get hold of the Chromebook Recovery Utility made by Google, which is available on the Chrome Web Store. This is the tool we're going to use to create a bootable CloudReady USB stick.
The USB stick you're using needs to have either 8GB or 16GB of storage space. Run the Chromebook Recovery Utility, click the gear icon, then choose Use local image from the menu. Point the program to the zip file you just downloaded, then insert a USB stick (please note: everything on this drive is going to be erased). If you're on a Mac, use The Unarchiver to turn the .zip file into a .bin file before selecting it.
Pick the USB drive you just inserted then click Continue and the setup starts. The process takes about 20 minutes or so to complete, and don't worry if you see some strange percentages or progress figures along the way — just sit back and let the installer do its job.
Once the USB stick has been set up, boot from it. Your system might already be configured to do this once you restart, but if not then tapping F12 as the boot up process launches is usually the way of getting a list of boot options up on screen. If you're stuck, check the instructions that came with your laptop or desktop.
The CloudReady installation wizard is pretty straightforward to navigate. Click the system tray icon to the bottom right (ignore the dialog in the center of the screen) then choose Install CloudReady — of course here we want to choose the dual-boot option, otherwise the entire Windows partition will be deleted.
Installation should take about 15-30 minutes, after which you can simply boot up as normal and choose either Chromium OS or Windows from the boot selection screen. For those times when you don't want the bloat and don't need the desktop applications of Microsoft's OS, it's a handy alternative to have.
If you need more help or run into trouble, check out Neverware's detailed installation instructions.