Google’s Chrome OS Flex has officially arrived to rejuvenate old PCs and Macs, by turning them into Chromebooks. Eventually, your Mac or PC will struggle to run after being bogged down with software or crippled from wear and tear following extensive use. It could take a few years or a decade, depending on various factors, but there is practically no escaping the inevitable. Instead of repurposing or recycling your ageing system, you can now use Chrome OS Flex to convert a PC/Mac into a Chromebook.
Why would that be any better? Because, like ChromeOS, Flex is a lightweight cloud-based operating system that doesn’t require the most advanced components to run smoothly. Google claims the OS will boot quickly, receive the same update cadence as Chrome OS, and provide access to the Chrome browser, Google Assistant, and other features (Family Link accounts, Smart Lock, Instant Tethering, and Nearby Share), all from the same UI as Chrome OS. It’s also easy to manage, and ID admins can effortlessly upgrade to Chrome OS devices when the time comes.
Keep in mind that Chrome OS Flex is primarily meant for businesses and schools running large fleets of old Windows PCs, including those from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, and others. It also works with Macs, including some that are up to 10 years old.
An early access preview for Chrome OS Flex went live earlier this year and alerted Google to some 600 bugs. With those fixed, Flex is now rolling out to businesses and schools. To make things easier for those institutions, Google put together a list of systems that are verified to run Chrome OS Flex. At the time of writing, there are some 300 devices capable of switching to the OS. Below are the functions that are guaranteed to work on certified machines:
- System UI and graphics
- Internal display (if applicable)
- At least one method each of audio input and output
- Sleep and resume
- Non-infrared (IR) webcam (if applicable)
“We’re working on more certifications every day, and even if your device isn’t yet certified, you can still try Chrome OS Flex,” wrote Thomas Riedl, director of product, enterprise, and education at Google.
Chrome OS Flex was made possible after Google acquired Neverware, the makers of CloudReady, in 2020. It has since worked with the team to integrate CloudReady into a Chrome-branded product. To try Chrome OS Flex, you can boot directly from a USB without uninstalling or installing anything. When you’re ready, you can replace your old OS (back up everything first!) by installing Chrome OS Flex.