We were very excited about the announcement of Chrome OS Flex and what it could mean for dozens of aging laptops – Windows and Mac OS included. While we’ve planned a lot of content around this new operating system from Google, we also realize that we haven’t put together a clear guide on how to get it up and running on your own. device. With the USB method, you can test out Chrome OS Flex without breaking anything on your computer and decide if it’s the right decision for you or not. So why not give it a shot?
We’ve talked about Google’s official list of supported and tested Chrome OS Flex devices, but it bears repeating. There are hundreds of laptops that have been tested with varying degrees of compatibility, but Google also recommends that you just try Chrome OS Flex and see what you get. With the USB installation method, there’s no risk in trying out Chrome OS Flex, so even if you don’t have a device on the official list, we recommend trying it out anyway. For what it’s worth, the two devices in the video above are not on the list and they work great!
Get the right USB drive for the job
First, you’ll need to get your hands on a USB flash drive. We highly recommend getting a USB 3.0 drive, as the read/write speeds will greatly help you run Chrome OS Flex as smoothly as possible. We first tried using a USB 2.0 drive and things were extremely slow. By switching to a USB 3.0 drive things improved considerably and it became clear that if you want to test out Chrome OS Flex as it would run on your internal drive before fully installing it, you will definitely need a player 3.0.
One last thing: you’ll need to make sure your drive is at least 8GB and you’re good to go. It’s also worth noting that Chrome OS Flex on USB is for trial purposes, and it only installs the OS image and about 3.7GB of storage space. Our USB 3.0 drive is 128GB, but installing Chrome OS Flex still only sees 3.7GB of available storage. That might change down the road, but Google told us the point of the USB install is to try before writing the operating system to the device’s internal hard drive. Don’t expect to be able to change the partition size anytime soon.
Install the Chrome OS Flex image on the USB drive
Now that you have the hardware, let’s write a disk image! For this task, you will need the Chrome recovery utility installed on Chromebooks and available everywhere else through the Chrome extension. If you want, you can also use the Chrome extension on a Chromebook, but it’s literally the same app either way.
Once you have installed the extension, open it and you will be greeted with a welcome screen. If, for some reason, you’ve used your USB drive as a recovery drive in the past, you’ll need to complete an additional step before continuing. Click the cogwheel at the top and select “Erase Recovery Media”. You’ll get a quick prompt to make sure you want to continue, and after you agree to do so, your USB drive will be ready for setup. If your drive has never been used as a recovery image, you can skip this step.
Once you have a clean drive, you can simply put it in one of your USB ports and run the recovery utility. Press the “Get Started” button and you will be greeted with a screen where you need to select the disk image you wish to install. To do this, you will click on “Select a model from a list”, then choose ‘Google Chrome OS Flex’ from the first drop-down menu. The second drop-down list has only one option: ‘Chrome OS Flex (developer-unstable).
The next screen will ask you which drive you want to install the disk image to, and that’s where you’ll select the USB drive we’ve been talking about throughout this article. If you have other drives plugged in, I suggest you just unplug them before continuing, just to make sure you’re not selecting the wrong thing. Choose your USB device and press “Continue”, then “Create Now” on the next screen to begin the process.
Once the process is complete, you will be notified that your image is complete and you can safely remove the drive. Again, this can be done through any device that’s running Chrome, so you don’t need to start this whole process with a Chromebook and you can write your Chrome OS Flex disk image with whatever device you’re on. plan to test it if you wish.
Chrome OS Flex review: splash screen
The final piece of the puzzle is finding your device’s home screen. In general terms, any device’s BIOS controls how it boots, and most don’t check USB drives by default for booting: you have to tell it to. So how does it work ? Well, it’s different for every laptop, but it usually involves pressing a key or holding down a button during the initial power-up phase and you’ll have to do some research to find out what that combo is.
For the MSI Windows laptop we tested, it was as simple as pressing F11 when the MSI logo appeared on boot. For the Macbook Pro, it was holding the Option key when powering on. Most devices don’t make this too difficult, but there are no universal instructions here. Unfortunately, you will only have to rely on the internet to get to your start screen.
Once you get there, you’ll also need to understand how to navigate it. For the MSI, it was just an up/down arrow to select USB as the boot device. For the Macbook Pro, their BIOS supported the trackpad, so it was even easier. Either way, just tell your machine to search for USB as a boot option first and you’ll be good to go. After selecting it, allow a reboot and you should see the familiar Chrome OS splash screen appear.
To install or not to install?
At this point, you can run and use Chrome OS Flex when the USB drive is inserted. Note that very old laptops will likely have USB 1.0 or USB 2.0 ports and no matter how fast your drive is, these ports are only capable of those slower USB read/write speeds. This will probably hamper your fluidity a bit, so if you know your ports are slow and Chrome OS Flex seems sluggish, it might just be the ports. In this case, you really have to rely on the USB installation method to just verify that things like the keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and screen are working properly. Once the operating system is written to the internal disk, things should speed up a lot.
We are planning a video of writing Chrome OS Flex to the internal drive of the Macbook Pro tested in the video above and we will have a video on that soon, but if you know for sure you won’t be using the device you are testing in its current state, there is little risk in proceeding with the full installation. If you choose to do so, you can simply click the install button on Chrome OS Flex’s login screen and it will proceed to overwrite your internal drive with the new operating system. Be aware though that there is no undo option with this. Once installed, there is no going back.
We hope this guide has helped you get started with Chrome OS Flex, and again, we’ll have a full installation video ready to go soon. Until then, test and if you do a full install on an older device and choose to take the plunge, let us know. We will join you soon enough!