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google chrome osHow many times have you been approached by a friend or family member who says that they really have very little use for a big, powerful computer, since all they do with it is check email and maybe read a couple of websites every day? The fact is, there area  whole lot of people that fall into this category. Computers just aren’t a big part of their lives, it’s as simple as that. What they really need is an ultra-simple computer that does absolutely nothing else except provides the user with an instant link to the Internet where they can do what they want to do, without dealing with all of the nuances and problems that a full-fledged computer operating system brings.

This is the niche that devices like the Chromebook attempt to solve, through the use of an operating system building entirely around the Google Chrome browser, and the concept of an operating system fully integrated with the Internet. Meaning, absolutely everything that’s done – things like checking email, banking, and all apps that are run – is done right through the browser, and that’s it.

Not only does this simplify the user interface immensely, but it also simplifies the operating system. It essentially converts the computer or netbook into an Internet appliance that is always ready and available to use at a moment’s notice. However, what if you aren’t really sure that Chrome OS will do enough for you? Maybe you or your friend would like to take a test drive using the operating system to see what it feels like, and whether you can really do everything online that you want or need to do.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through how you can run a free version of the Google Chrome OS on your PC using Oracle VM VirtualBox. I’ll also highlight a little bit of what Chrome OS will look like on an older PC if you decide to use it.

Installing Chrome OS Inside VirtualBox

Chrome OS is open source, so you can find a number of flavors out there to play with. The one that I’m going to use in this “test” version on VirtualBox is actually a Chromium OS build from that you can get for free. It isn’t identical to the fully-fledged Chrome OS, but close enough so that you can get a sense of the look and feel of what running Chrome OS is like.

In fact, after running the OS on your VirtualBox and getting a taste of it, you can download a lightweight version of it for VMWare or your USB stick that you can actually run all the time.

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google chrome os

Before you know whether or not Chrome OS is something that would be useful running on one of your older PCs, give it a test run. Download the VirtualBox file from the link above, and when you get it on your PC, unzip the VDI file to some local folder on your computer.

chrome os

If you don’t have VirtualBox on your computer, setting it up is a bit outside the scope of this article, but no worries – we have an excellent VirtualBox Guide right here on MUO. If you need inspiration to use VirtualBox, check out the 5 cool VirtualBox uses 5 Creative Uses For A Virtual Box That You Probably Never Considered 5 Creative Uses For A Virtual Box That You Probably Never Considered Try out Android, Windows 8, any live CD and more, on your computer without messing up your bootloader (or worse.) With VirtualBox it's easy, if you think creatively. VirtualBox gives you an easy way to... Read More  Justin offered for running it.

Once you do have VirtualBox installed and open, click on the “New” icon in the VirtualBox Manager to set up your new virtual machine running ChromeOS. Name it ChromeOS so you’ll remember it later, and set the operating system to “Linux“, and the Version to “Other Linux“, since there’s no “Chrome OS” specifically defined in VirtualBox – but don’t worry, this will work.

chrome os

On the next step you’re going to need to define the amount of computer memory you want to allocate to the Google Chrome OS virtual machine. Hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete and go into the task manager to check out what your current memory use is and how much is available. I’ve got about a gig and a half to spare, so I set my machine for 512 Mb.

chrome os

However,  if you are more limited with space, you can set it to 256 Mb, but it’ll run a bit slower than normal.

chrome os download

On the next step, you need to create the virtual disk. Click on “Use existing hard disk“, and browse to the VDI file that you just downloaded from the Hexxeh site.

chrome os download

Once you have the disk fully loaded and ready to go, you’ll need to make sure the network is correctly set up. You can do this pretty quick by right clicking on the new Virtual Machine you’ve set up and clicking on “Settings“.

chrome os download

Got to the “Network” configuration and change the “Adapter Type” to the desktop adapter (assuming you’re running this virtual machine on a standard desktop or laptop PC like I am).

There’s one other small thing you’ll want to set before you move on and discover that Chrome OS won’t run. Click on System and make sure that for “Extended Features“, that the “Enable PAE/NX” option is checked. If you don’t have this enabled, the Chrome OS virtual machine you’ve created won’t boot and it’ll give you an error saying that a processor with PAE is needed to run the OS.

That’s all there is to it – can you believe it? Now you’re totally ready to give Chrome OS a test drive. So, get your seat belts on, and let’s roll.

Running Chrome OS On VirtualBox

When you first launch this version Chromium OS, you’ll see a welcome screen just like you’re launching a computer with a newly installed version of the operating system.

Finally, you’ll come face to face with what appears to be an actual computer operating system, with what looks like a start menu button the lower left, and a set of status/settings indicators in the lower right corner. And hey, check it out, when you log into your Google account, you’ll also see your Google profile image right there in the lower right corner as well.

The center desktop area has a bunch of tools you can use to set up your experience with the OS, like getting your keyboard to work right, syncing devices, and similar things to customize how everything you do works with this OS.

Excited to see what this OS had to offer, I hit the – for the lack of a better term – “start menu” and discovered only three icons. A file explorer, an icon to launch the Chrome web browser, and a link to the Chrome store .

A little bit disappointed that there weren’t at least a few really simple tools like a notepad, calendar app and things like that, I went over to the other side of the taskbar to see what the status/settings icons had to offer. Clicking on the time loaded up a link to volume settings, a login for your Gmail account, and of course the “Settings” option I was hoping for.

Thinking this would take me to an extensive area where I could play around with the OS settings – I found an ultra-simple area with very limited settings. You can tweak things like wallpaper and themes, but keep in mind that this is essentially setting the wallpaper and themes of Chrome. Change this, it’ll be tied to your account, and those same settings will carry through to your Chrome use elsewhere outside of Chrome OS.

It was quickly becoming apparent to me that in no uncertain terms, this OS is all about browsing the web. I mean, it is essentially a browser operating system, and that’s it. Don’t think you’re getting anything beyond that, because you’re not. Then again, that may really be all you want, especially if everything you love to do is online anyway. For example, the “file explorer” is essentially a way to access your Google Drive account.

And when you download “apps” using the store, you’ll discover that these are Chrome browser apps, not so much full-fledged computer applications. But of course, if your goal is to use the computer as an “Internet appliance” then this sort of setup makes perfect sense.

google chrome os

In all honesty, as I was using Chromium OS, I started to realize that there are a lot of people I know who could really make use of such an operating system. These are people that are constantly calling me for help with one thing or another that went wrong with their Windows computer. There is no way they could mess up a computer running something as simple and easy to use as a Chrome-based operating system. And since they only ever use the computer to browse the web or check their Internet email account, then really this operating system is all they really need.

So, take Google Chrome OS for a test drive on your PC and see what you think. Do you think it would make the perfect Internet kiosk operating system? Share your own impression of the operating system and what creative uses you could think up for it. Join me in the comments section below and share your thoughts.

  1. Sandra
    April 19, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    When I get home tomorrow I am going to try it on my very old XP computer.

  2. jp
    December 20, 2014 at 5:57 am

    Chrome is is not ready for human consumption till way after 2020or later we are just starting to learn about cloud based computing and the internet of everything is just crawling in its infancy .

  3. Swag
    October 24, 2013 at 1:46 am

    when i try to boot into chrome os it just shows a black screen. help?

  4. Twitch
    October 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Rahul, most everything is web based but you can still save files and photos etc to your local drive.

  5. Rahul
    October 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I am going to try this.. Please just confirm once installed, can I access my local hard disc & existing data on it or not?

  6. Edson
    September 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    You lost me at "all you need to do is download the files from this one guy". Why would I trust some website called hexxeh?

    No offense, just weird nobody is bringing this up.

    • Mr exxe
      September 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      Hay Edson,

      hexxeh is a prgramer who has added a lot of functionality into chrome - see wikipedia:

      He is solid, and in fact now works for Google to develop chrome OS further.

  7. andy
    August 27, 2013 at 10:18 am

    i have been using xp for a long time simply because all the os systems after have been either full of buggs or massively resorce hungry whats the point of upgrading a pc just so you can run an opperating system ??there was talk a long time back that chrome was bringing a simple os system that can run windows based programs , i use third party programs for almost everything so for me i would only need a simple os to run them is there anything like this out there or are there plans for chrome to expand there current os ??

  8. Shammy
    August 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    While Chromium OS is a good attempt at an OS, it just doesn't posses anything that isn't already out there on another flavor of Linux-based OS. Linux mint is 100% better and 100% faster doing everything that this can do, even on an older machine. Just not worth it in my opinion

  9. ABBHIRAMI.Madurai..
    June 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Chrome is not os. It is my friend....

  10. Greg Zeng
    June 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Many people seem ignorant of the additions which are free with Google chrome users.
    Children have too many educational stuff,games,child-safety stuff,that many carers may become confused.
    Teenagers,young adults and other people have less choice.
    Business,academic,home owners and others are not forgotten.
    Storage, retrieving and archives are possible on or off-line too.

  11. thu ya
    June 8, 2013 at 11:16 am

    need to install guest additions?

  12. LeeD
    June 2, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Can Google Chrome OS be put on a USB stick?

  13. danielooi
    May 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the tip!~ I have been eargerly to try chrome OS but could not find a realiable source.

  14. Noman Fayez
    May 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    not yet... Chrome OS is not matured...neither a complete OS too....

  15. Arxadius Stark
    May 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I did this for my dad on his old PC. He still finds some functions confusing. XD

  16. Gopal Patel
    May 29, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Really cool!

  17. Carolyn Barnett
    May 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I think this will be too limited for me! I like all a program has to offer!

  18. Onaje Asheber
    May 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I might try this! Just to test the Chrome OS. Thanks.

  19. Stephen Hart
    May 29, 2013 at 2:12 am

    Interesting write, if your a tek!

  20. Nassif
    May 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I can't use my mouse does any has an idea how to fix it plz help me

    • Maxi3w
      May 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      I had this same problem too. If I remember correctly, and this was a long time ago I tried Chrome OS out like this, you have to keep clicking the mouse pointer in between the VirtualBox/Chrome OS window and the one outside it; so try making the window a smaller size to do this. If your TouchPad works, then just ditch the mouse. But if you really want to use the mouse and the pointer keeps disappearing, it's a case of moving it around and keeping on clicking it until it appears inside or out of the box. It is a daft annoyance I found.

    • Maxi3w
      May 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      Hey, I just stumbled across this snippet (from MUO) which explains further what I was trying to say - just better plus how to solve your mouse issue:

      "There are a few features that you’ll get by installing Guest Additions. The main one is called mouse pointer integration. You may have noticed that when using the VM you had to click inside the window for the VM to detect any mouse movements (or to type), and that you needed to press a specific key (called the host key) to release the mouse and keyboard so that you could use them with the host computer again.
      With mouse pointer integration, you no longer have to click inside the window to use your keyboard and mouse in the VM or use the host key to release them. As you move your pointer over the window it is automatically “captured”, and it is automatically released when the pointer reaches the edge of the window. This by itself is worth installing Guest Additions for!"

      This should sort out your problem :)

  21. tamouse mailing lists
    May 25, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    So, I got to the point of booting up ChromiumOS, and tried to get it detect my mouse. VB gave some indication that it would do so, but I seem to have no mouse while within the ChromiumOS VM screen. I'm running Ubu12.04, VB 4.1.12. Any ideas?

  22. Jean-Cyril De Bock
    May 25, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Good article, but this OS seems way too limited to me

  23. Hani Al Jamal Jr.
    May 25, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Always wanted to try that. Amazing article !

  24. Greg
    May 25, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Oh I am already using the Chrome OS on my ARM Chromebook and I'm LOVING it!

  25. Jonathan A
    May 25, 2013 at 2:18 am

    Is Chrome OS the same as Android?

    • Nicolas Loots
      May 25, 2013 at 9:30 am

      Not really. Android allows you to do waaaay more than just browsing the web. Chrome OS is just for people who only browse the internet. The UI on the other hand kinda looks familiar.

  26. ajay
    May 25, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Chrome OS should be really more popular than it really is. I can think of many customers in the retail space who buy Ipad instead of computers cause windows is confusing for them. This could help them. Like a simple cheap machine by Dell or HP and customer support agents maybe looking at another job.

  27. ReadandShare
    May 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Not now. But when Google provides similar offline access to non-Google drives (e.g. MS web office, SOHO Office, etc.) -- then maybe.

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