How to Turn Any PC or Laptop Into a Chromebook or Chromebox
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You can turn almost any computer into a Chromebook or Chromebox with CloudReady. This tutorial covers how to install and troubleshoot Chrome OS on most computers.

CloudReady is an open source derivation of Google’s Chrome OS. Chrome OS is a stripped down version of Linux that runs just a single app: Chrome. Most computers actually run Chrome OS faster than any other operating system. The downside is that some websites won’t work properly—unless you know a few tricks.

Getting Started With Chromium OS (CloudReady)

There are only two remaining popular versions of Chrome OS that you can install: Chromium OS from ArnoldTheBat and CloudReady from Neverware.

Of the two, most users will prefer CloudReady. It offers the best combination of features, support, and performance. Although I suspect that ArnoldTheBat’s version of Chromium OS will offer Android support before CloudReady does. CloudReady is officially supported on around 200 laptop models. But I’ve installed it on a half-dozen unsupported machines with only some minor troubleshooting.

Installation requires five basic steps:

  1. Optional: You may need to update the BIOS of your device, wipe its storage, and turn off a few features in BIOS/UEFI.
  2. Image CloudReady onto a bootable media, like a USB flash drive using Etcher.
  3. Install CloudReady onto a computer. This process is destructive, so prepare to lose all your data on the target storage drive.
  4. Optional: You may need to enable such features Wildvine, Flash, and other proprietary software so you can use services like Netflix.
  5. Optional: If your computer has problems, you may need to do some basic troubleshooting.

Step 0: Downloads and Hardware Requirements

All of the programs below include images for both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. Executable and installable programs also work with all major operating systems, although the download links listed here are for Windows.

Before continuing, download the following applications and CloudReady.

Hardware system requirements:

  • USB Flash drive or DVD with 8GB of storage
  • A target storage drive with at least 16GB of space
  • At least 2GB of RAM (you might get away with less)
  • A computer on which you can erase the storage drive
  • An internet connection (CloudReady doesn’t work without internet)

Step 1: Prepare Your Computer (Optional)

The three parts of this step are optional. The reason is that the majority of users won’t have any issues installing CloudReady. However, a minority will have serious problems unless they do three things: first, update their computer’s BIOS and, second, use a disk partition tool to wipe the target storage drive (or boot drive). Third, turn off Fast Boot and Secure Boot.

Update the System BIOS

Only attempt this step if you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, it’s best to leave things alone.

Different computers require different methods for updating their BIOS. And on top of that, updating a BIOS—if done incorrectly—can destroy your computer. We’ve previously covered how to enter your BIOS How to Enter the BIOS on Your Computer How to Enter the BIOS on Your Computer Inside the BIOS you can change basic computer settings, like the boot order. The exact key you need to strike depends on your hardware. We have compiled a list of strategies & keys to enter... Read More and how to update your BIOS How to Update Your UEFI BIOS in Windows How to Update Your UEFI BIOS in Windows Most PC users go without ever updating their BIOS. If you care for continued stability, however, you should periodically check whether an update is available. We show you how to safely update your UEFI BIOS. Read More .

For an example of how complicated—and bewilderingly different across varying models of computer—updating the BIOS can be, check this video on flashing a BIOS on an Acer Aspire One AOD150 or KAV10:

Keep in mind that this process is different not just across different manufacturers. It can vary across different models of computer. There is no single method of updating a computer’s BIOS.

Wipe the Target Storage/Boot Drive

The storage drive that you want to install Chromium OS onto may not accept another operating system unless the previous data on the drive is fully removed.

The best way to do that is to use GParted, the ultimate partitioning tool GParted - The Ultimate In Partitioning Software GParted - The Ultimate In Partitioning Software Read More . Aside from fully wiping the target drive, you may need to set the partition table type as GUID Partition Table (GPT).

You’ll first need to image the GParted ISO file onto a Flash drive. Start Etcher and choose the GParted ISO from your download directory. Then select your USB Flash drive (preferably after you’ve formatted it) as the target drive. The process usually takes around 5-10 minutes to complete.

turn pc into chromebook - etcher

Then start your computer with the Flash drive inserted. Boot from this drive. (How to boot from a Flash drive. How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) How To Change The Boot Order On Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) What happens when you start up your PC? In most cases (and putting it very simply), after the power switch has controlled the flow of electricity to the motherboard and the fans have started up,... Read More ) While GParted loads, you may need to hit enter on occasion, but the default settings are almost always the correct ones.

Eventually, you’ll see GParted’s main menu. From the main menu, left-click Device and from the context menu, choose Create Partition Table.

turn pc into chromebook - create partition table

A popup menu will appear. Change Select new partition table type from msdos to GPT. For some reason, on some models of computer, I can’t get the installer to work with the standard table type on older computers, MS-DOS.

Finally, hit Apply. The computer will now change the partition table type to GPT. You can now exit this program.

turn pc into chromebook - apply new partition table

Your storage drive is now ready to receive a copy of CloudReady.

Disable Fast Boot and Secure Boot

Both Fast Boot and Secure Boot are known to add unnecessary complexity to Linux installations. Therefore, it’s a wise decision to switch both features off before you install CloudReady. You can disable both from within your computer’s BIOS/UEFI How to Enter the BIOS on Your Computer How to Enter the BIOS on Your Computer Inside the BIOS you can change basic computer settings, like the boot order. The exact key you need to strike depends on your hardware. We have compiled a list of strategies & keys to enter... Read More .

Step 2: Image CloudReady Onto a USB Flash Drive

turn pc into chromebook - etcher

The first step is to use Etcher to image CloudReady onto a USB Flash drive (or some other bootable media). The process is simple: Run Etcher, under Select image, choose the downloaded copy of CloudReady as the source ISO. Then choose a formatted USB drive as the destination under Select drive. Finally, hit the Flash! button.

The imaging process should take around 10 minutes to finish. Now you’ve got an installer Flash drive.

Step 3: Install CloudReady to Your Storage/Boot Drive

Insert the USB Flash drive with CloudReady on it into the computer. Remember that installing CloudReady will wipe out the contents of the drive—if you need anything on it, remember to make a backup. Start the computer and boot from the drive.

The initial menu should look like this (without my login information):

turn pc into chromebook - login screen

Log in as Guest (located in the bottom-left of the screen). After logging in, to install to a storage drive, press and hold Ctrl + Alt + F2.

After pressing all three buttons, a terminal window opens. You should now be able to enter text and commands.

turn pc into chromebook - text command window

Type the following command in order to install Chrome OS to your computer’s storage drive:

sudo /usr/sbin/chromeos-install --dst /dev/sda

You may be required to input a login and a password: chronos is the login and chrome is the password.

Please note that there are hyphens next to each other following “install” and before “dst”. Also, look at “sda”. In Linux, storage drives are each marked with a letter of the alphabet. The first storage drive in your computer is marked as “storage drive a“, or initialized as “sda”. If you have multiple drives in your computer, you can find the appropriate drive by typing in the following command:

sudo fdisk -l

This command will display the drives and their corresponding drive letter. The first drive will display as “sda”, the second drive asd “sdb”, and so on. If you do not want to install to the first drive, run the command above and locate the appropriate drive that you want to install to.

Step 4: Enable Proprietary Services for Netflix

turn pc into chromebook - media plugins

CloudReady does not include support for Flash, or DRM protection schemes like Wildvine, by default. You need to install these separately.

Fortunately, it’s as easy as clicking the mouse a few times. Simply open Settings and click on Plugins. You should see the following three entries:

  • Wildvine Content Decryption Module
  • Adobe Flash
  • Proprietary Media Components

On the Plugins menu, hit the INSTALL button to the right of each entry. Afterward, it will download and install each software.

Step 5: Troubleshooting Problems (Optional)

What’s the Password and Login for Chrome OS CloudReady?

When you try to change certain system settings for CloudReady, you’ll be prompted to input a password and login. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of incorrect information on the internet. As of March 2018, the login and password are as follows:

  • Login: chronos
  • Password: chrome

Typing in both will grant you root access, which means you can change system-level settings. During the installation process, you’ll be prompted to input both.

Chromium OS Audio Isn’t Working

The two most common audio problems are HDMI not working and rear audio ports not working. No worries! Like many Linux distributions, CloudReady includes a configuration tool for fixing audio issues, Alsamixer. The tool, however, isn’t very easy to use because it’s based on confusing ASCII characters and lacks visual polish. Also, the instructions aren’t very clear.

To run the audio configuration tool, you’ll need to enter Chrome OS’s command line mode. To do so, open the Chrome browser and press and hold Ctrl + Alt + T. You should see a command line open up within the Chrome browser.

turn pc into chromebook - chrome browser command line

On the command line, type the following and hit the Enter key:

shell

This takes you to the shell, which allows users to alter Linux settings from the command line. You may need to type in your password and/or login. The login is chronos and the password is chrome.

Now type the following command and hit Enter:

sudo alsamixer

You should see the following interface:

turn pc into chromebook - alsamixer interface

Dealing with the Alsamixer interface is tedious. The in-interface instructions are incorrect and the F-keys do nothing.

Anyway, first, you want to select your audio card (one of them is probably muted). You can do this by hitting the s key. You should then see a list of all the audio devices attached to your computer. Oftentimes, that’s either your graphics card, the rear panel audio, and the HDMI audio.

turn pc into chromebook - alsamixer interface sound card

Use the navigational keys to select the correct device. For example, if you are outputting audio from an HDMI connection, you will want to select the HDMI audio device. Once you’ve highlighted the correct entry, hit the Enter key. That will bring up the audio settings.

You should see a box with “MM” in the middle. That means that this device is muted. Hit the m key to unmute it, which turns the MM into 00 (double zeroes). With a little luck, the audio should now work! If it doesn’t, your audio controller may not be compatible with Chrome OS.

turn pc into chromebook - alsamixer audio controller

To persist these settings between reboots, you’ll need to create a new directory to hold the settings and then save the settings at that location. Now type the following and hit Enter:

cd /var/lib

Now enter the command below:

sudo mkdir alsa

This creates a directory called “alsa” inside of the directory /var/lib. You will enter this directory by typing the following and hitting Enter:

cd /var/lib/alsa

To save your settings, type the following command:

sudo alsactl store

After that, the audio settings shouldn’t reset after you restart your computer.

Wi-Fi Doesn’t Work

Unfortunately, there’s no way to tweak settings in order to get Wi-Fi working properly. However, I can recommend a budget 802.11ac Mini-PCIe card, the Intel 3160. It’s cheap, offers low-tier Wireless-AC speeds, and works across almost all Linux platforms (I’ve tested it across many Linux distros). It’s also found on eBay for very little money (in used condition) and is also available in the M.2 form factor.

Intel 3160 Dual Band Wireless AC + Bluetooth Mini PCIe card Supports 2.4 and 5.8Ghz B/G/N/AC Bands Intel 3160 Dual Band Wireless AC + Bluetooth Mini PCIe card Supports 2.4 and 5.8Ghz B/G/N/AC Bands Buy Now At Amazon $16.82

If you don’t know how to change your Wi-Fi card, try a USB wireless dongle. There are plenty out there for very little money with Linux support (although I haven’t tested them personally). The HoneyBull 802.11ac USB dongle also includes an external antenna for better wireless reception.

HoneyBull 600 Mbps Wireless USB WiFi Adapter (5.8GHz & 2.4GHz) Dual Band USB Adapter with External Antenna (Supports Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10 & Mac OS X & Linux Ubuntu) HoneyBull 600 Mbps Wireless USB WiFi Adapter (5.8GHz & 2.4GHz) Dual Band USB Adapter with External Antenna (Supports Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10 & Mac OS X & Linux Ubuntu) Buy Now At Amazon $11.95

Fixing Poor Performance Issues

There are a handful of tips in Chrome that allow users to improve performance. Not all of these work properly and some might be little more than snake oil. Dan Price covered several Chrome speed hacks Speed Up Chrome By Changing These 8 Flags Speed Up Chrome By Changing These 8 Flags While many people claim Chrome is a memory hog, it is possible to greatly improve your browser's speed by tweaking some "flags". Here are the eight best tweaks that you can make today. Read More and all of these tips apply to Chrome OS.

First, type the following into your browser’s address bar and hit Enter:

chrome://flags

This takes you to Chrome’s internal configuration utility, flags. Here you can turn a few experimental features on. Namely, you can force enable your graphics processor, if it’s unsupported. However, this can cause a variety of display issues. In a few rare cases, it may even require reinstalling the operating system.

The first (and probably only) feature you might want to tinker with is Override software rendering list. By default, some graphics processors do not work in Chrome. By forcing Chrome to use unsupported GPUs, you might see a big performance improvement. It’s worth trying out if it’s disabled. (Accelerated 2D canvas is another feature you may want to turn on.)

turn pc into chromebook - override software rendering

One other feature worth considering is setting raster threads from its default. Search for the entry Number of raster threads and change it from Default to 4. I should note that unless you have integrated Intel graphics, raster threads are processed by your computer’s CPU. So don’t set raster threads higher than the number of cores (or threads) that your system can handle.

turn pc into chromebook - rastor threads

After you’ve made the changes, restart the browser by clicking on RELAUNCH NOW on the lower-right side of the screen. After the browser restarts, you might see improved performance. In my experience, the only one of these worth enabling is GPU acceleration. And the chances that this will actually improve performance are about 50/50.

Can an Old PC Turn Into a Chromebox or Chromebook?

Yes! Most older hardware will absolutely work (and better than with Windows or Linux) with CloudReady, or another Chrome OS distribution. Companies like Neverware solve the problem of organizations having to retire outdated hardware to install the latest Windows version.

With CloudReady, the majority of retired machines can work securely and efficiently—for many more years to come.

So now that you’ve got a low-cost high-performance system, check out our guide to installing extensions for Chrome The 10 Best Chrome Extensions You Need to Try Right Now The 10 Best Chrome Extensions You Need to Try Right Now What are some of the lesser-known Chrome extensions? How do you find them? Which are the best? We have the answers; here are ten Chrome extensions you need to try right now. Read More . With the right extensions, your DIY Chromebox or Chromebook can do almost anything a Windows computer can—and all without malware, spyware, and other Windows-related problems.

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  1. dragonmouth
    March 28, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    WHY would anyone want to run a crippled O/S that ties one to Google body and soul?!

    If I'm going to install an emasculated version of Linux on my PC, I might as well run a full blown distro, with the added benefit of limiting Google's intrusions into my life down to a minimum. As much as I dislike MS, I would rather run Windows than Chrome.

    • Kannon Y
      March 28, 2018 at 5:36 pm

      Hey DM, thanks for the comment. We have missed you.

      There is a primary use for these systems: to provide consumers who are unfamiliar with Linux a fast, easy-to-use OS for deployment on older systems. I've tried quite a few distros and none are as good at resurrecting hardware for inexperienced computer users as CloudReady. Let me emphasize that point: most consumers are not going to be using Linux proficiently. CloudReady is consumer ready. And it's easily updated.

      Chromium OS (specifically, CloudReady) does not tie you into Google's infrastructure and it allows for the use of proprietary drivers (Flash, etc...) on a 32-bit system. You can choose to lock yourself into Google's infrastructure. But that's not required in order to use the OS.

    • CommandLineHero
      March 29, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      Chromium OS IS NOT ChromeOS. Google's ChromeOS is built on ChromiumOS(which has Zero Google ties. When Google uses it, they add their services tie in since it's not there by default until they can work on it). Big difference.
      Maybe you should try researching before spouting off at the mouth when you clearly don't understand what you're talking about.

      • dragonmouth
        March 29, 2018 at 3:53 pm

        I did my research. As per Wikipedia:
        "Chromium OS is the open-source development version of Chrome OS, one of Google's operating systems (OS). Chromium OS is based on the Linux kernel and uses Google's Chromium browser as its principal user interface."
        Please notice the phrase "one of Google's operating systems".

        From wikiHow:
        "Chromium OS is the open source version of Google's closed source Chrome OS. "

        Most software download sites refer to this product as "GOOGLE'S Chromium OS"

        • COmmandLineHero
          March 29, 2018 at 4:45 pm

          Quoting Wikipedia, really? Wikipedia can be altered by anyone with anything and info is not always verified as Fact. How about using the official pages rather than a wiki article (this ties in to the whole you should actually research. wiki articles are not legitimate sources).
          If you go to Chromium . org and look at the Chromium OS FAQ page, you'll see what I mean.
          From their Official FAQ since you probably can't be arsed to look at:
          "Google Chrome OS is to Chromium OS what Google Chrome browser is to Chromium.

          Chromium OS is the open source project, used primarily by developers, with code that is available for anyone to checkout, modify, and build.
          Google Chrome OS is the Google product that OEMs ship on Chromebooks for general consumer use.
          The two projects fundamentally share the same code base, but Google Chrome OS has some additional firmware features, including verified boot and easy recovery, which require corresponding hardware changes and thus also don't work in Chromium OS builds.

          Google Chrome OS runs on specially optimized hardware in order to get enhanced performance and security.

          Chromium OS does not auto-update (so that changes you may have made to the code are not blown away), whereas Google Chrome OS seamlessly auto-updates so that users have the latest and greatest features and fixes.

          Google Chrome OS is supported by Google and its partners; Chromium OS is supported by the open source community.
          Google Chrome OS includes some binary packages which are not allowed to be included in the Chromium OS project. A non-exhaustive list:

          Adobe Flash
          Widevine CDM plugin (to support HTML5 EME)
          3G Cellular support (but work is on going to address this)
          DisplayLink Manager for video over USB (some systems)

          Some components are available in both, but as closed source binary-only blobs. A non-exhaustive list:

          Graphics Libraries (e.g. OpenGL) on ARM platforms

          Google Chrome ships with its own set of API keys while Chromium does not include any

          Users are expected to set up their own"

          Chromium uses ZERO of Google's API. That is why people who prefer Chrome, but not Google's version can run Chromium with many of the same benefits.