Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Chromium OS (or Chrome OS) is a new breed of open-source operating system, and like much of Google’s product suite is completely free of charge. The Google Chromium OS relies on the web for all but the bare-bones, and aims to bring the whole internet to your fingertips within seconds of turning on your PC.
The only problem is that Google’s official builds suffer from poor hardware support, driver issues and are unlikely to work unless you’re using a brand new netbook. Enter Flow, an exciting Chromium OS build with much improved compatibility allowing you to sample your first taste of a lightning-fast web-reliant operating system, all from the comfort of a 2GB USB flash drive.
Mimicking Google’s popular Chrome web browser, the Google Chromium OS contains no applications or programs and instead uses web-based services such as Google Documents and Picnik. This is all part of Google’s plan to essentially turn their web browser into an operating system, and by doing so they’ve managed to drastically speed up the whole process of “getting online”.
Flow is a third-party build by an enthusiast called Hexxeh that provides a straight-forward means of test driving this new platform. I will be using Windows to create the bootable USB image, although once you have created your bootable Chromium OS build it will work in any other compatible system. Linux users may want to look , and for the trickier Mac install there’s a handy YouTube video with full walkthrough.
Before starting it’s best to check whether your particular, or is listed as a known compatible device. If you’re not listed, then you’ll probably want to try it anyway. If it works, you might want to let the author know!
Installing Chromium OS To USB
The first thing you’ll need to do is grab a copy of the USB image from Hexxeh’s main page. You can download directly from the server, or via a torrent link if you’d like to help seed and share the project afterwards. You’ll need a BitTorrent client if you’d like to be a good citizen.
Once downloaded, extract the CD image file (.img) from the archive. If you’re stuck, you can use 7Zip for this. Lastly, download a copy of Image Writer for Windows as you’ll need this to transfer the image file you just downloaded to your spare (2GB or larger) USB stick. Extract all the files within the Image Writer archive to their own directory, and run Win32DiskImager.exe.
Note that you may need administrator permission to write the image to USB, so ensure you are logged into Windows with full privileges.
Within the Win32 Disk Imager window navigate your way to the Chromium OS CD image (.img) file and select it. Select the USB drive you wish to use by choosing its corresponding letter within the drop down box. When you’re ready, hit Write. You’ll be warned that you are about to potentially corrupt your USB drive, click Yes and proceed.
Once the progress bar reaches its destination – you’re done.
Restart your PC and enter your BIOS setup. Depending on your PC, this will entail hitting something like the Del or F2 key as your PC first boots. Within these settings you’ll need to schedule your PC to boot from USB before it tries to launch your primary OS within your boot devices. Save your changes and restart your computer, making sure that all-important USB stick is inserted.
If you have problems booting from USB, or your computer does not support it then you can try PLoP Boot Manager. This program allows you to burn a CD image or write a floppy that will load an interface from which to launch the USB drive.
Once Chromium OS has loaded (don’t worry, your first boot might take a while) you can log in with your Google account. If you have trouble logging in, the default Flow username is facepunch and the password is the same. This will allow you to log in and play around, even if you have network troubles.
If you’re familiar with a web browser you’ll instantly be able to use Chromium, so it makes for a nice lightweight OS. It’s by no means perfect yet, but it’s handy if you “just need the web”.
Have you experimented with Google Chromium OS? Does Flow work on your PC? Let us know in the comments.