You don't need to buy a Chromebook to take advantage of the features of Google's desktop operating system (OS). All you need is a working computer and a USB drive.
Google doesn't officially offer a try, but developers have found ways you can experiment with the open source operating system. This method works whether you're running Windows, macOS, or Linux. And no, you won't overwrite your existing operating system.
Here's what you need to know.
Running Chrome OS from a USB drive
We will create a bootable USB drive loaded with the Chromium OS disk image. But you are going to need a few things before you start.
A working computer with a USB port
A USB drive with at least 4 GB capacity
- Download: 7-Zip for Windows (free) | Keka for macOS (free) | p7zip for Linux (free)
- Download: Eraser for Windows | macOS | Linux (free)
Note: The USB drive will be completely erased during installation. If you have valuable data on the drive, please save it elsewhere.
Download and install Google Chrome OS
1. Download the latest Chromium OS image
Google doesn't have an official Chromium OS build that you can download. The best alternative source is Arnold The Bat.
Download: The latest daily version of Chromium OS
You now have a 7 zip file on your hard drive. Extract this file using one of the 7-Zip apps mentioned above.
3. Format the USB drive
Insert the USB drive into a port and format it as FAT32. The process is easiest on Windows, but macOS and Linux aren't difficult either.
For macOS users, the built-in Disk Utility can format it as FAT32. If you see the label "MS-DOS FAT" instead, don't worry, it's the same thing.
If the Windows or Mac methods are confusing or overwhelming for you, you can also use the SD Association's official card formatter app.
Download: SD card formatter for Windows | macOS (free)
For Linux users, we recommend using GParted for a quick format.
Download: GParted for Linux (free)
When prompted to name the new drive, name it Chrome for added convenience.
4. Run Etcher and install the image
By now, a fully formatted USB drive named "Chrome" should be connected to a port on the computer (see step 3). You will also have an unzipped image file of the latest Chromium operating system (as shown in steps one and two). And you've installed Etcher on your computer. Start Etcher.
click choose picture and navigate to the location of the Chromium OS image file. Add it in Etcher.
click Choose Drive and choose the chrome USB drive that you created.
click lightning to begin installing the image and verifying the installation.
Etcher checks the burn process, i. H. Once the image is created on the USB drive, it will check that everything is OK. Make sure you wait for it to show 100%. Once Etcher is done, this will be a bootable USB drive with Chromium OS.
5. Restart your computer and enter the startup options
"Boot" is the process of selecting the operating system. On each computer, you can choose which drive to start the operating system from, whether it's a hard drive, a USB drive, or even a DVD drive. You need to enter boot and select the USB drive you just created.
For a Windows or Linux PC: Different computers have different BIOS settings. Typically, the Startup Options menu contains the key combination F5, F8, or F12.
For a Mac: Once the Mac shuts down and restarts, press and hold the key Option button. You'll do this while it's a black screen, but that's fine. Hold down the button until you see the Start menu, where you can choose between a Macintosh hard drive or whatever USB drive you connected (usually called "EFI").
6. Start Chrome OS
Select the USB drive from the Start menu, press Enter, and the computer will start from the drive. You can now experience all the glory of Chrome OS without affecting your main hard drive and operating system.
You'll need to set up Chrome OS the first time you use it, ideally with your existing Google account. Don't worry, this setup will only be done at the first start. Whenever you run it in the future, it will be taken straight to the login screen.
Turn a PC or laptop into Chrome OS
Now that you've run Chrome OS on a USB drive, it's time to try it out. You'll be surprised how similar it is to full-fledged desktop operating systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can even install multiple Linux programs and some Windows software.
If you like what you see and you're ready to make the move to Chrome OS, there's no need to buy new hardware. Turn any PC or laptop into a Chromebox or Chromebook with easy-to-use software called CloudReady. The installation process is actually easier than the method described above. You can even install ChromeOS with a virtual machine.
After you've run Chrome, learn more about Crosh, the Chrome OS terminal.
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About the author
(1243 articles published)
Mihir Patkar has been writing about technology and productivity in some of the world's leading media publications for over 14 years. He has an academic background in journalism.
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