Chrome OS Flex is Ready to Turn Any PC or Mac Into a Chromebook

Posted on July 14, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Cloud, Google, Google Chrome with 22 Comments

Chrome OS Flex, Google’s free version of Chrome OS that can be installed on any PC and Mac is going out of beta today. Google is positioning Chrome OS Flex as a lightweight, easy-to-use, and secure operating system for aging hardware that may struggle to run the latest versions of Windows or macOS.

“Chrome OS Flex is just the sunscreen your legacy devices need. And thanks to everyone who has participated in our early access program, we’ve been able to significantly improve the product in many areas while continuously certifying devices to run Chrome OS Flex,” said Thomas Riedl Director of Product, Enterprise and Education.

According to Google, Chrome OS Flex delivers best-in-class security with built-in malware and ransomware protection, seamless background updates, as well as power saving. “Devices that run ChromeOS Flex consume 19% less energy on average than other devices,” Riedl claimed.

Chrome OS Flex is also easy to deploy as you just need a USB drive to install it on a PC or Mac. You can also boot and run Chrome OS Flex right from the USB drive to test it before fully installing it. For IT Admins, Chrome OS Flex devices can also be managed alongside regular Chromebooks in the Google Admin Console.

In our previous hands-on with Chrome OS Flex, we found out that it was an interesting solution for aging devices, though the platform currently has some limitations. Chrome OS Flex does not support Android apps or Google Play, and some hardware capabilities that work on Windows, Mac, and Linux devices may not be officially supported on Chrome OS Flex.

“To make sure Chrome OS Flex is ready to work from the get-go, we test and certify a broad range of models to ensure they provide a consistent and high-quality experience,” explained Riedl. Google has already certified 295 devices, and the company is also keeping a list of devices where minor or major compatibility issues are expected.

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Chrome OS Flex is Ready to Turn Any PC or Mac Into a Chromebook”

  1. winner

    Microsoft: You can't use your recent PC with Windows 11

    Google: You can use your old PCs with Chrome OS!

    • rm

      Yes, keep your old hardware, but with a more limited OS.

    • digiguy

      The end of support for many Windows 10 PCs is actually earlier with ChromeOS flex than the end of support for Windows 10... (in some cases it's even this year or next...). So what's the point, unless you system is running slow...

    • mikegalos

      Microsoft: You can't use your recent PC with Windows 11

      Microsoft: You can use your old hardware on Windows 10 until at least October 2025

      Google: You can stop using your fully supported, full feature operating system now and replace it with a terminal program that sends everything you do through our data-harvesting ad servers! Thank you for donating your data to us so we can sell it.

  2. Patrick3D

    Without the Google Play store I don't see any reason to use this, unless you just need something for email and a web browser.

    • rmlounsbury

      I would disagree. I'd be willing to bet most people using ChromeOS probably spend little time in Android apps and far more time in the browser. Even then, my experience on my Pixelbook is that in many cases the browser version of an Android app is equal to or superior than. In many cases you can install the web app giving you a chrome free experience that is also similar to the Android counterpart.

      Heck, just look at Microsoft's platform which provides cloud shell and Visual Studio Code for the Web. It might fit all use cases but you can get a lot done even lacking Google Play or Linux Containers. I do hope that Google eventually adds at least Linux Containers to ChromeOS Flex.

      • winner

        You can also run Google Sheets and Docs which are pretty good substitutes for Word and Excel.

        • hrlngrv

          You can also run Office Online or Zoho Office (or the few other web productivity suites). And if one's employer maintains application servers which could be accessed using Citrix, one could run Windows desktop Office remotely from a Chrome OS machine.

      • hrlngrv

        I use a Chromebook about 10 hours/week mostly to play podcasts. I also have some DVDs ripped to usb drives, but the Android VLC app is the only one I've found which can handle video .mp* files. Can't open .mp* files in Chrome.

        OTOH, if one wants to run Linux desktop GUI or terminal (non-GUI) software, what's the advantage of Chrome OS Flex over lighter Linux distributions? Many Linux distributions allow themselves to be updated automatically, net of automatically rebooting after kernel updates.

  3. ozaz

    How long before Google abandons it?

  4. itrimble

    Users with older computers should definitely give POP_OS a try. It really does just work !

  5. navarac

    I tried ChromeOS on a Surface Pro 3 and found it more hobbled than a ChromeBook. Far better to put Linux Mint on it.

  6. anoldamigauser

    The security of an OS includes more than just receiving updates and hardening against threats. If it reports all of the actions of users back to the mothership, it is not secure in my book.

    Old hardware will get Linux here.

    • rmlounsbury

      But it does, ChromeOS for Enterprise and Education reports back to the "mothership" and all ChromeOS devices including ChromeOS Flex report back to the Google Enterprise/Education administrative center. It provides for GPO like security policies, app/extension deployment, ability to remote lock and wipe a Chromebook, auditing, integration with AD/AAD/3rd Party SSO & Identity provides, and plugins for third party monitoring and management platforms.

      ChromeOS more locked down and less open than Windows could ever dream of being. I'd be willing that we will see ChromeOS adoption grow in the enterprise. Google has built a fine platform that can serve business in lots of areas especially as the world becomes more cloud centric and legacy tools continue to fall by the wayside. The example Google provides in their announcement is the exact reason ChromeOS Flex will likely gain plenty of interest. A hotel chain after being hit with a ransomware attack within 48 hours was able to image their fleet of 2,000+ computers by just sending out USB flash drives with a 1 page instruction sheet to image the device with little downtime.

      Don't sleep on ChromeOS. It isn't perfect for every situation but it makes sense in a lot of areas and it absolutely has the tooling, report/auditing tools IT needs to manage and secure their fleet.

      • anoldamigauser

        But the point would be what does Google do with the data? For consumers we know it is used to target ads. For enterprise and education? The data is still collected. It doesn't go to the ether so they must be doing something with it.

        • matsan

          Not a Google acolyte, but:

          "We don’t use information in apps where you primarily store personal content—including Google Docs, Sheets, & Slides—for advertising purposes, period."


        • matsan

          I would love to know what Microsoft is doing with all our Teams data and all files stored in OneDrive I and my customers have and as to why they are in any way "better".

  7. rmlounsbury

    This reminds me a bit of Google keeping Chrome browser support on older Windows versions as Microsoft was kicking everyone to the next version.

    I like the idea of being able to deploy ChromeOS to older hardware and have a performant and secure OS to work with. Especially given the tidal wave of hardware that Microsoft has deemed unworthy for Windows 11.

  8. Brian Hodges

    This will be the death of Windows for the non-enterprise market.

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