There’s no shortage of Chromebooks on the market today, including entry-level models that sell for under $200 and premium devices that cost as much as $1600. But you can also make your own Chromebook by installing Chrome OS on a PC you may already have.

Doing so could breathe new life into an aging computer that may struggle to keep up with modern software, load a simple-to-use and relatively secure operating system on a PC for a friend or family member, or to explore what Google’s desktop OS has to offer for power users.

While options like Neverware’s CloudReady and ArnoldTheBat’s Chromium OS tools make it easy to install Chromium OS on a PC, it’s a little trickier to install Chrome OS. The former is the the open source version of the operating system that runs on Chromebooks and it lacks some bells and whistles. The latter is the same software you’d find on a Chromebook.

But there’s a new tool called Chromefy that helps you install the full version of Chrome OS on just about any relatively modern PC.

Installing Chrome OS with Chromefy isn’t quite as simple as install Chromium OS using CloudReady. In a nutshell, the process involves:

  • Installing Chromium OS by preparing a bootable live USB drive and then booting from it and running a terminal command.
  • Resizing disk partitions.
  • Downloading an official Chrome OS recovery image for a device with hardware similar to the device you’re using.
  • Possibly downloading another Chrome OS recovery image from a device with TPM 1.2 if you have login problems.
  • Running more terminal commands to install the Chrome OS image and manually reset the device.

Note that if you do that, you’ll replace any software on your computer with Chrome OS. The good news is that it’s a fully functional version of Google’s operating system complete with support for Android apps and Crostini (which lets you run desktop Linux software).

The bad news is that you’ll overwrite Windows, Linux, or any other operating system already loaded on your computer.

You can create a multi-boot setup that lets you choose from several different operating systems every time you boot the computer. But you’ll have to jump through a few more hoops to do that.

So proceed with caution and make sure to backup any important data before experimenting with Chromefy.

via xda-developers (1)(2)



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25 replies on “Chromefy turns any PC into a Chromebook”

  1. Now all someone has to do is do this process once, and make a Virtualbox image with the result/post it to VirtualBoxes…

  2. Be great to get the RK3399 images running on the new SBC’s that are available. Or if Radxa actually releases a ChromeOS image for their new SBC, then I have several labs of computers to upgrade.

    1. Google is a business, NOT an open software developer. Hackers provide no revenue. That’s the hell why.

      Google does indirectly provide a way to install an insecure, less stable OS called Chromium OS. Its support of Chromium OS is limited to some funding to the Chromium projects and feedback to the developers in the form of wish lists and bug reports.

      With Chrome OS, Google supports an enhanced, stable, secure, computing model for certified hardware using a separate image for each certified motherboard. It takes feedback from developers, beta testers and typical users and provides support to end users.

      BTW, the licensing agreements for Chromium OS and Chrome OS are very different, as the first is open software, The second is provided to support hardware developed in cooperation between manufacturers of Chromebooks and Google and is licensed ONLY for that hardware.

      1. Well stated. A good clarification that for those that want every thing for ‘free’ in life.

    2. Other than to improve hardware support (which VM images wouldn’t do much for), GOOG doesn’t really encourage development for ChromeOS (they do all that themselves). So they don’t have much incentive to make it easier for people to install on non-standard hardware. I suppose that it might be something they could justify if it got them more users, but I am skeptical that’d happen in the numbers that would get their attention.

  3. Do you get updates though? The real killer feature of Chrome OS is the transactional updating system behind the scenes being taken care of by one of the most knowledgeable and security conscious companies in the world. It also loads the update in the background and then notifies you to restart to update. The update doesn’t take any longer than a normal restart typically. A world of difference from waiting for Windows to update files.
    I would be quite wary of a system like this myself. I sleep well at night with regard to security and what I’m accessing on my Chrome OS devices. Not so much on a rigged up system like this.

    1. ” … A world of difference from waiting for Windows to update files.”

      It’s hard to explain just how nice that is to Windows fanboys

      I would guess you would? If it’s Crostini compatible, it’s at least a recent version.

  4. It’s Crostini-compatible eh? That’s pretty cool — and tempting.

    I would guess that my i7 ThinkPad would be reasonably compatible — just onboard Intel graphics. Hmm …

      1. I don’t know who you believe “they” are, but:”they” are going to fail. Google went to great lengths to make that not possible.

        Chrome OS uses a secure hardware platform. It checks the kernel and firmware for integrity before uploading OS updates, then it checks the rest of the installed OS for signs of damage and tampering. You can’t duplicate the hardware key that Chromebooks have during boot for authentication before uploading OS updates with software running under ChromeOS. If a hardware/firmware integrity check fails, a Chromebook will not boot the OS.

        1. “I don’t know who you believe ‘they’ are …”

          The “they” referent is easily discerned — I’m sure you can figure it out.

          *They* appear to have updated their FAQ on the XDA forum, indicating that a workaround is unlikely.

    1. It does — unless there are some hardware configurations that don’t support it. I know Crostini is impossible on Baytrail processors, but don’t think that affects Android.

  5. The article is very misleading. A Chromebook is a secure, reliable computing platform that gets automatic OS updates and upgrades every 6-8 weeks], and requires little if any user admin /maintenance effort.

    This is none of the above.

    Because virtually NO motherboards not specifically made for Chrome OS have the same chipsets as those that are, this is an unstable version of Chrome OS, mismatched to hardware, less stable than the Developer channel distribution built for a specific Chrome OS platform.

    While this hack will install an image of Chrome OS, it WILL NOT update in the normal manner as the platform (motherboard) because it will lack the required secure hardware token. To “update” the entire install process must be repeated every time.

    Further, no support is available, not even from the user-supported Chromebook forum.

  6. It would be really convenient if this could be done as a virtual machine via VMware, Virtual Box, etc.

  7. How would this work with a tablet device like the surface go? Does it use Chrome OS’s tablet interface? Does it recognize the attachment of the keyboard?

  8. I have used Chromebook for years. I love the product and I appreciate what they can accomplish. Even so, if I am going to try reinvigorate an old machine, the last thing I want to do is put Chrome OS on it.

    The first issue to be accepted in dealing with Chromebook is the profound limitations of the software. The limitation is only acceptable because the machine/software does what it does so easily and cheaply. The only reason it can do so is is because the hardware and software are built from the ground up to meet the Chromebo9k definitions and standards.

    This Chromefy’d monstrosity can’t do what a Chromebook does, and fails to do it for the same investment of time and money necessary to load a low resource linux distro. The new linux box can be used like a Chromebook, and still has the potential to do many of the things that Chromebook can’t.

    I can hand an old box with linux to a kid and teach them how to program, use the CLI, surf and understand their computer and its components. This Chromify’d mistake can only teach them that if you don’t pay attention you waste a lot of time.

  9. I would love to have a way to install ChromeOS on my machines like Ubuntu.

    but

    I am wondering if this is legal at all.

    ChromeOS contains closed-source components and is licensed by Google to OEMs (presumably for a price).

    Being able to do this technically is very far from being OK legally.

    Just because ChromeOS contains the Linux kernel it doesn’t make the whole OS free for the taking.

    It would be nice if Google released official free x86/ARM installer images or at least a statement about this.

  10. This would be great if I could install it on something with a real hard drive. I have a Chromebook with a 32GB emmc, but after a half dozen android apps (mostly games and Adobe’s Android offerings) and a couple Linux apps I have 3GB of free space left. A Chrome OS device with a 500GB hard drive would be awesome.

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