Google’s free Chrome OS Flex may breathe new life into previous PCs and Macs

On Tuesday, the corporate introduced its plans to launch Chrome OS Flex, a totally free offshoot of the Chrome OS working system you’ll usually discover on cheap laptops and all-in-one computer systems. The distinction? As a substitute of counting on new {hardware}, Chrome OS Flex is designed to run on PCs and Macs as previous as about 13 years. Meaning a number of the computer systems gathering mud round the home will be pressed into service as net shopping machines, this time with up-to-date safety and a few recent options.

Google says Chrome OS Flex is technically meant for “companies and colleges,” however common of us will have the ability to obtain it themselves. And with just a bit fiddling, it needs to be straightforward sufficient to get the software program operating on decade-old machines — assuming they nonetheless activate, that’s. However do you have to make the leap and set up these things?

In time, maybe. Chrome OS Flex is offered now as “early entry” software program, which implies it in all probability received’t be as secure because the full-blown launch coming in just a few months. Nonetheless, the software program could also be simply what some folks must get their growing old PCs working reliably once more. Right here’s what you must learn about how Chrome OS Flex works.

Most likely, until you acquire it effectively earlier than 2010. In case your laptop has not less than 4 gigabytes of RAM and a tough drive with not less than 16 GB of cupboard space, your new working system will in all probability run simply high quality.

That stated, the software program will (clearly) run higher on some machines than others, and Google has tried to maintain issues easy by placing collectively an inventory of machines which were “licensed” to work with Chrome OS Flex. Don’t fear in case your previous laptop’s particular mannequin identify doesn’t seem there, although — most Home windows machines and Intel Macs from the final ten years ought to have the ability to run the software program.

“The crew has undoubtedly gotten some very obscure and previous units working,” stated Peter Du, communications supervisor for Google’s Chrome OS, in an e-mail.

Past that, some apparent caveats apply. The pc nonetheless has to activate and be in respectable working situation — Google can’t magically unbreak bodily issues.

Google says the method is fairly simple however we’ll have to check that declare for ourselves — the corporate’s setup information will get fairly concerned. You’re meant to obtain the software program onto a USB stick, which you then plug into the previous laptop in query. When you’ve set that laptop to search for USB drives first when turning on, it ought to load the software program from the USB stick and allow you to take Chrome OS Flex for a check drive earlier than committing to something.

For those who resolve to make the swap to Chrome OS Flex everlasting, you’ll use the identical USB stick to put in that software program over no matter else might already be on that onerous drive. This can be a everlasting change, so this now could be the time to again up all of your necessary information and media out of your machine in case you haven’t already.

In contrast to your typical Home windows or Mac laptop, a machine operating Chrome OS Flex is especially meant for getting folks up and operating in an internet browser. That sounds fairly restricted — and it may be — however that also means you’ll be able to stream music, binge movies, edit pictures and get some writing performed.

If poking round on the Web is one thing you or your loved ones spends a variety of time doing, an additional laptop operating this software program may come in useful. A number of makes use of come to thoughts: Perhaps it turns into a devoted machine for the children, which you’ll remotely handle with Google’s Household Hyperlink app. A Chrome OS Flex laptop would additionally make for an ideal “visitor” machine for individuals who cease by and must do one thing on-line their telephones can’t handle. (I hold well-loved laptop computer in my lounge for simply this purpose.)

Since that is Google software program we’re speaking about, it additionally comes with a handful of familiar-sounding options, like help for Google Assistant and the power to hook up with your Android telephone to get incoming notifications in your laptop display. That stated, not all of those new options will work on each previous laptop, so it’s value conserving your expectations in verify.

By far, the most important downside is software program help. There mainly isn’t any.

Except the corporate behind your favourite software program has a model that works inside an internet browser, you’re in all probability out of luck. And whereas trendy Chromebooks have the power to obtain and set up Android apps from Google’s Play Retailer, you’ll be able to’t do this on an previous laptop operating Chrome OS Flex. (If your manner round companies like Citrix Workspace, you could possibly use software program inside digital variations of Home windows inside Chrome, however that will get difficult quick.)

There are additionally some issues Chrome OS was by no means actually designed to do, like learn play music or films off of CDs or DVDs. (Sure, meaning the CD or DVD drive that got here constructed into your laptop received’t work anymore.) The identical is true for fingerprint scanners, face recognition cameras and styluses that your laptop might have been meant to work with. Google’s software program merely doesn’t know what to do with them.

If Google’s software program doesn’t appear to be a great match to you, there are many different issues for which to make use of your previous computer systems.

Flip it right into a server: Bought a group of house films and, ahem, legitimately obtained digital movies? If they will match in your previous laptop’s laborious drive, set up an app known as Plex and use that machine because the cornerstone of your individual private Netflix.

Recycle it: In case your laptop isn’t tremendous previous, it may be a worthwhile donation to another person who may use it. Punch your Zip code into Digitunity’s search software — it’ll present you close by nonprofits on the lookout for the tech you not want.

Promote it: Imagine it or not, there’s no scarcity of individuals keen to purchase previous computer systems from companies like eBay and Fb Market. A few of them want additional components. Others are on the lookout for period-specific machines to play older video games. Both manner, there’s a reasonably good probability somebody on the market will discover as a lot worth in your previous tech as you used to.

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