You can now try Chrome OS on your old MacBook or Windows laptop

Give your old kit a whole new lease of life with this ultra-light Chrome OS add-on that works on MacBooks as well as PCs

Chrome logo on a laptop
(Image credit: Chrome)

If you're feeling Chrome-curious, you don't need to buy one of the best Chromebooks to experience Google's internet-led OS: Google has announced a new, ultra-light version of Chrome OS designed specifically for older PC or Mac hardware. It looks like Chrome and turns your old device into a Chromebook in a matter of minutes.

The new version is called Chrome OS Flex and it's been made for hardware that might otherwise be put out to pasture. And it retains the Chrome selling points of fast booting, consistent performance and always-updated apps. Best of all, it's free.

Google Chrome OS Flex

(Image credit: Google)

Chrome OS Flex: the lighter way to enjoy your tech

First of all, a word of warning: Chrome OS Flex is in early access, so if it does something strange and borks your laptop or frightens your pets you're on your own. But if you've got a spare laptop kicking about you can download it and try it for free from the Chrome Enterprise website (opens in new tab). All you need is a USB drive.

Chrome OS Flex is built from the same code base as the main Chrome OS, and it will look and feel pretty much identical to it too and has the same secure sandboxing to remove the need for anti-virus software. Performance will of course depend on what internals your hardware has, but as Chrome does most of its heavy lifting on Google's servers it should feel positively nippy compared to an ageing Windows or macOS installation. As far as we can tell, all the key features are present and correct, so you should be able to sync with your Android phone, and you get Google Assistant too. 

I think this is a brilliant idea. I tend to upgrade my computers when they become painfully slow at everyday tasks, so for example I've only recently sent a Lenovo laptop to the computer farm in the sky because even something like basic web browsing was taking forever. Sticking the new Chrome OS Flex on it would have performed a Lazarus-like resurrection, which is good for my bank balance and better for the environment too. I shudder to think how many laptops end up in landfill when they could run a thinner, lighter OS and be useful for many more years.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).