You don’t need to buy a Chromebook to enjoy the features of Google’s web-based desktop operating system. Really, all you need is a work computer and a USB drive.
Google now officially offers a way to try out Chrome OS using a USB drive, and there are unofficial ways for you to experiment with the OS. These methods work whether you are running Windows, macOS or Linux. And no, you will not overwrite your existing OS.
Here’s how you can download Chrome OS and run it from a USB drive.
Official way: Running Chrome OS Flex
Chrome OS Flex is the latest OS from Google which is currently under development. However, Google has released an early access beta version to the public. It is lightweight and intended to run smoothly on older devices with lower specs and newer PCs.
Boot Chrome OS Flex from USB
Chrome OS Flex eliminates the technical complications that may have hindered you from installing and using Chrome OS on your PC in the past. This version of Chrome OS has extended support for multiple devices and lets you enjoy the official build on your PC.
So, here is how you can boot Chrome OS from USB using Chrome OS Flex.
First, you should have a USB drive that you need to make it bootable with at least 8GB of storage. If you are planning to boot and use the OS from your USB then it is better to use a bigger USB.
If you have the ISO or BIN file for the latest Chrome OS Flex release you can do this using Etcher. However, we will use the official method, using the Chromebook recovery utility. Please note that, at the time of this writing, this method is not available for Linux users.
It is better that you use Google Chrome for this so that it can work smoothly. As the first step is to install Chromebook Recovery Utility, which is a Chrome extension used to create recovery media for Chromebooks.
When the extension is installed, a popup will appear. Select your device model and follow the steps. Finally, it will download the Chrome OS Flex Bin file to your drive.
If your PC manufacturer and product are not available, select Google Chrome OS Flex under Select Manufacturer and Chrome OS Flex (Developer-Unstable) under Select Product. Press Continue and select your USB drive. Now, click on Continue again to create a bootable USB drive.
Now that you have downloaded Chrome OS Flex. Shut down the PC and restart it. Go to the BIOS One-Time Boot Menu and select USB Drive. The system will start booting from USB.
Now that Chrome OS Flex is ready, you can install it on the primary hard disk or use it via a USB drive with some memory limitations. Please note that installing Chrome OS Flex on the hard disk will remove your existing OS, and you cannot undo this process.
The Unofficial Method: Running the open-source Chromium OS
In this method, we will create a bootable USB drive loaded with the Chromium OS disk image. Chromium OS is the open-source version of Chrome OS where all the development takes place.
You will now have a 7Z file on your hard drive. Extract this file using the archive manager on your device.
Plug the USB drive into the port and format it as FAT32. The process is simplest on Windows, but MacOS and Linux aren’t that 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.
By now, you should have a fully formatted USB drive named “Chrome OS” plugged into the computer’s port (as shown in step three). You will also have an unzipped image file of the latest Chromium OS (as shown in steps one and two).
Etcher validates the burning process, that is, after creating the image on a USB drive, it will verify that everything is correct. Make sure you wait until it says 100 percent. After Etcher is finished, you will have a bootable USB drive with Chromium OS installed.
Reboot your computer and enter boot options
“Boot” is the process of selecting the OS. Each computer lets you choose which drive it should boot the OS from, whether it’s a hard drive, a USB drive, or even a DVD drive. You’ll need to enter boot and select the USB drive you just created.
As the Mac shuts down and restarts, press and hold the Option key. You might be doing this when you have a black screen, but that’s okay. Hold it down until you see the boot menu, which lets you choose between the Macintosh hard drive or the USB drive you have plugged in (usually marked “EFI”).
Boot into chrome os
Select the USB drive in the boot menu, press Enter, and the computer will boot from the drive. Now you can access your main hard drive and OS.