How to Install Chrome OS Flex on Your Windows PC

Published by Jesse Afolabi on

chrome os flex on msi hardware

The Year of Linux is Finally Upon Us: Make Welcome Chrome OS Flex, The Best Valentine Gift No One is Talking About

I Took the Plunge and installed Chrome OS Flex on a MSI Stealth 15M with RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and Intel Core i7-11375H for the Team “gang gang” – consider for a moment that support is still slim for devices, experiment at your own risk.

Anyone keen on the Chrome culture knows best to celebrate this moment; A watershed moment indeed.

We’ve anticipated this for a while and of course, we’ve always known CloudReady to be around and the potential it presented for the Chrome ecosystem and certainly, Google’s purchase of Neverware in December 2020 sealed the deal. We knew this was in the pipeline and for lack of better descriptive words, this moment couldn’t have come sooner.

If you own a PC or mac and are curious about the whole Chrome OS ecosystem, now is your time to dig in. Google Chrome OS Flex is an official operating system managed by Google for the rest of us.

chrome os flex on msi hardware
chrome os flex on gaming computers

Google Chrome OS Flex is currently in active development with a select number of devices, however, it is no different from Chrome OS running natively on your Chromebook/Chromebox/Chromebase and more.

As evident in my experience, it’s been a graceful few hours already of my use typing this article in Chrome OS Flex.

Google Chrome OS Flex is best for those looking for a secure and functional alternative to the system that came pre-installed on your hardware with a familiar environment (Chrome browser) ready to go. So if you’re considering making the switch and are ready to flex some muscle, grab that USB and off we go.

Note: This article will be updated to reflect necessary changes over time.

Prerequisites and steps:

Get Your Space Ready
Back Up The Data on Your PC (very important)
Create Bootable USB Drive using Chromebook Recovery Utility
Get Your System BiOS Ready
Boot your system from a bootable USB
Install Chrome OS Flex
Be Awesome!

Get your Space Ready

Get comfortable with your PC plugged in. Proceed to download the Chrome Recovery Utility from the Google Web Store. Once downloaded, insert your USB drive (a minimum of 8gb) then ensure your data on both USB and Drive are backed up.

Get Your System BIOS/UEFI Ready

Power down your system and power it back on. Depending on the manufacturer of your third party Windows device, you’ll have to use the F2, F10, F12 or even Delete key (as is the case with my MSI gaming laptop) while your system is booting up. Your best chance is to Google the actual keys for your specific system before trying.

Back Up The Data on Your PC

Backing up your system before any significant change is the best practice. Doing so will ensure that in case of a disaster, recovery is relatively painless. In this case, you want to fully backup your system if possible otherwise, do a selective backup where you copy over your most important documents to an external drive or upload them to a cloud storage like Google Drive.

Create Bootable Drive using Chromebook Recovery Utility

A prerequisite for this step is downloading the Chromebook Recovery Utility after which you can search and open it from your Windows start menu.

Open the Chrome Recovery Utility, select Google Chrome OS Flex from the list of devices, continue to the next step by following the prompts to finally download and write the downloaded image to your drive. The whole process took me about 15 minutes. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Once the utility says it’s ready, restart your system with your USB drive still plugged in.

Install Chrome OS Flex

Installing ChromeOS Flex is a pretty straightforward and painless process. Provided you’ve successfully executed the steps above, your system will boot from the USB drive you have inserted and the screen will be graced with the Chrome installer.

At this point we’re pretty good to begin installation. you’ll be ready to follow the Chrome OS Flex install prompt as indicated in the images below.

Even better, you can try Chrome OS Flex just like I did before installing. This can help ease doubts about potential compatibility issues with your hardware. Provided you’ve found Chrome OS Flex satisfactory, you can proceed with the actual install process on your machine.

This installer calculated an estimate of 20 mins for completion but it only took about 5 minutes. In this case, the fact that my system has an NVMe drive and generally well-rounded specs could have been a significant factor in the speed.

Be Awesome!

Now that your PC is all nice and ready with Chrome OS Flex, it’s time to begin your exploration. A few noteworthy things I’ve noticed.

  1. Don’t bother claiming any perks; they are still exclusive to Chrome OS devices.
  2. Chrome OS Flex recognizes your caps lock but (if you’ve been using Chromebooks for a while you wouldn’t care much) simultaneously pressing the shift key with a letter is superior
  3. No Android app support yet
  4. Windows start menu button works for the Launcher
  5. There’s no assistant button or substitute so you may need to trigger the assistant manually when you open the Launcher
  6. Google Assistant currently doesn’t quite feel as polished or responsive compared to my Pixelbook (we can live with that considering the current status of the operating system)
  7. I’m not quite sure about dedicate GPU support as I currently have a RTX Nvidia 3060 but I’m not sure about whether it’s been utilized (i’ll have to report back on this later)
  8. Linux container runs like a dream. My Linux apps are significantly faster and responsive
  9. My system actually sleeps – I’ve missed that since i originally left Windows for a Ubuntu-based operating system and had lost that functionality for the most part but now it’s back on Chrome OS Flex
  10. Battery isn’t the greatest on my system, in fact, it’s worse on Chrome OS Flex but again, i can live with that, but you don’t really have. On the bright side, Adaptive Charging is coming and who knows, it could very well boost the battery life of Chrome OS Flex systems that have the same issue. Generally, gaming laptops don’t have a great battery life but you’re likely to have a better experience depending on the type of laptop you have
  11. Phone Hub works great on Chrome OS Flex
  12. My Chrome OS Flex version at the time of install – CloudReady (reven, version 100.14516.0)
  13. Use the diagnostics tool to understand your system resources usage from one place it seems to be Google’s alternative to Windows task manager
  14. Still can’t use software like OBS that won’t run in the Linux container environment
  15. I can’t use security apps like my VPN cause it’s only available via the Play Store temporary workaround via Chrome web browser will do.
  16. No windows apps here so don’t expect compatibility.
  17. You’ll find Linux alternatives for all the majority of the productivity apps you use, For starters, use Google Docs to replace Microsoft word.
  18. Google uses Chrome OS Flex interchangeably with CloudReady 2.0 … this is more prominent in the installer

Jesse Afolabi

I founded ItsChromeOS in 2018 to spread the word on the future of Chrome OS with a passionate team of enthusiasts. Care about Chrome OS Flex? We cover that too! ItsChromeOS isn't your average blogging space, it's a Chrome-first space for the everyone using Chrome OS. Support our vision here:

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