How to install Windows on a Chromebook | Computing

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Between web and Android in Chrome OS, there’s a lot you can get done on Chromebooks. However, there still might be certain things about Windows you miss.

You might not have thought it was possible, but you have a few different options for bringing some of that Windows goodness to your Chrome OS machine. There are a multitude of ways to make this work — and we can show you where to go. Here’s how to use Windows on a Chromebook!

Before you begin

Before setting off on this adventure, there are a few important caveats to getting Windows up and running on your Chromebook. As always, and most importantly, messing with your operating system, firmware, and BIOS can have serious effects on your system. You’ll want to back up any important data away from your computer before you begin.

If something does happen and you find yourself unable to use your Chromebook, you can create a USB drive from another computer to try and recover the system. This will erase all of your data though, so make sure to back up anything that isn’t saved to Google Drive.

With that out of the way, let’s begin with the first (and easiest) method.

Method 1: Free Online Apps

If you are primarily interested in accessing apps from the Office suite and don’t really care about any of the other apps offered on Windows 10, this is by far the easiest option and you can do right from the Chrome browser.

Step 1: Launch the Chrome browser and navigate to this Microsoft site.

Step 2: Here you will see the selection of apps available for Office Online. Basically, Microsoft knows that certain apps are very important for professionals and student, so they want people to be able to access them from any operating system. This is why they put up free online apps for options like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Sway, Mail, Calendar, OneDrive and more.

Step 3: Select the app or apps that you want to use. A version will open in your Chrome browser and you will be able to start using it. Take note, however, that these online versions won’t have all the capabilities that you would get with something like Office 365. However, they should work for most purposes.

Method 2: Chrome Remote Desktop

The Chrome Remote Desktop is an extension that simply allows you to access another desktop while using your Chromebook. Somewhat like a virtual machine, this will open a window that shows an entirely different operating system that you can use. The key to this method — and the caveat — is that you need another Windows 10 machine connected to the internet that you can link to. That’s the only way this works. Obviously this won’t be possible in some Chromebook situations, but if you have a Windows computer around, this can be an effective workaround.

Step 1: Navigate over to the Chrome Web Store and download the Chrome Remote Desktop extension on your Chromebook. Then head over to your Windows computer, pull up your Chrome browser, and make sure it’s updated with the same capability.

Step 2: Starting on your Windows computer, head over to your Chrome apps and select Chrome Remote Desktop, then choose Get Started. From here, choose Share. This will create an access code and ask you to define the computer you want to connect to. Email that code to yourself so that you will remember it.

Step 3: Now switch to your Chromebook. Start the Chrome Remote Desktop — this time it should see your Windows computer as an option to select and connect to. Select it, and input the access code that you sent yourself. Then click Connect.

Note: This is a very good remote desktop app, but remote desktop solutions still have their pitfalls. They are highly dependent on internet connections and can experience delays at times. This works best if you have high-speed internet all the way between your computers.

Method 3: CrossOver

CrossOver, by CodeWeavers, is a software solution that allows you to run specific OS apps on other operating systems. Thanks to the latest update, that now includes running Windows apps on your Chromebook. Before you get all excited, there are a few things to keep in mind before moving forward. First, it’s important to note that the Chrome OS version is still in beta. You can try it out, but it’s not guaranteed to be bug-free and easy-peasy for a little while yet.

The second issue is that because of the software requirements involved, this download won’t be available for everyone. Specifically, you can only run it on Intel-based Chromebooks and if you want to involve any Android devices or apps, they need to be compatible with Android 5.x or later. Also, certain functions like mouse locking (using often in FPS games) won’t function.

The good news, however, is that because the software is currently in beta, it’s free to try.

Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Head over to Google Play and choose to install the CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta. This will install a new icon made of two semicircles on your dashboard. When you click on it, make sure to allow it to access your media and files on your Chromebook.

Step 2: Make sure you a copy of the application’s installation file in your downloads folder, even if it won’t currently work.

Step 3: When CrossOver is launched, the easiest way to search for Windows software is to use the search bar in the top of the window and just type in the name of what you want to use. Software like Quicken, as well as DirectX applications all work, so search for anything you want.

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Step 4: In many cases, you can confirm the software you want, and CrossOv will begin the installation process with no trouble. In some cases you may have to choose the right installation file from a list, so pay close attention to file names and make sure you are choosing the one that you want. You may also have to agree to License Agreements and similar contracts at this time.

Step 5: After the installation is done, you should be able to launch the installation directly. Keep in mind that large programs will take up significant space, which not all Chromebooks have. Hopefully smaller Android apps will eventually be fully compatible with our Chromebooks.

Method 4: Converting fully to a Windows OS

Chromebooks aren’t designed to convert fully to a Windows OS, but you can force them to if you are determined enough. This takes extra hardware (modern Chromebook hardware won’t work with a Windows SeaBIOS), dismantling safety features (say goodbye to your warranty), and the know-how to install a new BIOS.

Plus, it doesn’t work for all models, you will have to fully wipe your Chromebook before you begin, and the process risks introducing and errors into your operating system. In other words, we really don’t recommend trying this — so we won’t get too far into the details. You’ve been warned!

However, if you’re a tinker and won’t mind if you accidentally kill your Chromebook, you can try this method out.

Step 1: The first thing you’ll need to is create a bootable USB drive on a Windows PC. We’ve only tested it with Windows 8, but there’s no reason to think that Windows 10 wouldn’t work as well.

Step 2: Once you’ve got Windows loaded up on a USB drive, you’ll need to put your Chromebook in Developer mode, which can be found in Settings. Next, shut down your Chromebook. When it’s off, hold the Esc and F3 buttons, and then press the power button without releasing the other keys. You’ll see a screen saying that your Chromebook has been booted into recovery mode. From here, press CTRL+D to access the developer mode switch.


Step 3: Now that your computer is in Developer mode, you’ll need to open the command line utility is called Crosh, which can be accessed by holding down CTRL+ALT+T. Once you’re in this menu, you can issue commands to the OS via text instead of clicking various options and icons. Start by typing in shell and hitting Enter, which will enable access to the Unix command line.

Step 4: Here’s where things get tricky. You’ll see the text field change from crosh> to chronos@localhost / $, which means you’re in the right place. Type the following two commands in, hitting “Enter” after each. First type sudo crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 and then sudo crossystem dev_boot_legacy=1. If you did this right, the first one may give you a blurb about talking to your system administrator, and the second will complete with no response.

Step 5: Now that your system is ready for a new OS, you’re in the home stretch. Take the USB drive with Windows on it that we made earlier, plug it into your Chromebook, and restart your system. When you turn the laptop back on, you’ll be faced with the same developer mode warning as before. This time, instead of pressing CTRL+D to skip it, hold CTRL+L to load the legacy BIOS.


Step 6: When the screen turns to text with SeaBIOS at the top, press ESC to load the boot menu. Here, you’ll see as many options here as you have storage devices attached to your computer. Simply press the button that corresponds to your USB drive. After plugging in a USB keyboard, use the Windows installer to prepare your disk. To do so, open up the command prompt at the screen above by holding Shift + F10 on the external keyboard. Type in disk part without the quotation marks and hit Enter. This launches the disk partition manager, a Windows command-line utility that can manage your drives and volumes. Type disk list and hit Enter to see all available drives, with the default for the internal drive usually at 0.

Step 7: Once you’ve confirmed it’s disk zero, enter the following commands one at a time, hitting Enter after each. Wait until you see a prompt again, then enter the next command. If your drive isn’t numbered zero, change the number in the commands to the appropriate number. Your first command is select disk 0 and your second is clean all.Now you can return to the graphical interface by typing in exit, hitting Enter, and then typing in exit and hitting Enter again.

Step 8: Now walk through the installation process as you normally would, except when the system restarts and you’re presented with the developer mode warning, hold CTRL+L to launch the legacy BIOS again. From here, press Escape to open the drive selection, and select your hard drive instead of the USB drive. You will need to do this everytime you launch into Windows; if you don’t, your Chromebook will automatically try to launch Chrome OS, and fail to do so because it has been erased.



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