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How to Turn Your Old Laptop into a Chromebook: Turn Your Sluggish Old Windows Laptop into a Super-speedy Chromebook

Buying a laptop used to involve a straight choice between two operating systems - Windows or OS X. But now there’s Google’s Chrome OS, which offers a low-cost third option. Chromebooks running the cloud-based operating system have become very popular and it's easy to see why. They are affordable because as long as you’re happy to carry out most of your work on the web and in your browser, they don’t require much expensive processing power.

The same principle can be applied to an old PC, so although it may not be able to run the latest version of Windows, your old computer may still have more than enough power to run the Chrome operating system. CloudReady brings the Chromebook experience to your PC and can either replace your existing Windows installation or run alongside it. The OS is aimed commercially at schools but is being given away free to home users.

What you’ll need

In addition to the CloudReady image file, which is a 600MB download from the website, you'll need the Chromebook Recovery Utility. This is an official Google tool that lets you create recovery drives for Chromebooks but it can also be used to install Chrome OS (via CloudReady) on your PC.

It requires the Chrome browser to work. You also need an empty USB flash drive (or SD card) to write the installer to. This should have a capacity of at least 8GB, though 16GB would be better. You can pick one up on Amazon for a few dollars.

How to Turn Your Old Laptop into a Chromebook

  1. Go to and select either the 32-bit or 62-bit download file. Don't unzip the CloudReady download yet, because it might cause problems.
  2. Insert a blank USB flash drive (or one you don’t mind losing the data on), open the Chrome web browser, then install and run the Chromebook Recovery Utility. Do not click the Get started button. Instead, click the gear icon and choose Use local image.
  3. Navigate to the saved file and select the media you want to use for the installation and click Open.
  4. Make sure you select the correct drive and then click Continue.
  5. Next, confirm that the details on the next page are correct. Assuming they are, click Create now.
  6. Agree to the UAC prompt that appears.
  7. Creating a recovery image should only take a few minutes - don't unplug the USB drive during the process. When it's done, restart your PC and boot from the USB drive. The CloudReady installer will load. Set your language, keyboard, and network, then click Continue to begin the installation process.
  8. During installation, you’ll need to agree to install Flash, then sign in to your Chromebook ’using your existing Google account. If you don’t have an account or want to create a new one to use with CloudReady, click More options and choose Create new account. Click Next and enter your password.
  9. Choose a picture to use for your account and you’ll be offered the chance to take a tour of your new device. All the apps can be accessed through the launcher in the bottom-right corner. The system tray provides access to the settings, which is where you'll find the option to install CloudReady.
  10. Click the Install CloudReady button. You’ll have the option of installing it as a standalone operating system (which will completely erase anything on your hard drive) or as a dual boot alongside Windows. If you select the latter, you’ll be able to choose between loading Windows or CloudReady when you boot up.

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