Turn old Windows computer into web-only Chromebook

As computers age, they tend to slow down. New software updates become incompatible and the computer can’t keep up with the increasing demands of programs. However, the hardware of these sluggish machines often still works fine, so by installing a lighter and faster operating system such as ChromeOS, they can be made usable again. So turn that old Windows computer into a web-only Chromebook!

That’s the process that we’re going to go over today. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • First, all of the data on the computer will be wiped out. If there are any documents, photos, etc. that you want to keep, then back them up first.
  • Second, the operating system that we are going to install is fast because it trims out everything but your web browser. If you need to run anything that isn’t in the web browser, then this isn’t your best option.
  • Finally, this process is not easily reversible. Consider your needs carefully if your computer is already working fine for you.

Required Materials:

  • A USB stick, 8GB or larger
  • A Windows computer (This doesn’t have to be the same computer that you intend to install ChromeOS on)

1. Create a CloudReady USB drive

First, click here to download the newest version of CloudReady, the software we will be using to install ChromeOS.

Next, make sure that your USB stick is plugged in, and launch the software by clicking on the downloaded file, titled “cloudready-usb-maker.exe”.

Select “Yes” if it asks whether you want to allow the app to make changes to your device.

From here it’s an easy process, as the software should automatically recognize the USB drive.

  • Click “Next”
  • Click “Next” again
  • Choose the name of the USB drive
  • Then click “Next” one more time.

Once the green progress bar is finished, which can take a while, click “Finish”

Then eject and remove your USB drive.

2. Install ChromeOS

Now you are ready to turn that old Windows computer into a web-only Chromebook.

From here, you will need to tell your computer to boot from the USB drive.

Plug in the USB drive and THEN turn on the computer. The screen will give you the option of entering the “Boot Menu,” or “Boot Options,”. There are other phrases related to booting that you may see. This is the choice you are looking for.

Look for the key, usually F2 or F11/12, that you need to press to get into the menu. It can go by fast. If you miss the display or don’t press the key in time, turn it off and try again. Once you know the key that you need to press, just pressing it repeatedly as soon as you turn on the computer.

This will cause the computer to open the boot menu. You will be greeted with a big list of devices that you can boot from. The one that we want will be labeled something like “USB,” “Flash drive,” or sometimes “Removable storage/device.” Use the up and down arrow keys to navigate to the correct drive and press enter.

Log into your new Chromebook

If everything went correctly, you should see the CloudReady logo appear instead of your computer’s normal boot screen. From here, click “Let’s go”, connect to your home Wi-Fi network, and click “Continue.” Then, either sign in with your email account if you have one, or create a new account by going to “More Options” -> “Create account.” And… you’re done!

If you made it this far, then the rest should be easy. If you’ve used a Chromebook before with the same email address, then it will likely even carry over your settings so you will be all set. The speed difference should be immediately apparent.

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