What Chromebooks can do and what they can’t do

Chromebooks are the go-to computer for many schools and are becoming ubiquitous among families. You can even borrow one from the Melrose Public Library with your library card, and use it, along with a hot spot, for 2 weeks at a time without any cost to you. We thought it was time to take a deeper dive into the pros and cons.

What they can do

Chromebooks are inexpensive to purchase. They are very secure and stay updated automatically. With somewhat limited functionality, they are simple to use and very simple to maintain.

The main program on a Chromebook is the Chrome browser.

A user will log into a Google account and access their data through this interface. You don’t need to have Gmail email account, but you must have a Google account.

ChromeOS is browser based. All web sites and web apps are easily accessible: email, web browsing, shopping, online banking, games, documents and spreadsheets, etc.

A Chromebook is also a little like a large Android smartphone. The Google Play Store or the Android App store provides apps. These apps are like shortcuts to online websites, but they often provide additional functionality or a better user experience.

You can set up separate users on a Chromebook. Each user can log into their own environment. Websites and saved passwords don’t get mixed. This also allows a parent to set up controls over their children’s accounts. A Chromebook from a child’s school may have limitations on it already, so give us a call if you need help figuring out how to proceed.

Chromebooks come in a wide range of devices, made by many major computer manufacturers. You can get touchscreen, convertible to tablet, and many sizes. Prices range widely too, but at each level they are generally less expensive than Windows or Macintosh equivalent computers.

What they can’t do


Chromebooks have limited storage on the device. They are set up to store data in the cloud and use online applications. This means that there are no downloaded applications that run natively on the computer. This is a departure for people who keep everything stored only on their computer and don’t use cloud storage or online services. Most of us live in a hybrid world where we have our data online and also on our devices. This is not necessarily good or bad, but it is a change for some people.

For example, if you are used to having a copy of Microsoft Word on your computer, this will be a change for you. Alternatives include accessing the Word program online through the Microsoft Office website (either a free or paid version), or using Google Docs which is comes with a Google account.

Most popular programs have an online version, but sometimes the functionality is limited online. The Adobe Creative Cloud suite is one example of a program most well known for its downloaded applications, but which has limited online versions.


A Chromebook doesn’t sync seamlessly with an iPhone in the same way that a Macintosh computer does, but it is very easy to log into iCloud.com on a Chromebook and access your iCloud data. Since an Android phone is based on your Google account, the connection is a more seamless.

We have experienced some difficulty using external devices with Chromebooks. Printing is supported, but not all printers work with all Chromebooks. If you need to use an external CD/DVD drive, that may prove difficult. We did not have trouble with attached thumb drives, and we didn’t try external hard drives. Other than printing, most people have little need for these devices with a Chromebook because there is not very much actually stored on the computer, but your own use should guide you here.

How to decide?

Some people don’t feel comfortable using Google applications. This is a personal decision based on an individual’s sense of the security of different companies. ChromeOS is a Google operating system, and is coordinated closely with your Google account.

Whether these are serious limitations for you will depend on how you use your computer. 

How to add an account to a Chromebook

At the bottom right of the screen, click on the time to open the control panel

Select Settings .

In the “Accounts” section, click on your Google Account.

Select Add Google account.

Follow the on-screen steps.

Google instructions are available here.

Each user should have their own account on the Chromebook. This provides a great deal of added security. The first account added to a new Chromebook “owns” the Chromebook. In case of mistakes, starting over is very easy. A Chromebook can be “powerwashed” and returned to factory new condition.

If you would like help with this process, just call or email and we’ll be happy to assist you! For have specific questions, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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