How to Install Chrome OS Flex

  • Chrome OS Flex is an operating system that can help revive older PCs and MacBooks.
  • If your PC or MacBook no longer works properly, you can erase the operating system and replace it with Chrome OS Flex.
  • All you need to install Chrome OS Flex is a USB flash drive and a compatible device.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference Library for more stories.

No computer lasts forever. No matter how well you take care of it, that fancy laptop you bought six years ago will eventually slow down – in some cases, to the point of becoming completely unusable.

But you can do more with an old laptop than just throw it away. If you have a spare USB drive, you can use Google’s new Chrome OS Flex software to help revive it. Flex is completely free and can help squeeze another few years out of this fancy laptop.

Here’s an overview of what Chrome OS Flex is, how it works, and how to install it.

What is Chrome OS Flex?

Although almost everyone knows what Macs and PCs are, you might not know Chromebooks. Chromebooks are special laptops designed to use Google apps and not much else. They’re incredibly popular in schools because of Chrome OS’s focus, the operating system used by Chromebooks, on productivity apps like

Google Drive


A laptop running Chrome OS.

Chrome OS is an operating system, like Windows or macOS.


Chrome OS Flex is a version of Chrome OS designed to be installed on PCs and Macs. It erases the original operating system and turns the computer into a makeshift Chromebook. But Chrome OS Flex also cuts down on the standard version’s bit of fluff, making it a streamlined operating system perfect for use on older systems.

Flex’s light loadout means you don’t need powerful hardware to run it. And since it doesn’t take a lot of processing power or energy, it won’t put much strain on your system. These two facts allow Chrome OS Flex to work on such old computers, extending their lifespan by up to several years.

The risks of installing Chrome OS Flex

Google maintains a list of “certified models”, where they track computers that Flex is guaranteed to work on. If you check it, you will notice that very few computers actually meet this standard.

Chrome OS Flex is currently in the “early access” stage, which means Google is still building it. Over time, Flex will work on more and more computers. But for now, expect some minor glitches and bugs while installing it. And if your computer doesn’t appear on this list, you might not be able to install Flex at all.

Also, when you install Chrome OS Flex, it erases your computer’s operating system and all the files on it. This means that if you encounter software problems, Flex will refresh your system and bring it back up to standard. But it also means that if you have important files saved on the system, you should transfer them before installing Flex.

The USB drive you use to install Flex will also have all of its files erased.

Once you’re ready, here’s how to set up Chrome OS Flex.

How to Install Chrome OS Flex

To install Chrome OS Flex, you need two things:

If you have both, you can start preparing Chrome OS Flex.

1. Open

Google Chrome

on a computer and open this page to add the Chromebook recovery utility to your browser.

The Chromebook Recovery Utility menu that asks the user to choose the version of Chrome OS they want to recover.

There is only one version of Chrome OS Flex: “Developer-Unstable”.

Google; William Antonelli/Insider

2. Once you have added the extension, open it and click on To start.

3. When you are asked to Identify your ChromebookClick on Select a model from a list. Use the first drop-down menu to select Flexible Google Chrome OSand the second to choose Chrome OS Flex (developer-unstable).

The Chromebook Recovery Utility menu which asks the user to choose the version of Chrome OS they want to recover.

There is only one version of Chrome OS Flex: “Developer-Unstable”.

Google; William Antonelli/Insider

4. Insert your USB drive into the computer and select it on the next page. Remember that this process will format the drive and erase everything on it.

5. Keep clicking Continue to create a recovery image on the USB drive. This step will take a few minutes, but once complete, your USB drive will become an install key that you can use to install Chrome OS Flex.

6. Once you reach the Success page, remove your USB flash drive.

Now is the time to install Flex. Go find the computer you want to install it on and plug in your USB drive.

7. Turn on your computer while holding down the power key to put it into boot mode. The key that acts as your computer’s startup key will change depending on the brand you are using – here are the startup keys for the most popular computer brands.

If you can’t find your computer’s startup key, check the manual or contact the manufacturer.

8. Your computer should start and show you either a screen asking you how you want to start the computer or the BIOS/UEFI menu. In any case, look for the option that allows you to boot from the USB drive and run it.

9. If you did it correctly, the Chrome OS logo will appear on your computer screen. When the Welcome to CloudReady 2.0 screen appears, click To start.

The Chrome OS Flex intro page on an older computer.  The option

Chrome OS Flex is also known as “CloudReady 2.0”.

Google; William Antonelli/Insider

ten. When prompted to install or try Chrome OS, select To install.

The Chrome OS Flex menu that asks the user if they want to install the OS or try it out using USB.

Selecting the “Try” option instead will keep your operating system safe, but you won’t be able to remove the USB.

Google; William Antonelli/Insider

11. Wait for Flex to install (this may take a while), then set up the device with your Google account.

That’s all we can say about it. Your computer should boot to the Chrome OS home screen, where you can start using apps like Google Drive and YouTube right away.

If you encounter any problems during these steps, try again from the beginning. If it still doesn’t work, it may mean Flex doesn’t support your computer yet.


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