How many of you out there have an old laptop sitting around just taking up space and getting in the way? That was a lot of hands. Okay I know I can’t see you and you can’t see me. But I think we can all admit to having at least one old laptop in our homes whose function is nothing more than that of an over sized paperweight or a door stop. What if I told you that you could breathe new life into that old laptop and find a use for it again?
While that old laptop may be too slow to run any modern version of Windows today, those older specs may be perfect for Chrome OS. Chrome OS will run much easily on an older computer and provide you with many of the modern apps found in Chrome that will allow you to return that old laptop to its former glory powered by new operating system.
What Is Chrome OS?
Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system that has been released by Google for its line of Chromebooks. This operating system is actually based on the Chromium OS Project, much like the way Google’s Chrome browser is based on the Chromium web browser. Google doesn’t actually release its version of the operating system for use on other computers, so technically if you want Chrome OS you will actually be using Chromium OS instead. However, there are very few differences between the two versions and I think you will find it will be hard to tell the difference when you use the Chromium version instead of Google’s.
Benefits of Chromium OS
Choosing to go with Chromium OS is a great way to give new life into that old laptop that you recently replaced, but that isn’t the only reason why you should consider this option. There are many benefits to using Chromium OS:
- Extend the life of an old laptop – Chromium OS doesn’t need anywhere near as much power to run compared to Windows, Mac, or even some full desktop versions of Linux. That means that even that older laptop that you thought was no longer useful anymore should be able handle Chromium OS so you can get a few more years out of the laptop before you finally have to retire it for good.
- Gain access to a huge range of Chrome apps – There are tons of apps on the Chrome store including productivity apps and even games giving you hours upon hours of new software to play with along with some of the best productivity apps you can find to help you get your work done.
- Experiment with a new operating system – Sometimes, playing around with technology is just plain fun, and taking Chromium OS and putting it on an older laptop can be a fun little experiment for you to run that will help you learn more about how technology works and open doors for you to learn something new about a totally different operating system altogether.
Drawbacks of Using Chromium
While there are tons of benefits to trying Chromium OS on an older computer, there are a few drawbacks about the operating system that you should be aware of before you do it.
- Offline capability limited – Chromium OS is designed for people that do most of their work on the web using software that is based in the cloud. If you use a lot of custom software, Chromium OS won’t be a good fit for you.
- Gaming Limits – There are a ton of games on the Chrome store, but these games are nothing like most modern PC games and are more akin to mobile games or browser games that you will find on tablets or online on websites.
- Software Availability – While many software developers have committed to porting their apps to Chrome, there are many apps that are simply not available for the platform at all. You must check to see if there is a Chrome version of the app you need or, at the very least, an app that you can use instead of the one you are looking for. If there is not, you may find that trying to use Chromium OS is quite difficult and not very useful to you in the end.
So Should You Do It?
In the end, this answer is really up to you. Remember, you are putting it on an old laptop that before you weren’t using at all so it may be worth it even if you can’t find every piece of software you use to work. However, Chromium OS doesn’t play with Google quite as nicely as Chrome OS. For example, Chrome OS will get every update from Google automatically so you never have to worry about it. With Chromium, you will have to run these updates yourself and deal with any issues with them that might come up. While not a major game changer, by any means, those who aren’t too technically minded may find that it is much more trouble than its worth.
Chromebooks themselves aren’t all that expensive, in fact you can find many on our Best Laptops Under $300, so you could always just buy one to save yourself the trouble of having to setup and install it yourself. However, if you want to make use of your old laptop, installing Chromium OS is definetely the way to go.
Install Chromium OS
It is actually pretty easy to download and install Chromium OS on almost any laptop or even desktop.
1. Download Chromium OS – While you can always pick up the files you need from the official Chromium OS project, there are many places online where you can find custom built versions of the operating system that you can use to save yourself a little time. We recommend that you visit Arnold the Bat’s World of Whimsy to find some of the best builds for Chromium OS.
2. Download the build of your choice and then use a program such as 7-Zip to extract it and save it either on a CD, DVD or even a USB flash drive.
3. Boot your computer using the device you chose to save the files and you can choose to either run the installer to install it on your computer or you can play around with Chromium OS for awhile so you can determine if it will work for you.
4. Installation – When installing, the installation is quite easy and straight forward. Just follow each of the prompts and in no time you will be running Chromium OS on your computer.
How Well Will It Perform
We already know that it will work even on older laptops, but exactly how well will it work? That all depends on your laptop, unfortunately. If you have a laptop that is four years old or newer, you can pretty much guarantee that it will perform fast and flawlessly. When you start going back older than that, your mileage may vary. That does not mean you shouldn’t at least try. That is why it is a good idea to boot up Chromium OS first to see how well it runs. Remember, though, that it will be slower from a USB flash drive or a CD or DVD, but if its performance is passable when using these versions, chances are it will work great when it is installed on your hard drive.
Other Options for Your Old Laptop
If you want to try to get a little more out of your old laptop than the simple web based apps that you can get on a traditional Chromebook, there are other options available to you.
1. Chromixium – This is a mix of both Ubuntu and Chromium OS. It is designed to look and feel like Chromium OS and it focuses heavily on the web based application offerings just like a regular Chromebook. However, under the hood it is essentially a full version of Linux. This means that in addition to these apps, you have the entire Linux app ecosystem to draw from and it will allow you to install and run both traditional desktop apps as well as Chromium apps.
2. Lightweight Linux Desktop – There are many different Linux distributions available out there that will run on older hardware. Distributions such as Lubuntu are perfect for older computers and will provide you with an impressive range of features all designed to run on older hardware.
Chrome OS on Windows 8.1
If you are running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you can use Google Chrome’s Windows 8 mode to get a Chrome OS style desktop. You can then force Windows to boot to that desktop and you can disable access to the Windows desktop creating what is essentially a Chromebook powered by Windows 8. This means that the OS is essentially running on top of Windows 8 so it will require more system resources compared to just running Chrome OS.
This will only work on Windows 8 and 8.1, however, as with the upcoming release of Windows 10 Microsoft has again changed everything. While it may one day come to Windows 10, there has been no official word from Google about it as of yet so don’t count on it.
While there is no official way to run Chrome OS on any laptop or desktop out there, you can run the version of the operating system that Google uses to build Chrome OS. There aren’t very many differences between Chromium and Chrome and, in fact, if you aren’t a fan of Google, Chromium OS may be a better choice for you.
Chromium OS isn’t the only operating system option available to you if you want to extend the life of that old laptop you have sitting around, either. However, if you want access to an operating system that is really gaining popularity, and you don’t want to buy brand new Chromebook, then Chromium OS is the right choice for you and, using it, you can quickly get that old laptop back and up running again and ready to be used every day.