Google's tool to turn old laptops into Chromebooks is now widely available

Over the last few months, Google squashed hundreds of bugs in the early release of ChromeOS Flex.

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Earlier this year, Google announced ChromeOS Flex, a tool that lets anyone take an old Windows or Mac laptop and give it new life by installing Chrome OS. After launching ChromeOS Flex in “early access,” Google now says that Flex is ready to “scale broadly” to more Macs and PCs.

The basics remain the same. You can visit the ChromeOS Flex website to make a bootable Chrome OS installation on a USB drive to ensure that your system works properly, and you can then fully replace your old computer’s OS with Chrome OS if everything checks out. As for what’s new, Google says it has tested compatibility with over 400 different devices. That was part of the intention of the early access program — it let Google gather a ton of user feedback and fix some 600 bugs that were identified over the last few months.

While anyone can install ChromeOS Flex, Google is mostly positioning this as a tool for businesses or schools to extend the usefulness of older hardware. To that end, IT departments can actually deploy Flex over their networks rather than update every computer with a USB drive. Google also notes that Flex devices can be managed using the Chrome Enterprise Upgrade, which lets departments manage apps and policies across a whole fleet of computers.

This all comes about a year and a half after Google bought Neverware, a company that first had the idea of letting users take old computers and turn them into Chromebooks. Now that ChromeOS Flex is being deployed widely, Neverware’s CloudReady software will be transitioned to Flex in the coming weeks and the standalone CloudReady product will be shut down. That shouldn’t be a major issue for anyone, though, as Flex is now stable and has some features that CloudReady didn’t, like Google Assistant support.