Chrome OS Flex Turns Your Old Laptop Or MacBook Into A Chromebook For Free

chrome os flex introduced news
Back in 2009, Google published the source code for Chromium OS, the open-source operating system project that underlies Chrome OS. However, while Chromium OS has remained open source, Google has never released a compiled build of the operating system ready for installation. The company has instead focused on releasing Chromebooks that ship with Chrome OS pre-installed. There are even recent rumors of gaming Chromebooks in the works.

Users interested in trying out Chromium/Chrome OS on their own non-Chromebook devices have had to turn to third-party builds and distributions. One of the most notable Chromium OS distributions has been Neverware’s Chromium OS fork called CloudReady, which began by targeting the US education sector, but eventually expanded its scope beyond the US and into the enterprise market. Google actually invested in Neverware, helping fund this expansion. In 2018, Neverware acquired Flint Innovations, the company behind Flint OS, which was another fork of Chromium OS.

Neverware has helped schools, businesses, and individual users revive old hardware and deploy a cloud-based operating system with its lightweight Chromium OS distribution. Google is now taking up this effort after acquiring Neverware in late 2020.

chrome os flex introduced laptop news
Chrome OS running on a Chromebook

Neverware has continued to operate in a largely unchanged manner under Google's ownership, but Google is now stepping in to bring Neverware’s operating system under the Chrome OS name by introducing Chrome OS Flex. According to Google, Chrome OS Flex is a new version of Chrome OS that integrates the benefits of Neverware’s CloudReady.

Chrome OS Flex is built for businesses and schools and is fully compatible with Google’s cloud-based management tools, but it is free to download and install so individual users can make use of it, as with CloudReady. Chrome OS Flex has the same code base as regular Chrome OS and will receive updates at the same time, so both operating systems should share a consistent user and administrator experience.

Chrome OS Flex is currently in early access. Google’s announcement and Neverware’s website link to the following page, where those who are interested can sign up to try out an early version of the operating system. The page warns that users may experience some instability in this early version, but Chrome OS Flex is currently bootable and installable via USB drive.