How to Turn Your Old Laptop into a Chromebook: Turn Your Sluggish Old Windows Laptop into a Super-speedy Chromebook
Run CloudReady on VirtualBox
If you want to try CloudReady without installing it on your PC, you can set it up temporarily using VirtualBox (www.virtualbox.org). This isn’t as straightforward as setting up other operating systems, such as the different versions of Linux, because the download comes as a BIN image file and you’ll need to convert this into a format that VirtualBox can work with before you do anything else. Fortunately, this isn’t difficult to do.
- Unzip the chromiumos_image.bin file, click Start, type ‘cmd’ and launch the Command Prompt.
- Inside the window, type: “c:\program files\oracle\virtualbox\VBoxManage.exe” “convertfromraw” “C:\Users\[username]\Downloads\chromiumos_image.bin” cloudready.vdi. You’ll need to add your username and the name of the location you saved the BIN file to. If for any reason you can’t find the saved file, search your hard drive for cloudready.vdi and copy it to the Desktop.
- Launch VirtualBox and click New.
- In the Name box, enter ‘cloudready‘, set the type as Other, the version as ‘Other/Unknown,’ and click Next.
- Now, Assign a minimum of 2GB (2048 MB) RAM to the OS and click Next.
- Then, in the Hard Disk box, select Use an existing virtual hard disk file.
- Click the folder icon and browse to the cloudready.vdi file.
- Next, click Open and then click Create. Make sure the CloudReady entry is selected on the left and click Settings. Go to System, Motherboard and tick ‘Enable I/O APIC’ and ‘Enable EFI’. Next, select the Processor tab (still under Settings) and tick ‘Enable PAE/NX’ next to Extended Features. Increase the number of processors from one to two or more. Finally, click Display on the left, change video memory to 128MB and tick ‘Enable 3D Acceleration’. Click OK and the changes will be applied.
With CloudReady selected in VirtualBox, click the Start button at the top. The virtual machine will start and the memory will be tested. Once that’s complete, CloudReady will load and you’re ready to set it up.
Navigating CloudReady is fairly simple. You access your apps through the launcher and browse the web through Chromium. The system tray icon lets you switch Google accounts, manage your internet connection, adjust the volume, and access Settings. You can also shut down the OS or lock it.
The Settings screen lets you manage your internet connection and install and update media plug-ins such as Flash. You can also set the wallpaper, get themes, and adjust settings for the mouse, keyboard, and display. The Advanced Settings screen lets you manage the date and time (you’ll probably need to change this because we found CloudReady couldn’t identify our location correctly, so it was displaying the wrong time), as well as privacy settings, languages, and downloads.
Right-click a blank area of the Desktop to bring up a context menu that lets you autohide the shelf (the Chrome OS equivalent of the Windows taskbar) and change its position. By default, it sits at the bottom of the screen but it can be positioned on the left- or right-hand sides, which is useful for widescreen monitors.
Change the Background
The dull, grey default background is one of the first things you’ll want to change in Chrome OS. Browse the web until you find an image you’d like to use as Desktop wallpaper. You can also use a photo of your own if it’s stored in Google Drive (you’ll need to download the Google Drive app from the Web Store).
To change the background, right-click the Desktop and select Set Wallpaper. Click the plus symbol under Custom, then Choose File and select the wallpaper to use from either Google Drive or Downloads. You can adjust the position of the image, which can be centered, cropped, or stretched.
Install Some Apps
There are lots of apps to choose from, but we’d definitely recommend the following:
- Google Drive: Store and access all your files through Google’s cloud-storage service
- VLC for Chrome OS: An excellent media player that can handle any audio or video file
- JSTorrent: A BitTorrent client that works very well on Chromebooks (or PCs pretending to be Chromebooks)
- Evernote: The popular note-taking app
- Kindle Cloud Reader: Read ebooks directly in the Chromium web browser.
Although you have to jump through a few hoops, so to speak, you can turn your old PC into a Chromebook using the steps shown above, and, if you want to expend a little more effort, you can even use it on a virtual machine.
Were you able to breathe some new life into your old laptop? Do you prefer Chrome to Windows? Let us know in the comments below.
If you decide in the end that you’d rather buy a new Chromebook, we recommend the excellent Toshiba Chromebook 2, available on Amazon.