Wish you had a reason to revive a perfectly good but old laptop? Google has a plan, and it may mean a DIY Chromebook.
We don’t always have the luxury of buying a new computer, but sometimes, when laptops get old, they can feel a bit useless. Operating systems can feel slower and even though you might be able to upgrade the storage and memory, it may not feel the same.
It’s a problem with new operating systems on older equipment, and one that can make you feel it’s worth leaving the old operating system installed. That’s potentially a security problem, because older operating systems don’t receive patches and fixes as often, if at all.
That’s a situation that isn’t great for you using the computer, but also means the next person you give it to is stuck in the same boat. However, it is something that a replacement operating system could help with. Specifically, if you have an old Mac or PC that you wish could be in use once again, a Google project in early access may be worth a look.
It’s a project Google calls “Chrome Flex”, which is basically a version of Chrome OS that can be run on most laptops made in the past decade, and possibly some that are a little older, as well.
Chrome Flex isn’t quite the same as a Chromebook, with the software on those optimised not just for the form-factor, but also the battery life, and a sudden upgrade on your old computer isn’t going to magically make it perform like a Chromebook.
What Chrome Flex may be ideal for is providing a secure platform based on the Chrome browser that could revitalise an old laptop in some form, and even one you can try before you install.
Based on Google’s acquisition of Neverware and Cloud Ready, a version of Chrome OS that can be installed on PCs and Macs, Chrome Flex could provide an upgrade path for people who presently have none, such as with a Windows Vista or Windows 7 laptop still ticking around, or even an old Mac.
Google does note some things may not work from machine to machine, while some features that so exist on Chrome won’t play nicely, either. For instance, Chrome Flex doesn’t support Android apps or the Google Play Store, while unsupported features include Firewire, infrared, fingerprint readers, CD and DVD drives, pen support, and even high-speed Thunderbolt functionality, though Type C ports can still be used for USB and charging if you have them.
But it will provide the security of Chrome OS, and may inject some life back into an old computer, possibly making it handy for passing that laptop to family or friends.
And it’s also free, though at the moment, Chrome Flex is in early access, so there also may be bugs.
If you’re keen to try it, you’ll need an old computer and an 8GB USB stick, plus some time to play around, with Chrome Flex available to install now.