ChromeOS Flex is ready

[German]Google has announced this week that its "Chrome OS Flex" operating system for PCs and Macs is ready and released it broadly for the said devices. The OS is meant to promote sustainability by allowing existing devices to be upgraded to an easy-to-manage, fast and secure Chrome OS operating system.


What is Chrome OS Flex?

ChromeOS Flex is an easy-to-manage and more secure cloud-first operating system based on ChromeOS developed by Google for its Chromebooks. What's special about the Chrome OS Flex variant is that it can be installed on existing Mac and Windows PCs.

The background: Google had taken over the Cloud Ready product from the manufacturer Neverware at the end of 2020. They had developed an open source approach to port Chrome OS to old hardware. Google then took it further and now advertises this approach:

  • ChromeOS Flex lets you modernize your existing devices for free and in a sustainable way. It can be easily deployed on devices.
  • When you equip your existing devices with a modern operating system, you extend their lifespan and reduce electronic waste.
  • You benefit from a more energy-efficient, sustainable solution with a lower total cost of ownership.

ChromeOS Flex can be deployed to all devices via USB or a network deployment. Specifically for enterprises, Google notes that user settings and policies are synced instantly. You can manage updates and configure device policies from anywhere in the admin console. In terms of security, Google praises its operating system with the following points:

  • No additional anti-virus software is required thanks to executable blocking and sandbox technology. 
  • IT controls prevent data loss on lost or stolen devices.

In terms of updates, it says, "They [Chrome OS Flex devices] boot up quickly, don't slow down over time, and updates happen in the background. A clear dig at Windows systems. This operating system is free for private users, and there are subscription models for small money for schools and companies.

Deployment for a wide range of devices

After all, I pointed out back in February 2022 in the post Google brings Chrome OS Flex to old PCs and Macs that Google had released an initial version of Chrome OS Flex for select devices. In a Chrome OS blog post Get ready to flex this summer: ChromeOS Flex is now ready to scale broadly to PCs and Macs  from July 14, 2022, Google announced the final availability of Chrome OS Flex to a wide range of devices. 


Chrome OS Flex, it said, is a cloud-first, easy-to-manage and fast operating system for PCs and Macs that won't cause undesirable harm with cluttered software, clunky hardware and security vulnerabilities. Rather, ChromeOS Flex is just right for legacy devices that are barely usable with their existing operating systems like macOS or Windows, he said. On this website, Google lists the compatible devices along with the end-of-support dates. Google lists other plus points that make up this operating system in its announcement. 

  • Proactive security: ChromeOS Flex provides much-needed protection against growing threats, including ransomware, malware and employee error.
  • Rapid deployment and easy management: ChromeOS Flex can be quickly deployed via USB or over your corporate network. Chrome Enterprise Upgrade lets you manage apps and policies from anywhere, even on the beach.
  • Fast, modern work experiences: Devices don't slow down over time. Background updates reduce device downtime and increase productivity, so you have more time to relax.
  • Sustainable for your business and the planet: Breathe new life into existing hardware to reduce e-waste and energy consumption and preserve blue skies..

While these are all advertising claims and you have to see what's left at the end of the day. Also, there is the problem that a lot of software was written for Windows and tends not to run on ChromeOS Flex. But anything that only requires thin clients should get further with this solution on existing hardware. Google cites the Scandinavian hotel chain Nordic Choice in the announcement, which had to shut down all systems after a ransomware attack. Thanks to a one-page guide and ChromeOS Flex, 2,000 computers were switched to the new operating system in less than 48 hours.

By switching to ChromeOS Flex, Nordic Choice Hotels will save up to 1.5 million kilograms of CO2 over the next eight years. Is it just me that notices? That's quite a contrast to Microsoft and its hardware requirements for Windows 11, which can hardly be met by current hardware. It looks to me like Google is stepping into a gap and offering businesses a "money saving" solution that is also sustainable.

I will definitely test some old devices with the new approach when I get a chance – and see if ChromeOS Flex runs there (so far the machines have been left out, and continue to be unlisted, and problem is likely to be the 64-bit CPU on some systems of mine). The steps to create an installation media are described here. As family surfing machines, this could definitely work – even if it puts you in a Google dependency. And since the underpinning is a Linux, some Linux applications might run as well.

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