Turning a Broken Windows Laptop Into a Working Chromebook

My wife owned a broken old Acer Ultrabook running Windows 10 (originally running Windows 7). It was a lovely little thing when it was new with some great specs, but as the years went by it became unusable. So I took it upon myself to ‘fix it’. And by ‘fix it’ I mean turn it into a Chromebook!

Not only did it slow down (as all Windows machines tend to do), but the power management seemed to be busted too, as the laptop could only hold charge for about an hour (and it has the shortest charging cable in the world, so that meant if it ran low sitting on the floor next to the nearest plug socket).

The Ultrabook also suffered a problem that I’ve read about a few times, that is when you install Windows 10 on these machines, the trackpad becomes a ‘jittery’, with the mouse cursor jumping about the screen erratically!

CloudReady to the Rescue

Fortunately the company Neverwear have worked with Google directly to create a pretty decent variant of Chrome OS called CloudReady (based on the open source variant ‘Chromium OS’), and best of all they let you download and install it for free for personal use.

All you need is a busted old laptop and an 8GB USB drive to get yourself a brand spanking new Chromebook!

How to Install CloudReady Chrome OS (Well Chromium OS) on Your Windows Laptop

The steps to install CloudReady are really simple! Even if you opt for the complicated route (as I did).

For Windows users (and if you are following this guide you likely have a Windows machine) you just insert your 8GB USB drive and install the Windows USB maker.

How to Install CloudReady with a Mac

My Acer Ultrabook was so slow, and the trackpad was so jumpy, that it proved pretty much impossible to even use a web browser. Fortunately I do have a couple of Macs knocking about, so here are the steps I took to install CloudReady on a bootable USB drive with my Mac:

Chrome Recovery Tool Icon
Chrome Recovery Tool Icon
Chromebook Recovery Tool
Chromebook Recovery Tool
  • Choose the CloudReady image you downloaded earlier
  • Click ‘Get Started’ and wait… a while!
  • At the end of the process you now have bootable Chrome OS USB drive
  • Insert this into your Windows machine, turn off the machine and boot from the USB drive (all Windows PCs are different, so have a google for how to do this with your Laptop, for me, I pressed ESC during startup)
  • You will be booted into Chrome OS! (Well, Chromium OS)

We are not quite done, as this is booting from the USB drive, we want to completely replace Windows! Interestingly enough my trackpad was still wonkey at this point too, it wasn’t until I did a full reinstall with CloudReady that problem got fixed.

  • Go to the bottom right hand side of Chrome OS and click on the clock
  • Choose ‘Install CloudReady’ from the pop-up menu
  • Follow the onscreen instructions and wait (again)
  • When the machine boots up, its Chrome OS all the way! Bye bye Windows!

My New Chromebook!

And there we have it! My new Chromebook. It does pretty much everything that a normal (older, none Android supporting) Chromebook does, and its got a 1TB HDD and a Core i5 Intel processor to boot. All this in the the form factor of an Ultrabook (think MacBook Air size).

Best of all, the battery now lasts about a day, and the trackpad issues are all fixed! I just wish it had a higher resolution screen, but thats only because I’m spoiled due to the retina display on my Mac!

My Acer Ultrabook Chromebook now serves as my travel companion, it now comes to conferences with me (and to the park, as I don’t mind getting it dinged). It is very lightweight, its much easier to type on than an iPad, and it doesn’t have all my development tools, so it’s pretty distraction free.

Oh, and don’t worry, my wife got a new Windows laptop that works (for now), so she’s happy too!

Go ahead, turn your busted old Windows laptop into a Chromebook today. And if you do, let me know how you got on in the comments.

By Matt Watson

Wordpress Developer for Hire. Developer, Father, Husband, Blogger - I do great things on the Web.