How To Turn Your Old Mac Into A Chromebook With Chrome OS Flex

By Michael Grothaus •  Updated: 02/17/22 •  4 min read

You can now turn your old Mac into a Chromebook, but should you?


If you’re a Mac fan, but have always been a bit intrigued by Google’s Chromebooks, we have some good news for you. Google is now letting owners of old Macs (and PCs) turn their out of date laptops into Chromebooks through a program called Chrome OS Flex.

Here’s everything you need to know about Chrome OS Flex and some pointers if you are considering turning that 2014 MacBook Air into a Chromebook.

How To Turn Your Old Mac Into A Chromebook With Chrome OS Flex
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What Is Chrome OS?

Chrome OS is the operating system that runs on Google’s Chromebooks. As the name suggests, the OS is based heavily on the Chrome web browser that Google makes. As a matter of fact, the user interface of Chrome OS pretty much looks like Chrome.

Chrome OS is also what’s known as a thin client operating system. That’s opposed to modern Ones like macOS and Windows. A thin client OS is light on features, relatively, when compared to macOS and Windows.

That’s because a thin client OS is basically designed to be as light as possible and run almost entirely from the cloud. In other words, the cloud is powering most of the processes on a thin client OS and the computer that runs that OS is just a visual front for the processes occurring on far-away servers.

How To Turn Your Old Mac Into A Chromebook With Chrome OS Flex
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What Is Chrome OS Flex?

OK, so how is Chrome OS different from Chrome OS Flex? Chrome OS is built to run on laptops that are dedicated Chromebooks. Chrome OS Flex is a version of Chrome OS that can be installed on laptops that were originally built to run macOS or Windows.

In other words, Chrome OS Flex lets your turn your MacBook or Windows laptop into a Chromebook. Here’s how Google describes it:

“Try the cloud-first, fast, easy-to-manage, and secure Chrome OS for PCs and Macs. Chrome OS Flex is a free and sustainable way to modernize devices you already own. It’s easy to deploy across your fleet or simply try it to see what a cloud-first OS has to offer.”

If you do decide to install Chrome OS Flex on your MacBook, keep in mind Chrome OS Flex is NOT a dual-boot solution. If you install Chrome OS Flex on your MacBook it’ll wipe macOS from it. In other words, your MacBook will have gone from being a Mac to being a glorified Chromebook.

Why Would You Turn An Old Mac Into a Chromebook?

Macs are AMAZING computers and they typically have a lifespan of 5-7 years. That is, Apple usually lets new macOS releases run on Macs that debuted five to seven years ago. In other words, Macs have a terrific software upgrade life.

However, even Macs reach a point where they won’t take the latest OS. At that point, most people just upgrade to a new, modern Mac, and just sell the old one or keep it as a spare.

But with Chrome OS Flex, Google is now saying, “Why keep that outdated Mac as a spare when you can put a modern OS on it?”

Since Chrome OS Flex is a thin client, it can run speedily on even old computers, which means that if you want to give your old MacBook a new life, you may want to consider putting Chrome OS Flex on it, especially if you are already heavily invested in Google’s ecosystem and the old Mac you have has long since stopped receiving even security updates.

How To Turn Your Old Mac Into A Chromebook With Chrome OS Flex
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How Do I Turn My Mac Into a Chromebook?

If you’re excited about Chrome OS Flex, we don’t blame you. However, right now the OS is in beta, though you can still download it. Google itself warns: “Today, the OS is in early access and you may experience some instability.”

But still, if you want to try out Chrome OS Flex, here’s what you should do:

  1. First, back up ALL your documents and files from the MacBook you are going to install Chrome OS Flex on. If you don’t save backups, these files will be lost.
  2. Next, go here to register to try an early version of Chrome OS Flex.
  3. Once you are approved, you’ll create a bootable USB drive with Chrome OS Flex, which you’ll then use to install Chrome OS Flex on your MacBook. Full instructions will be included with the Chrome OS Flex download.
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Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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