How To Bring an Old Laptop Back to Life for Free

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Every few years, or even more often than that, we replace our electronics with new versions. But for most people, it doesn’t mean getting rid of the old devices. For whatever reason, people tend to hang on to the old ones.

But if you want to get out of that cycle, or just want to revive an old laptop, there’s a new solution, and it’s totally free.

How To Bring an Old Laptop Back to Life

Google has released Chrome OS Flex (formerly Neverware), and you can install it for free on a desktop computer, laptop or Mac.

Currently, Chrome OS Flex is labeled, as of June 2022, as an “early access release.” This means that it’s functional, but it’s not the final, finished version. So you may notice some bugs and other issues initially, but when the finished version is released, your machine will be automatically updated to the new version. (No word yet on when the final version will be out, but it should be soon.)

While the software may not be able to fix all of an old machine’s problems, it’s a great way to bring an old laptop back to life and at least make it usable again without having to pay for new hardware or an expensive repair. Just like the regular version of Chrome OS that comes installed on Chromebooks, you’ll have access to all of Google’s cloud computing services such as Gmail, Drive, Docs and more.

Important note: You should back up anything on your old laptop that you don’t want to lose before installing the new software.

How To Install the Software on an Old Laptop: A Two-Part Process

Before you start, know that Google does caution that the installation may fail with some USB drives. If you find that happens to you, try a different USB drive.

Create Chrome OS Flex Installation Media

  • Open Google Chrome on your computer or Mac.
  • Go to the Chrome Web Store and install the Chromebook Recovery Utility.
  • Once the extension has been added to Google Chrome, click the extension’s icon in the top right corner and select the Chromebook Recovery Utility from the list. The Chromebook recovery process will begin.
  • Insert your USB drive into a USB port and click the get started button.
  • You will be prompted to identify your Chromebook. Click “Select a model from a list.”
  • From the list that opens, select Google Chrome OS Flex.
  • In the second drop-down menu, select “Chrome OS Flex.”
  • Click the “Continue” button.
  • On the next screen, you’ll be prompted to select the media you’d like to use. Select the USB drive you inserted earlier.
  • Click “Continue.”
  • You will be warned that any data currently on the USB drive will be deleted. Click the “Create Now” button.
  • The process of downloading and creating the recovery image will begin.
  • Once complete, click the “Done” button, or if you’d like to create another USB drive, click”Create Another.”
  • When finished, remove the USB drive.

Install Chrome OS Flex from USB Recovery Media

  • If there is any data on the hard drive you want to keep, be sure to save it before proceeding.
  • If your computer’s BIOS is not already set to boot from a USB drive, enter the BIOS and go to the boot menu and enable that setting. (You can refer to the manufacturer’s support manual for directions.)
  • Insert the USB drive into the computer or Mac on which you want to install Chrome OS Flex and start the computer.
  • Click the “Get Started” button.
  • You will have the option to install Chrome OS Flex or try it first. If you choose to install Chrome OS Flex, it will overwrite the previous OS and install it on the hard drive. If you choose to try it first, it will run from the USB drive. Once you make your choice, click the “Next” button. Then click “Install Chrome OS Flex.”
  • You will receive a warning that the hard drive will be erased. Click the “Install” button.
  • When finished it will say, “Installation complete.” Remove the USB drive from the computer. The computer will restart with the new OS installed.
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