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How To Make Your Own Chromebook

Updated on September 23, 2014

Install Chrome OS on to your Netbook

Got an old netbook that just doesn't seem as fast as it used to be? Lusting after a shiny new Google Chromebook but can't afford one? Well, now's your chance to give a new lease of life to your existing netbook or laptop.

Google Chrome OS is an operating system designed for the web. It starts up within seconds, and gives you instant access to the Internet using the Chrome browser.

Chromebooks are built around this OS, and are available to buy online.

But you don't have to wait, or spend the money on a new device - here's how to install Chrome OS on your existing hardware.

Introducing the Chromebook

Chromebooks are built and optimized for the web, so you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers.

HP Chromebook 14 (Peach Coral)
HP Chromebook 14 (Peach Coral)

With the HP Chromebook 14 running lightning fast Chrome OS, the best of Google is at hand on a colorfully sleek and stylish notebook. Access your favorite websites and Google apps instantly on a big, beautiful 14-inch diagonal HD display.

Auto-synch your data and stay connected everywhere with 100GB of Google Drive Storage.

 

How can I get Google Chrome OS?

Google's Chrome OS is not a conventional operating system that you can download or buy on a disc and install. As a consumer, the only way you will get Chrome OS is by buying a netbook that has it installed by the manufacturer.

However, there is also an open source project called Chromium OS, which shares the same code base. Anyone can download the source for Chromium, and build it themselves. This isn't an easy task, but fortunately there are some pre-built binaries available on the Internet which are easy to install.

See below for a step-by-step-guide...

Your Mileage May Vary

This success of this exercise depends on the exact hardware you have, and whether or not it is supported by Chromium OS. There's a chance that it won't work, but it's easy enough to try it out...

These instructions are based on my experience and research.

I installed Vanilla build 0.13.509 from May 13th 2011 on to my

Acer Aspire One D250 netbook with no problems.

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Installing Chromium OS on to USB - Easy Installation for your Netbook

The easiest and safest way to try out Chrome OS is to put Chromium OS on to a USB stick. ArnoldTheBat has automatic builds available every day, so all you need to do is download the most recent and copy it to a flash drive. The huge advantage of this method is that it doesn't disrupt your existing operating system.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install it via a Windows system:

  1. Go to ArnoldTheBat's Chromium OS Builds, and download the most recent one for USB.

  2. Using something like 7zip you'll need to extract the files from that download.

  3. Next you'll need to run Windows Image Writer and select the .IMG file and the drive letter of the flash drive. The click on the Write button.

    Warning: everything on the flash drive will be erased!

  4. Restart the computer with the USB stick in, and it should boot up Chromium. You may need to fiddle with your BIOS setting if it doesn't do this right away.

  5. The very first time you boot up, Chromium will ask you for some basic settings, including your WiFi settings. Once you've done this, you'll be able to login with your Google account.

Source

Welcome to the Cloud!

Once you've got your homemade chromebook up and running, you'll have instant access to all your Google mail, documents and data. Plus, you'll be able to login to all your favorite sites, connect with your friends and watch the latest funny videos on YouTube.

Chromium OS can also run millions of web apps, from games to spreadsheets to photo editors. Thanks to the power of HTML5, many apps keep working even in those rare moments when you're not online.

Have you tried Chromium OS?

Did Chromium OS work for you?

See results

Guide to Dual-Booting Chrome OS with Windows

If by now you have managed to get it working off of a USB stick, you might be wanting a more permanent solution. Installing Chromium OS on to your hard disk is much trickier, especially if you want to keep your existing OS.

Depending on your current setup, there are a number of methods that you can use. The most likely scenario is that you have Windows as your main OS, and you want to have Chromium installed for quick access to the web.

What you will need

  • A netbook or laptop running Windows.
  • A USB memory stick with Chromium loaded on it
  • Another USB memory stick, hard disk or CDROM drive.

Here be dragons!

How your computer is actually setup will change the steps you need to make Chromium OS work from the harddisk. You might already have some extra partitions on the disk, or your devices might appear in a different order. I recommend you take the time to become familiar with the tools you'll be using and how your computer works.

Be sure to double-check everything before making changes.

Phase 1: Preparing the GParted Live Boot Disk

Once you've got Chromium OS working off of the USB stick, we need to go through a few hoops to get that copied on to the hard disk. For this you'll need another bootable storage device, either a USB flash disk, USB hard disk or a CDROM drive.

Note: resizing and adding partitions on your hard disk is an advanced topic, and not for the faint hearted. If you're not comfortable messing with the disk partitions then this might not be for you.

Warning: There is a reasonably high chance that you will break your Window installation if you don't do this right. Make sure you have backed up all your important data first.

  1. First, download a copy of GParted Live. Make sure you get the .zip version if you plan to boot from disk, and the .iso version if using a CDROM. Follow the instructions on that page on how to make the disk bootable.
  2. Reboot the computer, with the bootable drive or CD connected. Hopefully it will boot up into the GParted Live system. It will ask you a few questions, and the default answers will probably be fine.
  3. Once you have GParted running, the first thing you will need to do is make some space for two new partitions. This is done by selecting the last partition, and reducing its size by 2 or 4 Gb. [see Image 1]

    Having done that, click on the Apply button.

  4. Switch the device (button in top corner) to the flash disk you installed the OS on to. You will see very many partitions, but the only two you are interested in are the ones labels C-ROOT and C-STATE. Make note of the exact sizes for these two paritions. [see Image 2]
  5. Switch back to your main disk device, and create two partitions C-ROOT and C-STATE with the same sizes as you noted down above.

    Click on the Apply button to make the changes happen.

  6. Go to the flash drive, select the C-ROOT partition, and click on the Copy button on the toolbar. Then switch over to the main hard disk and select the new C-ROOT and Paste. Repeat this step for the C-STATE partition too.

    Double check that the pending actions are correct, and click Apply.

Screenshots from GParted

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Image 1: Reduce size of main partition on main hard disk to make space for Chromium OS.Image 2: Make note of the sizes of C-ROOT and C-STATE partitions on the flash disk.
Image 1: Reduce size of main partition on main hard disk to make space for Chromium OS.
Image 1: Reduce size of main partition on main hard disk to make space for Chromium OS.
Image 2: Make note of the sizes of C-ROOT and C-STATE partitions on the flash disk.
Image 2: Make note of the sizes of C-ROOT and C-STATE partitions on the flash disk.

Phase 2: Getting Chromium OS to Boot

Now that you have successfully copied the OS to your hard disk, the next challenge is getting it to boot. The following instructions are specifically tailored to Windows users who want to minimise the impact on their existing configuration. This method won't touch the MBR, nor will it change how Windows is booted.

Note: All settings and data within Chromium OS will be wiped.

(Seeing as all your data is stored in "the cloud", this shouldn't be a problem.)

  1. First, download a copy of Grub for DOS (most recent is grub4dos-0.4.4-2009-06-20.zip). From this zip file you just need the file called "grldr". Copy this to your C:
  2. Create a file in C: called "menu.lst" with the following contents:

    timeout 0

    title Chromium OS

    root (hd0,2)/boot/vmlinuz quiet console=tty2 init=/sbin/init boot=local rootwait ro noresume noswap loglevel=1 noinitrd root=LABEL=C-ROOT i915.modeset=1 cros_legacy BOOT_IMAGE=vmlinuz

    You'll need to change (hd0,2) to point to whichever partition is C-ROOT. In this example, (hd0,2) is the 3rd partition on the 1st disk (counting from zero).

  3. Finally, add Grub for DOS to the Windows boot.ini file. The method varies depending on which system you have:

    Windows 2K, XP: Add the line below to your C:\boot.ini

    c:\grldr="Chromium OS"

    Windows VISTA: Open notepad as administrator and create "C:\boot.ini":

    [boot loader]

    [operating systems]

    C:\grldr="Chromium OS"

    Windows 7:

    Open command prompt as administrator. Use bcdedit to create a boot menu entry.

    bcdedit /create /d "Chromium OS" /application bootsector

    This prints a long number with { }. This long number is called "id".

    Replace the "id" with your number in the following commands.

    bcdedit /set {id} device partition=C:

    bcdedit /set {id} path \grldr

    bcdedit /displayorder {id} /addlast

  4. Cross fingers, remove all USB devices and reboot computer. If successful, you will see Chromium OS boot up.
  5. The first thing it might do is display the message like "Chrome OS is missing or damaged" or something similar. The it will enter Recovery Mode and rebuild the installation of the OS on your hard disk, which will take a few minutes. When it is done, reboot the computer.
  6. It will be necessary to reconfigure the system, as Chromium OS will have wiped all your previous settings and data. This is a minor annoyance, but you should be back online in no time.

    Now that this is complete, you won't need that USB stick any more...

Linux + Chrome OS Dual-Boot

If you already have Linux installed, then you should be able to modify the existing boot loader to load your new OS from the boot menu.

Follow these instructions to update your Grub configuration.

Other Guides and Resources

In case you get stuck and need some more guidance, here are some other tutorials on how to install Google Chrome OS

Still Stuck?

Consider buying a Chromebook instead. These will be more robust and will have some extra features like automatic updates and 3G support.

Alternatives to Chrome OS

If you can't get Chromium OS to work, but you still want to have that instant on web experience, then these applications might be worth a try. They both install to your hard disk, and are really easy to use.

Reader Feedback

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very useful overview of this system.

    • profile image

      Maik Becker 2 years ago

      When Chromium OS starts repairing itself, it overwrites the first partition (in my case this is Windows 7) Chromium OS creates an ext4 partition instead

    • profile image

      Maik Becker 2 years ago

      After installing Chromium like described in this article I get chromium booting and it tried to repair the System. When it has finished it reboots my netbook and then it says no operating system found. How can I fix the bootsector to get Windows 7 and chromium booting?

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Seems like an interesting project. I've got a couple of old laptops lying around. I might try this when I have time.

    • profile image

      krystianoxpl 3 years ago

      I got error when dual booting it says:\grldr file missing or corrupt

    • profile image

      krystianoxpl 3 years ago

      Hey. can anyone help? Im new hereWhen i want start chromium os it says:File: \grldr.mbrStatus: 0xc000000fInfo: The selected entry could not be loaded because the application is missing or corrupt.

    • mattcut profile image

      mattcut 3 years ago

      Turning my wife's 2004 Dell laptop into one right now - THANK YOU SO MUCH ! Loved your lens

    • Androids4Seniors profile image

      Androids4Seniors 3 years ago

      Good collection of info and very well presented - it inspires me to try to create a better lens!I have an older eeePC (model is the 4G Surf from memory). Do you know if Chromium would install and run well on this bearing in mind it has such a small SSD (4Gb I believe)?Thanks for the info. Andy

    • Guy E Wood profile image

      Guy E Wood 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing this information. I have a few old windows-based laptops lying around, so I just might give this a try. The machines are pretty much just fancy paper weights now anyway, so I really have nothing to lose. Onward!Guy

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: This was really helpful; thanks so much! I ended up just renumbering the state partition to 1 (using the 't' tool of gpart's expert mode 'x' - this probably isn't an advisable solution, but it totally worked for me)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      So perhaps an update is in order, since the build state of hexxeh's Chromium builds has changed a bit ...This is what I had to do to get it working:1) I used a free tool called MiniTool Partition Wizard to make my partitions. You can make these partitions in Windows without having to create a separate boot disk for GParted or any of that. As long as you have free space sitting at the end of your drive, creating partitions with this tool is a snap.So open up the Partition Wizard with your USB drive in the slot. Reclaim 4 gigs of space from the drive you want to install Chromium on. Then just copy the two partitions ROOT-A (formerly known as C-ROOT ... catch #1) and STATE into your newly unallocated space. This will copy their size and state exactly. If you're applying these to the same partition Windows is running on, you'll have to restart for the tool to do its thing (ie it basically replicates GParted's functionality.) 2) Just like the instructions, download Grub4Dos. All you need is the GRLDR.MBR file on the root drive of your Windows partition.3) My menu.lst file looks like this:timeout 0Chromium OSroot (hd0,1)kernel /boot/vmlinuz quiet init=/sbin/init rootwait ro noresume noswap noinitrd root=/dev/sda2 i915.modeset=1 cros_legacy BOOT_IMAGE=vmlinuz.ASo 1) I couldn't get it to use the ROOT-A label to load the kernel. If I run findfs, I clearly see that /dev/sda2 is my ROOT-A partition, but God help me, when you run the kernel bootstrapper, it just hangs or errors out every time. So I had to explicitly set the root to the right partition. To find my partition, I had to boot into Chromium US via the USB stick and run mount to see where it mounted all my dev partitions and then open each one till I found the one with ROOT-A's folder structure (sbin, boot, etc.) I'm sure there's a faster way, but I don't know enough about Linux, so there you are.3) The biggest challenge: modifying the chromeos_startup file in /sbin. You know that init=/sbin/init command in your kernel bootloader? It kicks off chromeos_startup, and chromeos_startup thinks the stateful_partition (ie the STATE partition) is always located at partition 1 ... except it's not. Mine is /dev/sda5 (found the same way as the ROOT-A partition.) So if you go into the chromeos_startup file using vi, you can see a line in there that says STATE_DEV = {$ROOT_DEV}1Change that 1 to whatever partition your STATE partition is.Again, I had to boot into my USB stick to edit this file because Windows can't mount those partitions. Maybe there's freeware to mount and edit those files within Windows, I'm sure there is. Anyway, I just used vi at the shell prompt to edit it. Ask a Linux friend, they'll know how to edit it.So in conclusion: different menu.lst entry, explicit root partition, edit chromeos_startup. If you have any questions, hit me at my username at google's popular mail service.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Just wondering how do i update this when it needs it? do the whole thing again?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: My own hardware doesn't work on ChromeOS =(, but oh Chromium OS website, there's 2 builds, the vanilla, and lime. Lime has better drivers and would in theory work with more stuff. You might want to try that.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      I have an old laptop with xp, but I think I will past on this. I am not good with these type of things. Good info and tips.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My friend and i are using the same laptop and have the same issue, We got it to run, we're at setup, we can type but we can't click or press backspace or enter. Any ideas?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @rozzik: Joli is great, if you're still having trouble setting up a chromium OS usb there are a few good services now where you can buy them pre made, (I got mine from www.ossticks.com). Chrome OS is great once you give it a couple of weeks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thats the same problem I had still..

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @JoeBrains: Well, it's not that awesome - no one responding (including me) has actually managed to install Chromium on their hard-disk yet!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I did all the steps, Chromium worked with the USB, partitioned the disk and copy the usb into the HD,and followed all the steps for a Win XP, but when it tries to boot it tells me "Error 8:Kernel must be loaded before booting". Anyone has any ideas to fix this. Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have successfully put the ChromeOS (Version 2534.0.rccf8f959) on my notebook, sort of... My first test was to install this on a USB key and run it from there. While it works, there are some minor issues. The touchpad mouse does not function, the USB mouse speed is way too slow, there is no flash player installed, it did not sync my Chrome extensions. No integration for the internal webcam and microphone for Google Talk. But, other than that it works as stated. Once these issues have been resolved, I will look to perform an installation on the hard drive itself. Cheers!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: In windows 7 you have to do like this:bcdedit /set {id} path \grldr.mbrnot bcdedit /set {id} path \grldrand copy both grldr and grldr.mbr on c:I did this and had grub loading but chromium doesn't boot at all. I am using the dell build from April 2012.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I had the same problem... Says "The selected entry could not be loaded because the application is missing or corrupt" when grldr is definitely in C and I have double checked everything. O.o

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      went through all that, but when I went to boot it said it couldn't find grldr which is definitely in C:

    • rozzik profile image

      rozzik 5 years ago

      Thanks for the lens, been messing trying to get chromium to work on my mac air partition for so long; then I saw your lens, read to the bottom, and tried Joli instead.Given up on chromium, Joli works well on my mac air

    • fluffanutta profile image
      Author

      fluffanutta 5 years ago from UK

      @BlenderHead LM: Yes, it's as easy as that! If you boot off of the USB image, there's no risk to your Windows installation. :o)

    • BlenderHead LM profile image

      BlenderHead LM 5 years ago

      This could be really good for my older laptop...if I install it onto a USB, and re-boot my system with Chromium, will on lose any data on my Windows? Also, how do I stop using it? Just shutdown and remove the USB? Will it then just re-boot with my original Windows? Thanks for the great lens! :)

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 6 years ago

      I have a little Acer - I just wonder if I am brave enough to try this. Either way, thanks for giving me something to think about.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I tried the USB install (July 1st release). It works fine on my AOD250.Except the wifi ;-(, the slide button to enable wifi has strickly no effect under chromium ;-(Any idea?

    • fluffanutta profile image
      Author

      fluffanutta 6 years ago from UK

      @anonymous: Yes, you should see a new option to boot Chromium in addition to your original Windows installation. If not, then it's possible that your Master Boot Record has been overwritten...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanx for this tutorial.One question:For "How do I Install Chrome OS on the Harddisk?" Phase 2 - Step 4, after reboot, are we supposed to see a selection choice between Windows and Chromium OS? How long after the reboot? Or is it supposed to be a automatic Chromium OS boot (with no possibility to choose windows anymore)?br