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Chrome OS Flex can resurrect your old MacBook or PC — here's how to do it

Resurrect an old MacBook with Chrome OS Flex
(Image credit: Future)

I know what I am about to write will seem blasphemous to 99.9% of MacBook users but, here we go. Google's Chrome OS Flex is a new viable free option to extend the life span of old MacBooks and PCs. Although Chrome OS Flex has a modern feel and feature set, its flexibility stems from being a lightweight OS that computers with aging specs can operate efficiently. Many older MacBooks that are collecting dust on shelves or in closets can be brought back to life and be valuable tools in your tech arsenal again; all you have to do is, dare I say, upgrade to Chrome OS Flex. 

The cloud-based OS only needs 16GB of storage and 4GB of RAM to function, so just about any Mac can be upgraded to Chrome OS Flex and used for basic things like checking email, working in Google Docs, and enjoying online content. You could also donate it to your local school, as the need for working laptops has grown since the start of hybrid learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic (via Macworld). 

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, stated via a tweet that Chrome OS Flex brings "the same speed, security and simplicity of Chrome OS to existing hardware," which is fantastic if you have a young child in need of a laptop but, may not have the budget to purchase one of the best laptops for kids. Turning your old MacBook or PC into a Chromebook is a really good option. 

How to upgrade your MacBook to Chrome OS Flex

First, you need to sign up for early access on the Chrome OS Flex site. After you're done registering and downloading the Chrome Recovery Extension Utility, Google will give you instructions on creating a bootable USB drive. The drive will need at least 8GB of available storage so that you can install Chrome OS Flex on your old MacBook or run it directly from the USB drive, the latter will be preferable if you want to test this out before committing to it as a long term solution. 

To boot from the USB drive on your MacBook, hold down the Command and R keys during start-up and then select the Startup Security Utility, select "allow booting from external or removable media," and finally restart while holding down the Option key, then select Chrome OS Flex drive. 

It's quick and easy to do. I, for one, have in the past extended the life of my older computers and laptops using a lightweight Linux OS like Ubuntu but, Chrome OS is even lighter, so in the future, I am pretty sure I will give the Chrome OS Flex option a go. Chrome OS is an excellent choice for kids who are just starting to learn how to use a computer or for older adults looking to keep in touch with family and friends via email or social media. 

Mark has spent 20 years headlining comedy shows around the country and made appearances on ABC, MTV, Comedy Central, Howard Stern, Food Network, and Sirius XM Radio. He has written about every topic imaginable, from dating, family, politics, social issues, and tech. He wrote his first tech articles for the now-defunct Dads On Tech 10 years ago, and his passion for combining humor and tech has grown under the tutelage of the Laptop Mag team. His penchant for tearing things down and rebuilding them did not make Mark popular at home, however, when he got his hands on the legendary Commodore 64, his passion for all things tech deepened. These days, when he is not filming, editing footage, tinkering with cameras and laptops, or on stage, he can be found at his desk snacking, writing about everything tech, new jokes, or scripts he dreams of filming.