Chromebooks don’t normally run Windows software – that’s the best and worst thing about them. You don’t need any Windows antivirus or other junk files… but you also can’t install Photoshop, the full version of Microsoft Office, or other Windows desktop applications.
Fortunately, there are ways to use Windows desktop programs on a Chromebook: either by running them remotely on an existing Windows system, through various Android workarounds, or by getting your hands dirty in developer mode and by running them on your Chromebook itself.
First option: remotely access a Windows desktop
Google’s Chrome OS is supposed to be a lightweight operating system, so why not embrace it? We recommend that you run the Windows software on your Chromebook by accessing a remote Windows computer and do it there. You can take two different approaches.
Access your own Windows computer: If you already have a Windows computer, you can access it remotely and use it to run your Windows software. You can do this using Google Chrome Remote Desktop Beta Web App. You will be able to log into your Windows desktop from your Chromebook (or any computer running Chrome) and have full control over your remote machine, allowing you to work with Windows applications.
The downside here is that your Windows PC will have to be running at home every time you need to access it from your Chromebook. It’s a convenient solution for personal use, but businesses won’t want to manage a separate Windows computer for each Chromebook user.
Host Windows applications on a remote server: Chromebooks can use Citrix Receiver to access Windows applications hosted on a Citrix server, or use an RDP client to access a remote desktop hosted on a Windows server. This is ideal for businesses that want to host their own servers and offer their users thin and thin clients that allow them to access the hosted software remotely.
As a home user, you can choose to purchase a service from a company that would host a Windows desktop for you and allow you to access it remotely, but you’re probably better off using your own Windows computer. in place.
Second option: use developer mode and install Wine
Wine is an open source compatibility layer that allows Windows applications to run on Linux and macOS. Wine is desktop software, and there is no version of Wine designed for Chromebooks… but there are workarounds.
Since Chrome OS is based on Linux, there are two ways to run Wine on your Chromebook: using Crouton to run it on Linux, or using the new Wine Android app.
Important: Wine on Linux will not work on ARM Chromebooks and the Android version only supports Windows RT apps. However, Wine should work fine on Intel Chromebooks.
Using wine with croutons: To install the desktop version of Wine, you need to enable developer mode and install Crouton to get a Linux desktop with your Chrome OS system. You can then install Wine on the Linux desktop and use it to install Windows programs the same way you would use Wine on a typical Linux desktop.
RELATED: How to install Ubuntu Linux on your Chromebook with Crouton
This would allow you to run the standard version of Microsoft Office on a Chromebook, although you’d better use official Microsoft Office web apps or Android apps, unless you need advanced features.
Anytime you want to use a Windows program, you can just switch between your Chrome OS system and the Linux desktop with a keyboard shortcut – no need to restart.
Using Wine for Android: Wine also has an Android application which still currently in beta, but if you have a Chromebook that is running Android apps, it may let you run Windows programs without installing Crouton. It’s not yet available in the Google Play Store, so you’ll need to put your Chromebook into developer mode and load the APK.
Once Wine is installed on your Chromebook, simply launch the app as usual to access a minimal, emulated version of Windows. Keep in mind that this is still very much in beta, so it doesn’t work perfectly. Having said that, I would recommend at least trying this option out before you go to the trouble of setting up Crouton if all you plan on doing is using it for Wine.
Wine is not perfect, so it will not run all Windows apps and may not run some apps without manual adjustment. Consult the Wine applications database for more information on supported apps and any adjustments you might need.
Third option: use developer mode and install a virtual machine
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If Wine doesn’t support the program you want to run, or if it’s too complicated, you can also run a Windows VM from the Linux desktop with Crouton. Just like the option above, you will need to enable developer mode and install Crouton to get a Linux desktop with your Chrome OS system, then install a virtualization program like VirtualBox. Install Windows in VirtualBox as you would on a regular computer: you can switch between your Chrome desktop and your Linux desktop with a keyboard shortcut.
Important: Typical virtual machine software like VirtualBox will not work on ARM Chromebooks. You’ll want to have an Intel-based Chromebook to try this out.
Virtual machines are the heaviest way to do this, so you will need hardware powerful enough to drive virtual machine software, Windows, and your desktop applications. Modern processors in newer Chromebooks can handle this better than older, slower Chromebooks. Virtual machines also take up a lot of disk space, which Chromebooks don’t often have, which is not a good combination.
Option four: use CrossOver for Android
If you’re using a Chromebook that supports Android apps, an Android app called Crossing will allow you to run Windows programs with your Chrome applications. It is still a beta version, but the first tests were positive.
CrossOver works the same as Wine on Chrome OS, but it takes a more hands-on approach to walk you through installing apps. When you open the app, you can search for specific Windows software and it will walk you through installing them. It will search for the correct installation files and even download them for you in most cases. It is quite simple to use.
Once the app is installed, you can run it with your Chrome apps as if it were native. In my experience with CrossOver the apps have been hit and miss which is to be expected since the app is still in beta. It still holds great promise for the future of Windows software on Chromebooks, especially if you only need one or two specific programs.
Fifth option (sort of): run Linux software in developer mode
Finally, you may not need to run a Windows program at all: many Windows programs have their own Linux version and can run on a Chromebook using Crouton’s Linux desktop without much fuss. . For example, if you want to run games on a Chromebook, Steam for Linux has plenty of games for Linux, and its catalog continues to grow. So technically it’s not about “running Windows software”, but in some cases it’s just as well.
Keep in mind that many Linux programs, such as Minecraft, Skype, and Steam, are only available for Intel x86 processors and will not work on devices with ARM processors.
Can I just install Windows on my Chromebook?
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I know, none of the above options are really ideal. If you just want to install Windows on your Chromebook … well, you could be able to be able to. There are projects that allow users to install Windows, but it’s a pretty thorough process. Additionally, it only works on a specific set of Intel Chromebooks, so the majority of the available options aren’t actually supported. But check out this guide for more information, if you’re curious.
Otherwise, you’d better use one of the options above or just get a Windows laptop, if you absolutely need it.