How to Run Windows Apps on Chromebook

For those who’d love to buy a Chromebook but have FOMO regarding the Windows apps and functionality they’ve come to know, there are a few ‘doable’ workarounds to provide a Windows experience on a Chromebook.

The tremendous divide between operating systems is often more the product of user loyalty and preference rather than genuine technical incompatibilities. If you’re currently Windows-free but find yourself pining for a certain functionality or familiarity, take heart! It’s not too technically challenging to pop the best of Windows onto your new Chromebook machine.

To Start, Whatever You Have on Your Machine – Back It Up!

Before doing anything with a machine’s system, be sure to back up any data you can’t bear to lose. You shouldn’t lose it, of course, but back it up anyways. Make it a cold backup. In other words, after a thorough backup, unplug your devices and stash them. If you’re backing up into the cloud, you’re all good.

Don’t be intimidated, but you’ll be trying to marry two separate operating systems. Sometimes tweaking the operating system prompts the basic input-output system (BIOS) or firmware to wig out, which can have debilitating repercussions for your PC. Things can go wrong in the process but – if it happens – it’s not the end of the world. If you attempt to upload a Windows app only to find you can’t use your Chromebook, you’ll need to generate a recovery USB drive system from a different Chromebook. This’ll delete all of your data (hence the recommendation of backing up first) but will restore your Chromebook OS. Here are three step-by-step options to get that “Windows feel” on your Chromebook:

1. Free Online Apps

The principal desire of most Chromebook users is to regain access to Microsoft Office suite apps. If that sounds like you, the quickest solution sits right in the Chrome browser!

  • Visit Microsoft’s site to choose from available apps for Office Online. Microsoft has ensured you can access apps no matter what operating system you’re running.
  • Once you’re in the MS site, select the app you want to employ and it’ll open a browser version. There you go! Simple as that.
  • Some high-end Windows users might become frustrated by reduced functions in some apps online counterparts – such as Word – but for the average user, all the familiar apps are there just as if you’d loaded up an Office 365 disc.

2. Chrome Remote Desktop

The Chrome Remote Desktop is an ingenious extension allowing you to slide into a different desktop while you’re on a Chromebook. Best thought of as a virtual machine, the remote desktop option opens a new window to show a completely different operating system. There’s a snag that comes with this rather elegant solution, however: you’ll need to be running another Windows 10 machine to link with. Because of this, it’s not viable for many users, but you can’t utilise it any other way. Remote apps generally work extremely well, but since internet speeds vary from place to place, some users might end up frustrated again. That said, while connectivity speeds might encumber you, the app itself is a complete joy to use once up and running.

  • Go to the Chrome Web Store to download the Chrome Remote Desktop extension.
  • Open the second Windows computer, launch the Chrome browser and make sure it’s uploaded with the Chrome Remote Desktop app, too.
  • On the Windows PC, scroll through the Chrome apps to select Chrome Remote Desktop.
  • Click Get Started.
  • Select Share. This generates an access code you should note. This step also asks you to identify your Chromebook to facilitate the link-up.
  • On your Chromebook, open Chrome Remote Desktop. It’ll now “see” the Windows machine as a possible match. Select it and enter the access code you wrote down earlier.
  • Simply click Connect and you’re ready to go!

3. CrossOver App

The well-known CrossOver app was designed by CodeWeavers to allow users to run a specific OS app (or apps) on other operating systems. One of its most recent additions is the ability to run Windows apps on a Chromebook! This isn’t an ideal solution if you’re more tech-nervy than tech-savvy, as the app is still a bit buggy and basically still in beta phase. However, the CrossOver Chrome OS version remains a valid option.

To note, there are certain mandatory software requirements if you want to follow this route, as this app only runs on Intel-based Chromebooks. Android devices or apps also need to be compatible with Android 5.0 (or later versions).

  • Go to Google Play and choose CrossOver on Chrome OS Beta. This installs a new icon on your dashboard that appears as two semicircles.
  • Click on it and grant it access to the media and files on your Chromebook.
  • One of the best ways to look for Windows apps in CrossOver is by using the search bar at the top of the window. Simply type in the name of the app you’re after and it’ll show you the available options.
  • Remember: apps take space! Most Chromebooks don’t have limitless storage for a multitude of apps.

Fully Converting a Chromebook to Windows OS

Two little words – you can’t!

Chromebook never anticipated the need for a full conversion to Windows OS.

If you need a full conversion, you’re better off buying a cheap Windows PC. Tech shops turn away anyone looking for a full conversion, as hardware and system compromises can cause more trouble than the conversion’s worth.

With that said, a Chromebook might appear in your life and you’ll need to make sense of it.

If fiddling with an OS isn’t your idea of weekend fun, please don’t do it. It takes a determined mind to iron out software glitches as mammoth as removing an OS, and the truth is: those glitches have a habit of never really going away.

If you’re still wondering whether you should take the plunge into Chromebooks or what to do with the one you have, you can always contact professionals who’ll be happy to set things up just as you like it.

About the author

Baki Billah

Baki Billah is InnoReviews's resident Editor-in-Chief with genuine love and passion for all things tech. Baki works diligently to ensure only the best products ever make it onto the platform and are showcased in InnoReviews's carefully curated, tested and expertly researched, informative buying guides.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.