Software Sunday EP9: Neverware Cloudready: Turn Any PC Into a Chromebook

TURN YOUR PC INTO A CHROMEBOOK WITH CLOUDREADY

Cloudready by Neverware claims to take your everyday computer and turn it into a full fledged Chromebook.  It’s based off Chromium OS and the personal use version can be downloaded for free from the Neverware website.  In this installment of Software Sunday I will show you how to install Cloudready to a computer and what exactly it has to offer as a lightweight yet functional operating system.

Neverware has a very helpful and straightforward PDF detailing all of the steps to get Cloudready up and running on your computer.  Though I will explain in this article how to set up Cloudready using Windows, I do suggest that you check out their guide which explains how to make a bootable USB flash drive on Windows, Mac OS, and even Chrome OS.


WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THIS INSTALL

– Windows, Mac OS, or Chrome OS

– Google Chrome or Chromium

– 8GB or greater capacity flash drive

– Computer that will run Cloudready


The first thing we need to do is get out hands on an image of Cloudready.  The free personal use version can be found on their website under the “get started for free” option.  Today I am mainly going to focus on the personal license but they do offer an enterprise license which comes with support for $49 per install.  Don’t worry, with the personal version you will still receive all of the latest updates.  A 64-bit version and 32-bit version are offered for download, choose whichever version corresponds with your PC’s hardware (if you are not sure the 32-bit option is always a safe bet).  Once the ZIP file has finished downloading DO NOT EXTRACT IT, we need to leave it in the .zip format for the Chromebook recovery utility.

Chromebook Recovery Utility

Chromebook Recovery Utility

Now that we have our hands on the OS we need to grab a utility which will allow us to install it to a flash drive.  Go to the Chrome Web Store and install the Chromebook Recovery Utility.  Once it has finished installing plug your flash drive into your PC and launch the recovery utility.  At the top right of the recovery utility UI you should see a gear icon, click on it and from the drop-down menu select “use local image”.  From this point navigate to the directory where the Cloudready zip resides and double click on it,  select your installation media, and start the installation process.  The install process does take quite a length of time so please be patient.

Once you are greeted with a screen indicating that the install was a success, remove the flash drive and plug it into the PC you wish to install / run Cloudready on.  Turn the computer on, go into the BIOS, choose to boot from the USB storage device, exit saving changes, reboot your PC and you should be greeted by the Cloudready splash screen.  The OS will proceed to boot into its live environment prompting you for some information and a EULA along the way.

Boot Splash Screen

Boot Splash Screen

On the Neverware website I was not able to find any mention of recommended minimum system specifications so I cannot comment on how low you can go as far as system hardware is concerned.  I was able to get the live version up and running on my Latitude 2120 with an Atom N550 and 1GB of DDR3 RAM and it ran very well on that system configuration.  However, I was not able to install Cloudready to that system due to its hard drive apparently being dead.  For my demonstration I chose to install Cloudready on my Dell Inspiron 15 3521 with a dual core Celeron, 8GB of DDR3, and a 120GB SSD.

Live Desktop, cursor is floating over install option

Live Desktop, cursor is floating over install option

After booting into the live environment you get a chance to play around with some of the operating system’s features but I would suggest performing a full install before making any final judgments. Reading everything off a flash drive tends to make things a bit sluggish.  To perform a full or dual-boot (dual booting with Windows requires UEFI support) install click on the tray to the bottom right and select “Install Cloudready”.  You will be walked through the quick and painless installation process and if all goes well your system will eventually reboot into the OS on your HDD at which point you can remove your installation media.  Congratulations! Cloudready is installed and you can now begin customizing it to your liking.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of my laptop’s hardware was properly detected right off the bat.  WIFI, Bluetooth, the webcam, sound, function keys, and max video resolution all just worked (which is something that I am not accustomed to).  The interface looked simple and easy to use while still being functional at the same time.  While becoming acquainted with everything I noticed that system applications opened almost instantly and were highly responsive, animations were smooth, and I was really enjoying straightforward layout of the OS.

Several application opened at once in Cloudready

Several applications opened at once in Cloudready

Diving in a little deeper, I installed some Android applications such as Angry Birds and Netflix using Twerk along with the Android Runtime Environment.  If you want a great tutorial on how to install Android apps to the OS then take a look at this one.  These particular apps ran perfectly on Cloudready though I did run into installation problems with Skype and Jetpack Joyride which I could not get to run.

Most installed Android applications will work offline so I would highly suggest installing an Android office suite so you can be productive while on the go (because google docs will not work).  Speaking of productivity the multitasking capabilities of this OS are great.  I had 10 tabs open in Chromium, an instance of Angry Birds running,  a video streaming off Netflix, and music playing off a flash drive and the system did not skip a beat.  The overall stability of the OS is excellent as it never crashed during my testing no matter what I threw at it.

External hardware and media devices were detected without a problem.  I transferred files from my phone, flash drives, and external hard drive to the PC without incident.  The OS ships with a media player which had no problems playing back my MP3s or video files.  I was also able to plug in my M235 Logitech mouse which was immediately detected.

I am thoroughly impressed with what Cloudready can do.  It is easy to setup, simplistic yet powerful enough for basic day to day tasks, and free for personal use.  This OS would be perfect for someone like my mother who wants something just to browse the web and playback media but is not very computer savvy.  I could even see myself using Cloudready in my daily workflow as it makes a great little OS to write blog posts and manage WordPress with.  If you are looking for something light and easy to use yet powerful and functional then I would definitely recommend taking a look at Cloudready!


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