When the computers are older than the students, problems can arise:
- The computer gets slower and slower with each year and each program installed over those years.
- The operating system may no longer support modern versions of software.
- Or the operating system itself may no longer be supported or get new updates (Microsoft ended service for Windows XP on April 8, 2014).
- Sell the old desktops and laptops to an eRecycling company for scrap metal.
- Store the old equipment out of site, stacked up on pallets.
- Or keep them in the classroom despite their decreasing functionality.
- Go to their website at: http://www.neverware.com/free
- Download and install CloudReady onto a USB drive for free.
- Use it to boot your old computer or install on your old computer (gory details are included further down in this blog post).
The paid option is for schools or organizations that don’t just want to convert old computers to Chromebooks, but also need to be able to manage them like normal Chromebooks in the Google Apps Admin Console. With the paid version you get the ability to enroll your old computers in your Admin Console, as well as technical support from Neverware. (Note: you still need to purchase the Google Admin console licenses separately to manage the devices once they are enrolled.)
There are two options for the cost:
- $59 per device one-time cost
- or $25 per device per year cost
I wanted to test this out to see how well the product really works. So using the free option, I downloaded CloudReady and tested it on three old laptops we had laying around the office. Neverware suggests that CloudReady works best on computers made on or after May 2007. I found that to be accurate.
One of the laptops I tested was older than that and would not run CloudReady at all. However the other two turned out to be a great success. They were:
- From 2007 - a Lenovo 3000 N200 laptop
- From 2009 - a eeePC 1005HAB netbook
- Look - Since CloudReady is technically running Chromium, rather than Chrome OS, some of the icon are different colors. For example, the icons for Chrome and the Web Store are blue. (See screenshot below of my netbook running CloudReady.)
- Keyboard - Next, since the device does not have a Chromebook keyboard, some of the keys do not match up, such as the top row. On a Chromebook the top row of keys have special functions like back, forward, reload, brightness, volume up and down, and such. On an old laptop the top row has normal function keys (F1 through F12). However, the keys work the same as on a Chromebook, they just don’t have the same pictures on the keys. For example, the fourth key over on a Chromebook is the reload button, which is the same on an old laptop except that would be the F3 key.
- Speed - Finally, I did find that my Chrome-ified laptops did run a little sluggish compared to a modern Chromebook. The speed and responsiveness reminded me of one of our older Chromebooks from a couple years ago, but I would say that is still good considering the laptop is 9 years old and the netbook is 7 years old.
If you want to see more details on my experience with CloudReady, check out the video from our October 2015 Google User Meeting. You can jump up to the 24 minute mark to see our discussion about CloudReady. The video can be seen here: YouTube link
Screenshot of CloudReady running on the eeePC netbook:
So how exactly do you turn an old computer into a Chromebook with CloudReady? The detailed directions can be found on Neverware’s site at: http://go.neverware.com/freeinstructions
You will want to follow instructions from Neverware linked above, but below I will give the general overview of how the process works…
- Check to see if your device is one of the known supported devices for CloudReady. Even if it is not on the list, you may still be able to use CloudReady, but the list lets you know which devices work for sure. You can view the list of approved models here: Approved list
- Download the CloudReady zip file at: http://go.neverware.com/free
- Install the Chrome Recovery Utility web app from the Chrome Web Store here: Chrome Web Store link
- Use the Chrome Recovery Utility to install the CloudReady zip file onto a USB drive with 8BG or 16BG of storage.
- Put the USB drive into the old laptop or computer and boot from USB.
- CloudReady will now live boot and is ready for you to log in with your Google account.
- Optionally you can choose to install CloudReady to the hard drive of your old computer so you will not need to boot from the USB drive in the future.
Schools can install the free version with no restrictions, or they can pay for the option to enroll and manage their old devices in their Google Apps Admin Console. With CloudReady schools can keep old equipment alive a while longer, stretch their budget dollars, and extend the Google Apps learning experience to more students.
If you have tried out CloudReady, I would love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to share in the comments below.