Sometimes around here, we tinker with things and they just don’t work out. We aren’t trying to break anything on purpose. Promise. It just happens from time to time when you allow yourself to stray a bit outside the lines. Such is the case of our now-ailing 2010 Macbook Pro that we attempted a full Chrome OS Flex install on. We even fired up the cameras to catch it all in process and fully expected this to be a triumphant showcase for the still-Beta Chrome OS Flex. What we got was near complete failure.
Installing Chrome OS Flex on non-supported hardware
This all needs to be prefaced with the fact that this install experiment was done on a non-supported piece of hardware. If you check the official Chrome OS Flex support page, you won’t find a 2010 Macbook Pro on there. To be fair, however, Google does invite users to try things out via the USB install method, and for our part, running Chrome OS Flex off of a USB drive worked quite well.
There was nothing happening while running Chrome OS Flex from the USB that would have us thinking that things should have worked anything other than fine on the 2010 Macbook. Trackpad support, keyboard shortcuts, and generally everything else worked perfectly during our testing phase, so there was really no way to know that this would all end up going sideways.
Attempting the full Chrome OS Flex install
With all things looking good from the USB side of things, we moved forward with the full install. The point of the video was supposed to be a showcase of how simple the full Chrome OS Flex install method really is. From the log in screen, you simply hit “install Chrome OS Flex” and after a few warning prompts, the process begins. It was all going according to the plan.
Though we were warned it could take up to 20 minutes, the process took only about 3 minutes total and we were prompted to let the machine shut down and then remove the USB drive. We did exactly that and after booting up and expecting to see the Chrome OS boot screen, we instead were met with an off-white loading screen with a folder in the center, accompanied by an ominous question mark.
Trying a re-install
Luckily, the BIOS was still intact and we could boot up just fine from the USB stick. From there, we simply attempted another install. And then another. And nothing worked. The only glimmer of success we had was using the BIOS to force the laptop to boot from the internal storage where we’d get the Chrome OS boot screen, and then a black screen of death afterwards.
Thankfully, the USB method still works on the laptop and all is not lost. Perhaps a later, more-stable version of Chrome OS Flex will arrive down the road that will work on this particular Macbook, but for now, without the Chrome OS Flex USB drive, this one is basically a brick. One thing was accomplished for sure, though: MacOS is no longer installed on that 2010 Macbook Pro.
What we learned
When things went sideways as we were filming, we had a few options. The first would have been to simply scrap the video altogether. After all, we’re still very excited by the prospect of Chrome OS Flex and one hiccup isn’t something to sound the alarm about, right? This is all still unstable and in Beta, and besides, we attempted the install on non-supported hardware. That’s all on us.
And I guess that’s why we went ahead and finished the video. While we’re hopeful for the longevity and success of Chrome OS Flex, installing it on non-compliant hardware is a risky situation. As we learned, even if everything looks great in the testing phase, that is no guarantee of success.
So, approach this whole thing from a cautious perspective, and make sure the device you are wiping isn’t necessary to you in the least. For us, this Macbook was ready to be recycled and was getting zero use on a daily basis. It was a great test as there was nothing to lose. If you have a laptop that you still need to be productive on, I’d highly recommend you think twice before pulling the trigger on Chrome OS Flex. It might work, but it might not, either.
We moved forward with this video for precisely that reason. Where I warned users to exercise caution before going with a full-blown install, in the back of my head I honestly felt like things would be fine if the USB boot method worked on a particular laptop. I no longer feel that certainty, and I wanted everyone who will listen to be aware as well. Chrome OS Flex is amazing – don’t get me wrong – but it should absolutely be wielded with caution. And even then, I’d highly recommend it is installed only on devices you are completely OK with saying goodbye to.