How to Install Windows on Google’s Chrome OS Notebook

The fact that the Google CR-48 Notebook runs on an Intel processor implies that it can run Windows or some other full blown operating system. But how would you install Windows in the first place? That’s not exactly clear. But we have the answer, or at least part of it. Apparently, every Cr-48 notebook is equipped with a developer’s mode, which, when activated, can potentially wipe and restore the partition back to factory condition, or break your current Chrome OS setup. That’s no big deal, since all the Web Store apps and browser settings reside in the cloud and syncing it all back into your notebook shouldn’t take long. The actual point of this exercise is to show you that if you ever decide to hack your Chrome-equipped notebook and install another operating system, switching to developer’s mode is the way to do it.

First off, before you make the switch, Google recommends turning off the system. It also warns you that switching to this mode exposes the system to malware and virus attacks, since what you’re doing is turning off verified boot (the ROM chip) on the motherboard. The rest is pretty simple: Look for the piece of black tape underneath the battery, next to the power connector, and remove it to reveal a white switch. Flip the switch the other way, and voila, you’re in developer’s mode. Then start up the notebook.

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Boot up to a USB thumbdrive; we tried plugging in this USB drive, but nothing happened. At any point, if you f, you’re presented with two options: You can hit the space bar and proceed to recovery mode. This will allow you to restore the notebook back to its original condition, provided you download the recovery software. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you can flip the switch back and resume where you left off in Chrome OS. If you let the system sit in the “sad face” mode for too long, the system will automatically erase and repartition your drive.

It takes about five to 10 minutes to prep for this mode, and during this time, the system repartitions the solid state drive by deleting the current one, or what the console refers to as “erasing the stateful partition.” I presume that the partition it’s creating is the one where Windows or any other operating system will reside, but that’s all I can gather at this point. The thing is, the USB port isn’t recognizing any of my peripherals or a network, so how one would install Windows on this laptop is unclear and most likely a work in progress. One thing’s for sure, though: the mere existence of a developer’s switch means that Google isn’t averse to outside development of programs for Chrome-equipped systems, say, one that can dual-boot Windows and Chrome OS.

Check out our slideshow for a look at how we tried to install Windows in the Google notebook. For more, see PCMag’s hands on with the Cr-48 notebook and the software team’s analysis of Chrome OS on the Cr-48, as well as PCMag’s look at the 10 best Google Chrome OS extensions.

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January 2011
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