How to Install Windows on a Chromebook

Willing to try a hack? Here's what to do

Chrome OS is somewhat limited in the types of programs it can run, but it may be possible to install Windows on your Chromebook to expand its functionality. All you need is a few tools and software that you can find online for free.

Windows only works on certain Chromebook models. Make sure your Chromebook is compatible with Windows.

If your Chromebook cannot support Windows, it's still possible to run Windows programs on Chrome OS using Chrome Remote Desktop.

Can You Install Windows on Your Chromebook?

Neither Google nor Microsoft officially support Windows for Chromebooks. Development of Google's Project Campfire, which would have allowed Chromebooks to run both Windows and Chrome OS, was suspended in 2019. Therefore, the only way to run Windows on a Chromebook it to hack your device.

A developer named CoolStar has made a Windows for Chromebook Installation Helper where you can enter your device's model and find the drivers you need to install Windows. Before you begin, use this tool to determine if your Chromebook is capable of running Windows. There's also a list of all Windows components compatible with Chromebooks. The site is frequently updated, so check back if something ever stops working.

Hacking your Chromebook will void the warranty, so back up everything to your Google Drive and proceed with caution.

Enter your device's model into the Windows for Chromebook installation helper where you can find the drivers you need to install Windows.

What You Need to Install Windows on a Chromebook

In addition to new drivers and other software components, you will need the following items to complete the process:

You do not need a Windows 10 product key to set up Windows on a Chromebook. While Microsoft will pester you to purchase one, there are very few restrictions on unregistered versions of Windows 10. For example, some of the personalization settings are limited, but there are still workarounds that allow you to customize your desktop. You should only spend the extra money on a product key if you run into a task that you can't do for free.

How to Install Windows on a Chromebook

To install Windows, you must first replace your Chromebook's BIOS, which are write-protected by a physical screw in the motherboard:

Some Chromebook's have a write-protect switch instead of a screw. Check to see if your model has a switch; if it does, turn it off and skip to step 4.

  1. Turn off your Chromebook and flip it upside down.

    Turn off your Chromebook and flip it upside down.
  2. Remove the screws holding the back panel in place and open up your computer.

    Remove the screws holding the back panel in place and open up your computer.
  3. Locate and remove the write-protect screw, then replace the back panel.

    Perform a web search for your Chromebook's model number + "write-protect screw" to determine the exact location of the screw.

    The write-protect screw on an Acer C720 Chromebook is hidden under a wire.
  4. With your Chromebook still turned off, press Esc + Refresh + Power on the keyboard to turn it on, then press Ctrl + D at the screen that says Chrome OS is missing or damaged.

    press Ctrl + D at the screen that says Chrome OS is missing or damaged.
  5. Press Enter to turn OS verification off and enable developer mode.

    Press Enter to turn OS verification off and enable developer mode.
  6. Plug your Chromebook into a power source and wait for it to switch to developer mode. Once your computer restarts, press Ctrl + D at the screen that says OS verification is OFF to load Chrome OS. Your hard drive will be wiped, and you will be prompted to set up your Chromebook again like you did when you first bought it.

    If you reboot your computer now, you must press Ctrl + D at startup to load Chrome OS. This is no longer required after you install Windows.

    press Ctrl + D at the screen that says OS verification is OFF to load Chrome OS.
  7. After loading Chrome OS, press Ctrl + Alt + T to open the Chromebook command terminal in a browser window, then type shell and press Enter.

    Open the Chromebook command terminal in a browser window, then type shell and press Enter.
  8. Enter the following command to download and run the Chrome OS Firmware Utility script:

    cd; curl -LO https://mrchromebox.tech/firmware-util.sh && sudo bash firmware-util.sh

    Enter the command to download and run the Chrome OS Firmware Utility script.
  9. Type 3 and press Enter to select Install/Update Full ROM firmware.

    Type 3 and press Enter to select Install/Update Full ROM firmware.
  10. Type Y, then type Y again to install UEFI firmware.

    Type Y, then type Y again to install UEFI firmware.
  11. Insert a USB flash drive and follow the instructions to make a backup copy of your Chromebook’s BIOS in case you want to reinstall Chrome OS later. Once finished, the firmware you need to run Windows will automatically install. Power down your Chromebook when the installation is complete.

    You can replace the write-protect screw, but you'll have to remove it again if you ever want to reinstall the original BIOS.

    Insert a USB flash drive and follow the instructions to make a backup copy of your Chromebook’s BIOS in case you want to reinstall Chrome OS later.
  12. On your Windows computer, go to the Windows 10 download page and select Download tool now under Create Windows 10 installation media.

    On your Windows computer, go to the Windows 10 download page and select Download tool now under Create Windows 10 installation media.
  13. Insert an empty USB drive into your Window PC, then open the file you just downloaded and select Accept.

    Open the Windows 10 Setup tool and select Accept.
  14. Select Create Installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC, then select Next.

    Select Create Installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC, then select Next.
  15. Check the box beside Use the recommended options for this PC, then select Next.

    Check the box beside Use the recommended options for this PC, then select Next.
  16. Select USB flash drive, then select Next.

    Select USB flash drive, then select Next.
  17. Select your USB drive, then select Next.

    Any files on the USB drive will be overwritten.

    Select your USB drive, then select Next.
  18. Wait for the installation media to be created, select Finish, then remove the flash drive from your PC.

    Wait for the installation media to be created and select Finish.
  19. Insert another USB drive (it can be the same one you saved your Chrome OS BIOS on) into your PC and download the drivers your Chromebook needs to run Windows. Use the Windows for Chromebook Installation Helper to find the recommended drivers for your specific model.

    Use the Windows for Chromebook installation helper to find the recommended drivers for your Chromebook model.
  20. Insert the USB drive with Windows into your Chromebook and press the power button. If the Windows installer doesn't boot from the USB device automatically, press Esc as soon as your Chromebook starts up to access the boot menu. Navigate the menus to find your USB device and select it (it may be under Boot Manager, Boot Options, or Boot Menu).

    If your Chromebook freezes at any point, hold down the power button to turn it off, then turn it back on.

    Illustration of a person accessing the boot menu on a computer
     Derek Abella / Lifewire
  21. Connect a USB mouse and a USB keyboard to your Chromebook (your trackpad and built-in keyboard will no longer work). When the Windows installer boots up, make sure the language and region settings are correct, then select Next.

    If you only have a USB keyboard, you can use the arrow keys, Tab, and Enter to navigate the installer menus, but a mouse makes it easier.

    When the Windows installer boots up, make sure the language and region settings are correct, then select Next.
  22. Select Install now.

    Select Install now.
  23. When asked for a product key, select I don't have a product key.

    When asked for a product key, select I don't have a product key.
  24. Select the version of Windows you want to install (Windows 10 Home or Pro is recommended), then select Next and accept the license agreement.

    Select the version of Windows you want to install (Windows 10 Home or Pro is recommended), then select Next.
  25. Select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

    Select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).
  26. Delete all of the partitions listed (ignore the warnings) so that you only have unallocated space on your hard drive. Choose the unallocated space, then select Next.

    Choose the unallocated space on your hard drive, then select Next.
  27. Wait for Windows to install and reboot. If prompted to remove the USB drive, make sure you do so, or else your Chromebook might automatically boot the installer again. If this happens, long press the power button to turn off your computer, remove the drive, then turn it back on.

    Wait for Windows to install and reboot.
  28. Now you can set up Windows as normal. If prompted to connect to a network, select Skip this step/I don't have internet.

    If you see an option for Express Settings, select it to speed things along. If asked for product key again, select Skip/Do this later.

    The setup menu for Windows 10
  29. When Windows starts up, insert the USB drive with the Windows drivers into your Chromebook. The drivers should install automatically when you open them. Ignore any warnings from Windows, then restart your Chromebook when all the drivers are installed.

    Install the drivers you need to install Windows on your Chromebook.

When your Chromebook restarts, you can finally connect to a network. Windows will walk you through the final steps of the setup process, and you will have a fully functional Windows 10 laptop.

The Chromebook trackpad and keyboard should work now, so you can disconnect your external keyboard and mouse. Some keys have been remapped; for example, the Search key will serve as the Windows key.

Limitations of Windows on Chromebook

Most Chromebooks come with limited storage space and RAM, so you probably won't be able to run resource-intensive software like PC games. Nonetheless, you should be able to use any Windows 10 application provided your machine meets the minimum technical specifications. You should have no problem running Windows on high-end Chromebooks like the Google Pixelbook, but cheaper models may be more restricted.

Unfortunately, there's no way to run both Chrome OS and Windows on the same device at the same time. If you ever want Chrome OS back, you must create a recovery drive using the Chromebook Recovery Utility.