Convert old Windows laptop into Chromebook – anyone done it?

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  • Convert old Windows laptop into Chromebook – anyone done it?
  • munkster
    Member

    I’ve been reading about this on and off and been tempted to try on an ageing Compaq Presario CQ56 (I think that’s the model) from about 2012 that is pretty much unusuable on Windows. Have tried more RAM but it is just awful, even with a clean install of Windows 10 (it started life with Windows 7 and wasn’t much cop even then). Could well be that it’s awful as a Chromebook also.

    Anyone tried to breathe life into an old laptop this way? Even if it can be used for browsing and not much else that might be good. This is what I mean: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-turn-your-old-slow-laptop-into-an-awesome-chromebook-for-your-kids/ (lots of other info out there).

    I have a main laptop, Mrs Munkster uses the older laptop for her stuff very occasionally (uses phone normally for most things) and doesn’t really want a new laptop since not warranted.

    Would be interested to hear any thoughts or experience on the Neverware route if any. Cheers.

    Premier Icon smokey_jo
    Subscriber

    It would be easier to get a lightweight Linux distro on it. Loads to choose from some designed to look like they’re running Chrome too.

    hols2
    Member

    My guess is that the laptop is limited by the hard disk. It is astounding the difference an SSD makes. That article actually recommends installing an SSD anyway, so if you’re going to do that, you might as well try installing Win10 on that to see if that improves things.

    sharkbait
    Member

    An SSD and a Ubuntu 19 (or Linux Mint) would make a very useable system.

    The SSD would be the icing on the cake, nice but not 100% required.

    Premier Icon el_boufador
    Subscriber

    Well I haven’t tried the chrome option, but I did try a lightweight Linux distro on a old laptop. Can’t remember which one. Awful. Boot time was incredibly slow. Put win 10 on, and it is much, much faster

    Premier Icon mechanicaldope
    Subscriber

    I’m not convinced that Chromebooks work well on intell processors. This might be nonsense but the Intel chromebook I got last year was, although admittedly at the cheap end, very poor on performance for specific apps such as prime video. Googling what was going on seemed to suggest the Intel processor may have been the cause.

    Premier Icon maccruiskeen
    Subscriber

    Even if it can be used for browsing and not much else that might be good.

    unfortunately ‘just browsing’ seems to be to most processor hungry task you can undertake these days. This site in particular

    The only reason I’ve got a ‘p’ was because it was cheaper than a new laptop

    Premier Icon Ioneonic
    Subscriber

    I put Neverware on a non supported very old MacBook Pro which has HDD. Only issue was screen brightness was fixed at 100% but otherwise was super fast and no issues. I’m now about to sell it so put it back to OSX.

    We have 2 Chromebooks, a MacBook and a broken Chromebook now running Gallium (Linux) at home. I definitely would put Neverware on before Ubuntu if it’s mainly for web browsing. You could try either from a USB first anyway and see what works

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Seems fairly pointless. I’ve got an older laptop that works just fine with W10. I’ve even got a Sony Vaio P-series ultra netbook thing that is so slow that Chrome can’t even render modern websites in a usable fashion, and yet with an SSD it boots and runs Windows fine.

    Flaperon
    Member

    I’m running Elementary OS in parallel with Windows 10 on my laptop. Generally works well, but like all Linux stuff unless your computer is *exactly* the same as the guy who made the distribution, it won’t work properly off the bat.

    sharkbait
    Member

    like all Linux stuff unless your computer is *exactly* the same as the guy who made the distribution, it won’t work properly off the bat.

    That’s a pretty big statement and somewhat untrue. It may be true for Elementary but I’ve put Mint onto a number of old PC’s and it’s worked straight off – I think the bigger distro’s are better in this respect. Ubuntu 18 or 19 seem very comprehensive.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    I got a load of free SSD’s from a job so put them in everything just because I could, they don’t really make that much difference if it’s borderline unusable IME. If the processor or motherboard isn’t upto it then all an SSD does is move the bottleneck to somewhere else (if the drive was ever the bottleneck in the first place).

    I’ve got a 6 year old Acer laptop that only cost £300 at the time with an SSD and that’s fine, but it was fine before with a magnetic drive because there’s nothing on it except windows 10, chrome, office, suffer fest, trainer road etc. The “borderline usable” SFF/mini PC I’d intended to use for sufferfest still takes aeons to load anything.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    Not much I can add to the above advice.

    An SSD might make a huge difference or not much at all, it really rather depends what the bottleneck is. A quick google would suggest that your model is a single core Semperon CPU, in which case you’d probably just be throwing good money after bad. Even when spinning up virtual machines at work running the lightest of OSes doing minimal work, I wouldn’t entertain anything less than two cores.

    I think if it were me I’d try a punt on a Linux install and see how that fares, then stick it on ebay / throw it in the bin. It’s an eight year old laptop that by your own admission was crap when it was new, it owes you nowt. (He said, typing on a laptop which had its 11th birthday a couple of months ago…)

    andy5390
    Member

    Try THIS on a USB stick. Worked well enough on an old laptop I had, I just did a full install

    munkster
    Member

    I’d totally forgotten I posted this at silly o’clock this morning, so thanks for the replies. I do have a couple of SSDs lying around as it happens (as you do) so I could try that route. However, it seems simpler to try a dual install of the Chromebook thing first I guess.

    Will read replies in more depth, just wanted to say “ta” for them.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    If the processor or motherboard isn’t upto it

    Point is though that most are.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    Point is, I rather suspect this one isn’t. Happy to be proved wrong though, as I said, can’t hurt to try.

    munkster
    Member

    I think you’re probably right, Cougar. It is a total nail of a laptop, I guess I would just like to at least *try* before landfill. A quick Google suggests that (from admittedly only one source) that you cannot put an SSD in it, but I may have misread. I may open it up later and take a peek.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    Got a link to that source? I’d be curious to see their reasoning.

    As far as I can gather it has a HDD in it. If it was equipped with some sort of solid stage storage rather than a hard drive then that would make sense, but I can’t offhand think of a circumstance which would prevent you from replacing any HDD with an SSD. Unless it’s an IDE drive I suppose, or they’ve done something funky like gluing it in.

    munkster
    Member

    No, that’s what I thought. I’ve done it before on other laptops, hardly a big deal unless the caveats you mention are there.

    FWIW this is the Google find that suggested not (Mr Echo Lake if I interpreted them right): https://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Desktop-Hardware-and-Upgrade-Questions/Can-you-install-SSD-to-HP-presario-CQ56-206/td-p/6971142

    I admit I haven’t devoted a lot of time to researching this but given that’s on an HP support forum from a supposed “HP Support Agent” well…

    mattyfez
    Member

    I’ve got a load of pdf documents of laptop service manuals, from around that era, I’ll see if there’s one for yours when I get home, I’ve deffinatly got some compaq ones but dunno what models they cover

    munkster
    Member

    But then Crucial seem bullish about it being possible: https://uk.crucial.com/gbr/en/compatible-upgrade-for/HP-Compaq/presario-cq56-102ea

    (Assuming mine isn’t radically different to/is the same as “102ea” model).

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    I admit I haven’t devoted a lot of time to researching this but given that’s on an HP support forum from a supposed “HP Support Agent” well…

    Honestly, I’d be tempted to take that with a pinch of salt. All they say is “no” without any explanation and it’s the sort of boilerplate response interspersed with gibberish that I often see from front-line techs who haven’t read the question properly. They could, for instance, be answering the question “can I buy this model with an SSD fitted?” or they’re just saying no because it’s not mentioned on the spec sheet they reference.

    I suppose there could be some sort of BIOS lockout which only allows HP-approved spares – Lenovo have previous here – but I’ve never come across that with hard drives.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    Interestingly, the specs there say it’s a Celeron CPU rather than the Sempron in the model I was looking at.

    (Either way it’s still a shit CPU though…)

    mattyfez
    Member

    As cougar said, official support sites/forums are very hit and miss.

    munkster
    Member

    Update: didn’t work. Ran fine from the USB stick but refused to install as the de facto OS.

    May (am going to) look into Ubuntu…

    sharkbait
    Member

    I don’t really see why you’d want chrome OS over Ubuntu/Mint anyway.
    You’ve got much more chance of success with the latter I’d imagine (happy to be proved wrong).
    If you’re trying ubuntu I’d start with v18 initially before trying 19.
    If Mint then just go with the latest stable release.

    Premier Icon Cougar
    Subscriber

    If you’re trying ubuntu I’d start with v18 initially before trying 19.

    I always try to go with the latest LTS version. Which will be 18.04 until 20.04 comes out in April.

    I’ve never used Mint but I hear it’s supposed to be good on lower-spec hardware.

    sharkbait
    Member

    I’ve got mint on a couple of old Lenovo tiny PCs and it’s very good.
    Ubuntu 19 looks cool though.

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