STEM / STEAM: Turn Your Old Computer into a Chromebook

Originally posted on

Lets see how well, if at all, Chrome OS Flex works on a very old computer!

Lori’s old Toshiba laptop was the greatest thing since the invention of the integrated circuit at the time we purchased it.

Toshiba Satellite E205

Now it is a POS.

Well, the hardware rocks, but, the Windows software sucks, and the computer is virtually useless in it’s current state. In fact, it has been in the garage collecting dust.

If this works, then I will buy a new battery for the Toshiba and we will have a pretty cool Chromebook to supplement my Pixelbook Go.

Oooops, the battery can longer be found! THAT is a major problem with fixing OLD computers to work as Chromebooks. Yikes!

The battery issue aside……the big question is:

Will it work?

Lets see. (If it does work, I have 5 more laptops in the garage….none of which, unfortunately, will have a battery. Arrrrghhh….)

Go here for the directions to install Chromebook OS Flex from setting up the boot USB dongle to using your “NEW” Chromebook. Unfortunately, they are lacking a few steps that I guess they thought were obvious….but, I will add what I learned as I did this, to, hopefully, fill in the blanks.

To end the suspense: Lori now has a Chromebook. BUT… battery.

Step 1: Setting up the ChromeOS Flex Boot Dongle

Lori bought a 64 Gig Sandisk USB dongle for me to use as the ChromeOS Flex boot drive. The instructions say 8 gig is big enough, but, hey this one was cheap. 🙂

I thought this step would be “easy” but, as everything technical….it had it challenges.

To start you have to load the Chromebook Recovery Utility in your (either Windows, Chromebook, etc) Chrome browser.

Go to the Chrome store and search for “Chromebook Recovery Utility”. When you find that, download it.

It should now be an extension.

Go back to the instructions above…..and follow that. I added some stuff below to help.

Click the mjolnir / hammer icon (in Chrome….top right) then go into “manage extensions” and turn on the recovery utility.

When you have that, you need to launch the recovery utility, but….

You need the dongle plugged into your USB port NOW to get this to work (at least that is what I needed to do).

Then select “Google Chrome OS Flex” and “Chrome OS Flex” when asked to ID your Chromebook.

Hit continue….

In a few minutes, your boot USB dongle for Chromebook OS Flex will be ready to use!

But, first……

Step 2: Changing the Boot Up Sequence for Windows to the USB

To get the old computer to use the USB dongle you just made to boot off of, you need to change the boot up sequence from hard drive to USB dongle.

Not so easy! And….this took me long time to figure out!

Turns out, you need to RESTART (not turn off then on… MUST do a RESTART) the computer.

There is a screen that tells you for ONE INSTANT to press “F2” (for my Toshiba, yours may be different) to enter the menu to change stuff. I had to take a video to catch what it said…..arrrghh.

I did that and was greeted with this:

Using the up and down keys and the F5 / F6 keys you can change the USB to be first on the boot list.

Save that by pressing YES.

Step 3: Installing Chrome OS Flex

Put the dongle in the USB port if you have not already.

Restart your computer and let the USB dongle do it’s thing.

CAUTION: Your computer’s disk will be COMPLETELY erased!

Answer the questions, and… a very few minutes… have a “NEW” Chromebook!

Step 4: Using the new Chromebook

See the featured image above to see the computer as a Chromebook. And Blaze swimming. 🙂

Then use it like you do any Chromebook! This is the easy part.

The only things you are lacking is the extreme portability of a REAL Chromebook….and a battery. 😦


Dang-it if this isn’t the coolest stuff since the invention of the transistor!

Taking an old, totally useless, computer and making it a screaming fast Chromebook is a marvel of technology and software engineering. It’s just too bad that your “new” Chromebook may be tied to the power cord, as, like I said above: Finding batteries for these old laptop computers is nearly impossible!

Other than that “small” issue, this is cool stuff!

GEEK on!

More STEM / STEAM stuff…..

Drive Safe! Never Forget


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