Keep an older PC working with CloudReady

Right off the bat I’m going to tell you that the product team at Solid Signal are going to be giving me dirty looks. I’m about to give you a whole article about a product that not only isn’t available at SolidSignal.com, it’s totally free. But I think it’s something you need to consider, for a lot of reasons.

I tend to have a lot of old computers at the house. It’s not just because I hold onto them long after most rational people would get rid of them, it’s because at one point or another I am going to have to find a way to make sure all the personal information is gone from them. I’ll have to remove the hard drive or format it with some government-level program, or if I can’t do that I’ll have to find some more satisfying way to destroy it. But in the meantime, I have several devices of different shapes and sizes that I use when it makes sense. Old desktops make good media servers or networked hard drives. Old laptops inevitably find their way into my suitcases when I travel. The more risky the location is, the more likely I’ll bring an old laptop rather than something current with all my recent banking info.

Some of those old devices are just… too old. I won’t run WindowsXP anymore because of security risks and some of them just won’t run Windows 10, which is pretty much the only version of Windows I use anymore. But there’s a solution — take an old PC and turn it into a Chromebook.

You might have seen Chromebooks. They look just like regular laptops but they’re a lot cheaper. Why? They have essentially no storage, just enough for an operating system, and they don’t run Windows. All you use them for is internet access — web browsing, social media, e-mail, that sort of thing. Without all the other parts of an operating system that you need for a modern PC, they’re incredibly fast even though they run on pitifully slow hardware.

It’s like, if the only thing that worked on your computer was Chrome. Could you survive? I bet you could, and if you agree then a Chromebook is right for you. You could use Google Docs or Office365, use the web for email and social, and that’s probably all you’re doing now anyway.

New Chromebooks are still about $200 but you can get one for free if you have an older computer just lying around. Go to Neverware’s site and download their “Cloudready” app. You’ll find instructions on how to convert your old computer to a new Chromebook. In some cases you can still keep Windows on it as well, although the really old PCs won’t do that.

I tried this on a 2009-era netbook that was taking 4-5 minutes to boot Windows 10 fully. The speed increase was immediate and obvious. Boot times are down to about 90 seconds — still not amazing by today’s standards but faster than it ever booted Windows — and I can be browsing the web right away. It looks and acts completely familiar, since the browser that’s built in is identical to Chrome and it even ported over my bookmarks and access to my Google drive and docs. It’s pretty darn satisfying, that’s the bottom line.

If you’re the sort of person who hates to get rid of perfectly good hardware, I’d encourage you to give this a try. It’s easy, it’s free, and if it does end up crashing that old PC, well then you know it’s time to get out the sledgehammer and responsibly recycle the pieces. And honestly, that’s fun just by itself, right?