Here's how to make your Windows machine run Chrome OS

Want to use Chrome without buying a Chromebook? Here's a simple way to do it on a Windows machine that will take only a few minutes. You won't get all of Chrome's features, but you will get the most important ones.

First a caveat. You won't actually replace Windows with Chrome or turn your machine into a dual-boot machine. Instead, you'll get many of Chrome's most important features right inside of Windows, including using the Chrome App Launcher and running Chrome apps directly from the Desktop.

To do it, install the Chrome browser. If you already have it installed, make sure that it's up to date. Click the Chrome menu (it's the icon on the upper-right of the screen), then select About Google Chrome. It will report your version number, and if it's outdated, will update to the newest version. (The newest version, as I write this, should be some form of Version 32, such as 32.0.1700.76 m.)

Now head to the For Your Desktop collection in the Google Chrome store. These are Chrome apps that you can launch directly from your Desktop, without first having to run Chrome. When you install any of these apps, Chrome will install the Chrome App Launcher on your Desktop.

After you install any of the apps, look for the Chrome App launcher. Depending on your version of Windows, it will appear as an icon on the Desktop or the Taskbar. Double-click it on the Desktop or click it on the Taskbar, and a menu pops up showing you all of your Chrome apps, letting you search Google, and giving you access to changing Chrome and Chrome app settings.

chrome_app_launcher_small.jpg

That's essentially the most important part of Chrome -- and you've just installed it on Windows. The latest version of the browser also includes other important features from the Chrome OS.

Note that if you're trying to get the latest version of Chrome to run as a true Windows 8 app (formerly called a Metro app) you may run into problems. In theory it should be simple; in practice you may find it impossible. Run Chrome on the Desktop, then click the Chrome menu. Look for the option "Relaunch Chrome in Windows 8 mode" and it will launch as a Metro app.

That's the theory, anyway. In practice it's far more difficult, and may well be impossible, depending on the machine you use. The latest version of the Chrome browser will only work as a Desktop app and not a Windows 8 app if your machine doesn't support hardware acceleration or if you're using a high-resolution display. (For details, see this help page from Google.) If your machine can't run Chrome as a Windows 8 app, the "Relaunch Chrome in Windows 8 mode" option won't appear on the Chrome menu.

Oddly enough, when I tried this on my Surface Pro, the first time I launched Chrome as a Desktop browser, I was able to relaunch it as a Windows 8 app, and use it as my default browser. However, after I changed the default back to Internet Explorer, the option no longer showed up, and I was unable to run Chrome in Windows 8 mode. If anyone has a potential explanation or solution, let me know, below.

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