Quick answer: It is possible to install Windows on a Chromebook, but it's not recommended. The involved process is more than most people will want to tackle, and there are plenty of problems that can pop up during and after installation.
Chromebooks have been extremely popular in the world of casual computing for a long time, and they've now blossomed into powerful computers with relatively high-end specs that can accommodate the needs of professionals and more intensive users. Many of the best Chromebooks now have a build quality that rivals and, in some cases, surpasses that of Windows laptops, with strong Intel performance hardware and high-res displays to suit a wider audience.
But what if you need to run some Windows apps not available natively for your Chromebook? And, taking it one step further, what if you'd like to install Windows to completely take over for ChromeOS? It's unfortunately not as easy as installing ChromeOS Flex on an old Windows computer. Let's take a look at your options and why you might not want to install Windows on your Chromebook.
Can Chromebooks run Windows?
Some Chromebooks can technically run Windows. However, it's not as easy as just installing Windows over top of the Linux-based ChromeOS that comes installed by default on your Chromebook. You're much better off attempting to run ChromeOS on a cheap Windows laptop than attempting to run Windows on even the best budget Chromebooks.
You need to ensure that your Chromebook isn't one of the devices already completely out of the running (whether due to the chipset, onboard hardware, or some other issue), you need to ensure that you'll be able to find drivers that can properly communicate with the hardware, and you need to ensure that you're comfortable getting inside your Chromebook for some custom work. There's a risk that this could completely brick your Chromebook, so consider twice if you only have one device to work with.
The Chromebook to Ultrabook Reddit community is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to go ahead with the process, and it includes a list of Windows-compatible Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. And once you've determined that you're going to make the attempt, there's even a Windows for Chromebook installation helper to get you through.
How else can you get Windows apps on a Chromebook?
The straight answer to the "Can Chromebooks run Windows?" question is "Yes," but there are plenty of easier workarounds available that most people will be more comfortable using. This is especially true if you're just looking to run a Windows app here and there without buying a Windows PC.
Some of the software you crave might be available in the form of a progressive web app (PWA) or quality Android app for your Chromebook. For example, those who simply want to run Microsoft's Office apps can access them through a browser. This method keeps improving, and Google's ChromeOS and Microsoft 365's Office apps are seeing upgrades with expectations for full integration with OneDrive and the Chromebook Files app along with a more streamlined setup experience.
In other cases, you might be able to find a Linux version of the app you seek. Because ChromeOS is based on Linux, Chromebooks released in 2019 or later (with some select pre-2019 devices also with the capability) can run Linux software. You'll need to enable the Linux environment on your Chromebook, but from there it should be mostly smooth sailing. And if you aren't comfortable working with Linux, a remote desktop experience or container could prove to be a suitable workaround.
Access Windows with Chrome Remote Desktop
Chromebooks have a Remote Desktop feature that allows them to access other network-connected computers. While this can help you fix problems on other systems (Grandma can't refresh her email inbox), you can also connect to your own Windows PC anywhere that you have an internet connection. Your Chromebook will still run ChromeOS, but you'll be able to use Windows apps that are actually running on the PC.
This does, of course, require a second computer running Windows that you can access with Remote Desktop, which certainly isn't an option for everyone. This is more of a convenience than a permanent workaround, but it gets the job done. We have a full guide on how to use Chrome Remote Desktop to help you get started.
This method will work with practically any Chromebook, but for the best results you'll want something with robust performance hardware, reliable and fast internet, and a large display. The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 that we reviewed covers these easily thanks to 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs, Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, and a 14-inch screen with FHD+ resolution.
Acer Chromebook Spin 714
Acer's Spin 714 is one of the best Chromebooks you can buy today thanks to its 12th Gen Intel Core performance, high-end camera, Wi-Fi, and speakers, and 14-inch FHD+ touch display.
Run Windows on ChromeOS with Parallels Desktop
Android Police's Google Editor Manuel Vonau spent three weeks running Windows 10 on his Chromebook, coming out the other side with a positive impression. Vonau noted that "being able to use Parallels on ChromeOS has just cemented my opinion that Chromebooks are all I ever need to be productive as a writer, or as someone who doesn't tax their machine too much."
This was made possible by Parallels Desktop, a piece of virtualization software that keeps Windows in its own container, separate from ChromeOS. Windows essentially runs on your Chromebook as its own piece of software, capable of running its own software as you would on any other Windows PC. You can drag and drop files between systems, and apps like Word or Excel can quickly open files stored in ChomeOS Files.
The major caveat here is that Parallels is currently only available for Enterprise customers. It comes preinstalled on some select Enterprise Chromebooks, but otherwise you'll have to get in touch with a Parallels sales team for licensing and distribution. A lesser caveat is the minimum system requirements for Parallels: An 11th Gen Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 5000 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
The Enterprise version of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook comes with a one-year license to Parallels for those who want to run Windows in a container on ChromeOS.