How to install Windows 10 on a Chromebook

If we go back to when the Chromebook was originally launched in 2011. There were plenty of reasons why you would also want to have access to Microsoft Windows. Thankfully that has changed hugely because ChromeOS is now highly capable, so there are very few things you can’t do on a Chromebook.

That being said, you may still have a reason to install Microsoft Windows on your Chromebook. Whether that is just out of curiosity or an actual need to still have access to MS Windows. The good news is there are plenty of Chromebooks that come with a processor powerful enough to run Windows within side ChromeOS.

This complete step-by-step guide on how to install Microsoft Windows 10 on your Chromebook. Will provide all the information you need to get MS Windows installed. The method used is using a Virtual Machine, which means you will still have access to ChromeOS as normal. This guide isn’t about removing ChromeOS and installing Microsoft Windows independently.

What is a virtual machine?

If you’ve worked in an office where you’ve needed access to software that wasn’t compatible with the standard OS used. You may have already come across the idea of using a virtual machine. It’s essentially a virtual computer where you can install a different OS than the one installed by default. Therefore, it does not have any direct impact on using your computer as normal.

A virtual machine does require access to your computer processor, RAM and storage. This means when you’re using a virtual machine the processing power it uses to run will remove this from your normal OS. You’re essentially sharing your computer hardware between your normal OS and the OS installed on the virtual machine.

Because of this and the fact that Microsoft Windows is a demanding OS. You will need a relatively powerful Chromebook to install Windows. Also, it’s worth remembering even if you have a Chromebook that comes with high specs. This does not necessarily mean you’ll be able to use Windows without coming across any performance issues. You should therefore expect MS Windows to run much slower than if you were using an MS Windows laptop.

The type of Chromebook you’ll need

There is no set rule on the specs required. However, you should at least be using a Chromebook with an Intel i5 or equivalent processor with 8GB of RAM and at the very minimum 64GB of storage. If your Chromebook comes with less than 8GB of RAM I would suggest not trying this method. This is because I allocate 4GB to Windows 10 leaving the other 4GB for ChromeOS to continue running in the background.

If your Chromebook supports Kernal-based Virtual Machine (KVM) then you should get a much better experience using a virtual machine. You’ll be notified during the setup stage if your Chromebook does not support KVM. This does not mean you will not be able to continue with the process of installing Windows on your Chromebook. It does, however, mean you may not get a good experience.

If you’re unsure whether your Chromebook is powerful enough. The best thing is to try and install Windows and see for yourself. This is the only way you’ll know whether it will offer you the performance you need.

You will need a copy of Microsoft Windows 10

To use Microsoft Windows 10 on your Chromebook inside a virtual machine you will need a copy of Microsoft Windows 10. The good news is you don’t need to worry if you don’t have a copy of MS Windows. This is because you can legally download a copy of Microsoft Windows 10 from the Microsoft website.

Also, you don’t need to have access to a Windows 10 activation key. You can legally use Windows 10 without having an activation key. During the setup process, you would simply click ‘I don’t have a product key’. You can still use Windows 10 with very few limitations if you don’t have a product key.

Activating Microsoft Windows to run on your Chromebook
Choose I don’t have a product key if you do not have one available

This is great news if you want to try and see if you can install MS Windows on your Chromebook without spending money on a copy of Windows. If you like the experience of using MS Windows on a virtual machine, you can always purchase a product key at a later date if you feel it’s needed.

Your Chromebook needs to support Linux

To install MS Windows in a virtual machine (VM) your Chromebook will need to support Linux. If your Chromebook doesn’t support Linux then this guide is not going to be of any use to you.

If your Chromebook does support Linux you will need to install Linux first on your ChromeOS computer. You should do this before following the steps below. Windows needs about 20GB to install, but you should create a Linux partition larger than this. This is because in this guide I create a 40GB partition to urge on the side of caution. Also, if you want to install programs inside Windows 10, you will be installing these programs using the storage you allocate.

If you have not installed Linux you should do that first. You can follow this guide on how to install Linux on your Chromebook.

Step by Step guide to install Windows 10 on ChromeOS

Please ensure you follow the steps below in order. It may feel a little daunting if you’ve looked at the size of this article and the steps involved. However, I can assure you the process is not too difficult to follow, as I’ve gone through the process myself, which you can follow in the video I’ve included at the top of this article.

The most time-consuming part is downloading Windows 10, which does take some time to download because it’s over 5GB, and the download server offers very little bandwidth capability. The other part of the process, which is extremely time-consuming is going through the process of setting up Windows 10. Therefore, you should set aside a good couple of hours to go through this.

  1. Install Linux on your Chromebook. See the information above about setting up Linux if you need further help with this.
  2. Download a copy of Windows 10 from the Microsoft website. The link to this I’ve already discussed further up this page with a link to their website.
  3. Make sure your Linux install is up to date – To do this you should open a Linux Terminal and type in the following commands.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

There are different ways to update Linux such as integrating the command into one or using slightly different commands. However, for this guide, you can simply type in the commands mentioned above. Always remember, if you’re unsure of any of the steps, you can use the video at the top of this post as a visual aid. This may be a better option if you’re uncomfortable with using Linux.

4. Install the Virtual Machine Manager – type the command shown in the grey box below into your Linux terminal, which will install the virtual machine manager on your Chromebook. Once installed, you can access this from the ChromeOS App launcher (start menu) under ‘Linux Apps’.

sudo apt install qemu-kvm libvirt-clients libvirt-daemon-system bridge-utils virtinst libvirt-daemon virt-manager -y

5. Open the virtual machine manager – You now need to open the virtual machine manager you’ve just installed. Use the image below to see how this can be found from the ChromeOS App Launcher (start menu).

ChromeOS app launcher showing Linux apps virtual machine manager icon
Once installed, the Virtual Machine Manager is accessible from Linux apps

6. Create a new Virtual Machine – When you’ve opened the Virtual Machine Manager click on ‘Create a new virtual machine’. This should look similar to what you can see in the image below.

Create a new Virtual Machine

7. Choose local media – In this step you need to ensure ‘local install media (ISO image or CDROM) is selected. Once selected click on forward.

Creating a virtual machine step 1 of 5

8. Click on the browse button as shown in the image below.

Create a new virtual machine step 2 of 5

9. Click on the browse local button – This page will appear empty at first, which is nothing to be concerned about. Simply click on the browse local button as shown below.

Click on the browse local button

10. Select your Windows 10 ISO image – The next dialogue box that appears will also be empty. Click on ‘Home’ at the top left, and you should then see your Windows ISO image. Make sure it’s selected and click on open in the top right corner.

Select your Windows ISO image

11. Once selected click on forward – You should now see a dialogue box similar to the one shown below. Ensure ‘Automatically detect from the installation media/source’ is ticked before clicking on forward.

Click forward once you have ensured Automatically detect from the installation media is ticked.

12. Choose how much RAM and cores to assign – In the next dialogue box, you can choose how much RAM and how many cores to assign to the virtual machine. As you can see below I’ve left it on the default of 4096 MB, which is roughly the equivalent of 4GB. By default it provided two cores to the virtual machine, but as you can see I changed this to 4 because I had 8 available in total. The options you choose will be dependent on what your Chromebook has available.

Assign the RAM and cores to your virtual machine

13. Assign storage to your virtual machine – In the next dialogue box that appears you need to assign the storage to your virtual machine. By default, my setup assigned 40GB, which I kept. However, you can successfully install Windows 10 with a lesser amount of storage. I would not recommend anything lower than 30GB unless you’re really pushed for storage. The absolute minimum I would assign is 25GB.

Please remember, when assigning storage that it is linked to how much storage you assigned to your ChromeOS Linux install. Therefore, you may need to increase the size of your Linux installation if you don’t have enough storage available.

14. Review your settings – This is the last step and you’re essentially reviewing the information. You should not need to touch anything, and it should look similar to the image below. If you used a different amount of RAM and storage for your virtual machine this will obviously be different from the RAM and storage shown in the image below. Once reviewed, click on the finish button.

15 . The last step before Windows 10 starts to install on your Chromebook – You should now see a dialogue box with the heading ‘Virtual Network is not active’, and it should look similar to the image below. Simply click on ‘yes’ and Windows should start to install.

Windows 10 should now install on your Chromebook. It does take some time to go through the steps of setting up Windows 10. The steps above should hopefully work for you, however, if you encounter an error message ‘unable to complete install: ‘Unable to set XATTR trusted.libvirt.security.dac on /var/lib/libvirt/qemu/domain-1-win10/master-key.aes: operation not permitted‘. Then do not worry because I encountered the same issue, and I explain how to fix this in the video at the top of this page.

Summary

You should now have Windows 10 installed on your Chromebook using a virtual machine. Although I’ve gone through the steps above. If you experience any error messages or need extra guidance I would strongly suggest watching the video at the top of this article.

The video also goes through the process of setting up Microsoft Windows 10 and how to ensure the virtual machine is using the whole of your display.

It’s great to see you can now install Microsoft Windows on your Chromebook. However, it’s important to remember the performance will be strongly linked to the Chromebook that you use.