Dual-booting into Microsoft Windows on a Chromebook looks to be ready soon

Months ago we heard about Project Campfire; Google’s effort to run Windows on Chromebooks. The feature hasn’t been officially announced yet but there have been a number of code commits in recent days showing that the development team is making good progress and may be in the home stretch, with an official announcement possibly coming soon.

We already knew that the dual booting option was originally called Alt-OS, but has since been dubbed “Dual-Boot”, which is a bit more descriptive. Some of the code commits still refer to Alt-OS, however, such as one from yesterday that tests disk partitioning when cycling the dual boot functionality on and off. I suspect that internally, Alt-OS is still used behind the scenes at Google, but from a front-facing perspective, “Dual boot” is likely what device owners will see.

And for now, the only device being tested with the Campfire build is Eve; the codename for last year’s Pixelbook. That’s been the case since the beginning of Project Campfire and based on various Chrome OS builds for individual devices, Eve is still the only one with a Campfire build of Chrome OS. I expect that to change in the coming months but it makes sense to get Chromebooks booting into Windows on a single model before rolling it out to others.

Keep in mind that there will be certain hardware requirements needed to switch between Chrome OS and Microsoft Windows, particularly in the storage: Last I heard, the plan was to mark off 40 GB of storage for Windows, but that may have changed in the past few months.

All of this partitioning and enabling (or removing) dual boot functions for Windows on a Chromebook can’t impact device security of course. To that end, there has been recent dual boot testing done on how to handle the TPM, or Trusted Platform Module, data inside every Chrome OS device.

At this point, it seems clear that for testing purposes, Eve is booting back and forth between Chrome OS and Microsoft Windows in the lab. And it appears to be doing so without compromising the security of Chrome OS. Aside from ensuring the Pixelbook has the appropriate hardware drivers for Windows — something I think has already been taken care of some time ago — I’m not sure there’s much work left to do for Project Campfire to be officially announced.

I suppose it’s possible that Google makes some announcement in conjunction with Microsoft at the Consumer Electronics Show in a few weeks. I’m a bit skeptical of that though: Microsoft ceased having a booth on the CES show floor a few years back while Google has never had one. Instead, both of these companies generally rely on their device partners to make news at CES. In this case, they are the partners, so it’s hard to say how and when this development will be announced.

Regardless, I know some folks aren’t happy with the amount of optional new features being added to Chrome OS. First, it was Android apps, then Linux packages and coming soon: Microsoft Windows. I understand that perspective, although these are all optional features. If you just want a Chrome OS experience in the browser, you still have that.

Still, I’d love to hear from folks who do (or don’t) want Windows as an option on their Chromebook, and why. I still think it’s all upside for the platform in general.

43 thoughts on “Dual-booting into Microsoft Windows on a Chromebook looks to be ready soon

  • December 18, 2018 at 3:47 pm
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    Since MSFT will want $ if a device boots Windows, the effect on pricing will be of interest.

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    • December 18, 2018 at 3:59 pm
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      I don’t see why the hardware price will be affected for an option feature that may never be used. The cost of a Windows license is the only price add-on I’d expect.

      Reply
  • December 18, 2018 at 4:11 pm
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    Chromebooks are perfect machines for our principals. However we have a need for using 2 applications in Windows. Right now we can remote into using them before would prefer to use them locally.

    Really hoping a new Pixelbook is announced soon. Not sold on the Pixel Slate for our needs.

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    • March 28, 2019 at 3:43 pm
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      I am in the same boat. I bought a Pixel Slate for $1300 with pen and keyboard. It is a powerful machine at top dollar. I do need to use Windows apps from time to time. I cannot print at my office on ChromeOS unless I am using an Android app through the print service for Kyocera. It cannot be used in Chrome OS in any other way. This is a Business hub printer and it isn’t going anywhere. Also, I do have occassion to use full Office, not the kids table version available online or through Android. I understand the puriest that want to push developers, but I’m not using a $200 throwaway machine. I need to get work done. At home, I have no issues with Chrome OS.

      Reply
  • December 18, 2018 at 4:12 pm
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    I think having Microsoft Windows readily available on a Chromebook will be a huge step forward. As a sysadmin, I love my Chromebook and the security it offers, but to do my job, I utilize a lot of tools that are Windows Centric. Some IT tools, of course, could be found on Linux but I always run into compatibility issues especially for things needing USB support. Hopefully, duel boot takes care of those needs.

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  • December 18, 2018 at 5:59 pm
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    Hard to predict effect on developers. Assuming that people choosing to buy Dual-Boots would prefer not to use Windows, it would be ideal if this led to users violently clamoring for conversion of their favorite applications to Linux or to PWAs so that they can altogether stop having to boot Windows.

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    • December 20, 2018 at 1:38 pm
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      +1 for PWA’s.

      OS agnostic apps should be the way forward.

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  • December 18, 2018 at 7:58 pm
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    If at all possible I’d prefer something like what Droplet Computing was working on. Containerised Windows apps running in Chrome OS.

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    • January 5, 2019 at 6:56 pm
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      I’d definitely much prefer containers over multi booting.

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  • December 18, 2018 at 8:08 pm
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    “If you just want a Chrome OS experience in the browser, you still have that.”

    Which really is only partially true. The kernel will still have the hooks available for this and just running ChromeOS is no longer the case. As we have seen two years ago, all the promises Google made were simply broken and planned devices might as well be announced as “Not Supported for Android” instead of leaving users hanging and hoping. The same goes for Linux Apps. Should an Asus C302 not be one of the first to be included? Well no, hold on there is the manufacturer ready and needing to have consumers spend another chunk of money on their new 2019 model that surprisingly does have Linux App support. I just wonder what is next: Every Chromebook must have 16Gb of memory to support Linux Apps and Windows and Android…. They also must have 128Gb of storage, although 95% of the current units have 64Gb or less.
    The main issue here is that Google – the owner of the code – needs to finish something and not keep jumping from one system into another without the support of the manufacturers.

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  • December 18, 2018 at 8:25 pm
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    I am very much against having windows of any sort on chrome OS devices. It simply perpetuates the use of an unstable, and insecure OS which causes a lot of problems for millions of users. Windows update is a broken and completely unreliable system. My concern is that if Microsoft is involved in any way with providing updates, and particularly security updates, then users will be just as vulnerable when using windows on a Chrome OS, as they are on any other windows PC. Google promotes Chrome OS devices as being highly secure. Put Windows on those devices and that high security becomes compromised. Microsoft’s incompetence will see to that.

    As well, Chrome OS devices have always had the reputation of being one of the options for people who have had enough of the Microsoft and windows mess. People who want something simple to use, reliable and secure. For me, and many others, this is Chrome OS. To add windows to this is a major step in the wrong direction. Android apps makes sense. Linux is OK as well, as it is a secure system and expands the capabilities of Chrome OS in a sensible way. Windows is none of this. It is everything Chrome OS was designed NOT to be. With windows on Chrome OS devices, how long will it be before Microsoft wants to become directly involved with the development of Chrome OS itself? Chrome OS and Windows each stand at opposite poles. They are the antithesis of the other. Chrome OS is a modern, forward looking, secure, 21st century OS, with an update system second to none. Windows is a throwback to a failed past of instability and insecurity, with an update system that is simply screwed. They do not belong together. Putting windows on a Chrome OS device only serves to continue the illusion that windows is a modern OS. While fundamentally undermining everything that Chrome OS was made to achieve and represent.

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    • December 19, 2018 at 7:08 am
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      Got it. Windows is a no-good, very bad, terrible OS. Chrome OS is stable, secure, and delightful. But, alas, Chrome OS adopters despise the Windows but can’t all be expected to sever their ties to the rest of the world that’s hooked on Windows-only applications.

      Reply
  • December 18, 2018 at 8:31 pm
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    Have run my business on Chromebooks and Boxes for the past 5 years. I rarely need to touch a Windows device, unless I am troubleshooting an issue for a client.

    Really can’t see the reason why you’d want Windows on a Chrome device.

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  • December 18, 2018 at 8:46 pm
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    A few months ago I purchased a Samsung Chromebook Pro thinking I was beginning a 2 year transition off Windows. But it has become clear that the ChromeOS developers think of Chrome devices as large phones and not as true laptop / desktop replacements. Dual booting between Chrome and Windows is useless. There’s nothing I can do on ChromeOS that I can’t do on Windows whereas ChromeOS is a 10% subset of Windows with a clumsy interface. If I booted to Windows there would be no reason to boot back into ChromeOS. Is Google’s goal to convince people that ChromeOS is a bad idea?

    Reply
  • December 18, 2018 at 10:48 pm
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    It seems inevitable that once windows gets a toehold, macs will be next in a few years. If anybody doesn’t want windows, macs or ios nobody is twisting their arm to install them. Within 5 years there may be no difference when you buy a machine. What os you install will be up to you.

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  • December 19, 2018 at 12:05 am
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    I hate windows. Is there a way I can take my 2-1 laptop and turn it in to a Chromebook

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    • December 19, 2018 at 6:54 am
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      No.

      The closest that you can come is to install CloudReady by Neverware, which is Chromium. It will differ from Chrome OS in certain respects. Most notably, it won’t run Android or Linux applications.

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    • December 20, 2018 at 6:33 am
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      It’s possible, search for Chromefy

      Reply
  • December 19, 2018 at 7:28 am
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    I am all for this if Google implements EXACTLY like GNU/Linux. So NOT true dual boot.

    Instead run in a VM and GUI talks to the ChromeOS windows manager just like how GNU/Linux works.

    This approach will also then work when move to Fuchsia.

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  • December 19, 2018 at 8:19 am
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    At work, we use AutoCAD and PDF editing software such as Nitro and PDF XChange Editor on Windows. At home, I use Rosetta Stone, DVDFab, Replay Media Catcher on Windows. I use my HP Chromebook X2 at work and at home, but I need to resort to my Windows computers for the above programs. I would buy the $1,600 Pixel Slate if it has dual boot into Windows or Chrome OS.

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  • December 19, 2018 at 8:40 am
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    I will try to say this as respectfully as possible. What in the world is causing some contributors to be against adding options to Chromebooks? Until otherwise stated, much less proven, adding the capability to boot into Windows from a current-day Chromebook sounds like it would do no harm to the CB, little different than if new fonts were added to chromeos. If you have the option to ignore it, never download the requisite OS software, why the vehement rejections of the very concept? Kind of makes me feel like a subset of Chromeos users feel like members of a cult of sorts, and don’t want that nasty Microsoft and their nasty Windows and Office programs defiling their “virgin” Chromebooks!

    Sorry, I really didn’t mean to go even that far, but sometimes in recent years the only way to avoid feeling depressed about certain attitudes gaining critical mass is to have a sense of humor about the whole business. i just “bought” a Windows laptop (by which I mean, I turned down an opportunity to sell mine) for $700 because I need it to run certain programs my Chromebook can’t run and for which an equivalent that runs on Chromeos doesn’t exist. Had this dual-boot capability been there, I would be $700 richer and would travel with one less device – or the one device I travel with would be my lovely, light, always delightful Pixelbook.

    No, the only distressing things that hearing about the upcoming option to dual boot my Pixelbook into Windows elicit are:

    1) When will it be available in the stable channel? Now that I know it’s coming, I can’t wait!!
    2) I can finally see a reason to go for the 16 GB RAM Pixelbook model; do I shell out now, when prices are a comparatively low $1,250, quite reasonable considering that includes 512GB of PCIE/NVME SSD storage. If pure software modifications can enable the Pixelbook to run full Windows (I do wonder if this includes full activation of the GPU integration) then one can no longer criticize the price of the Pixelbook as being “insane for a Chromebook!” $1,250 (with discounts currently available – even less purchased used) would be an entirely reasonable price for a Windows “convertible” laptop of the caliber of the Pixelbook with a Core i7 “Y” cpu, 16GB RAM and 512 GB SSD. Especially when, as the poster commented, you can boot this thing into Chromeos!

    Reply
  • December 19, 2018 at 1:33 pm
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    On the surface, this seems like a win/win for Google and Microsoft. Google has a way to bridge the legacy application gap between Linux & Windows offerings while it finishes baking Fuschia (if it ever sees the light of day). There is no negative to this unless it compromised system security of a Chromebook but that doesn’t appear to be an issue here.

    I have to image there was enough demand for this that prevented schools or corporate buyers from buying Chromebooks due to various shortcomings that only Windows could address. However, having a dual-boot Windows system defeats the purpose of the throw-away or easily wiped and re-deployed nature of ChromeOS. But with Microsoft autopilot and it getting easier to deploy Windows on demand maybe this makes more sense.

    Ultimately nobody gets harmed here and it makes Chromebooks the most versatile devices in the marketplace. It also gives Microsoft yet another potential revenue stream and it happens to come from a direct competitor.

    Reply
  • December 19, 2018 at 1:35 pm
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    Reasons to run Windows: Quicken and Turbo Tax. VMWare.

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    • January 3, 2019 at 8:31 am
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      Turbotax is my only reason to ever run Windows. I may buy a $100 windows refurb on craigslist just for this purpose. Otherwise my $119 Samsung Chromebook does everything else I need.

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  • December 19, 2018 at 3:38 pm
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    I personally feel that the introduction of Boot Camp to OS X 12 years ago was a huge reason Apple was able to pick up the market share they did. People didn’t have to worry about not being able to run software when purchasing a Mac, which at the time was largely a second class citizen when it came to software. This allowed Apple to increase their market share, and to get more software written for Mac natively because more potential customers/users had Macs.

    I feel like Google is employing the same strategy here. If there is any sizable fraction of people to which chromebooks are appealing, but to which there is one must-have piece of software (Mac/PC only) and they aren’t willing to purchase two computers, then this move captures market share. The greater the chromebook market share is, the more apps we will get for it natively via PWA, the android run time, and/or maybe even linux.

    As a new convert, I want more software that works natively on Chrome OS. Even if I never use the Windows dual boot option, I applaud it because it will increase Chromebook market share and ultimately get us more software which doesn’t require another computer to run.

    Reply
    • December 22, 2018 at 12:39 pm
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      That is a very astute analysis. I wonder if Google was as sophisticated in making their decision as you are in describing its consequences. I agree with you: this is great news for chromebook owners and fans, whether or not you need to run Windows programs. Well done!

      Reply
  • December 20, 2018 at 10:40 am
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    Will only windows be supported or could I boot into a fully fledged Linux distro? That would be nice!

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    • December 20, 2018 at 2:09 pm
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      My understanding is that full Linux distros will also be supported but that’s not official; still digging for more evidence of that.

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      • December 26, 2018 at 8:01 pm
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        Do you think there will be more powerful Chromebooks with dedicated GPU’s and maybe the return of Chromebase’s and Chromeboxes?
        I would use these as my everything machine since it runs everything.
        I would just need something a little more powerful on occasion.

        Reply
        • December 26, 2018 at 8:24 pm
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          There is a new Chromebase on the way according to Chrome Unboxed.

          My guess is that once Linux apps and CampFire are fully usable we will see a plethora of new Chromeboxes.

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  • December 22, 2018 at 12:52 pm
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    I’m the perfect use case for this feature. My business uses G Suite for email, calendar, and cloud storage. Most of our financial and HR management is done with browser-based hosted SAAS. So, I get 90% of my work done on my pixelbook.

    HOWEVER, several times a week I must edit complex documents on Excel, Word, or Acrobat. I have tried all of the online and app based offerings, such as Office Online, G Suite conversation, G Suite compatibility mode, and office Android and Chrome apps. None of them are adequate for professional use compared to Windows client software. Even basic editing involves ridiculous sequences of downloading and uploading files multiple times, since the online and app based software is inexplicably poorly integrated with Google Drive.

    Recently I took several multi-day business trips carrying only my pixelbook. I found myself unable to perform essential work tasks because of the limitations of chrome. I have resigned myself to carrying two machines when I travel and am shopping for a Surface laptop. Having the option to dual boot instead would be a huge boon for me. I could just carry the windows machine and do everything in it, but my pixelbook is such a great device for quick email work at the airport, in coffee shops, while waiting for meetings, et.

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  • December 23, 2018 at 1:58 pm
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    I want the ability to boot Windows because then my favorite computer, the Pixelbook, can be my only computer. I need Windows for only a few things like Visual Studio, so this would be perfect for me.

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  • January 1, 2019 at 12:08 pm
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    I think this is stupid. The resources spent to run Windows could have been better spent elsewhere.

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  • February 6, 2019 at 9:18 pm
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    So anyone know approximately when they’re gonna roll this out?

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    • February 7, 2019 at 7:49 am
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      At this point, I would guess at Google I/O in May.

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      • February 8, 2019 at 1:59 pm
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        I wish they’d release it now, I need it.

        The real problem with Chrome OS is the lack of ability in G-Suite – basically, for modern business, you need Office, the full thing, not Android and not Online.

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  • February 27, 2019 at 7:51 pm
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    I welcome the dual boot, don’t understand the arguments about security but i can see the grown in Mac book after the dual boot option is available. won’t we able to do like mac where it is two separate environments with no link to each another except perhaps a common shared document areas?

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    • February 27, 2019 at 8:01 pm
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      AFAIK at this point, yes, it will be a completely different environment, similar to Boot Camp on a Mac with Windows.

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    • March 31, 2019 at 7:43 am
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      You can create links in macOS to ANY files needed by creating a simple desktop shortcuts on the Mac desktop. I keep all of my music and videos on the windows partition and link to them so that I may have that entertainment available while in the Mac environment. This way the files are only stored on the Windows partition once. Unfortunately, you cannot do the same from Windows to mac OS files.

      Reply
  • March 31, 2019 at 7:38 am
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    I would love to do everything with one device. I’ve been using Mac with a bootcamp boot into Windows for years. We are now a full on Google school district and my PixelBook with a Windows 10 boot would be all I would need. Please keep us updated with developments!

    Reply
  • April 3, 2019 at 8:17 pm
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    I’m very interested in this. I bought the Pixelbook i7 to explore programming. Long story short, I did a u-turn and will be starting law school in the fall. Apparently most schools use something called ExamSoft / Exemplify which locks the entire computer during the duration of the exam. It only works with macOS and Windows. Having already way overspent my laptop budget for several years on the i7, I’m definitely hoping I’ll be able to dual boot, rather than buy a cheap laptop for finals.

    Reply

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