Yes, you can use Windows software on a Chromebook

Chromebooks are simple, secure, generally affordable, and free from a lot of the hassle associated with Windows PCs. Most people will find them perfect for their needs. But there’s one thing that continues to infuriate new Chromebook users and turn off many potential buyers: Chromebooks can’t natively install and run Windows or Mac software. By that I mean if you have software specifically designed for Windows or Mac operating systems, it won’t work directly on a Chromebook.

So why does the title of this story say you can? Because, if Chromebooks are still known for their browser-in-a-box passed, they evolved far beyond their simplistic roots. And while you might not be able to install Windows software directly to a Chromebook, you have other options for accessing the software tools you want or need.

Pass the remote control

Chromebooks are great secondary devices for a Windows PC or Mac. Part of the reason for this is Chrome’s easy-to-use remote desktop feature that allows your Chromebook to connect to a PC running Windows – your home desktop, for example, or the work laptop. that you left at the office.

Chrome Remote Desktop allows you to use the software on a Windows PC from a Chromebook.

Screenshot by Josh Goldman / CNET

If you’ve never tried this it might sound strange, but it works great. The Windows PC is running a remote connectivity application that stays active while you are away; the Chromebook connects to this app and accesses the remote Windows desktop in your browser, where you can run programs, update settings, and more. For all intents and purposes, it’s like sitting in front of your Windows computer, while you’re in front of your Chromebook.

To start

from google Chrome Remote Desktop is free, easy to install and efficient. To get started, start your Windows PC and install the Chrome Remote Desktop (hereinafter “CRD”) in the Chrome browser. Once you get to the main setup screen, you will see two options: Go to my computer and Share my screen. Click on Access my computer, then click Light up below Configure remote access. You will have the option to install a CRD web application. This is not necessary but gives you a better non-browser experience. Whatever you decide, you will then give your computer a name followed by a PIN code of at least six digits that you will use to remotely connect to your host PC.

Once done, just make sure to leave your Windows PC running and change the power settings so that it doesn’t go into sleep mode after a period of inactivity. While some remote access tools can remotely wake up a sleeping PC, CRD is not one of them.


You can run Chrome Remote Desktop from a browser window or install a progressive web application (PWA).

Screenshot by Josh Goldman / CNET

Make the connection

For this to work, your Chromebook must be signed in to the same Google Account as your desktop computer. Again, head over to the Chrome Web Store for access the CRD – although it must already be installed as part of the synchronization of your Google accounts. You just have to click Start the application.

Again, click Remote access listed on the left side of the screen. You should then see your Windows PC there; click on it, then enter your PIN code. To save time in the future, check the box so you don’t have to enter the PIN code every time. Then click Connect.

And that’s all! You should now see the Windows desktop in your browser. Your mouse and keyboard will function as always within the confines of this browser window. You can then launch and use the software on your PC while working on your Chromebook. You can even upload and download files between the two systems. Fast internet connection for PC and Chromebook is needed for best performance and even still you might experience a slight lag. This means that streaming videos or playing games, while possible, might not be the best experience. Overall, however, it’s a great way to access Windows software on a Chromebook.

Lots of applications

If your Chromebook is your only computer, using Chrome Remote Desktop isn’t the way to go. However, you are not yet out of options. So many things, especially when it comes to productivity tasks like word processing and spreadsheets, can happen in a browser or with a web application that is basically a website that looks and behaves. more like a mobile application. Google has an online store full of them.

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are also available for many sites. These also give you an app-like experience, but with more features like offline use, the ability to pin them to the taskbar, support for push notifications and updates. up-to-date and access to hardware features. You can find Microsoft Office 365 PWAs, including Outlook and OneDrive.

If you can’t find a web app that meets your needs, all Chromebooks can also run Android apps from the Google Play Store. more than 250 million of them are available.

Look for alternatives to Linux

For those who can’t find a web app or Android app to fill out for the Windows software you need, you can always look for a Linux alternative. That’s right: Chromebooks can run Linux software. To configure your Chromebook to run Linux software, simply go to Settings > Advanced > Developers. There you will see the option of Light up a Linux development environment. Then just follow the onscreen instructions and in a matter of minutes you will be able to start installing and using the Linux software.

Once it’s up and running, you can set up access to a Linux app store like Flathub and find either Linux versions of Windows software you need or viable alternatives. With the Linux environment, you can also install software called Wine which will allow you to run Windows software on your Chromebook. It does not work on Arm based Chromebooks, only Intel and AMD models, but it’s free and worth testing to see if the Windows software that you absolutely must run on your Chromebook is compatible.

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