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This Is Windows 8.1 Running on a Chromebook


Chromebooks are popular with developers

We’re used to hearing about people opting to install Linux on their Chromebook but Windows? 

Redditor Coolstar has done just that — and then some.

Not only has he wrestled Windows 8.1 on to an Acer C720 Chromebook (no mean feat) but has also started porting some Linux drivers to Windows to get key hardware working well with it.

With a bit of elbow grease and coding know-how he’s gotten almost everything, from the keyboard to audio to power management, up and running.

It’s not 100% complete and a few gaps remain to be filled, like working brightness controls, HDMI out and, more crucially, the touchpad.

But coolstarorg says that his Chrome-less creation runs Windows ‘a lot better than one would expect from a $250 machine’.

To demo his progress he’s shared a video clip of Windows 8.1 running on his Acer C720 Chromebook.

Acer C720 Windows Drivers

Coolstarorg say that he will make his custom Windows drivers available to download so that others can attempt their own Windows install.

With Windows more widely used than Linux, which is already a popular ‘hack’ with many Chromebook owners, this sort of effort is something we may see more of in the future, particularly as the low-end friendly Windows 10 makes its way into the wild.

If you’re contemplating performing this ‘hack’ on your C720 when the Coolstar drivers are made available make sure you do plenty of research on the pitfalls beforehand. You’ll need 4GB RAM and a 64GB or larger SSD in your C720 too.

Other caveats to keep in mind:

  • BIOS/boot-loader limitations may prevent Windows installs on some Chromebook models
  • It will not run perfectly. If you need a Windows notebook buy one
  • Windows is a large operating system and won’t fit neatly on a 16GB SSD
  • You won’t be able to switch between Windows and Chrome OS as with some Linux installs

Installing Windows on a Chromebook may sound counterproductive to many of us but as a proof of possibility it’s nevertheless exciting to see.

  • I need this right now.

  • Cool. Pretty much useless for most of the real life stuff, but still very cool.

    • I beg to differ. It runs Microsoft Office, Team Fortress 2, PAYDAY and Asphalt 8 smoothly. It’s also compatible with almost all software, since, of course, it’s Windows! Just have to get the trackpad working and it’ll be fully a Windows machine (although it shouldn’t be too hard to carry a mouse around :P)

      • If you want to use Windows, get a windows notebook. There are a lot of cheap win8 devices which would let you do this stuff without meddling with the internals.

        • I already have 5 Windows laptops, lol. I was bored and had some spare time, my c720 and a copy of Windows 8.1 lying around.

          • Haha yeah, that’s really cool. Also sorry for the ignorance but I only now noticed that you are the guy who did this cool stuff :P Great work!

            And don’t get me wrong, by “useless” I just meant that _this_ chromebook’s specs are not that great for windows (specially the SSD). So an actual Windows laptop would be better. Maybe consider using a stripped down version of the OS?

          • actually the SSD is upgradable. Mine has 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD.

          • Hartley Spurlock

            Everyone says, “Oh just get a cheap Windows laptop”.

            You will NOT find a thin, 11.6″, Haswell based Windows laptop *used* for under $250. You can pick up the 4gb c720 for less than that brand new if you shop around. You can easily find the 2gb model new, + the 4gb motherboard on ebay for a total less than $200. Then you have a haswell based 11.6″ laptop, AND a spare motherboard.

        • joe Halder

          Arguably the Stream 11 is the closest thing, it has a Celeron N2840, which is about 2/3rds the speed of the Celeron 2955u in the C720, although it has 32gb of capacity, it only has 2gb of ram. The faster Chromebook can be had with 4gb of ram and 16gb of storage… The C720’s storage can be upgraded, the Stream 11 can’t. The C720 with a $48 120gb SSD will wipe the floor with the Stream 11… but with the added cost it’s ~$100 more than the Stream, with double the ram, and 4x the storage. I like my C720, just cause it’s great to tinker with.

      • YusufIslam

        Dude, this is pure genius. Are you going to provide an install and uninstall guide when it’s FULLY ready? Also, would this be capable running on my Toshiba CB 2 4GB RAM version and would it need a different installation guide??

  • Peter Oliver

    It was possible to install Windows 8 on the very first chromebook, the CR-48 that Google sent out to testers, and I used Windows on mine for years until the machine finally broke down physically.

    • The Cr-48 used standard PC hardware, which made it possible to install Windows fairly easily on it. However, the C720 has a few incompatibilities in the Coreboot, Embedded Controller, and I2C chipset that make most of its hardware incompatible with Windows by default. I’ve been fixing these incompatibilities through drivers and DSDT patching (in addition to the suspend fix John Lewis has in his BIOS) :)

      • liamdools

        I hate how they do that nowadays. Chromebooks need to be just like the CR-48 but with higher resolution and better processors. There’s nothing else that needs to be done.

  • I will test HDMI out later today and see if it works under Windows.

  • tony

    well thats me screwed I have the 2gb version

    • it works on the 2 GB version. I recommend having 4 as it provides a performance boost that allows running more applications and gives a smoother experience.

      • tony

        thanks does it run steam home streaming ok ?

        • James Bell

          The HP Stream does with 2 GB of RAM so it should.

        • I hope Valve will bring home streaming to HTML5 or ChromeOS.

        • Degru

          Yeah, it has a fairly recent Intel GPU, and those have no trouble with decoding 1080p60fps video. It should work fine for in-home-streaming.

  • I have tested and confirmed that HDMI out works (video only). Audio doesn’t seem to work over HDMI yet. However, with the video it’s able to push 1920×1080 and run the internal display at the same time. Also, Asphalt 8 plays smoothly at 1080p :)

    • alvaro guzman

      you sir, deserve an applause

    • forresthopkinsa

      Are your drivers specific to the C720? How much tweaking would they require for a different model?

    • Eddie Xavier

      Hey Coolstar. Contratulations about your work.
      Can u do something like that for OSX? Thanx A lot.

  • Ema BL

    When i can install windows? or how?

  • toddh

    Well, that’s one way to ruin a Chromebook.

    • ChromeDude

      Sure is. But it’s still pretty cool.

  • Ice

    What is the point of having a Chromebook if all you are going to do is ruin it man I mean seriously if you really wanted a Windows PC then you should have just bought one, not ruin a very good lap top, not just that but you literally screwed yourself because not only can you download .exe files but now you painted bullseye on your back for viruses, now you have to deal with PC maintenance.

    • ChromeDude

      It’s not supposed to be practical. Just a bit of fun.

      • Ice

        Sorry this reply was meant for the guy above you.

    • liamdools

      Are you one of the people who click on random ads, get viruses and blame Bill Gates for it and call him a total evil Satanist and make animated gifs of his head with devil horns and fire in the background?

  • Riya

    So u need to upgrade your 16GB SSD on your chromebook? I dont think it’s possible in my toshiba chromebook then :(

    • @coolstarorg:disqus only built drivers for the C720, so you couldn’t get it on any other Chromebook…

      • joe Halder

        It should probably work on the Falco? IIRC, I think the EC FW, and the touchpad are the same. That being said, the C720 is the community favorite for tinkering.

        • The Acers have always been popular for tinkering – the C710 was the old “do whatever” device.

  • r4in

    Just get HP Stream instead. I still don’t recommend using such low-end devices with Windows, It might be OK after you unbox it, but after six months the experience will be terrible.

    • ChromeDude

      Dude. The specs of the C720 are far higher than the HP Stream when you upgrade it to run windows. Even without upgrading the C720 has twice the RAM.

      • liamdools

        The 2GB C720 is quite popular and the SSD is half the size with an OS the same size as Windows.

    • liamdools

      The Signature Edition devices don’t come with bloatware and probably run better than similar Chromebooks.

    • James Bell

      Why? You’re not going to be uninstalling and installing new programs constantly on a 32 GB SSD. You’ll install the core programs you need and be done with it.

      I’ve had my Stream 13 for five months now and it runs as fast as when I got it.

  • Mi Pen

    If I wanted an OS on my Chromebook other than Chrome OS I’d install Linux. I don’t need offline Microsoft Office and all the non gaming software I like to use is Linux free software. And a Chromebook is no gaming machine. For that I have my desktop PC.

    • Rob


      • Mi Pen

        How I feel waiting for windows bloatware to do anything on a low spec system. I.E doze off to sleep in boredom waiting.

        • James Bell

          Buy from the Microsoft Store online. No bloatware.

          Unless you’re calling Windows itself bloatware. It runs very smooth on my HP Stream 13 (which is meant to compete with Chromebooks).

          • Mi Pen

            I’ve tried windows 8 on many low spec laptops and in every case its felt slow and my Chrome OS wipes the floor with it.

            Yes im calling windows 8 bloatware and it only gets slower with age. Not to mention the ease of which windows, can pick up a nasty helper extension to a browser, is alone enough to make me not want Windows 8 on a low spec laptop.

            I simply get no problems at all with my Chromebook and its 2 years old. It is a joy to use. I don’t get viruses…I don’t get any problems at all.

            My biggest problem with a Chromebook? Forgetting to charge it.

            My biggest problem with Windows 8? Well I have no desire to write that long list. But the god awful windows 8 GUI is enough to make me not want Windows 8.

          • James Bell

            I’ve tried both and seen no major difference between the two. Windows is getting lighter with each version, and it takes years before I notice my systems slowing down. Which at that point, it could be hardware wearing out just as much as it could be the operating system.

            I guess everyone has different experiences. Still though, enjoy your Chromebook. That’s the beauty of choice.

  • Joe Montfort

    Uh, okay.

    But for me the appeal of a Chromebook is that it is NOT burdened with Windows.

    It’s like converting your Prius to run on coal. Or modifying your DVR to play VHS tapes, or making your microwave oven into a wood stove, or… well, you get it.

    • liamdools

      Lots of people thought they could live with Chrome apps until they realized how Google hasn’t even implemented the most basic of features yet (no Paint, Movie Maker, and support for most media types.) This is also useful for using apps that don’t work with Linux properly such as Flash, Photoshop, etc. Also, Windows isn’t a “burden,” you have no idea the leaps and bounds it’s come in the last few years.

  • Rich

    It’s funny how people are criticizing this. They are missing the point completely. As the last sentence in the article said, it’s just cool to see someone do this to a chromebook, and see how far we can push these neat little device from google.

    I thought it was cool that it could run Windows and to see how fast it was able to boot up and run programs. It just shows us what more potential chromebooks could have. It would be cool to be able to boot up Windows and Chrome OS and switch back and forth. Maybe OS X is possible too? It would be an interesting device to be able to boot Chrome OS, Windows, OS X, Linux, and Android, just for the heck of it.

  • Prospero’s dreams

    Windows 8.1 = 16G SSD space used. Asphalt 8 – another 2G SSD space used. So it appears to be running with -2G of SSD space left. So either it is either a cut down version of Windows 8.1, so not actually running Windows 8.1, or much more likely a Microsoft April Fools “Scroogling” running 6 weeks late… from the Steve Ballmer playbook…

    • ChromeDude

      Did you even read this article? “You’ll need 4GB RAM and a 64GB or larger SSD in your C720 too.” It’s not designed to work with your Chromebook straight out of the box.

    • BlueScreenOfDeath

      duh, the guy who did this replaced His 16bg ssd with 128gb one. and for people criticizing this u don’t get the point, this is only for developers who don’t care about Chromebooks.

    • liamdools

      Windows 8.1 is not 16GB. Those are the RECOMMENDED HARD DRIVE REQUIREMENTS, not the size of the entire OS. One could very well install Windows 8.1 and Asphalt 8 with 6GB free.

      • joe Halder

        You’re both sort of wrong, a 64bit installation will fit on a 16gb SSD, on my C720, I have about 2gb free, I’m sure there are ways to free up some of that space (maybe disabling hibernation), but with no tweaking, I have 2gb of space available. I did a Windows 8.1 install months ago, even though it was fast, I didn’t have GPU accel, power management, keyboard, and touchpad working…

        • liamdools

          Ah. I was basing my claim on a Windows tablet I tried at Best Buy, though that was probably 32-bit.

    • I’m sorry, but what…? Windows has never used a full 16GB on a clean install, and I don’t think Steve Ballmer is the current CEO of Microsoft anymore. While I don’t like how Microsoft operates as a company, I feel like this kind of blind accusation is not going to help anyone.

  • Lewis

    its no surprise it works since the HP Stream 11 and 13 laptops are essentially Chromebook specification notebooks running windows smoothly

  • Interpreter

    what makes a chromebook is a minimum linux install supporting to run only one application i.e chrome browser. if you have chrome browser in your windows laptop you have complete chrome os. its wastage of hardware capabilities. ChromeOS is overall a failure unless they will include in atleast one complete office suite offline and option to compile open source software for chromebook.

  • Yuri da Silva

    Nice. Now install Windows 8 on Wii U.

    • If I’m not mistaken, the Wii U has a PowerPC processor and would be incompatible with just about any Windows version. The only one that may work that comes to mind is Windows NT 3.5, which is ancient.

      • Yuri da Silva

        I know :)
        But you can run any ISA with emulation. As Windows 8 will be to slow, I would try to install Ubuntu on it.

        • You can run Windows 95 in DOSBox under Wii mode. There is some documentation on this :)

          • liamdools

            Maybe the NX will have enough power to support Windows 98.

      • Poogzley

        You might be able to install Mac OS because it use to support PowerPC

        • This would be highly unlikely, as it would require a port of open firmware, as well as likely require a ppc7450 or ppc64 emulator.

  • like Phillip answered I cannot believe that you can make $9890 in 4 weeks on the computer.try this website on `my` `prof1le`

  • Doom Lord

    What’s the point? Why buy a chromebook and force it to run Windows? There are similar priced windows 10 machines available.