Switch from macOS to Chrome OS

Introduction

In this article, I want to give you a little guide on how to start if you want to switch from macOS to Chrome OS.

More guides follow, e.g., on data migration and aspects such as differences in operation and behavior of the systems. I’ll give you lots of tips on that. This way, you can focus on the essentials, and the starting point from your perspective may be very different from others.

First, I am not a macOS expert. I’ve used macOS occasionally in parallel with Chrome OS and Windows for the past four years. I’ve been a digital nomad since October 2021 now and have been using my MacBook Air M1 almost daily for a few things since then. By the way, an iPhone SE 2020, an iPad Mini 6, and I also have two AirTags with me to create content like this post. 😉

So, I could collect some experiences with macOS as a content creator, and I know my way around both worlds.

My experience with macOS

I use the MacBook primarily for video editing with Adobe Premiere and seldom image manipulation with Photoshop Pro. I currently subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud and SetApps, among others. SetApps has a few tools that allow you to drill macOS up a bit to your liking. I also have Homebrew and Cakebrew installed via macOS terminal as an alternative app store to take this to the extreme. Through it, e.g., I got the file manager DoubleCommander to sift through and compile new content for my YouTube videos as conveniently as I want.

I used to play Diablo 3 on the M1 for a while enthusiastically. Unfortunately, I no longer have the time to do that now. 😀

For convenience, I also use the device to back up all my files from multiple SSDs to my Google Drive and Dropbox. I have encrypted these SSDs using onboard macOS tools, and the only way to do that these days is on Chrome OS is file-based with third-party tools. These include Cryptomator, Boxcryptor, FreeFileSync, and Insync in the Linux mode. I’m just too lazy there, but I’d have to upload 1 TB of (encrypted) data again while traveling as well. That’s not easy! 😉 If I ever find an Airbnb with 1000 Mbps fiber, I might finally migrate. 🙂

I use apps like Final Cut Pro, the Affinity three-pack (consisting of Photo, Designer, and Publisher), Microsoft Office 365, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, KeePassXC, 1Password, Greenshot, etc. and I also own Bitdefender, Atom, OBS, FreeFileSync Luminar 3, and Pixelmator. I have used all of them occasionally.

I use Parallels Desktop for a virtual machine running Windows 11 Preview Edition for ARM to create content for the “switch from Windows to Chrome OS” topic.

So, a couple of things are familiar to me as a Google fan! 😉

What does Google have to say about it?

Google provides a little guide on how you can switch from macOS to Chrome OS: link.

In my way, I’ll summarize here for you what Google describes there and give further tips.

Attention: Before you start right away, or you can’t do anything with the description: This is only one possible way! If your files and photos are in iCloud or Dropbox and you prefer not to switch to Google Drive, leave them there. You can also continue to work with it in principle. So don’t let that scare you off here. You can connect an external hard drive to a Chromebook if you’ve previously formatted it as FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS [Google Support], and copy your files from your Mac to it! You’ll get the most out of a Chromebook and Chrome OS with Google Drive, though because that’s more deeply integrated into the system. It’s no different with iCloud and macOS Monterey.

Here is the procedure:

  1. On your Mac, for example, log in to Google Drive. You need a Google account for that.
  2. Download and install the Google Drive client from there
  3. Back up all your important files with the client
  4. Log in to your Chromebook with the same Google account
  5. All your files are already available in the Files app of Chrome OS and via the Google Drive website

Furthermore, Google describes what you can do with Chrome OS: link. For a start, I think this collection of tips is not bad at all. You can learn more from me. 😉

Overview

The operation

Maybe you’re scolding me, but the essential elements of macOS haven’t changed that much over the last few years.

Whether it’s macOS Catalina, Big Sur, or Monterey, the step-up to Chrome OS is pretty similar.

If you create a Google account on your first Chrome OS device and log in, you’ll quickly find your way around with the centered application icons in the Shelf, just like in the macOS Dock. Chrome OS’s launcher is very similar to macOS’s Launchpad, and other controls and behaviors are also quite similar to macOS. Chrome OS’ Files app can be a more significant hurdle if you are very used to macOS’ Finder or have strong reservations about Google’s solution.

I still owe you an introduction to the use of Chrome OS, and this will follow in the following weeks.

The Finder of Chrome OS

The Files app, Chrome OS’s Finder, isn’t that much different from the Finder at first glance. On the left, you have important locations and your file system displayed, just like your MacBook’s disk on macOS. However, file and folder operations are more like the behavior of Windows Explorer. Instead of the Command key, you use the Ctrl key (Control) here. “Ctrl & X:” Cut, “Ctrl & C:” Copy and “Ctrl & V:” Paste. These keyboard shortcuts are available in the Files app and almost everywhere in Chrome OS and its apps. I use Chrome OS, macOS, and Windows. It’s hard not to get it wrong there.

Colored tags don’t exist in the Files app. Instead of iCloud, you’ll find a Google Drive entry on the left. You can find the Android and Linux apps files there, but that’s probably going too fast for you. Once you’ve used the Files app for a few days, you should quickly understand the essential operation. Screenshots and will follow.

iCloud on Chrome OS

Well, if you prefer not to move all your data from iCloud to Google Drive, your access to iCloud on Chrome OS is severely limited: You can’t install a client for iCloud on your Chromebook, as it works wonderfully for many other services.

Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon Drive, and many others are available as Android apps in the Play Store on Chrome OS, for example. Google Drive is already integrated into Chrome OS’s “Finder,” the Files app.

If you want to access your data in iCloud, you can do so via the web page in the browser: Link. From there, by the way, you can also use Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and a few other Apple services.

If you’re giving up your old Apple device, and want to switch entirely from macOS to Chrome OS, then a logical step would also be to switch from iCloud to Google Drive. However, if you use it in parallel, you can leave it as I described.

Data exchange between Chrome OS and macOS

My link for sharing data between Chrome OS and macOS is my cloud storage of choice, Google Drive, but also the Chrome browser!

That allows me to quickly make files, links, and the clipboard available on both systems.

If you were using just a Chromebook and an Android smartphone, you could use Nearby Share [Google Support], Google’s offshoot of Airdrop [Apple Support], to share data between the devices.

Mac software on Chrome OS

You probably won’t have all of your MacBook apps and applications available on Chrome OS. Here’s what you need to keep in mind if you want to switch to Chrome OS from macOS!

Here I’ve compiled a list of known software from macOS on Chrome OS that is growing all the time: link. It is far from complete, and Apple, as well as Google, provide many free apps. If you can’t find a counterpart to a familiar software on macOS, this is an excellent place to start.

If you want to find out if your software is available on Chrome OS, your best bet is to search the web for its name with “Chrome OS.” I also post guides about this on my channels frequently.

App store and pkg installations on Chrome OS

Instead of the App Store on macOS, you use the Play Store on Chrome OS or a “graphical App Store in Chrome OS’s Linux mode.”

Instead of .pkg files [Wikipedia], only .deb files can be installed directly in the Linux mode of Chrome OS by double-clicking in the Files app like in the Finder. Of course, as with macOS, everything has to fit together. There, you can also not successfully run any installation routine on macOS Monterey. The situation is similar in the Linux mode of Chrome OS.

System and application updates under Chrome OS

Chrome OS lets you download a new system update from time to time, or you have it set automatically. From the “System Settings” ⇒ “About Chrome OS,” you can find out the current version of your system and start an update. So, it’s not much different from macOS, except that updates on Chrome OS don’t take as much time.

You can update Android apps from the Play Store manually or automatically, just like in the App Store. For Linux apps, it depends on how you installed them, and here’s a bit more on that: link.

Hardware and drivers on Chrome OS

Drivers do not exist for Chrome OS. Does that mean you can’t switch from macOS to Chrome OS now?

The drivers are integrated with Chrome OS. A new printer on the network is automatically detected, and you can usually set it up with a click. The system should also recognize USB or Bluetooth mouses and keyboards. Some graphics tablets are also supported. However, check them out on the Internet first and search for the type designation and Chrome OS. Some manufacturers put “Works with Chromebook” stickers on their devices.

You can install drivers in the Linux mode of Chrome OS. However, this is not a Linux-only blog, and that’s not where I go into further detail!

Beyond that, I’m focusing on the software side of things on the blog, since I’m a digital nomad, and can only carry limited devices!

Conclusion

I’ve touched on a few points in this article, such as using Chrome OS, using software and hardware on Chrome OS, sharing data between Chrome OS and macOS, and accessing cloud storage like iCloud.

This little guide should serve you well in your first steps with Chrome OS as a switch from macOS. 😉

Where do you see issues if you were to switch to Chrome OS from macOS? What issues would you be most interested in?

How to use the Chrome OS Files app as an alternative to the Finder?

Feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll go from there! The community and I will try to help you out. 🙂

More as always on the blog.


Words in italics may be registered trademarks or companies! Examples: Google, YouTube, and Android. Or they are technical terms from the IT world, which are described in various locations in the blog.

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