Using Windows applications under Chrome OS in the cloud [A]

Introduction

Do you own an old Windows notebook and are now considering buying a Chromebook, but can’t do without some Windows applications? There are reasonable solutions! That can be cheaper in the long run than buying a new notebook!

In this post I show you how you can do it!

It will look something like this:

Log on to Windows 10 in the cloud via Shadow on Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

Important Notes

Notes for beginners: My posts usually contain some basics so that you can understand how to proceed. I partly repeat the basics in other posts, so you don’t have to jump back and forth all the time.

Here is the meaning of the abbreviations after the headings: [E] Everyone [A] Advanced [B] Beginner [P] Professional

If you still miss something, feel free to comment. The community will try to help you! 🙂

Notes for professionals: My posts usually have the form of a knowledge database entry and should be equally suitable for beginners, advanced users, and professionals. Just pick out what you need right now. You can also find content specifically targeted to professionals. These are marked accordingly with [P] and other finger points.

Do you want to have more professional content on a topic? Add it to the comments 😉

Disclaimer of liability: As always on this blog, I warn you that all changes to your system mentioned in this post are at your own risk! It is theoretically possible that there are system or application errors that could lead to data loss and further problems!

Your Windows PC in the Cloud

Are you dependent on continuing to use Windows applications as a Chrome OS user for various reasons? Like your favorite tax software, a few games, or some other special software for Windows at home? Are you a developer and can’t do without the full version of Visual Studio? Or are you a graphic designer and want to use Adobe Lightroom without restrictions? Do you even edit videos with Adobe Premiere Pro?

Today, all of this works almost entirely in the form of virtual machines in the cloud. You can access them with a variety of clients running on Chrome OS. And it’s pretty cheap! More about this later.

However, if you want to use software that is very computationally intensive, such as video editing or rendering software, you must be willing to spend a lot more money. On the one hand, for a very high-performance Internet connection, and on the other hand, for a compelling cloud offer.

The providers

There are several providers in the market. These are, for example, in alphabetical order without a rating:

Amazon Web Services AWS
Fire Power Cloud
Google Cloud
Kamatera
Microsoft Azure
Shadow

Just use Google search to find more providers, even in your home country.

I did so for Germany, e.g., and directly found at least the following ones:

netclusive
IONOS by 1&1
Strato

Important notes:

  • If you look at the offers, you will see that some of them are Windows servers. You have to check if this fits your purposes!
  • If you process personal data within the EU, an offer or at least server location from the EU may be reasonable because of the GDPR!

Some of the service providers mentioned have very expensive packages with different configurations on offer. However, with these machines, video editing in the cloud should also be possible. So this is not a clickbait article at all!

However, here I want to present a relatively cheap solution, which I am currently using for the creation of my “switching from Windows to Chrome OS” content and evaluating it over a more extended time.

A VM with Windows 10 in the cloud

I’m taking advantage of Shadow Tech’s offer. There I have booked the smallest package “Boost” for 12,99 € per month at the moment. It contains a well-equipped gaming PC. It’s more than enough for the creation of my content, which concerns Chrome OS and macOS simultaneously. The server location is in Europe. But it’s also available in the USA and other areas.

If you want to use the Visual Studio or other development environments, you can book further expansion stages. The packageInfinite” for 39,99 € is the most powerful, but also the most expensive level. As mentioned above, this offer is more aimed at PC gamers, but you can, of course, use the machines for all kinds of things! For example, you could use it to edit your videos with the full version of Adobe Premiere Pro.

Note: the provider does not sponsor me, nor do I receive any advertising revenue. I am a regular paying customer, just like you!

How to access your Windows PC in the cloud on Chrome OS?

On Chrome OS, you can use the VM with the Android or Linux version of Shadow Tech’s official client application, among others. However, in my first tests, only the Android version ran satisfactorily stable. There is still a lot to do for the manufacturer! On Windows and macOS, the offer runs much smoother. But for only about 13 € per month for access to a high-performance Windows 10 PC in the cloud, you can’t really complain. In other words: The offer is very cheap, but still has the odd problem under Chrome OS. I do not want to promise you too much here.

An alternative is the Chrome Remote Desktop. However, this only works if you have started the VM with the official client before. That’s because the VM is subject to a policy which says that it will be shut down after a specific time in case of inactivity. This application is an excellent solution for working with the VM. You can’t play Games this way because the frame rate is not high enough.

Setting up and using Shadow on Chrome OS

Once you have installed the app from the Play Store on your Chrome OS device, you’re ready to go:

Starting Shadow from the Chrome OS Launcher
Image: own screenshot of the author

But before I present you with a screenshot of the started app, I want to point out that it can be a bit complicated to achieve a working and optimal image display.

On an Acer Chromebook 714, the following system settings for the display integrated in the device works, as preparation for using the Shadow client, among other things:

The screen settings on Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

With this preparation, I was able to use the Shadow client with the following settings over a 100 Mbit DSL line quite stable and satisfying:

The settings of Shadow on Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

This screen resolution is, of course, not the same as the native resolution of the device but works surprisingly! I can only recommend you to experiment a bit with the system settings of Chrome OS and the app to get the best settings for you. On my Google Pixelbook, for example, it worked even fine as well.

If you’re wondering how I got into the app’s settings, here’s the open app with the settings gear, a list of games installed on your VM, and a button to access your Shadow PC’s desktop:

The start screen of Shadow on Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

Now you may have to install updates for your Shadow PC first:

Installing a new update for your Shadow PC
Image: own screenshot of the author

And by that, I mean that this is a must! Otherwise, you may experience very severe problems with your VM, which only the customer service can solve!
Have a look here!

With a little patience, the update should be finished after a few minutes:

Image: own screenshot of the author
Image: own screenshot of the author

After clicking on “Shadow Desktop” and logging on to the system, here is the familiar Windows 10 desktop:

Windows 10 unter Chrome OS bei Shadow in der Cloud

Attention: you should not change the screen resolution via the Windows 10 settings. That can also lead to problems!

Now, if you configure your mouse sensitivity with the Shadow tools on Windows, you can use Windows applications quite well this way!

If you switch to another application on Chrome OS in between, you can simply click on the app’s Shadow icon shown above, and from there, click on the Windows desktop as well to get your focus back. Otherwise, the VM will no longer respond to your mouse activity. If that doesn’t work, just close the app and restart it again. That will take just a few seconds!

Can you play Windows games with Shadow on Chrome OS?

Now you’re probably wondering if you can just keep using all your games through Shadow?

In principle, yes, but the mouse in your Shadow PC will go crazy when you try to play 3D games via the Android app from Shadow-Tech. In other words: games that change the view of your character in all directions, like 3D shooters or MMOs. Games that don’t do that, e.g., games that only offer an isometric view (Action RPGs), however, generally run very well.

The guy here on YouTube describes a way to solve this problem: YouTube link. However, the procedure is only shown here under Samsung Dex, and it may not work on your Chrome OS device! The demonstrated process is also very complicated and more suitable for professionals. I haven’t tested it, because I play slightly over Stadia, Android, and Linux on Chrome OS. And that rather very rarely!

Attention: You always have to check the terms of use of your games to see if they are allowed to run in a cloud VM! That is not the case with every manufacturer and can lead to consequences for you!

Conclusion

I am generally very pleased with the offer from Shadow. It’s very cheap, but unfortunately it has some teething troubles with Chrome OS.

What I also like is that the network traffic is not limited and therefore does not lead to additional costs. With some other services, if you are not careful, you have to pay an arm and a leg.

Small insertion: Maybe this or another solution will replace my little 2017 MacBook with 12″, which I take along on my travels next to my Google Pixelbook and a Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook Tablet. It runs macOS Catalina and Windows 10 via Bootcamp, which I use to make screenshots for my posts. Although it is small and light, it adds about 1 kg to my hand luggage.

Which service can you currently recommend without restriction?

Which macOS applications, besides the usual suspects like Visual Studio or the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, can you not do without?

Just like you, I’m looking for the best alternative! 🙂 Like the offer from Firetech Cloud, where I just ordered a package. More about this later, as soon as I have some experience with it. By doing that, I will also evaluate Microsoft’s Remote Desktop App, which is often used to access the products of the providers, that I’ve mentioned above.

Or I decide not to post anything about “switching from macOS/Windows to Chrome OS” anymore, then I wouldn’t need both! 😉

Here directly to a post about “Using macOS applications on Chrome OS in the cloud” if you are more interested in that.

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