Revitalize an Elderly Mac with Google’s Chrome OS Flex

Originally published at: Revitalize an Elderly Mac with Google’s Chrome OS Flex - TidBITS

If you have an old Mac gathering dust, Google may be able to return it to active use. Its free Chrome OS Flex replaces macOS and puts pep back in the Mac’s step. It’s a decent option for families who might want to set up workstations for kids or who just want a dedicated Web machine somewhere in the house.

Seems like a good option to revitalise older Apple hardware. Looks like a mid-2011 iMac might work, which is what I have hidden away in a corner. Might give it a go.

Anyone that looks for more flexibility with the programs to run locally, more privacy and who isn’t scared by the terminal window, might have a look at one of the Linux distributions, too. I switched from Neverware’s Cloudready (what became Chrome OS Flex) to Linux Mint because my 2014 Lenovo Ideabook’s DVD drive had never worked under Chrome OS. The list of compatible Apple hardware goes back to the 2009 MacBook Pro. Furthermore, my VPN client always leaked information under Chrome OS while Linux keeps everything sealed. With VLC player in addition, this became our home multimedia computer with access to worldwide geolocked tv broadcasting.

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I guess this is too little, too late, but I have a 2012 Mac mini that was my media server, mostly for VPN content ex-US. I had made a home-brew Fusion drive but despite no diagnostics indicating a problem, something in the drive had begun to seem off: maybe bad blocks but hard to know, but I’d notice downloads failing. I replaced it with an M1 mini but rather than junk the 2012, I replaced the Fusion with a 2GB SSD, and decided also to try the OpenCore Legacy Patcher to get Big Sur onto it (using the great Mr. Macintosh videos as my first resource). I did still have the OWC tools from the Fusion install to open the mini and it’s fiddly (and the video omits mention of one screw!) but with 16 GB RAM it flies. I was genuinely shocked that a ten year old machine is as strong as this. As a HTPC, day to-day performance is indistinguishable from the M1: I notice it only with things like video encodes.

Not that a Google repurposing isn’t a great idea—and it does not need special TORX screwdrivers! But, the 2012 Mac mini is a warhorse and with some work / a fun project, it does not need to be retired or put on the slow track.

Flex is now final: Google Chrome OS Flex is now available for PCs and Macs - The Verge

Also, now it’s ChromeOS and not Chrome OS: It’s ChromeOS now, not Chrome OS - The Verge

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I revitalized my 2012 16 GB Mac mini 6,2 (A1347 - 2.6 GHz) in a different manner. I replaced the fusion drive with a 1 TB Samsung SSD and a 1 TB spinning drive. For comparison purposes, this Mac mini model may be slightly faster than your model, however.

I have various volumes with macOS High Sierra 10.3 (kept for Aperture, which I am migrating to Lightroom), Mojave 10.14, and Catalina 10.15 installed. Catalina actually seems to run the best of the three from a external 2 TB SSD.

it is no speed demon and I probably will upgrade to a Mac Studio sometime in the next year or so, but it works fine and at least runs all the Mac apps your Chromafied mini won’t run.