How To Install ChromeOS On A Virtual Machine

ChromeOS is a Linux-based operating system developed by Google. It is a minimalist OS that uses the Google Chrome web browser as its main user interface. If you’ve ever heard of “Chromebooks,” then you would know that those devices are preinstalled with the ChromeOS as its operating system.

ChromeOS takes up a small portion of the disk space on your hard drive for installation. This is because, unlike Windows, it does not support many application and program formats, but only the Chromium Web applications. Hence, if you are shifting from a Windows or a MacOS computer to a Chromebook, you may need some “getting used to.”

Before you invest in purchasing a Chromebook, you can create a Virtual Machine (VM) on your existing computer and try out the ChromeOS.

In this post, we are going to show you how to create a ChromeOS VM.

Traditionally, ChromeOS needs specific hardware to run smoothly, therefore it cannot be installed like a regular ISO image in a hypervisor. A hypervisor is virtualization software that allows you to run and manage virtual machines on top of your existing operating system.

However, since ChromeOS is based on an open-source project (Linux), Neverware CloudReady has created an Open Virtual Appliance (OVA) file for ChromeOS which you can use to deploy a ChromeOS VM.

What is OVA File

An Open Virtual Appliance file, also known as the “Open Virtual Application” file is a compressed TAR archive, which is a UNIX-based archiving format. The OVA file has the extension “.OVA” which usually contains multiple files inside.

Some of the files you may find inside an OVA disk image are an OVF descriptor XML file, an MF manifest, a VMDK file, ISO files, and other resource files containing the metadata.

OVA files can be used by hypervisors (Oracle VirtualBox and VMWare Workstation Player) to create a VM, since these support VMDK files. However, since Hyper-V does not support VMDK format, you cannot use an OVA file to create a Hyper-V VM. Instead, these need to be converted into VHD or VHDX formats.

Note: The Neverware CloudReady ChromeOS OVA file given in the next section does not support Oracle VirtualBox. Therefore, at the time of writing this post, ChromeOS cannot be installed on VirtualBox.

Since that is not our goal in this post, let us now show you how to create a ChromeOS virtual machine in VMWare Player.

How to Install ChromeOS on VMWare Virtual Machine

Before we begin, you must gather the following tools to create a VM on VMWare Player:

Once both tasks have been completed, perform the following steps to create a ChromeOS virtual machine on VMWare Player:

  1. Open VMWare Workstation Player, click Player from the ribbon menu at the top, expand File, and then click Open.
    open
  2. From the pop-up window, navigate to and select the downloaded CloudReady OVA file and then click Open.
    open 2
  3. In the next popup, enter a custom name for the VM, select a location to save the VM, and then click Import.
    import
  4. The OVA file will now begin the importing process. Once it is complete, you will find the VM entry in VMWare Player. Right-click on it and then click Power on from the context menu to start the VM.
    on 2

The ChromeOS virtual machine is now ready to run. You may now set it up according to your preferences and play around to learn whether it is your taste.

installed 2
ChromeOS ready for use

How to Install ChromeOS Virtual Machine on Hyper-V

Note: The following method successfully converted a VMDK file inside of an OVA file into a VHD format. However, when I attempted to use that VHD file to create a VM on Hyper-V, the became stuck on the boot page.

Since an OVA file contains a VMDK file, it can be converted into VHD or VHDX format, which is supported by Microsoft Hyper-V, and create a VM.

It is also possible to convert an OVA file directly into VHD or VHDX using third-party applications available online. However, it makes more sense to convert the only file needed for a VM, i.e., the VMDK file.

Before we begin, you will need the following items to complete the process:

We have divided this portion into sections to make it more convenient and easier for you to understand.

Extract OVA File Contents

Perform the following steps to successfully extract the VMDK file inside the OVA file using 7-Zip archiver:

  1. Download 7-Zip from here and install the tool.
  2. Now right-click on the downloaded ChromeOS OVA file, expand 7-Zip, and then extract the files.
    Note: If you are using Windows 11, then you will first need to click “Show more options” on the context menu.
    extract

Once extracted, you will see the VMDK file along with other content.

VMDK
VMDK and other files extracted from OVA file

Now you must convert this VMDK file into VHD using the Qemu-Img tool.

How to Convert VMDK to VHD format

There are several tools available to convert a VMDK file to VHD or VHDX, but we will be using the Qemu-Img tool to get the job done.

  1. Download the Qemu-Img tool and extract the contents.
  2. Now open Command Prompt with administrative rights and use the following command navigate to the Qemu-Img extracted folder. Replace CompletePath with the path to the extracted folder’s location:
    cd /d "<em>CompletePath</em>"
    cd
  3. Now use the following command to convert the VMDK file to VHD. Replace PathToVMDK with the complete path, name of the VMDK file, and PathToVHD with the complete path and name for the output converted file. This conversion can take a moment to complete.
    qemu-img.exe convert "<em>PathToVMDK</em>.vmdk" -O vpc -o subformat=dynamic "<em>PathToVHD</em>.vhd"
    convert

Once the conversion is complete, you can find the converted VHD file at the designated location.

converted
VHD file converted from VMDK

How to Create Hyper-V VM From VHD File

Now use this Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) file to create a ChromeOS VM on Hyper-V.

Note: Virtualization must be enabled from the system BIOS and the Hyper-V optional feature must be enabled.

  1. Open Hyper-V manager, right-click on the computer name in the left pane, expand New, and then click Virtual Machine.
    new vm
  2. On the “New Virtual Machine Wizard,” click Next.
    next 4
  3. Enter the name for the VM and click Next.
    name next 1
  4. On the next screen, select “Generation 1” and click Next.
    select next
  5. Now allot a reasonable amount of RAM for the system and click Next.
    ram next
  6. (Optional) Now choose a network adapter for the VM and click Next.
    switch next
  7. On the next page, select “Use an existing virtual hard disk.” Then click Browse and select the converted ChromeOS VHD file. Once done, click Next.
    fin
  8. On the final screen, click Finish.
    fin 1

Your VM is now ready to be used. Start the ChromeOS virtual machine and begin testing it out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can ChromeOS be installed on VMWare Workstation?

Yes, you can use the modified ChromeOS OVA file from Neverware CloudReady to create a ChromeOS virtual machine.

Can you install ChromeOS on Hyper-V?

Logically, the VMDK file can be extracted from the ChromeOS OVA file and then converted into a VHD/VHDX file to create a Hyper-V ChromeOS VM.

Can ChromeOS be installed on VirtualBox?

VirtualBox currently does not support Neverware CloudReady ChromeOS OVA files, and can therefore not be installed.

How to Open OVA files?

OVA files can be opened using third-party compression tools, like 7-zip, etc.

How to open OVA files in VirtualBox/VMware Workstation?

You can open an OVA file by clicking File >> Import from the ribbon menu of the app. In the Import box, verify the settings and click Import.

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